Schools around the UK celebrated Biology Week 2013 yesterday with assemblies about food waste, starting with an animated video produced for the event. UK households throw away 20% of the food they buy, and pupils will consider how we can reduce this huge wastage.
The animation was produced by the Society of Biology in partnership with Global Food Security, and is accompanied by notes about why we waste food and how we can reduce this. Food waste has been a theme of Biology Week 2013, and Professor Tim Benton, Global Food Security champion, spoke about the issue at a Parliamentary reception on Wednesday.
Dr Mark Downs, Chief Executive of the Society of Biology, says: “The volume of food we waste is staggering; collectively, households annually throw away 4.1 million tonnes of waste that could be avoided if people knew how to manage waste better. Young people are vital in tackling the problem, as consumers, and as the scientists, farmers, retailers and policy makers of tomorrow.
“We started Biology Week as a celebration of the life sciences, and biology’s contribution to reducing food waste – whether this is preventing loss of crops to pest and disease, or ensuring food stays safe for longer – is certainly something to celebrate.”
About 2,000 people held a rally in London yesterday as licences to cull badgers came into force in two areas.
Up to 5,094 badgers can now be culled in west Somerset and west Gloucestershire. Groups of farmers in the two pilot zones have been given licences to conduct culls using trained marksmen to shoot the animals.
The rally was led by ex-Queen guitarist, Brian May, who delivered a near-250,000 signature petition to Downing Street calling for the cull to be scrapped. He said: “The great bit of new information is it has now been demonstrated that the cull cannot make economic sense. It will lose the taxpayer money rather than save it.
“That was really the last shred of reason that you could give for this cull going ahead. It is a very good time for Mr Cameron to reconsider and withdraw from this monstrous cull, in the public interest.”
Posted in Badgers, Nature, Wildlife
Tagged animal welfare, badgers, Brian May, campaigns, conservation, countryside, David Cameron, Parliament, petitions
Campaigners marched on Parliament yesterday, urging the British Government to support a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides that are responsible for declining bee numbers.
The ‘March of the Beekeepers’ in Parliament Square came ahead of a crucial vote in Brussels next week, and included a number of celebrities, as well as many beekeepers, conservationists, gardeners and environmental activists. Fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett and artist Rachel Whiteread were among those protesting at Westminster.
Yellow and black dominated the scene as many in attendance dressed as bees and carried signs with slogans such as “Like Food? Love Bees” and “No to Neonic,” referring to pesticide class called neonicotinoids that a number of recent studies have tied directly to the decline of bee populations.
Member states are due to decide whether or not to introduce a two-year moratorium on their use on Monday. Unlike France, Spain and Italy, Britain is widely expected to abstain or vote no against the neonicotinoid ban, saying the impact of the pesticides on bees is unclear and the restrictions could harm crop production.
The organisers of the so-called “March of the Beekeepers” included Avaaz, Friends of the Earth, Buglife, Environmental Justice Foundation, Greenpeace, Pesticide Action Network UK, Soil Association and the group 38 Degrees.
“Ministers can’t ignore the growing scientific evidence linking neonicotinoid insecticides to bee decline,” said Friends of the Earth’s campaigns director Andrew Pendleton. “Their claims to be concerned about bee health will ring hollow if they fail to back European moves to restrict the use of these chemicals.”
So far 2.6 million people have signed the Avaaz petition, which calls for the immediate ban of neonicotinoid pesticides.
Posted in Bees, Nature, Wildlife
Tagged Avaaz, conservation, countryside, Defra, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Parliament, pesticides, petitions
Saif Dahlah/AFP/Getty Images
The Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, must end Defra’s “extraordinary complacency” and suspend the use of pesticides linked to serious harm in bees, according to a damning report from a leading group of cross-party MPs.
The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has told the UK Government they were wrong when they chose not to support a two year ban on the three neonicotinoid pesticides most dangerous to bees and should change its position.
Members of the EAC concluded that by the start of 2014 the UK Government must enforce a moratorium on the use of three neonicotinoids, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin, as well as support a similar proposal at a European level.
“The environment department seems to be taking an extraordinarily complacent approach to protecting bees given the vital free service that pollinators provide to our economy,” said the EAC’s chair, Joan Walley. “We believe that the weight of scientific evidence now warrants precautionary action.”
The Committee also called for data on the environmental safety of pesticides to be made public and highlighted the urgent need for a wild pollinator monitoring programme, which would show where pollinators need our help the most.
Friends of the Earth has written to the Government asking it to ban the worst bee-harming pesticides, and is now asking you to add your name to the letter, which tells Ministers to ban the most bee-harming pesticides and accept the EAC’s recommendations.
The charity said: “If enough of us add our names we can persuade the Government to accept the EAC’s recommendations – and follow the lead of the DIY stores and garden centres that have already taken some of the most dangerous pesticides off their shelves.”
Posted in Bees, Environment, Nature, Uncategorized, Wildlife
Tagged campaigns, conservation, countryside, Defra, Europe, Owen Paterson, Parliament, pesticides
Pic by PA
TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall led a march to Westminster on Monday to urge the Government to do more to protect UK seas.
He was accompanied by hundreds of supporters, many in fish-related fancy dress, waving banners and placards that urged ministers to increase the number of marine conservation areas to give badly damaged habitats and depleted fish stocks a chance to recover.
The march gathered outside the Houses of Parliament, calling for the creation of 127 marine conservation areas. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has so far planned to create 31 sites by the end of this year, but the celebrity chef warns this is not enough.
“This is the sort of opportunity that may not come again,” he says. “We might not have such a vital and appropriate time frame as we’ve got right now to make real changes. If we leave it too much later, too much damage will have been done. It will be hard for a lot of the areas to recover.”
Celebrity chef and food writer Fearnley-Whittingstall will be leading a march on Parliament at noon on Monday, 25 February, to persuade ministers to put in place a wider network of marine conservation zones, where fishing would be effectively banned.
The seas around the UK cover 700,000km and yet only 8km are fully protected from all forms of fishing. Less than 10km are protected from the destruction that is caused to the seabed by the heavy iron teeth that are used to dredge for scallops and the metal chains of beam trawls.
The march is calling for the creation of 127 marine conservation areas and will set off from the London Aquarium at 12 noon and will be filmed for his new Channel 4 TV series, Hugh’s Fish Fight. Organisations taking part will include Greenpeace, the Marine Conservation Society, Sealife and the British Sub-Aqua Club.
The chef, who started his Fish Fight campaign two years ago, will highlight the destruction of our seabeds in his new series, starting tonight at 9pm. The first episode will show how the huge metal ploughs used on scallop dredges tear up all life, rocks and seaweeds on the seabed. Booths supermarket has already pledged to stop selling dredged scallops and will stock only scallops that have been dived for, which does not damage the surrounding area.
Fearnley-Whittingstall is hoping to replicate the success of his campaign against the discarding of healthy fish at sea under the EU’s fishing quotas. Discarding results in about half of the fish in the North Sea alone being thrown back dead, even though they are edible and healthy, because they are caught by vessels that have exceeded their quota. He has got the support of celebrities like Stephen Fry, Coldplay and Ricky Gervais, as well as several supermarkets, including Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer.
A quick update on the Bee Cause campaign. A total of 125 MPs showed their support for halting bee decline by posing with a giant cuddly bee and sign saying ‘Britain needs its bees’ at the House of Commons on Tuesday.
Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green, Plaid Cymru and Scottish National Party politicians all backed the Friends of the Earth campaign, including the Tory MP for Lichfield, Michael Fabricant (below). They learnt that the amount of honey produced by UK bees fell by 72% in 2012 compared with the previous year.
The campaign is calling for a National Bee Action Plan to tackle the major threats facing British bees and you can give your support by signing an online petition.
Friends of the Earth’s Nature Campaigner, Paul de Zylva, said: “It’s a very welcome first step to see so many MPs recognise the importance of bees to our farmers, food prices and countryside. But they must now act urgently to halt bee decline. The effect of letting bees go the same way as ash trees would be catastrophic.”
More than 50 businesses, including household names such as Asda, Sky and PepsiCo, have called on the Government to put in place a 2030 target on decarbonising the power sector.
They argue that such a move – already backed by Labour and the Lib Dems – will stimulate investment and revitalise the UK’s ageing energy infrastructure.
Firms call on Tories to back 2030 carbon target for power sector | Environment | The Guardian.
There was good news for the Bee Cause campaign this week. A powerful group of MPs is to investigate the impact of pesticides on bees. The move follows mounting evidence about the harmful effect of neonicotinoids, including a recent report by Friends of the Earth.
The Environmental Audit Committee will quiz Ministers about why the UK has failed to join other European countries, such as France and Italy, in suspending use of neonicotinoid pesticides. The influential committee will also look at the effect of pesticides on human health and address broader issues, such as whether the Government should encourage alternatives to pesticides.
You can support the Bee Cause campaign by signing an online petition, which calls on David Cameron to introduce a National Bee Action Plan, including the suspension of neonicotinoid pesticides.
I was delighted to read that over 100,000 people have signed a petition against the badger cull, which means the issue could now be debated in Parliament.
The e-petition was launched last week by the Queen guitarist, Brian May, as part of the Team Badger campaign, after the first licence to kill the protected wild animal was issued for a pilot cull in Gloucestershire.
There is widespread anger over the Government’s decision to push ahead with the cull, which campaigners say will be of little use in reducing bovine TB, and could even make it worse in some areas.
Supporters of the cull claim the move is necessary in order to tackle TB in cattle because badgers spread the disease to livestock. But Team Badger is angry that over 70% of the badger population will be killed in large areas of the country and is calling on the Government to implement a vaccination programme, along with improved testing.
Shropshire Wildlife Trust is leading the way. They have started vaccinating badgers against TB and hope their five-year scheme will show that vaccination is a more effective and humane way of controlling bovine TB.