Top Stories

July 25, 2017


Report: Australian taxpayer-purchased water intended for rivers harvested by irrigators

An investigation by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Four Corners programme alleges that billions of litres of water bought by taxpayers to return to the environment under the $13 billion Murray-Darling Basin Plan are being pumped out by some irrigators for cotton growing. The pumping of this environmental water means taxpayers have in some cases been effectively subsidising already wealthy agricultural interests, including those of Webster Limited, a publicly-traded company which holds a $300 million water portfolio – the largest Australian-owned private holding in the country. The South Australian government, key senators, indigenous and environmental groups have called for urgent investigations from the Independent Commission Against Corruption. (ABC News; Guardian)

Supply Chain

Largest McDonald’s franchisee plans sustainable sourcing for packaging, palm oil and fish

The world’s largest McDonald’s franchisee, Arcos Dorados, has acknowledged in its just-published sustainability report that its large footprint across Latin America and the Caribbean means that it must “take a leadership role” in implementing programs that will improve its environmental impact. The company said, for example, it will sustainably source all of its packaging, coffee, palm oil and fish by 2020. The franchisee has also implemented a program across its seven largest markets in which water condensation from air conditioners in its restaurants is repurposed for other uses. It recently announced that it will be requesting information from its key suppliers on how they are managing the risks linked to deforestation and joined the CDP’s supply chain disclosure platform. Arcos Dorados says it is aligned with UN Sustainable Development Goals. (Environmental Leader)


Organic ranchers eye Amazon distribution ahead of Whole Foods deal

Amazon plans to meet with a dozen US organic and grass-fed meats farmers, as part of its takeover of Whole Foods Market. Analysts and investors have speculated that Amazon is aiming to build on its expertise to deliver fresh food, although it has not yet detailed its plans. Amazon visited Georgia grass-fed meat producer White Oak Pastures in March to discuss a possible distribution deal and later asked the farmer to invite other US livestock producers to discussions. White Oak owner Will Harris believes that “this niche in the market is becoming mainstream enough that [Amazon] feel their delivery system might have traction with it”. According to the Organic Trade Association (OTA), US sales of organic meat and poultry, worth $991 million, marked its fastest-ever annual growth last year (17%). (Reuters)


Post-Brexit trade deals ‘threaten UK’s animal welfare standards’

“Overwhelming” support in the UK for high animal welfare standards is under threat from Brexit, a report from the House of Lord has warned. The prime minister’s spokesperson said that allowing imports of US products such as chicken meat washed with chlorine would not be ruled out in trade deals, despite assurances from the Department of Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) that any trade deal would maintain or raise food standards. The committee said that while consumers are currently protected by high EU welfare standards, most people buying food are unaware of this and food labelling is not clear where and to what standards meat and vegetables have been produced. (Guardian)


EU increases pressure on Facebook, Google and Twitter over user terms

European Union authorities have increased pressure on Facebook, Google and Twitter to amend their user terms and align them with EU law after proposals submitted by the tech giants were considered insufficient. The authorities have the power to issue fines if the companies fail to comply. Their main concerns rest on procedures proposed to remove illegal content on the companies’ websites and terms limiting their liability and allowing them unilaterally to remove content posted by users. The companies’ business practices have been under recent scrutiny in Europe, from privacy issues to how quickly they remove illegal or threatening content. (Reuters)


Image Source: Organic Food at Pxhere. CC 1.0.