Friday, 8 June 2018

World Ocean Day 2018

The Declaration of World Oceans Day in 2008 catalysed action worldwide. 

Twenty-five years after Ocean Conference held from 5-9 June 2017. The Ocean Conference was convened to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
the first Oceans Day took place in Rio de Janeiro at The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Earth Summit, a special event on June 8th marked its celebration during the United Nations

Why celebrate World Oceans Day?

We celebrate World Oceans Day to remind everyone of the major role the oceans have in everyday life. They are the lungs of our planet, providing most of the oxygen we breathe.

The purpose of the Day is to inform the public of the impact of human actions on the ocean, develop a worldwide movement of citizens for the ocean, and mobilize and unite the world’s population on a project for the sustainable management of the world's oceans. They are a major source of food and medicines and a critical part of the biosphere. In the end, it is a day to celebrate together the beauty, the wealth and the promise of the ocean.

The oceans cover about two-thirds of the surface of the Earth and are the very foundations of life. They generate most of the oxygen we breathe, absorb a large share of carbon dioxide emissions, provide food and nutrients and regulate climate. They are important economically for countries that rely on tourism, fishing and other marine resources for income and serve as the backbone of international trade.
Unfortunately, human pressures, including over-exploitation, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, destructive fishing, as well as unsustainable aquaculture practices, marine pollution, habitat destruction, alien species, climate change and ocean acidification are taking a significant toll on the world’s oceans and seas.
Peace and security are also critical to the full enjoyment of the benefits that can be derived from the oceans and for their sustainable development. As has been remarked by the Secretary-General: “There will be no development without security and no security without development.”

Action focus for 2018: preventing plastic pollution and encouraging solutions for a healthy ocean

Plastic pollution is causing tremendous harm to our marine resources. For example:

  • 80% of all pollution in the ocean comes from people on land.
  • 8 million tonnes of plastic per year end up in the ocean, wreaking havoc on wildlife, fisheries and tourism.
  • Plastic pollution costs the lives of 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals per year.
  • Fish eat plastic, and we eat the fish.
  • Plastic causes $8 billion in damage to marine ecosystems each year.
For more information follow the hashtag on Twitter!

Friday, 9 June 2017

Borlaug Fellowship Program at USDA promotes United States cooperation with developing countries

Bourlag biography from Nobel website

USDA programme, titled in honor of Nobel Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug, promotes food security and economic growth by providing training and collaborative research opportunities to fellows from developing and middle-income countries.

Norman Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. He was granted the prize for the primary role played during the so called Green Revolution.
He worked in Mexico, India and Pakistan to promote the introduction of more productive varieties of crops developed in years of research and testing.

The Green Revolution refers to the capacity to use technology to modify the environment so as to create more optimal conditions for crops and livestock than nature alone can offer (i.e. if it is dry, irrigate; if soil fertility is low, fertilize; if pests and weeds invade crops, spray or dust; if livestock are threatened by disease, vaccinate and medicate; or if more energy is needed to till the land, mechanize and use fossil fuels). Improved varieties of rice and wheat could benefit from the use of external inputs (including water) that provided good growing conditions for realizing the genetic potential of the new varieties. The creation of socio-economic enabling environments that opened up for the use of these inputs and created markets for the sale of the produce was an integral part of this change. (FAO, 1996

Borlaug fellows are generally scientists, researchers, or policymakers who are in the early or middle stages of their careers. Each fellow works one-on-one with a mentor at a U.S. university, research center or government agency, usually for 8-12 weeks. The U.S. mentor will later visit the fellow’s home institution to continue collaboration. Fellows may also attend professional conferences and events within their field, such as the annual World Food Prize Symposium.

The programme encourages the fellowships of practitioners focused on specific research indicated in the Priorities by target countries. Additionally, the programme pursuits a number of Special Programs


Monday, 5 June 2017

Which concerns raise the growing use of palm oil in the food industry?

Why did it become so popular in the food industry?

The use of palm oil in the food industry has grown exponentially. Palm oil’s technical utility comes from its high melting point. Since palm oil is semi-solid at room temperature, it has a variety of uses from baking products and spreads to frying and though animal fats also have this quality, they are far more expensive to produce. The commodity’s cheap production cost stems from the fact that the palm plant essentially offers a two-for-one deal.
Similar to a plum, both the fleshy outer part and inner stone provide usable oil (the latter referred to as palm kernel oil). The components can then be separated for different uses. “Between the [flesh and the stone] the palm plant is about 10 times as productive as a plant like a soya bean or a rapeseed,” Berger says. “In a world that is short of food, having a plant that is as productive as that is a significant benefit.” A perennial crop that takes up just 5% of the farmland used for vegetable oil production, palm oil makes up 38% of the global supply. 

It can be used not only in food but also any soap or cosmetic products that have a fatty component, for example lipstick and shampoo. In these cases, palm oil helps increase the viscosity of the product or acts as an occlusive agent, helping skin to retain its moisture. Although animal fats are still used in some cosmetics, the cost of production is simply too high for widespread use (extract from article on the Guardina "Why does palm oil still dominate the supermarket shelves?" written by Rosie Spinks in 2014).

Major concerns with the spread use of this product are about its environmental sustainability and health issues.

Environmental problems

Palm is a tropical plant and ideal growing conditions are found only on the equator or 10 degrees of latitude north / south. At the same time, these regions house vast areas of tropical rainforest rich in biodiversity on the continents of Asia, Africa and South America. Demand for edible vegetable oils, has grown steady in recent decades and palm oil plantations have expanded rapidly in number and size to meet the global demand causing heavy deforestation.

Indonesia and Malaysia count for 83% of the market share (, and for the high demand, expansion of plantations and production is forecast to continue menacing other portions of rainforest ecosystems.

Indonesia is planning to increase productivity by 40% by 2020 allocating other 5 millions of hectares to the production of this vegetable oil
Industry landscape, regulatory and financial overview,
Despite the implementation of projects to establish environmental sustainable plantations,  the danger to devastate additional hectares of native rainforest is still very high.

Health risks

The image below summarises the palm oil processing stages. The deodorisation of virgin oil, which is part of the refining process at high temperatures, forms the contaminants that are considered toxic.

image source: "Occurrence of 3-monochloropropanediol esters and glycidyl esters in commercial infant formulas in the United States" written by Jessica Leigh & Shaun MacMahon

The European Food Safety Authority, after publishing scientific articles presenting the results of experiments based on lab rats testing, has also recently released the Chemicals in food 2016 report.
One section of the report is centred on the analysis the components resulting from the processing of palm oil described above.
According to the research undertaken by the Authority, current studies have registered low health concerns on the assumption of these components through ingestion of food using this type of vegetable oil.

However, in order to keep to the minimum the risks for health,  the Authority has suggested to the competent commission the importance to establish at regulatory level a maximum level of glycidyl esters of 1.0 mg/kg to be applicable as from September 2017. EU authorities and producers will then discuss the level of contaminants allowed in the food.
This maximum level proposed by EFSA study should be in line with the commitment made by the EU Oil and Protein meal Industry. The commitment was very much welcomed by the Committee and it was acknowledged that it is a strong commitment requiring substantial efforts from the industry.