A New Documentary Looking Into Food Production

Voices of Transition is a new documentary film with limited release but you can buy it online now! The film examines how we grow our food and ideas around how to make the whole agriculture system make more sense.

The film deals with community building, resilience and sustainability through urban farming. It draws on the experience of community and organic farming initiatives in France, the UK and Cuba and highlights how environmental and economic challenges to our current food system can be turned into positive stories, help create resilient communities, and to build a future in which soils and people once again support each other in a balanced and sustainable way.

Check it out!

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Seoul Starts Vertical Farming

Vertical farming is a possible food production solution as suburban sprawl consumes arable land. The new style of farming essentially is a farm in a skyscraper; they have yet to demonstrate commercial value but it’s inevitable that these farms will be normal fixtures in urban centres; Korea wants to be on the leading edge of this.

The farms would be three stories high, with vegetables and crops grown on the second and third floors, while the first floor would serve as a classroom for teaching agriculture, city officials said Tuesday.

The farms will be computer controlled to provide the right light, temperature and humidity, and check carbon dioxide levels.

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Drinking Coffee Regularly Decreases DNA Damage

I start my day with coffee and writing a post about good news. Today those two things merged rather well: it turns out drinking coffee regularly can lower the chances that one’s DNA will get messed up.

DNA is always doing bizarre things and if those things get too bizarre then it can cause some very bad mutations. For some reason coffee keeps your DNA doing the right thing.

As one commentator on Reddit said:

Their findings indicate that those who drank 750 ml (~3 cups) of coffee per day experienced 27% fewer strand breaks in white blood cells than those who only drank water, controlling for diet and body weight.

Here’s the paper’s abstract:

Abstract
PURPOSE:
Coffee consumption has been reported to decrease oxidative damage in peripheral white blood cells (WBC). However, effects on the level of spontaneous DNA strand breaks, a well established marker of health risk, have not been specifically reported yet. We analyzed the impact of consuming a dark roast coffee blend on the level of spontaneous DNA strand breaks.

METHODS:
Healthy men (n = 84) were randomized to consume daily for 4 weeks either 750 ml of fresh coffee brew or 750 ml of water, subsequent to a run in washout phase of 4 weeks. The study coffee was a blend providing high amounts of both caffeoylquinic acids (10.18 ± 0.33 mg/g) and the roast product N-methylpyridinium (1.10 ± 0.05 mg/g). Before and after the coffee/water consumption phase, spontaneous strand breaks were determined by comet assay.

RESULTS:
At baseline, both groups exhibited a similar level of spontaneous DNA strand breaks. In the intervention phase, spontaneous DNA strand breaks slightly increased in the control (water only) group whereas they significantly decreased in the coffee group, leading to a 27 % difference within both arms (p = 0.0002). Food frequency questionnaires indicated no differences in the overall diet between groups, and mean body weight during the intervention phases remained stable. The consumption of the study coffee substantially lowered the level of spontaneous DNA strand breaks in WBC.

CONCLUSION:
We conclude that regular coffee consumption contributes to DNA integrity.

See the full paper here.

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A Veggie Diet Could Prolong Your Life

There are tons of benefits from having a vegetarian diet from improved individual health to having less of an impact on the environment. Now there’s one more reason to have a vegetarian diet, or at least something close to one, it’ll help you live longer.

Scientists have long believed that an ultra low calorie diet – aproximately 60 per cent of normal levels – can lead to greater longevity.

But now a team of British researchers have discovered that the key to the effect is a reduction in a specific protein and not the total number of calories.

That means that by reducing foods that contain the protein – such as meat, fish and certain nuts – people should live longer wiuthout the need to cut down on meals.

Dr Matthew Piper, from the Institute of Healthy Ageing at University College London, said that a vegetarian diet could be one way to achieve the effect.

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No Need to Deforest the Planet for More Food

One of the leading causes of deforestation right now is food production. As population levels grow we need more land to feed more people and this as resulted in the cutting down of forests for arable land.

We’ve already seen that a simple diet change can protect forests and save wildlife, and that one can slow deforestation by being vegetarian. But we know that people are often hesitant to make simple changes that can have large impacts, so what do we do?

Lucky for all of us, we don’t need to modify our behaviour as individuals. We do need to change our local legal policies. Some ecologists have proclaimed that there is no need to continue deforestation and have backed their claim with some strong evidence.

That’s why ecologists like Tilman support techniques for agricultural intensification, even though they often come with problems of their own. For example, in a 2011 paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tilman et al. took a close look at the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. Producing fertilizer in a factory creates greenhouse gas emissions; so does transporting it, and applying it to fields. Worst of all, some of it turns into nitrous oxide — a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide — and escapes into the atmosphere.

Nevertheless, all of this adds up to much less climate impact than clearing new land. Tilman found that if you try to minimize fertilizer use, you end up farming more land and emitting more greenhouse gases.

Tilman also points out that there are alternatives to synthetic fertilizer: Farmers could grow legumes and cover crops to add some nitrogen. But these techniques can be hard for farmers to implement, as Don Lotter has found, particularly if they are subsistence farmers.

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