Seizure of white farms begins: The first salvos of what will be a very ugly campaign commenced with the seizures of two white-owned farms in South Africa. In both cases, the below-market-value buy-out offers were refused. Violence has been escalating over the last year, most of it aimed at white farmers. Additional violence and an expanding number of seizures is expected.
Analysis and future-gazing require that the politics of these actions be set aside. The history of South Africa is fraught with injustice, and seizure of white farms, which produce the bulk of South Africa’s food, may correct in some way the balance of ownership in favor of black South Africans. Such seizures, however, are highly unlikely to lead to a more secure and economical food supply for the average South African, black or white.
If history is any guide, analysts need look no farther than Zimbabwe, which utilized a similar approach to land redistribution. The immediate result was hyperinflation, which rose to 11,200,000 percent in August 2008. The nation, which had been a strong exporter of food, was also forced to import food. Between 2000 and 2016, annual wheat production fell from 250,000 tons to 60,000 tons, maize was reduced from two million tons to 500,000 tons, and cattle slaughtered for beef fell from 605,000 to 244,000. Coffee production, once a prized export commodity, came to a virtual halt after seizure or expropriation of white-owned coffee farms in 2000, and has never recovered. Read more HERE and HERE.
Venezuela’s drastic currency devaluation: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro carried out one of the greatest currency devaluations in history over the weekend—a 95 percent plunge that will test the capacity of an already beleaguered population to stomach even more pain. One likely outcome is that inflation, which already was forecast to reach 1 million percent this year, will get fresh fuel from the measures. The monthly minimum wage—devastated by inflation and the aggressive devaluation of the bolivar—currently is not enough to buy a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of meat. Read more HERE and HERE.
Argentina says it will ask court to investigate Venezuelan government: Argentina plans to ask the International Criminal Court to investigate Venezuela’s government for crimes against humanity, as other nations in the region step up efforts to isolate Venezuela. Argentina is working with Chile, Paraguay, and Colombia on the request, President Mauricio Macri told CNN. Another neighboring country, Brazil, will send troops to its border with Venezuela on Monday after residents of the Brazilian border town of Pacaraima drove out Venezuelan immigrants from their improvised camps, amid growing regional tensions. Read more HERE and HERE.
Missouri drought: Parts of Missouri are so dry that corn crops are suffering and hay for cattle is in short supply, with water becoming increasingly scarce, experts say. The U.S. Drought Monitor map shows that nearly all of Missouri is experiencing drought, with several counties in the northwestern part of the state facing “exceptional” conditions — the most dire classification assigned by the monitor. Much of the western U.S. is also experiencing drought, but Missouri is the only Midwestern state with such severe conditions. READ MORE
When rain is just as big a problem as drought: For many communities in the United States, climate change isn’t drought but its equally problematic opposite, extreme rain. The entire nation has experienced an uptick in extreme precipitation events in the last half-century, and in the Northeast, days with two or more inches of precipitation have increased 53 percent since 1996 alone. Here, many people are already concerned about flash flood warnings and sewage backing up into the basement. Experts say the situation is likely to get worse. READ MORE
How do heavy metals get in food? Consumer Reports tested a variety of the top brands and found every product has measurable levels of at least one heavy metal, and two-thirds had worrisome levels. You should read their full report, but even the basic outline of their findings raises some questions. How much is a “worrisome” amount? Where do these metals come from? How many am I being exposed to? READ MORE
Kratom controversy: Zakah Life of Ankeny, Iowa, is the latest company to recall kratom products after they tested positive for Salmonella. At least 199 people from 41 states have been infected in an ongoing Salmonella outbreak traced to kratom products, with 38 percent of the ill people having been hospitalized, according to the CDC. At the same time, an advocacy group, the American Kratom Association, has been increasingly critical of the FDA’s position on kratom, a stimulant and opioid substitute. READ MORE
A growing culture of food-safety neglect: In many U.S. restaurants, food safety is an oxymoron, says this food safety expert. He says there’s a growing culture of neglect in the food industry, and there is a need to find effective solutions that are also affordable, attainable, and user-friendly. CEOs and CFOs are understandably concerned about margin pressures, changing taste, staff turnover, and tremendous competition, but the author points out that every restaurant operator is just one innocent error away from a massive foodborne illness crisis that could sicken or kill their guests and ruin their businesses. READ MORE
Chipotle’s food safety problems: Despite a corporate policy of “zero tolerance” for food safety mistakes, the most infamous burrito chain in the country continues to make its customers sick. Laboratory test results announced this week by public health officials in Delaware County, Ohio, confirmed that some 650 people who became ill after eating food from a Chipotle restaurant in late July had been infected with the foodborne bacteria Clostridium perfringens. READ MORE
Owner of meatpacking plant will plead guilty: The owner of a Tennessee meatpacking plant agreed to plead guilty to charges of tax evasion, wire fraud and employing undocumented immigrants stemming from a federal immigration raid in April. A plea agreement details methods Southeastern Provision owner James Brantley used to avoid paying nearly $1.3 million in taxes, hire at least 150 undocumented immigrants, and withdraw a total of $25 million in cash to pay them in large weekly amounts from a local bank for several years. READ MORE
Port of Oakland sees exports fall: The Port of Oakland, one of the busiest West Coast ports and a hub for trade with China, is seeing exports fall as the trade war escalates. In July, exports fell 7.3 percent year over year — their fifth monthly drop in a row. The port supports more than 70,000 jobs in the Bay area. A port spokesperson said it was too early to be sure about the reason for the declines. READ MORE
No, measles cases aren’t spiking: Multiple news outlets are reporting this week that there’s currently a measles outbreak of 107 people in 21 states. There’s just one problem: that’s not from one big outbreak. Even in 2018 when we have a highly effective vaccine, that’s a perfectly normal number of measles cases. READ MORE
How to use public wi-fi safety: A public wi-fi network is inherently less secure than your personal, private one, because you don’t know who set it up, or who else is connecting to it. Ideally, you wouldn’t ever have to use it; better to use your smartphone as a hotspot instead. But for the times that’s not practical or even possible, you can still limit the potential damage from public Wi-Fi with a few simple steps. READ MORE
Would you like microbes with your meat? Two thirds of agricultural lands are used for animal pastures, and about one-third of the remaining cropland is used to grow animal feed like soybeans and grains. By 2050 the world’s population is expected to reach over nine billion people, fueling our animal-based protein demands further, and increasing crop production by 30 to 60 percent. That led some scientists to consider a more radical idea for a protein source: Microbes. certain types of unicellular organisms, including algae, yeasts, fungi, and bacterial cultures, are indeed edible. READ MORE
Are sleeper cells poised to launch attack? The Washington Free Beacon reports that Iranian-backed militants are operating across the United States mostly unfettered, raising concerns in Congress and among regional experts that these “sleeper cell” agents are poised to launch a large-scale attack on the American homeland, according to testimony before lawmakers. READ MORE
WOTUS fate uncertain: A U.S. District Court judge in South Carolina last week partly overturned President Trump’s efforts to delay the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, saying the administration failed to allow a proper public comment period. WOTUS expands the definition of the types of waterways that fall under federal jurisdiction. Farmers and livestock operations argue that it makes them responsible for fertilizer or manure runoff into streams that they cannot possibly control. READ MORE
What is causing the seals to die? In just three days, 40 seals washed up on Maine beaches. Ten of them were alive and rescued, but 30 were already dead. The cause of a higher mortality rate could range from an underlying disease or pathogen to a naturally occuring biotoxin or harmful algal bloom — like red tide — to a local pollution event, marine experts said. But the seals are “bioindicators” of what might be going on in the environment in general. READ MORE
No thanks to that tarantula taco: Fancy a tarantula taco for a cool $27? Not so fast, Mexican authorities say. A Mexico City market restaurant recently put the arachnids on its menu and posted a video on Facebook showing a chef torching one until blackened. The only problem: The Mexican red rump tarantula is a protected species. READ MORE