Category Archives: Food

McDonald’s Workers Begin Walk Out

By: Rajeev Sayal of The Guardian

McDonald’s workers in Britain are striking in a dispute over zero-hours contracts and working conditions that is being closely observed by the fast food industry and trade unions.

Staff from branches in Manchester and Watford will join colleagues in Crayford and Cambridge as part of a “McStrike” as workers demand a minimum £10-an-hour living wage.

Members of the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union are also asking for a choice of fixed-hour contracts, the end of unequal pay for young workers, and union recognition.

Employees at UK branches attracted worldwide attention in September by striking for the first time. Britain is one of McDonald’s strongest markets, reporting 12 years of quarterly growth.

While the numbers of employees taking strike action on Tuesday is small – just 11 are officially involved – one academic said the move was significant.

Tony Royle, a professor of employment relations at the University of York, said the dispute was symbolic of the growing income gap, an increase in precarious work and a decline in independent trade union representation.

“McDonald’s is a multibillion-dollar corporation which continues to pay its senior executives sky-high salaries while paying low wages for the vast majority of its 2 million employees.

“Young workers in particular have felt the brunt of the ‘flexible’ labour market and austerity government policies and are increasingly frustrated, angry and ready to fight for a more just workplace.

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Lab Grown Meals May Be Closer To Your Plate Than You Think

By: Lucy Pasha-Robinson of The Independent

Meat grown in a laboratory could be on restaurant menus by the end of the year, one manufacturer has claimed.

In vitro animal products, sometimes referred to as “clean meat”, are made from stem cells harvested via biopsy from living livestock, which are then grown in a lab over a number of weeks.

Some environmentalists believe the process could be the key to reducing global warming, with one study predicting it could lower harmful greenhouse emissions by 96 per cent.

And the first products could be available for human consumption within months, according to Josh Tetrick, CEO of clean meat manufacturer JUST.

Chicken nuggets, sausage and foie gras created using the technique could be served in restaurants in the US and Asia “before the end of 2018”, he told CNN.

But public perception and a reluctance to diverge from traditional farmed meat still represent considerable hurdles for the clean meat industry to overcome, he said.

“Gnarly problems, communication issues, regulatory issues,” would have to be solved before products went to market, he said in a separate interview with The Guardian.

His stance is shared by Mosa Meat, whose lab based at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, was responsible for creating the world’s first cultured hamburger.

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To Give Or Not To Give 50% of Earth to Wildlife

By : Robin Mckie

The orangutan is one of our planet’s most distinctive and intelligent creatures. It has been observed using primitive tools, such as the branch of a tree, to hunt food, and is capable of complex social behaviour. Orangutans also played a special role in humanity’s own intellectual history when, in the 19th century, Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, co-developers of the theory of natural selection, used observations of them to hone their ideas about evolution.

But humanity has not repaid orangutans with kindness. The numbers of these distinctive, red-maned primates are now plummeting thanks to our destruction of their habitats and illegal hunting of the species. Last week, an international study revealed that its population in Borneo, the animal’s last main stronghold, now stands at between 70,000 and 100,000, less than half of what it was in 1995. “I expected to see a fairly steep decline, but I did not anticipate it would be this large,” said one of the study’s co-authors, Serge Wich of Liverpool John Moores University.

For good measure, conservationists say numbers are likely to fall by at least another 45,000 by 2050, thanks to the expansion of palm oil plantations, which are replacing their forest homes. One of Earth’s most spectacular creatures is heading towards oblivion, along with the vaquita dolphin, the Javan rhinoceros, the western lowland gorilla, the Amur leopard and many other species whose numbers are today declining dramatically. All of these are threatened with the fate that has already befallen the Tasmanian tiger, the dodo, the ivory-billed woodpecker and the baiji dolphin – victims of humanity’s urge to kill, exploit and cultivate.

As a result, scientists warn that humanity could soon be left increasingly isolated on a planet bereft of wildlife and inhabited only by ourselves plus domesticated animals and their parasites. This grim scenario will form the background to a key conference – Safeguarding Space for Nature and Securing Our Future – to be held in London on 27-28 February.

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Monkeys Learn To Use Currency & Results Strikingly Similar To Human Activity

By: Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt of NYTimes

Keith Chen’s Monkey Research Adam Smith, the founder of classical economics, was certain that humankind’s knack for monetary exchange belonged to humankind alone.

“Nobody ever saw a dog make a fair and deliberate exchange of one bone for another with another dog,” he wrote. “Nobody ever saw one animal by its gestures and natural cries signify to another, this is mine, that yours; I am willing to give this for that.” But in a clean and spacious laboratory at Yale-New Haven Hospital, seven capuchin monkeys have been taught to use money, and a comparison of capuchin behavior and human behavior will either surprise you very much or not at all, depending on your view of humans.

The capuchin is a New World monkey, brown and cute, the size of a scrawny year-old human baby plus a long tail. “The capuchin has a small brain, and it’s pretty much focused on food and sex,” says Keith Chen, a Yale economist who, along with Laurie Santos, a psychologist, is exploiting these natural desires — well, the desire for food at least — to teach the capuchins to buy grapes, apples and Jell-O.

“You should really think of a capuchin as a bottomless stomach of want,” Chen says. “You can feed them marshmallows all day, they’ll throw up and then come back for more.”

When most people think of economics, they probably conjure images of inflation charts or currency rates rather than monkeys and marshmallows. But economics is increasingly being recognized as a science whose statistical tools can be put to work on nearly any aspect of modern life. That’s because economics is in essence the study of incentives, and how people — perhaps even monkeys — respond to those incentives. A quick scan of the current literature reveals that top economists are studying subjects like prostitution, rock ‘n’ roll, baseball cards and media bias.

Chen proudly calls himself a behavioral economist, a member of a growing subtribe whose research crosses over into psychology, neuroscience and evolutionary biology. He began his monkey work as a Harvard graduate student, in concert with Marc Hauser, a psychologist. The Harvard monkeys were cotton-top tamarins, and the experiments with them concerned altruism. Two monkeys faced each other in adjoining cages, each equipped with a lever that would release a marshmallow into the other monkey’s cage. The only way for one monkey to get a marshmallow was for the other monkey to pull its lever. So pulling the lever was to some degree an act of altruism, or at least of strategic cooperation.

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Magic Mushrooms Used To Treat Depression

By: Eric W. Dolan

New research suggests that psilocybin-assisted therapy helps alleviate treatment-resistant depression by reviving emotional responsiveness in the brain.

Psilocybin is the primary mind-altering substance in psychedelic “magic” mushrooms. The drug can profoundly alter the way a person experiences the world by producing changes in mood, sensory perception, time perception, and sense of self.

The new study, published in the scientific journal Neuropharmacology, found that depressed people had increased neural responses to fearful faces one day after a psilocybin-assisted therapy session, which positively predicted positive clinical outcomes.

“I believe that psychedelics hold a potential to cure deep psychological wounds, and I believe that by investigating their neuropsychopharmacological mechanism, we can learn to understand this potential,” explained study author Leor Roseman, a PhD student at Imperial College London.

For the study, 20 patients with major depression underwent two psilocybin-assisted therapy sessions. The participants received fMRI brain scans before their first session and on the morning after their second session.

While receiving the brain scans, the participants viewed images of faces with fearful, happy, and neutral expressions.

The researchers were particularly interested in a brain structure known as the amygdala, which is associated with emotional processing and threat detection.

Following the psilocybin-assisted therapy sessions, the majority of patients reported that the treatment improved their depressive symptoms.

Roseman and his colleagues observed heightened amygdala responses to both fearful and happy faces after treatment with psilocybin. However, only increased amygdala responses to fearful faces were associated with successful clinical outcomes one week later.

“Psilocybin-assisted therapy might mitigate depression by increasing emotional connection, this is unlike SSRI antidepressants which are criticized for creating in many people a general emotional blunting,” Roseman told PsyPost.

Though more studies are being conducted on psychedelic drugs like psilocybin, the research is still in its early phases.

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British Columbia Bans Grizzly Bear Hunting

By: Kendra Mangione of CTV News

Less than a month after a ban on grizzly bear trophy hunting came into effect, the province has decided to expand the ban to include hunting the species for meat.

B.C.’s minister of forests, lands and natural resources made the announcement Monday, stating that the decision was made after consultations conducted earlier this fall.

“We have listened to what British Columbians have to say on this issue and it is abundantly clear that the grizzly hunt is not in line with their values,” Doug Donaldson said in a statement.

The government consulted with Aboriginal groups, stakeholders and the public, and said that 78 per cent of respondents supported an outright ban.

Grizzly hunting season will no longer open April 1, the government said. The ban applies to both resident and non-resident hunters, but First Nations members will still be permitted to hunt bears for food, social and ceremonial purposes and treaty rights.

Coastal First Nations celebrated the expanded prohibition as an “important step toward reconciliation.”

Environment Minister George Heyman said the ban, as well as a focused grizzly bear management plan, were the first steps in protecting the species.

He said the province also hopes to promote grizzly bear viewing programs, giving residents and visitors the opportunity to view the bears in their natural habitat.

Speaking on behalf of the B.C. Greens, MLA Adam Olsen said his party was “absolutely overjoyed” with the decision.

The ban came less than a month after the province’s ban on trophy hunting of grizzlies came into effect. Grizzly hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest was also no longer permitted as of Nov. 30.

The province said staff will also be implementing recommendations made in a report released in October on grizzly bear management.

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Nestlé’s Troublesome Business Peactices

By: The Golder

The price of a litre of bottled water in B.C. is often higher than a litre of gasoline.

However, the price paid by the world’s largest bottled water company for taking 265 million litres of fresh water every year from a well in the Fraser Valley — not a cent.

Because of B.C.’s lack of groundwater regulation, Nestlé Waters Canada — a division of the multi-billion-dollar Switzerland-based Nestlé Group, the world’s largest food company — is not required to measure, report, or pay a penny for the millions of litres of water it draws from Hope and then sells across Western Canada.

According to the provincial Ministry of Environment, “B.C. is the only jurisdiction in Canada that doesn’t regulate groundwater use.”

“The province does not license groundwater, charge a rental for groundwater withdrawals or track how much bottled water companies are taking from wells,” said a Ministry of Environment spokesperson in an email to The Province.

This isn’t new. Critics have been calling for change for years now, saying the lack of groundwater regulation is just one outdated example from the century-old Water Act.

The Ministry of Environment has said they plan — in the 2014 legislature sitting — to introduce groundwater regulation with the proposed Water Sustainability Act, which would update and replace the existing Water Act, established in 1909. But experts note that successive governments have been talking about modernizing water for decades, but the issue keeps falling off the agenda.

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Puerto Rico Receives 300m recovery Contract 

By: Ken Klippenstein of The Daily Beast

Puerto Rico has agreed to pay a reported $300 million for the restoration of its power grid to a tiny utility company that is primarily financed by a private-equity firm founded and run by a man who contributed large sums of money to President Trump, an investigation conducted by The Daily Beast has found.

Whitefish Energy Holdings, which had a reported staff of only two full-time employees when Hurricane Maria touched down, appears ill-equipped to handle the daunting task of restoring electricity to Puerto Rico’s more than 3 million residents.

Much larger utilities are more commonly used following natural disasters on the scale of Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island last month.

The private-equity firm that finances Whitefish, HBC Investments, was founded by Joe Colonnetta, who serves as its general partner.

Federal Elections Commission data compiled by The Daily Beast shows Colonnetta contributed $20,000 to the Trump Victory PAC during the general election, $2,700 to Trump’s primary election campaign (then the maximum amount permitted), $2,700 to Trump’s general election campaign (also the maximum), and a total of $30,700 to the Republican National Committee in 2016 alone.

Colonnetta’s wife, Kimberly, is no stranger to Republican politics either; shortly after Trump’s victory, she gave $33,400 to the Republican National Committee, the maximum contribution permitted for party committees in 2016.

Joe Colonnetta is not the only Republican connection to the controversial Whitefish contract. On Monday, The Washington Post reported that Whitefish Chief Executive Officer Andy Techmanski is friends with Trump administration Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Moreover, Whitefish is located in Zinke’s hometown of Whitefish, Monatana.

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Could Global Warming be solved by Regreening the planet ?

By: Reuters

Planting forests and other activities that harness the power of nature could play a major role in limiting global warming under the 2015 Paris agreement, an international study showed on Monday.

Natural climate solutions, also including protection of carbon-storing peatlands and better management of soils and grasslands, could account for 37% of all actions needed by 2030 under the 195-nation Paris plan, it said.

Combined, the suggested “regreening of the planet” would be equivalent to halting all burning of oil worldwide, it said. 
“Better stewardship of the land could have a bigger role in fighting climate change than previously thought,” the international team of scientists said of findings published in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

The estimates for nature’s potential, led by planting forests, were up to 30% higher than those envisaged by a UN panel of climate scientists in a 2014 report, it said.

Trees soak up heat-trapping carbon dioxide as they grow and release it when they burn or rot. That makes forests, from the Amazon to Siberia, vast natural stores of greenhouse gases.

Overall, better management of nature could avert 11.3bn tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year by 2030, the study said, equivalent to China’s current carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use.

The Paris climate agreement, weakened by US president Donald Trump’s decision in June to pull out, seeks to limit a rise in global temperature to “well below” 2C above pre-industrial times.

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How Nestlé Makes its Billions

By: Caroline Winter of Bloomberg 

Inside, workers wear hairnets, hard hats, goggles, gloves, and earplugs. Ten production lines snake through the space, funneling local spring water into 8-ounce to 2.5-gallon containers; most of the lines run 24/7, each pumping out 500 to 1,200 bottles per minute. About 60 percent of the supply comes from Mecosta’s springs and arrives at the factory via a 12-mile pipeline. The rest is trucked in from neighboring Osceola County, about 40 miles north. “Daily, we’re looking at 3.5 million bottles potentially,” says Dave Sommer, the plant’s 41-year-old manager, shouting above the din.

Silos holding 125 tons of plastic resin pellets provide the raw material for the bottles. They’re molded into shape at temperatures reaching 400F before being filled, capped, inspected, labeled, and laser-printed with the location, day, and minute they were produced—a process that takes less than 25 seconds. Next, the bottles are bundled, shrink-wrapped onto pallets, and picked up by a fleet of 25 forklifts that ferry them to the plant’s warehouse or loading docks. As many as 175 trucks arrive every day to transport the water to retail locations in the Midwest. “We want more people to drink water, keep hydrated,” Sommer says. “It would be nice if it were my water, but we just want them to drink water.”

Nestlé SA started bottling in 1843 when company founder Henri Nestlé purchased a business on Switzerland’s Monneresse Canal. “Ever the curious scientist, [he] analyzed and experimented with the enrichment of water with a variety of minerals, always with a singular goal: to provide healthy, accessible, and delicious refreshment,” reads Nestlé’s website. Today there are thousands of bottled water companies worldwide—there’s even Trump Ice—but Nestlé is the biggest globally in terms of sales, followed by Coca-Cola, Danone, and PepsiCo, according to Euromonitor International. Nestlé Waters, the Paris-based subsidiary, owns almost 50 brands, including Perrier, S.Pellegrino, and Poland Spring.

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