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Can the world quench China’s bottomless thirst for milk?

Beijing-based film-maker Jian Yi, now 43, clearly remembers the arrival of fresh milk in his life. It was an image of it, not the real thing. “It was the 1990s, and I first saw it in an advert on TV. The ad said explicitly that drinking milk would save the nation. It would make China stronger and better able to survive competition from other nations.”
Like most ethnic Han, who make up about 95% of the population, Jian was congenitally lactose-intolerant, meaning milk was hard to digest. His parents did not consume dairy at all when they were growing up; China’s economy was closed to the global market and its own production very limited. Throughout the Mao era, milk was in short supply and rationed to those deemed to have a special need: infants and the elderly, athletes and party cadres above a certain grade. Through most of the imperial dynasties until the 20th century, milk was generally shunned as the slightly disgusting food of the barbarian invaders. Foreigners brought cows to the port cities that had been ceded to them by the Chinese in the opium wars of the 19th century, and a few groups such as Mongolian pastoralists used milk that was fermented, but it was not part of the typical Chinese diet.

As China opened up to the market in the 1980s, after Mao’s death, dried milk powder began appearing in small shops where you could buy it with state-issued coupons. Jian’s parents bought it for him because they thought it would make him stronger. “It was expensive, I didn’t like it, I was intolerant, but we persuaded ourselves it was the food of the future,” he said. “You have to understand the psychology here – there is a sense in China that we have been humiliated ever since the opium wars, but that now we are no longer going to be humiliated by foreign powers.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/mar/29/can-the-world-quench-chinas-bottomless-thirst-for-milk

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Posted by on May 23, 2019 in Asia, Reportages, Uncategorized

 

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Stop eating fish. It’s the only way to save the life in our seas

It is the most important news humanity has ever received: the general collapse of life on Earth. The vast international assessment of the state of nature, as revealed on Monday, tells us that the living planet is in a death spiral. Yet it’s hardly surprising that it appeared on few front pages of British newspapers. Of all the varieties of media bias, the deepest is the bias against relevance. The more important the issue, the less it is discussed.

There’s a reason for this. Were we to become fully aware of our predicament, we would demand systemic change. Systemic change is highly threatening to those who own the media. So they distract us with such baubles as a royal baby and a vicious dispute between neighbours about a patio. I am often told we get the media we deserve. We do not. We get the media its billionaire owners demand.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/09/seas-stop-eating-fish-fishing-industry-government

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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How the world got hooked on palm oil

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, there grew a magical fruit. This fruit could be squeezed to produce a very special kind of oil that made cookies more healthy, soap more bubbly and crisps more crispy. The oil could even make lipstick smoother and keep ice-cream from melting. Because of these wondrous qualities, people came from around the world to buy the fruit and its oil.

In the places where the fruit came from, people burned down the forest so they could plant more trees that grew the fruit – making lots of nasty smoke and sending all of the creatures of the forest scurrying away. When the trees were burned, they emitted a gas that heated up the air. Then everybody was upset, because they loved the forest’s creatures and thought the temperature was warm enough already. A few people decided they shouldn’t use the oil any more, but mostly things went on as before, and the forest kept burning.

This is a true story. Except that it is not magic. The fruit of the oil palm tree (Elaeis guineensis), which grows in tropical climates, contains the world’s most versatile vegetable oil. It can handle frying without spoiling, and blends well with other oils. Its combination of different types of fats and its consistency after refining make it a popular ingredient in packaged baked goods. Its low production costs make it cheaper than frying oils such as cottonseed or sunflower. It provides the foaming agent in virtually every shampoo, liquid soap or detergent. Cosmetics manufacturers prefer it to animal tallow for its ease of application and low price. It is increasingly used as a cheap raw material for biofuels, especially in the European Union. It functions as a natural preservative in processed foods, and actually does raise the melting point of ice-cream. Palm oil can be used as an adhesive that binds together the particles in fibreboard. Oil palm trunks and fronds can be made into everything from plywood to the composite body of Malaysia’s national automobile.

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/feb/19/palm-oil-ingredient-biscuits-shampoo-environmental

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2019 in Asia, Reportages

 

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The Revolt Against Big Food

NEW DELHI – Confounding the grim prediction made by the British economist Thomas Malthus in 1798, the world currently produces more than enough food for a population that has increased almost tenfold since then. Today’s food problem is not absolute scarcity. It is that food is so unequally distributed and irrationally consumed that there is widespread malnutrition at both ends of the spectrum: the world’s most deprived people die or suffer from cognitive impairment because of undernutrition, while others face death or disease because of obesity.

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/breaking-agribusiness-hold-on-small-farmers-and-consumers-by-jayati-ghosh-2019-03

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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Der Reis bringt einen Modernisierungsschub

Im Laufe der vergangenen Jahrzehnte ist Reis in Afrika vom Luxusgut zum Grundnahrungsmittel geworden. Der Konsum nimmt südlich der Sahara jährlich um 3% zu. Die lokalen Bauern können mit der wachsenden Nachfrage nicht Schritt halten. Besonders frappant ist diese Diskrepanz in Nigeria, dem mit 190 Millionen Einwohnern bevölkerungsreichsten Land Afrikas. Die wachsende Nachfrage nach Reis hängt mit der Verstädterung und einem schnelleren Lebensrhythmus zusammen. Die Zubereitung der traditionellen Nahrungsmittel ist arbeits- und zeitintensiv; Reis hingegen lässt sich rasch kochen und ist trotzdem günstig. Aber der Reisanbau in Nigeria ist relativ unproduktiv. 90% der Reisbauern verfügen über weniger als eine Hektare Land. Sie besitzen weder Zugang zu Krediten noch zu verbessertem Saatgut, Dünger und modernem Know-how. Sie produzieren für den Eigenbedarf; nur was übrig bleibt, verkaufen sie. Da ihr Reis qualitativ schlechter ist als der aus Asien importierte, muss er billiger verkauft werden. Die Regierung verkündet, Nigeria werde bald keinen Reis mehr einführen, sondern sogar exportieren; der Import auf dem Landweg wurde verboten. Aber bis jetzt werden erst etwa 40% des Bedarfs durch einheimischen Reis gedeckt.

https://www.nzz.ch/wirtschaft/reis-nachfrage-in-afrika-waechst-ld.1451312

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2019 in Africa, Reportages

 

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Protein mania: the rich world’s new diet obsession

Are you getting enough protein? The question provides its own answer: if you are worrying about the amount of protein in your diet, then you are almost certainly eating more than enough. This is the paradox of our new protein obsession. For many people, protein has become a kind of secular unction: it instantly anoints any food with an aura of health and goodness. On the menu at the gym where I go, a salad niçoise is now repackaged as “high-protein tuna”. It comes without the usual capers or olives – those are items that merely add flavour, and who needs that?

On Pinterest, the lifestyle-sharing site, you can now choose “protein” as one of your interests in life, along with “cute animals” and “inspirational quotes”. In 2017, there were 64m Google searches for “protein”. Anxiety about protein is one of the things that drives a person to drink a flask of vitamin-padded beige slurry and call it lunch.

You merely need to visit a western supermarket today to see that many people regard protein as some kind of universal elixir – one food companies are profitably adding to anything they can. “When the Box Says ‘Protein’, Shoppers Say ‘I’ll take it’” was the headline of a 2013 article in the Wall Street Journal. In addition to the ubiquitous protein balls, protein bars and protein shakes, you can now buy protein noodles, protein bagels, protein cookies and – wait for it – protein coffee. Even foods that are naturally high in protein such as cheese and yoghurt are sold in protein-boosted versions. Strangest of all might be “protein water” – clear, fruit-flavoured drinks laced with whey protein, as if ordinary water was insufficiently healthy.

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/jan/04/protein-mania-the-rich-worlds-new-diet-obsession

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2019 in Reportages

 

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The Origin of the Birds in Beijing’s Famous Dish

Wu Shuiping misses the old days, when Beifu — the village of 300 households near Beijing where he grew up — was filled with fat, waddling ducks. Their incessant quacking was the soundtrack to his childhood, and their meat — particularly delicious when made into that symbol of gastronomic decadence, imperial Peking duck — appeared on dinner tables across the capital and beyond. “About half of all households here farmed them,” he says. “It was like a world of ducks.”

But these days, those who savor arguably the most iconic Chinese dish are more likely to gobble up imported breeds than domestic ones. Overseas competition has forced most villagers out of the duck business, and 46-year-old Wu is the only such farmer left in Beifu, located in the county that once supplied most of the region’s ducks.About half of all households here farmed them. It was like a world of ducks.

Wu raises a breed somewhat confusingly called Pekin duck, which was domesticated in Beijing about 600 years ago. In the late 19th century, Pekin ducks were imported into the U.K., where they were also reared for meat. Later, Pekins were interbred with a local variety to produce leaner birds that catered to British tastes. In the 1980s, as China began opening its economy to foreign imports, the U.K. began selling interbred Pekins back to China.

https://www.sixthtone.com/news/1002982/duck-tales-the-origin-of-the-birds-in-beijings-famous-dish

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2018 in Asia

 

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Electric food – the new sci-fi diet that could save our planet

It’s not about “them”, it’s about us. The horrific rate of biological annihilation reported this week – 60% of the Earth’s vertebrate wildlife gone since 1970 – is driven primarily by the food industry. Farming and fishing are the major causes of the collapse of both marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Meat – consumed in greater quantities by the rich than by the poor – is the strongest cause of all. We may shake our heads in horror at the clearance of forests, the drainage of wetlands, the slaughter of predators and the massacre of sharks and turtles by fishing fleets, but it is done at our behest.

As the Guardian’s recent report from Argentina reveals, the huge forests of the Gran Chaco are heading towards extermination as they are replaced by deserts of soya beans, almost all of which are used to produce animal feed, particularly for Europe. With Jair Bolsonaro in power in Brazil, deforestation in the Amazon is likely to accelerate, much of it driven by the beef lobby that helped bring him to power. The great forests of Indonesia, such as those in West Papua, are being felled and burned for oil palm at devastating speed.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/31/electric-food-sci-fi-diet-planet-food-animals-environment

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2018 in Reportages

 

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Has wine gone bad?

If you were lucky enough to dine at Noma, in Copenhagen, in 2011 – which had just been crowned as the “best restaurant in the world” – you might have been served one of its signature dishes: a single, raw, razor clam from the North Sea, in a foaming pool of aqueous parsley, topped with a dusting of horseradish snow. It was a technical and conceptual marvel intended to evoke the harsh Nordic coastline in winter.

But almost more remarkable than the dish itself was the drink that accompanied it: a glass of cloudy, noticeably sour white wine from a virtually unknown vineyard in France’s Loire Valley, which was available at the time for about £8 a bottle. It was certainly an odd choice for a £300 menu. This was a so-called natural wine – made without any pesticides, chemicals or preservatives – the product of a movement that has triggered the biggest conflict in the world of wine for a generation.

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/may/15/has-wine-gone-bad-organic-biodynamic-natural-wine

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2018 in Reportages

 

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Charles Mann: Can Planet Earth Feed 10 Billion People?

‘America first does not mean America alone,” President Trump declared last month at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. This sudden burst of pragmatism from an avowed nationalist showed what a difference a year can make. Denouncing the “false song of globalism” during his presidential campaign, Trump, on his third full day in office, canceled the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a regional trade deal with Japan and 10 other countries. He then denounced Canada, Germany and South Korea for exporting more to the United States than they import. He promised to renegotiate trade pacts with Europe, Canada and Mexico and get a better deal for American workers. In Davos, however, he reached out with conciliatory words to the very free-trading and globalizing elites he has consistently maligned.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/03/charles-mann-can-planet-earth-feed-10-billion-people/550928/

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2018 in Reportages

 

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