Agriculture

Insect protein and our food
September 27, 2015 07:00 AM - Laurie Balbo, Green Prophet

A start-up business focused on finding new ways of using insect protein in food products is a finalist in this year’s MassChallenge, the Boston-based start-up competition and world’s largest accelerator program. Get over your squeamishness, because bug-based foods will soon infest our markets.

The “elevator pitch” for Israel-based The Flying Spark states their intent to manufacture protein powder based on insect larvae that can be added to a wide range of food products, replacing today’s protein powders – commonly made from whey, soy, or casein. Insects contain extremely high protein, fiber, micro-nutrients and mineral content. They’re also naturally low in fat, and cholesterol-free. The tipping point for this product’s potential is that insect protein will cost less to produce than any other source of animal protein.

Pesticide use leads to endocrine disrupters in French lettuce
September 25, 2015 07:33 AM - Journal de environnement by Romain Loury translated by Samuel White via EurActiv

An investigation has found that the majority of French lettuce contains traces of hormone disrupting chemicals, some of which are banned. Journal de l Environnement reports. 

The French NGO Générations Futures released the results of an inquiry into chemical contamination in food products on Tuesday (22 September). After examining the contaminants in strawberries in July 2013, the NGO published a report this week entitled EXPPERT 5, examining lettuce, the fourth most popular vegetable in France.

The findings were less than impressive: of the 31 products bought in supermarkets in the French departments of the Oise and the Somme, grown on conventional farms, over 77% contained traces of at least two pesticides, and only 19% were pesticide-free.

Is fracking water safe to irrigate crops?
August 24, 2015 06:35 AM - Crystal Shepeard, Care2

The race to find cleaner energy sources has led to a boon in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in search of natural gas. Highly pressurized chemicals and water are pumped deep underground to break shale and release natural gas for harvesting. Residents and environmentalists have long been opposed to the process, which has seen an increase of health issues due to contaminated water. In drought stricken California, there is also concern about the amount of water being used in fracking operations, as well as what is done with the wastewater.

California farmers are frustrated with oil companies that have encroached on their areas. Fertile farm land is also filled with natural gas and there has been an increase in fracking operations. As the name implies, hyrdraulic fracturing is a water-intensive process. At the front-end, freshwater is infused with chemicals and is pumped into the shale. This has put farmers and oil companies in competition for the ever decreasing amount of water available.

Scientists discover what causes soil acidification
August 19, 2015 02:28 PM - James Cook University

Australian and Chinese scientists have made significant progress in determining what causes soil acidification – a discovery that could assist in turning back the clock on degraded croplands.

How will global food supply be affected by climate change?
August 19, 2015 08:05 AM - Erik Stokstad, Science/AAAS

In 2007, drought struck the bread baskets of Europe, Russia, Canada, and Australia. Global grain stocks were already scant, so wheat prices began to rise rapidly. When countries put up trade barriers to keep their own harvests from being exported, prices doubled, according to an index of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Just 3 years later, another spike in food prices contributed to the Arab Spring uprisings. Such weather-related crop disasters will become more likely with climate change, warns a detailed report released today by the Global Food Security (GFS) program, a network of public research funding agencies in the United Kingdom.

Dissecting the Farm-to-Table Fable
August 18, 2015 09:17 AM - Jan Lee, Triple Pundit

The vibrant, mega-million-dollar farm to table movement is under increasing scrutiny these days. In San Diego, where produce is an $1.8 billion industry and year-round farmers markets can be found in almost every neighborhood (one of the few financial spinoffs of climate change, perhaps), the farm-to-table concept is getting a bad rep.

High levels of natural uranium identified in 2 major U.S. aquifers
August 17, 2015 03:30 PM - University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Nearly 2 million people throughout the Great Plains and California live above aquifer sites contaminated with natural uranium that is mobilized by human-contributed nitrate, according to a study from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

History of Agriculture Revealed
August 7, 2015 09:09 AM - NoCamels Team, NoCamels

Open any history book and you’re likely to find that the practice of agriculture was invented 12,000 years ago in the Levant, an area in the Middle East that was home to some of the first human civilizations. But a new discovery recently made in Northern Israel seems to have shattered the myth on the advent of agriculture, offering up exciting evidence that trial plant cultivation, what we call agriculture, began far earlier – some 23,000-years-ago.

Are insecticides more toxic than we think?
August 6, 2015 12:15 PM -

Insecticides that are sprayed in orchards and fields across North America may be more toxic to spiders than scientists previously believed. A McGill research team reached this conclusion after looking at changes in the behaviour of individual Bronze Jumping Spiders both before and after exposure to Phosmet, a widely used broad spectrum insecticide. It is a finding with far-reaching implications for agricultural production and ecosystem health.

Making Tastier Wines with Fewer Pesticides
July 30, 2015 09:00 AM - American Chemical Society

Wine-making is steeped in age-old traditions, but to address the threat of pests and concerns over heavy pesticide use, vintners are turning to science. With the goal of designing better grape breeds, scientists are parsing the differences between wild American grapes — which make terrible wine but are pest-resistant — and the less hardy grape species pressed for fine wines worldwide. They report their findings in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

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