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China says one-fifth of its farmland is polluted
Ag News - International Ag News
Monday, 21 April 2014 11:32

IAN MADER
Associated Press

BEIJING - Faced with growing public anger about a poisonous environment, China's government released a years long study that shows nearly one-fifth of the country's farmland is contaminated with toxic metals, a stunning indictment of unfettered industrialization under the Communist Party's authoritarian rule.

The report, previously deemed so sensitive it was classified as a state secret, names the heavy metals cadmium, nickel and arsenic as the top contaminants.

It adds to widespread doubts about the safety of China's farm produce and confirms suspicions about the dire state of its soil following more than two decades of explosive industrial growth, the overuse of farm chemicals and minimal environmental protection.

It also points to health risks that, in the case of heavy metals, can take decades to emerge after the first exposure. Already, health advocates have identified several "cancer villages" in China near factories suspected of polluting the environment where they say cancer rates are above the national average.

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Chinese pork giant plans IPO to raise up to $5.3B
Ag News - International Ag News
Wednesday, 16 April 2014 11:44
altKELVIN CHAN
AP Business Writer


HONG KONG - China's WH Group, which became the world's biggest pork company after buying Smithfield Foods of the U.S. last year, said Monday it plans to raise up to $5.3 billion in an initial public offering on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Most of the money will be used to pay off the debt used to buy Smithfield. The acquisition turned the Chinese company into a global butcher with the ability to source cheaper hogs from the U.S. to better supply rapidly growing demand for pork in China, the world's second largest economy.

"WH Group's listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange is in line with our stature as the world's largest pork company, with an increasingly global reach," CEO Wan Long said in a statement.

China is expected to account for four-fifths of the growth in global pork consumption in the next five years, according to a Frost & Sullivan research report the company commissioned. Consumption in the United States and other Western markets, meanwhile, is leveling off.
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UN panel shows who's responsible for CO2 emissions
Ag News - International Ag News
Monday, 14 April 2014 11:36
altKARL RITTER
Associated Press


BERLIN - The U.N.'s expert panel on climate change is preparing a new report this weekend outlining the cuts in greenhouse gases, mainly CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels, required in coming decades to keep global warming in check.

Since it's a scientific body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change won't tell governments how to divide those emissions cuts — a crunch issue in negotiations on a new climate pact that's supposed to be adopted next year.

However, in leaked draft of the report obtained by The Associated Press, the IPCC shows with graphs and tables which countries are responsible for the greatest share of emissions, using a range of different accounting methods. These are some of the key facts on emissions:
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Japan, US struggle to bridge gaps over trade pact
Ag News - International Ag News
Thursday, 10 April 2014 11:17
altELAINE KURTENBACH
AP Business Writer


TOKYO - U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and a top Japanese official said Wednesday they still hope to bridge significant differences over opening markets under an ambitious pan-Pacific trade pact.

Froman and Japanese economy minister Akira Amari were meeting in Tokyo after talks earlier in the week appeared to stall. A meeting planned between Froman and Japan's trade minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, was cancelled, according to the ministry for unspecified reasons.

"There is still a big gap. We need to mutually, I said mutually, consider how to overcome that," Amari, who is in charge of Japan's negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, told reporters.

Japan is one of a dozen nations participating in the U.S.-led TPP trade initiative. Talks aimed at setting a basic agreement have extended beyond a 2013 deadline, with no obvious signs the various countries will come to a consensus any time soon.

The U.S. wants Japan to open its markets wider to U.S. farm products in areas Tokyo has reserved for greater protections, such as dairy products, rice and beef. Amari said the two sides hope to forge a basic agreement before President Barack Obama visits Japan later this month.

He said Obama's visit was not a "deadline" but a target to aim for.

Froman was also cautious.

"We have a lot of work to do," he said.

Japan and Australia reached agreement on Monday on lifting some trade barriers, but Japanese media reports cited Froman saying that deal falls short of the requirements of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
 
Global warming dials up our risks, UN report says
Ag News - International Ag News
Friday, 04 April 2014 12:30
altSETH BORENSTEIN
AP Science Writer


YOKOHAMA, Japan - If the world doesn't cut pollution of heat-trapping gases, the already noticeable harms of global warming could spiral "out of control," the head of a United Nations scientific panel warned Monday.

And he's not alone. The Obama White House says it is taking this new report as a call for action, with Secretary of State John Kerry saying "the costs of inaction are catastrophic."

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that issued the 32-volume, 2,610-page report here early Monday, told The Associated Press: "It is a call for action." Without reductions in emissions, he said, impacts from warming "could get out of control."

One of the study's authors, Maarten van Aalst, a top official at the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said, "If we don't reduce greenhouse gases soon, risks will get out of hand. And the risks have already risen."

Twenty-first century disasters such as killer heat waves in Europe, wildfires in the United States, droughts in Australia and deadly flooding in Mozambique, Thailand and Pakistan highlight how vulnerable humanity is to extreme weather, according to the report from the Nobel Prize-winning group of scientists. The dangers are going to worsen as the climate changes even more, the report's authors said.
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UN panel: Warming worsens food, hunger problems
Ag News - International Ag News
Monday, 31 March 2014 11:26
altSETH BORENSTEIN
AP Science Writer


YOKOHAMA, Japan - Global warming makes feeding the world harder and more expensive, a United Nations scientific panel said.

A warmer world will push food prices higher, trigger "hotspots of hunger" among the world's poorest people, and put the crunch on Western delights like fine wine and robust coffee, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded in a 32-volume report issued Monday.

"We're facing the specter of reduced yields in some of the key crops that feed humanity," panel chairman Rajendra Pachauri said in press conference releasing the report.

Even though heat and carbon dioxide are often considered good for plants, the overall effect of various aspects of man-made warming is that it will reduce food production compared to a world without global warming, the report said.

The last time the panel reported on the effects of warming in 2007, it said it was too early to tell whether climate change would increase or decrease food production, and many skeptics talked of a greening world. But in the past several years the scientific literature has been overwhelming in showing that climate change hurts food production, said Chris Field of the Carnegie Institution of Science and lead author of the climate report.
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Drought in Haiti ravages crops for farmers
Ag News - International Ag News
Friday, 28 March 2014 15:05
TRENTON DANIEL
Associated Press


BOMBARDOPOLIS, Haiti - Jean-Romain Beltinor plunged a hoe into the rocky dirt on his parched hillside to prepare for planting seeds he does not have.

After months of drought in northwest Haiti, the subsistence farmer struggles to find food for his 13 children. To earn a little money, he must turn to work that only makes things worse, cutting what little wood remains for charcoal.

"The rain isn't falling. I can't feed my family," said Beltinor, a taciturn man with a creased face and a hint of orange hair, as he yanked old roots from his small plot of land. "Sometimes you spend a couple of days without food."

Drought is hitting one of the hungriest, most desolate parts of the most impoverished nation in the hemisphere and it has alarmed international aid organizations such as the U.N. World Food Program, which sent workers this week to pass out bulgur wheat, cooking oil and salt.

The agency said it has given food to 164,000 people in the region so far, and the government said it has handed out 6,000 seed kits for farmers.

Officials hope to tide people over through the rainy season that is supposed to begin in April and until harvest in June.
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