Tax on sugar-sweetened beverages announced: The scientific reasoning behind the tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) aimed at controlling obesity among South African adults, has been described as “nonsense” and “an insult to the integrity and intelligence of real science”. A paper released by the University of the Witwatersrand recently stated that “a 20% tax on SSBs is predicted to reduce energy intake by about 36kj/day. Obesity is projected to reduce by 3,8% in men and 2,4% in women”. According to the South African Sugar Association’s executive director, Trix Trikam, “there are many causes of obesity and perhaps just as many solutions. The sugar industry believes in maintaining a balance and following the South African dietary-based guidelines. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet for obesity (including a tax on sugar and sugar-containing products), as both scientific and historic evidence shows” (Lloyd Phillips, Farmer’s Weekly, 26 September 2014).

 

Cherish friendly insects in pecan nut orchards: There are environmentally friendly ways to combat pests and diseases in pecan nut orchards, such as insects and diseases that kill harmful insects. This way, less chemicals will also be used. The Agricultural Research Council (ARC) is currently conducting research on developing an integrated programme for combating pests and diseases in pecan nut orchards. Biological combating procedures are vitally important for the export market, especially the European Union and Asia, where chemical residue in nuts is problematic. Up to 71% of insects on a tree can be classified as beneficiary. Some of these are ladybirds, ant lions, praying mantis, wasps, spiders and assassin bugs. Harmful insects include stink bugs, stem borers and snout beetles. There are also neutral insects, which don’t necessarily kill harmful insects, and which don’t cause any damage, such as a variety of beetles, ants, crickets, gnats and flies (Enquiries: Dr Justin Hatting, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

The other side of the (elephant) coin: In 2013, there were 207 000 elephants in Botswana’s wildlife sanctuaries. The elephants had been doubling their numbers every 10 to 15 years, and had eaten themselves out of house and home. They have progressively eaten all the edible grasses and woody plants for a distance of 25km² from all dry-season water, creating desert conditions within that zone. Those grasses and woody plants are the same the game reserve’s other animal species eat too. But these can’t walk the 25km that the elephants walk every day during the six-month-long dry season. They’re now forced to live within that desert zone where there is nothing left for them to eat. As a result, several of these species have declined by up to 90% in recent years. The average overall decline is said to be 60% - and the end is not yet in sight (Ron Thomson, Famer’s Weekly letters, 12 September 2014).

Combating perishable food spoilage: Massive quantities of food, especially perishable products such as fruit and vegetables, go to waste every year. Losses occur throughout the food chain. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has estimated that one-third of all food produced is not consumed due to spoilage, amounting to 1,3 billion tons annually. Most of this occurs in industrial/developed countries, where the per capita annual food wastage is 95kg to 115kg. In developing economies it is less: 6kg to 11kg. Common sense measures that should be taken at home include: eating perishable food first, planning meals carefully and buying only the quantities needed (Wynand van der Walt, Farmer’s Weekly Bio Monitor, 12 September 2014).