Reduce food waste to keep costs low, says report

As a society, we spend a lot more time and energy dealing with the waste we produce than preventing it. According to a new report, Developing an Industry-Led Approach to Addressing Food Waste in Canada, that’s not the right approach to Canada’s $27-billion food waste problem. Everyone in the food chain is affected, from consumers to farmers. Farmers lose significant profits by paying to produce food that gets thrown away.

In fact, up to 40 per cent of what farmers produce gets thrown away. That means there’s a lot of room for improvement to keep money in grower’s pockets to ultimately keep the price of food in check. According to Dr. Martin Gooch, the report’s co-author, food waste is highest during fruit and vegetable season, when consumers purchase in bulk to save money but rarely end up consuming everything. Consumers purchase more and no longer aim to can or preserve food to stretch out their use period. The kitchen is where most food is wasted, with over half of food waste attributed to consumers.

Up to 40% of what farmers produce gets thrown away. Photo credit to www.theguardian.com

Up to 40% of what farmers produce gets thrown away. Photo credit to www.theguardian.com

If people are going to waste less food they need guidance such as recipes and options, and smaller sized packages even if they’re less economical. I think people would rather pay more for a smaller quantity and use it all than pay for a larger amount and watch it rot. Advanced storage options for some commodities to lengthen shelf life are being researched with support from the Ontario government at the University of Guelph. You can read the full report at http://goo.gl/mMtBHj.

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Sustainable, sophisticated farming works for everyone

For a lot of people, crop protection means traditional chemicals applied to plants to ward off insects and disease. For farmers, it means preventing losses and maintaining quality in their livelihood. For BASF, it means spending $2 million a day on research to create alternatives to traditional chemicals to increase appeal to farmers and consumers alike. BASF calls itself The Chemical Company, and with 20 new products expected to be introduced this year and next, it’s clear to see why.

The increasing voice of consumers coupled with farmer concerns is driving this change. Farmers are concerned with pest resistance resulting from relying too heavily on a given chemical, a problem in recent years. The solution has often been more chemicals, a vicious cycle of resistance and new developments. BASF has created a new “functional crop care” division that includes alternatives that complement the company’s conventional approaches, including so-called biological treatments that make seeds and plants stronger and more able to tolerate tough conditions. To help implement this new approach, BASF has hired a number of field staff to visit farms and help farmers manage their crops. This is good news for farmers- diversified crop protection gives them more options and allows them to be economically and environmentally sustainable.

Here's me with BASF's Rob Miller, one of my former students, at BASF's Holly Springs research station in North Carolina.

Here’s me with BASF’s Rob Miller, one of my former students, at BASF’s Holly Springs research station in North Carolina.

It is important for this good news to be shared with consumers. When agricultural biotechnology was introduced 20 years ago, the industry made the mistake of not informing consumers what was going on. The industry is still paying for this lack of judgement; some consumers will still seek non-GMO products with no real knowledge about that genetically modified organisms are, except they think that they are bad. Consumers should be as informed as possible about new biological treatments, while farmers should have the necessary knowledge to not only know how to use it, but explain it to others too- and help bridge the gap between rural and urban Canada.

 

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Animal care conduct code is the next step for farmers  

One thing farmers and consumers can agree on is that animal abuse is a terrible occurrence. Whether it’s companion animals or livestock, people- including farmers- are shocked when abuse videos surface. Farmers know consumers won’t put up with it and are afraid that these videos will turn the public against animal agriculture. Pressure is mounting for farmers to develop their own codes of conduct to prove to the public their commitment to animal care.

The increasing sophistication of animal rights groups, especially those with extremist views are undermining the trust people have traditionally held with farmers. These groups are increasingly getting behind the scenes to get on decision and policy makers’ radar. They’re even appearing in the public eye as a measured voice, such as offering advice on caring for your pets in hot weather. For them, it’s about persistence rather than victory. But the prevalence of animal rights groups and their agenda means farmers need to treat it seriously if they are going to win any arguments about their practices and production. The ability to produce safe, wholesome food largely depends on consumers and policy makers having a deeper understanding about what farmers do and why they do it.

One way farmers are working to demonstrate their commitment to animal care is by supporting research. No matter how you feel about animal rights or welfare, your position will be stronger if it is backed by science; farmers are well versed with this knowledge. Some practices, though backed by science, can look and sound bad to consumers. But science also leads to better ways to protect and keep food animals, and how to give them a dignified existence. Many farmers also develop their own code of conduct, outlining how livestock should be treated on their farm. Codes of conduct exist to protect the safety and welfare of animals on the farm while representing the farmer’s values. Although these codes will not eliminate the kind of abuse shown in many of these shock videos, but certainly go a long way in showing how conscientious farmers are and how much they care for their animals.

Photo credit to www.thebullvine.com

Photo credit to www.thebullvine.com

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