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Efforts to curb climate change require greater emphasis on livestock

Dec. 20, 2013 — While climate change negotiators struggle to agree on ways to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, they have paid inadequate attention to other greenhouse gases associated with livestock, according to an analysis by an international research team.

A reduction in non-CO2 greenhouse gases will be required to abate climate change, the researchers said. Cutting releases of methane and nitrous oxide, two gases that pound-for-pound trap more heat than does CO2, should be considered alongside the challenge of reducing fossil fuel use.

The researchers’ analysis, “Ruminants, Climate Change, and Climate Policy,” is being published today as an opinion commentary in Nature Climate Change, a professional journal.

William Ripple, a professor in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University, and co-authors from Scotland, Austria, Australia and the United States, reached their conclusions on the basis of a synthesis of scientific knowledge on greenhouse gases, climate change and food and environmental issues. They drew from a variety of sources including the Food and Agricultural Organization, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and recent peer-reviewed publications.

“Because the Earth’s climate may be near a tipping point to major climate change, multiple approaches are needed for mitigation,” said Ripple. “We clearly need to reduce the burning of fossil fuels to cut CO2 emissions. But that addresses only part of the problem. We also need to reduce non-CO2 greenhouse gases to lessen the likelihood of us crossing this climatic threshold.”

Methane is the second most abundant greenhouse gas, and a recent report estimated that in the United States methane releases from all sources could be much higher than previously thought. Among the largest human-related sources of methane are ruminant animals (cattle, sheep, goats, and buffalo) and fossil fuel extraction and combustion.

One of the most effective ways to cut methane, the researchers wrote, is to reduce global populations of ruminant livestock, especially cattle. Ruminants are estimated to comprise the largest single human-related source of methane. By reflecting the latest estimates of greenhouse gas emissions on the basis of a life-cycle or a “farm to fork” analysis, the researchers observed that greenhouse gas emissions from cattle and sheep production are 19 to 48 times higher (on the basis of pounds of food produced) than they are from producing protein-rich plant foods such as beans, grains, or soy products.

Unlike non-ruminant animals such as pigs and poultry, ruminants produce copious amounts of methane in their digestive systems. Although CO2 is the most abundant greenhouse gas, the international community could achieve a more rapid reduction in the causes of global warming by lowering methane emissions through a reduction in the number of ruminants, the authors said, than by cutting CO2 alone.

The authors also observed that, on a global basis, ruminant livestock production is having a growing impact on the environment:

  • Globally, the number of ruminant livestock has increased by 50 percent in the last 50 years, and there are now about 3.6 billion ruminant livestock on the planet.
  • About a quarter of the Earth’s land area is dedicated to grazing, mostly for cattle, sheep and goats.
  • A third of all arable land is used to grow feed crops for livestock.

In addition to reducing direct methane emissions from ruminants, cutting ruminant numbers would deliver a significant reduction in the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of feed crops for livestock, they added.

“Reducing demand for ruminant products could help to achieve substantial greenhouse gas reductions in the near-term,” said co-author Helmut Haberl of the Institute of Social Ecology in Austria, “but implementation of demand changes represent a considerable political challenge.”

Among agricultural approaches to climate change, reducing demand for meat from ruminants offers greater greenhouse gas reduction potential than do other steps such as increasing livestock feeding efficiency or crop yields per acre. Nevertheless, they wrote, policies to achieve both types of reductions “have the best chance of providing rapid and lasting climate benefits.”

Such steps could have other benefits as well, said co-author Pete Smith of the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. “Cutting the number of ruminant livestock could have additional benefits for food security, human health and environmental conservation involving water quality, wildlife habitat and biodiversity,” he explained. 

Agricultural researchers are also studying methane reduction through improved animal genetics and methods to inhibit production of the gas during digestion.

International climate negotiations such as the UNFCCC have not given “adequate attention” to greenhouse gas reductions from ruminants, they added. The Kyoto Protocol, for example, does not target ruminant emissions from developing countries, which are among the fastest-growing ruminant producers.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Moroccan citrus growers look to research for greater productivity

Moroccan citrus growers look to research for greater productivity

With several dry seasons in a row, Moroccan citrus growers have had to make do with less water. As a result, they’ve increasingly turned to research addressing greater productivity with fewer resources.

“Due to many successive dry years, irrigation water is becoming scarce,” said Fatiha Charrat, sales and marketing director for Delassus. “This is particularly the case in the Souss region.” She estimated that that rainfall has been less than 400 millimeters per year in most citrus-growing areas, so the need for ways to cope with less water has only become more important. Though that’s not the only area where research is focused.

“The situation has meant that current research projects are addressing aspects related to water economy,” said Charrat. “They also address variety and rootstock improvement, production and productivity, pest management, post-harvest management and storage for optimum quality.” While looking to boost productivity with less water, quality of fruit must also be maintained. With half of all citrus grown in Morocco shipped to the Europe Union, Canada and Russia, quality and appearance of fruit is also paramount for good export sales.

“We know that consumers like fruit that is easy to peel, with excellent eating quality, good color, good flavor and appropriate size; fruit has to be free of blemishes and scarring and present no chemical residues,” said Charrat. “Research undertaken in various research institutions and laboratories is geared toward satisfying these needs.” With an emphasis on applied research and production techniques, Charrat sees improved production, and clementines, the fruit with the greatest export numbers, are expected to contribute 15,000 containers to export numbers this season.

“This season’s crop is showing positive numbers,” said Charrat. “Quality and quantity seem good, and large new farms are producing their first clementines this season, especially in the center of the country and Gharb areas.”

For more information:
Fatiha Charrat
Delassus Group
Tel: +212 665 186 868
Email: [email protected]


Publication date: 10/8/2013

Labeling Bill Calls For Greater Accuracy

WASHINGTON — A new bill, called the Food Labeling Modernization Act of 2013, aims to establish a standard front-of-pack nutrition labeling system and define product descriptors like “natural.”


Follow @SN_News for updates throughout the day.

The signature initiative of the measure would direct the Health and Human Services secretary to establish a single front-of-package labeling system for all food products that wish to bear nutrition labeling. It is co-sponsored by Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J., and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and was introduced in the Senate by Dick Blumenthal, D-Conn.

As part of the measure, the definition for “healthy” and other on-pack claims would be created or updated.

SN Blog: Can There Ever Be a Reliable Food Label

“This bill would give consumers confidence that the claims they read on food labels — like ‘healthy,’ ‘natural,’ ‘made with whole grains’ and so on — are grounded in reality,” said Center for Science in the Public Interest Executive Director Michael Jacobson, in a statement.

The bill comes at a time of increased scrutiny of products that contain genetically modified ingredients and make natural claims. The FDA has not developed a definition for “natural,” but says it does not object to use of the term if the food doesn’t contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.

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Spain: Table grape harvest prospects 16% greater than in 2012

Spain: Table grape harvest prospects 16% greater than in 2012

146,121 tonnes of table grapes are estimated to be harvested this year; 16% more than in 2012, according to data provided by the Agricultural Statistics Service in partnership with the Local Agricultural Offices, as reported by the Council of Agriculture.

The general director of Agrifood Industry and Agricultural Training, Ángel García Lidón, highlighted that “optimal weather conditions for the crop, both during the flowering and the settling stage, have resulted in greater production volumes and grapes of a good size.”

The greatest increase in production volumes has been registered in the Apirena and Red Gobe varieties (26% and 13% respectively).

The increase of the Apirena varieties is due to expansions in the acreage and the entry into production of new plantations.

For the Napoleon and Dominga varieties, production volumes will remain the same this year, while the Italia variety falls by 18%, due to a reduction in the acreage.

In 2012, the region was the largest table grape producer, with 125,910 tonnes, which accounts for 53% of the national production, followed by the province of Alicante, with 34% and Andalusia, with 7%.

The total acreage of the region is of 5,493 hectares, which concentrate mainly in the Valley of Guagalentín (64%) and Vega del Segura (32%). There are also plantations in the Altiplano (4%) and to a lesser extent, in Campo de Cartagena.

Murcia is the second Region with the largest table grape acreage (36%), followed by the Region of Valencia (44%).

The Region of Murcia’s table grape exports reached an approximate value of 127 million Euro in 2012 and represented around 62% of Spain’s total. 

Last year, Murcia exported a total of 69,572 tonnes, which represents 55% of its total production.

Murcia’s main clients (95%) were the countries of the European Union. The United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands received 84% of those exports. The rest went to countries in Africa, Asia and America.

Source: Carm

Publication date: 7/10/2013