Friday Feed by Eva Perroni: an Australian-based researcher and writer reporting on the frontline of food and farming issues

Friday Feed

This week: Australia’s live export regulation review, farming and agriculture in the age of Trump, the environmental impact of Brexit and can the ocean really be cleaned up?

Australia

Live Export Review Implementation Has Some Graziers Saying They’re Being ‘Regulated out of Existence’
ABC Rural
Big changes to the regulation of live sheep and cattle export voyages signalled this week in the release of a comprehensive Federal Government review have drawn mixed reactions from industry and animal welfare groups.

How Will Australia Feed Our Growing Population?
The Age
In broad-ranging conversation, a special panel line-up explored food waste, genetically modified crops, veganism, obesity, a sugar tax, organic farming – and a host of other issues. Whose job it is to ensure we grow the right foods sustainably in Australia?

Plastic Pollution: Can the Ocean Really Be Cleaned Up?
The Guardian
While the ultimate goal is to stop plastics from entering the water in the first place, cleanup projects play an important role.

Salmonella Egg Recall a Reminder About Hygiene but Not Cause for Panic, Scientist Says
ABC Rural
The recall of hundreds of thousands of eggs due to the detection of salmonella should not prompt panic, but should serve as a reminder for Australians to adopt proper food hygiene practices, according to a researcher.

Abroad

Farming and Agriculture in the Age of Trump
The American Interest
As is the case elsewhere these days, corporate interests are in, worker safety, environmental stewardship, fairness, common sense, and facts are out.

The Environmental Impact of Brexit
The Ecologist
With two-thirds of EU regulatory environmental protections already enshrined in UK law, is farming really in danger from Brexit?

Asia Prepares for Crop Battle with Fall Armyworm
ReliefWeb
UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization warns pest is “here to stay” – but it can be managed to limit damage.

Weedkiller Glyphosate a ‘Substantial’ Cancer Factor
BBC News
A US jury has found that one of the world’s most widely-used weedkillers was a “substantial factor” in causing a man’s cancer.

In Ethiopia, Women and Faith Drive Effort to Restore Biodiversity
Mongabay
Firewood and charcoal make up nearly 90 percent of household energy consumption in Ethiopia, where the reliance on fuelwood has endured despite negative environmental impacts and unsustainable growth.

Eva Perroni is an Australian-based researcher and writer reporting on the frontline of food and farming issues.

Friday Feed

This week: A state-by-state snapshot of Australian soils, new research shows the seafood Australians eat (and what we should be eating), Indian farmers take to the street to protest plunging produce prices and the 2018 Global Nutrition Report reveals the current state of global nutrition.

Australia

Australian Soil Snapshot for World Soil Day 2018
Soil Science Australia – Media Release
Soil Science Australia has released a snapshot of some of the major soil-related issues in each State as part of World Soil Day on 5 December 2018.

Canada’s Wayland Group Strikes Medicinal Marijuana Deal in the NT
ABC Rural
A Canadian-based cannabis company is looking to grow medicinal marijuana in the Northern Territory, announcing a multi-million-dollar agreement to buy more than 50 per cent of a newly-formed Darwin-based company called Tropicann.

Here’s the Seafood Australians Eat (And What We Should Be Eating)
CSIRO
For the first time, CSIRO research has investigated the seafood Australians eat in terms of what’s best for us and the planet.

In 100 Years’ Time, Maybe Our Food Won’t Be Grown in Soil
The Conversation
Will we have the technological know-how, and will we be able to afford the infrastructural investment to produce all our food away from natural soil within a century?

Abroad

Thailand Leads Charge to Protect Soil
Bangkok Post
Thailand launched the Centre of Excellence for Soil Research in Asia (Cesra), the world’s first regional hub to promote sustainable soil management, to mark Wednesday’s World Soil Day.

Indian Farmers Take to the Streets in Protest Against Modi Government and Low Food Prices
ABC News
Tens of thousands of Indian farmers and rural workers marched to the Indian Parliament in the capital, New Delhi, in a protest against soaring operating costs and plunging produce prices that have brought misery to many.

Climate Change Is Making Soils Saltier, Forcing Many Farmers to Find New Livelihoods
The Conversation
Rising soil salinity is already influencing agricultural production and internal migration in some locations, and could affect many other coastal areas where farming takes place, from Asia to the U.S. Pacific and Gulf coasts.

Sea of Plenty? Native Alaskans Celebrate Indigenous Whaling Victory
Thomson Reuters Foundation
Even as the Inupiaq people cheer greater control over their whaling practices, they face a new threat: pressure to allow offshore oil drilling.

Report: 2018 Global Nutrition Report
The 2018 Global Nutrition Report shares insights into the current state of global nutrition, highlighting the unacceptably high burden of malnutrition in the world. It identifies areas where progress has been made in recent years but argues that it is too slow and too inconsistent.

Photo courtesy of Future Feeders

Eva Perroni is an Australian-based researcher and writer reporting on the frontline of food and farming issues.

Eating as If It Were a Sacred Act

Food is a universal experience, a shared language that binds all of humanity, the foundation on which we literally build ourselves. The way we engage with food can be both the simplest and most profound way of cultivating honourable relationships with one another and the species who share our planet. For centuries, food has held a central and ritualised position for many cultures. But in today’s modern, busy world, food has been reduced to a peripheral and much less exalted substance. Modernity has certainly endangered the daily practice of food preparation and mindful eating with a culture of convenience, altering both what we eat and the way we eat it. When the act of preparing and eating food is embodied with intention and reverence, it moves beyond the function of simply fuelling the body and instead becomes a vehicle for connection, wellness and transformation.

Historically, sharing a meal may be seen as the ultimate sacred act: from the placing of food in the begging bowl of the Buddhist monk, to the Catholic sacrament of holy communion, to the Muslim traditions of suhoor and iftar during Ramadan. Food preparation was similarly embodied with sacredness. In countless cultures and ceremonies, people have practiced ritual food preparation and eating as a way of celebrating and honouring their connection to the earth, to plant and animal life, to the community, their ancestors and the cosmos.

Food, Faith and Culture

Food and faith are bound in an intimate relationship that predates modern history. Since prehistoric times, the deities of many mythologies were invoked through elaborate rituals in hopes for a good harvest. Harvest deities – such as the Romans’ Ceres or the Greeks’ Demeter – were believed to have offered part of themselves in the form of the fruits of the land. In grateful response, people offered sacrifices to replenish their offerings and held celebrations in honour of the nourishment they received. Ancestral spirits were entreated with gifts to maintain favourable connections in times of need or inspiration. Food was revered as a powerful mechanism for celebrating the embodied divine, as a portal that bridged the earthly and otherworldly planes.

Giovanni - Sacred Eai
Giovanni Bellini and Titian, The Feast of the Gods, 1514/1529, National Gallery of Art.

Many ethnic and indigenous cultures continue to maintain extensive food-faith linkages that ascribe ritual importance to food. Take the Japanese tradition of Ōryōki, or “just enough”; a meditative form of eating and mindful awareness practice that requires abiding by a strict order of precise movements. As a form of Zen practice, the meal, eaten with a wooden ōryōki set of nested bowls and utensils wrapped in cloth, represents a number of virtues. Lack of greed is reflected through taking just enough to satiate and mindfully ensure that there is no waste. Awareness is reflected through the specific choreographed ritual of serving, receiving and eating. Respect is demonstrated between the receiver and offerer of food. Devotedness to the higher spiritual form of Buddha is acknowledged through chanting, prayer and offerings. Each movement of the ōryōki is designed to unfold in harmonious consistency, requiring a meticulous awareness of what is happening in the moment, whilst acknowledging and respecting the processes – both natural and physical – that have combined to create the meal.

Beyond specific religious and cultural practice, food and its preparation have been a vehicle through which (mostly) women have traditionally cared for their family’s physical, cultural and spiritual needs. Chicken soup has not become the common dish to serve someone with a cold simply for its mix of vitamins and minerals, but because it symbolises a mother’s care and love, becoming a medium for the metaphysical transference of these qualities. Making many traditional foodstuffs meant the convening of generations of women in a kitchen, a room in which women’s knowledge, friendship and spirit was concentrated and radiated. It involved deeply sensual and tactile forms of knowledge in the search for the right ingredients, or for a particular texture, feel or taste. When a traditional recipe is passed from generation to generation, it is imbued with the cumulative sacred energy of countless generations of ancestors that have mixed their time, dedication and energy into the same tasks. In this way, food and its preparation hold accumulated layers of meaning. The kitchen becomes a conduit through which connection to our heritage, our loved ones and ourselves becomes manifest through thoughtfully and even playfully preparing a meal.

A Cultural Disconnect

In today’s hyper-modern world, so many have developed an adversarial relationship with food that is unbalanced at best and completely severed at worst. Food sensitivities and allergies, eating disorders, obesity and diet-related disease are the mentally draining and physically damaging manifestations of the angst and confusion around food and eating. Modern culture has seemingly disconnected us from the very thing that gives and supports life. This disconnect is reflected in the literal distancing between food’s point of origin and natural state and the meal that all too often turns up on plates or consumed whilst on the go.

Diets across the globe are increasingly displacing wholesome nutritious food with unhealthy, highly-processed edible products. These products are created from substances that have been transformed, reconstituted, significantly degraded and extracted from what were once wholefoods, often grown in intensive, monoculture systems that significantly damage the environment. These may include refined flours and starches, hydrogenated oils and fats, sugars and the multiple variants thereof, remnants or low-cost parts of animals, synthetic vitamins and minerals and (often chemical) additives and preservatives.  

With incomprehensible ingredient lists, the inclusion of purposefully obscured genetically modified organisms and veiled transnational food supply-chains, the formulation – and reformulation – of industrial food-like products has severed food from any meaningful connection to the place and people from which it came. Unfortunately, modern culture has sacrificed connection for convenience, with the human body and the environment paying the price. When we begin to expand our relationship to food beyond simple caloric gratification and are instead motivated by an interest in nourishment – of body, mind or soil – the value that has been placed on the convenience of processed foods naturally comes into question.

Even when a diet is predominantly made up of wholefoods, cooking and eating have largely been divorced from an essential human ingredient: mindfulness. The purposeful, but gentle effort of being present with our experience. All too often the stresses and distractions of the day drag people into an alienation from the here and now. Televisions, laptops, iPhones and emails, projects, deadlines, people and preoccupations can take us away from the everyday moments through which we can reconnect with our food and ourselves. As described by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, “There are some people who eat an orange but don’t really eat it. They eat their sorrow, fear, anger, past, and future. They are not really present, with body and mind united.”

Beyond individual stressors and distractions, being mindful of the time we dedicate to engaging with food and each other is also important. In general, people are spending less and less time preparing their own meals and eating them together. Whilst it may be natural to dismiss the family meal as a nostalgic remnant of times gone by, there are many positive benefits of gathering at the dinner table. Children who eat dinner with their parents five or more days a week eat healthier and are less likely to engage in disordered eating behaviours, show better academic performance, have less trouble with drugs and alcohol, have lower depressive symptoms and report being closer with their families. Being mindful of the time spent around the dinner table is a simple solution to cultivate connectedness, communication and interaction amongst families.

Sharing a meal with others also promotes social connectedness, increased happiness and better health. The simple act of gathering around the communal table helps establish human connection, which is crucial to maintaining happiness and a sense of belonging. It also encourages better eating, not just from a nutritional perspective, but a psychological one as well. Engaging in the pleasures of commensality provides an opportunity to de-stress; to leave behind our individual pursuits and grant ourselves a small pleasure over the constant barrage of productivity. 

Sacred Eating - Eva Perroni
Mullumbimby Community Garden. Photo courtesy of Future Feeders.
Cultivating Connection: Food and Mindfulness at Mealtime.

We are a part of a vast food web, a web of life that connects all things across time and space. Food not only connects us to plants and animals but landscapes and territories, their histories and politics. It connects us to distant peoples and to places within ourselves that hold memories and meaning. Slowing down and thinking about the many layers of food: from where our food comes from, the human effort and resources that helped grow it or the quality of life of farm animals, to how our bodies are being strengthened and nourished from the foods which we feed it, can be a powerful way to stimulate mindfulness and influence behaviour.

The “How” Part: Preparing Food

Asking ourselves how we view cooking is an important first step in engaging mindfully with food. Is cooking a chore or a duty, a boredom or a waste of time? If it is difficult finding enjoyment and entertainment in cooking, a shift in mindset or approach – even simply as an experiment to begin with – may help in reconnecting with the pleasurable aspects of cooking. Preparing food can be a way of engaging all five senses at once:

Selecting ripe, bright seasonal fruits and vegetables can create a multi-coloured or textured meal.  Smell can be stimulated with the use of herbs and spices and pausing and appreciating the aroma of a meal as it’s cooking.  Cultivate taste with fresh ingredients and good quality local produce. Turn the meal into a tactile experience through experimenting with different textures and components.  Set the mood by playing music. Engage family and friends and make it a communal adventure.

Take a small step – wonderfully rich and delicious meals can be prepared with few ingredients and with very little effort – just a little time, practice and willingness to experiment.

Eating

As Thich Nhat Hanh has noted, your meal is a perfect demonstration of “inter-being”. When serving meals, acknowledge the many processes that have come together to form the fare. Our meals are a small manifestation of the sun’s energy, the rain, soil, pollinators and the hardworking hands that harvested your produce. Increasing our awareness as we eat transforms eating from a base act of material consumption to active participation in a vast network of existence. Take on the same process as when preparing food to appreciate the colours, textures, flavours and aroma of the meal. Be present and attentive to those who share it with you. Put aside your devices for aside for a moment.

When coming together over food, see it as a celebration and an opportunity to acknowledge and honour the hard work of others and the gifts of friendship. Let the flavours of the food be enhanced by the stories shared and the connections formed over the course of the meal. Through the simple process of sharing a meal, we can build a healthier physical, social and emotional fabric for ourselves and our communities. In this way, preparing and eating food becomes a moment for reflection and gratitude, interwoven with the everyday aspects of life. It becomes a sacred act.

 

Resources to re-engage with food

Read: Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life by Thich Nhat Hanh & Dr Lilian Cheung

Connect: The Family Dinner Project providing conversation starters and other resources for the family dinner table

Cook: thefoodcoach.com.au simple, healthy recipes categorised by meal type or ingredient

Feed your mind with the latest food and farming news, research and feelgood features from Australia and across the globe on EvaPerroni.com

Friday Feed

Australia

Outlook not great for autumn rain as long dry continues
Daily Liberal

The majority of NSW is under drought watch or drought onset, with little hope for autumn planting rains in the next few weeks.

If pollies won’t act on climate change, farmers will
Herald Sun

“We can do a lot on our farms to manage climate risk, but things are getting pretty stretched and we can’t do it alone. ”

Farmers rally against proposed changes to Queensland vegetation management laws
ABC News

Approximately 500 farmers have voiced their anger at the Queensland State Government over proposed new land and tree clearing laws.

Should lab-grown meat be labelled as meat when it’s available for sale?
News.com.au

Meat grown in a lab is heading to Australia, and unless you’re extra vigilant, you could soon be eating artificial meat without realising it.

Abroad

Land degradation threatens human wellbeing, major report warns
The Guardian

Land degradation is undermining the wellbeing of two-fifths of humanity, raising the risks of migration and conflict, according to the most comprehensive global assessment of the problem to date.

New Zealand to cull 22,000 dairy cows in effort to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis disease
ABC News

New Zealand authorities have announced a plan to cull 22,000 dairy cows to try and eradicate the disease Mycoplasma bovis, which has been found on the country’s South Island.

Brazilian School Districts Make Historic Switch to 100% Plant-Based Meals
EcoWatch

Four cities in Brazil have pledged to transition all of the meals served at its public school cafeterias to 100 percent plant-based by the end of 2019, with the mission of reducing the cities’ environmental footprint, aiding local produce farmers and fostering healthy eating habits for students.

Are you ready for 3D-printed sushi?
SBS Food

Japanese company Open Meals was the talk of the South by Southwest (SXSW) tradeshow in Austin, Texas, earlier this month, because it showcased a 3D printer that made “8-bit sushi”.

Revealed: BBC Food and Farming Awards 2018 Finalists
BBC Radio

A list of this year’s best food and drink producers, chefs, artisans and farmers from across the United Kingdom.

 

Photo courtesy of Future Feeders

Friday Feed: the latest food and farming news, research and feelgood features from Australia and across the globe on EvaPerroni.com

Friday Feed

This week: Urban sprawl eating Sydney’s farmland, Australia’s first edible hemp crop, China’s landmark sustainable ag project and Regenerative Organic Certification.

 

Australia

Victoria announces AU$15m agtech fund for on-farm IoT
ZDNet

The Victorian government has announced a AU$15 million investment to enhance agricultural technology for the state’s farmers, with trials beginning in Maffra, Birchip, Serpentine and Tatura from July 1.

Sydney’s housing demand is swallowing farms on the harbour city’s fringes
ABC News

Relentless urban sprawl in the harbour city is swallowing farms on the city’s fringes so quickly produce from the Sydney Basin will be almost non-existent within 15 years.

First legal crop of edible hemp goes to harvest
Sydney Morning Herald

While hemp has been grown legally in Tasmania since the 1990s, until now, a ban on human consumption has stifled the industry’s growth.

Dairy pen pals get stamp of approval
FarmOnline

Dairy Australia’s Student Pen Pal program will see children across Australia writing letters to each other to help connect country and city kids and paint a more accurate picture of life on a dairy farm.

Abroad

What Does the New Regenerative Organic Certification Mean for the Future of Good Food?
Civil Eats

Several new labels introduced last week seek to move beyond USDA organic. Can they shore up sustainable practices, or will they sow consumer confusion?

Millions of Chinese farmers reap benefits of huge crop experiment
Nature

A landmark project to make agriculture more sustainable in China has significantly cut fertilizer use while boosting crop yields for 21 million smallholder farmers.

The Quinoa Boom Goes Bust in the Andes
Nacla

Though the complex dynamics the boom set in motion have received ample and deserved media attention, the inevitable bust that followed has gone unnoticed in international media, and brings up important questions about commercializing indigenous foods.

Thousands of Indian farmers end protest after talks with government
BBC News

Farmers in the western Indian state of Maharashtra have ended their protest over loan waivers, prices and land rights after meeting state ministers.

Bug Burgers, Algae Buns And Herb Ice Cream: Ikea’s Fast Food Of The Future
Forbes

Ikea’s innovative Space10 lab, based in Copenhagen, outlined the kind of food it thinks we’ll be eating someday.

 

Photo courtesy of Future Feeders