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July 10, 2012

Policy & Research

Green Food Project urges farmers to spice up sustainability efforts

A major new report backed by the UK government aims to increase the sustainability of the country’s food industry. The Green Food Project, which includes input from the National Farmers Union, WWF-UK, the British Retail Consortium and the Food and Drink Federation, sets out a series of conclusions on how the agricultural and food industries can enhance energy and water efficiency, increase crop yields and improve conservation management. It argues that farmers and food companies need to be ready to adapt to changing production and consumption patterns, and most notably recommends that farmers increase domestic production of the herbs and spices used in curries in order to open up new markets while reducing food miles. Mark Driscoll, head of WWF-UK's food programme, welcomed the launch of the report as a "very small first step", and raised concerns over “woolly” recommendations. (BusinessGreen)

Corporate Reputation

BMW accused of hypocrisy over opposition to emissions targets

BMW is lobbying to water down European plans to improve the fuel efficiency of cars at the same time as trumpeting its green credentials as the official car sponsor of the Olympic Games, claims the Guardian. The German car manufacturer is providing 4,000 cars to ferry officials and athletes to and from Olympic sites as part of its sponsorship deal, citing fuel efficiency and sustainability in its accompanying publicity material. However, an internal BMW review written in June outlines the company's opposition to proposals for a tougher limit on carbon emissions from new cars sold within the EU in 2020. The car industry is split on the new proposals, with smaller car makers such as Fiat, Renault and Peugeot lining up with "progressive" makers such as Ford and Toyota against the German car makers, Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler. (The Guardian, p22)


Canada's PM faces revolt by scientists

Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, faces a widening revolt by the country's leading scientists against sweeping cuts to government research labs and broadly pro-industry policies. The scientists plan to march through Ottawa in white lab coats today in the second big protest in a month against the Harper government's science and environmental agenda. Harper is accused of pushing through a slew of policies weakening or abolishing environmental protections – with an aim of expanding development of natural resources. The showdown between the government and scientists was set late last month by the passage of a budget bill intended to shift more resources towards monitoring development of the Alberta tar sands, the core of Harper's economic strategy. Critics say the changes gut the country's strongest environmental law, the Canadian Fisheries Act, by easing earlier requirements on mining and other industries to protect fish habitat. (The Guardian)

Inclusive Business

Microsoft proposes apps for the bottom billion

Researchers from the University of Toronto and Microsoft have demonstrated the potential for “crowdsourcing” from some of the world’s poorest people by adapting an all-but forgotten technology originally developed by Nokia. Using a system that uses text messages to send pictures, the researchers have shown how the task of digitising handwritten documents could be divided word by word among the roughly 1.5 billion low-end mobile phones currently in circulation, without the need for an internet connection.  "Crowdsourcing on phones really has potential to provide substantial income for people who are very poor and have a lot of time on their hands," says Ed Cutrell, a computer scientist at Microsoft Research India in Bangalore. (Technology Review)