A couple of years ago my parents decided to start their very own vegetable garden –a long-time dream. Growing tomatoes, cucumbers, and cauliflower prooved to be more challenging than expected. Except the salad, which consequently is served for dinner for four summer months straight. Tomato diseases and bad weather cause some disappointment every now and then, yet never did it mean there was no food on the table. In the end, my mom still brings plenty of fresh produce from the supermarket every week.
Did you know that 25% of all food that is being produced is lost due to spoilage? What a waste! According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, about 795 million people suffer chronic undernourishment globally. That’s one in nine persons. At the same time, agriculture is putting enormous pressure on our planet’s natural resources. Agricultural processes represent about 70% of the world’s fresh water consumption and cause about 14% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Reasons enough to tackle food waste.
Each of us is carrying residues of pesticides in his or her body. More and more studies link immune system defficiencies, allergies and cancers with the chemicals which enter the human body via crops from non-organic agriculture. Students from the university of Valencia have now come up with an alternative, environmentally-friendly insect pest control method: the Sexy Plant.
Using controlled release of moth sex pheromones, the Sexy Plant causes mating disruption and avoid moth’s offspring. The team designed a genetic switch to turn on the release of pheromones after a solution of a copper-sulfate is sprayed on the plant. They also developed a biosafety module that prevents the plant to spread its genetic matter via pollen, which could eventually lead to an uncontrolled spread of the Sexy Plant itself which would endanger the original crop.
The Sexy Plant team claims that farmers can save up to 40% in insect pest control costs by planting the Sexy Plant between their crops. Plus, the pesticide free product can be sold for a better price. There is also a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, since pesticides have a carbon dioxide footprint of around 3kg per hectare which is avoided when using the Sexy Plant.
Today the consumption of soy beans is ten times the amount of fifty years ago. Three quarters is used for the meat industry. The soaring demand for meat is putting high pressure on our planet as valuable agriculture land and ancient forests make way to grow food for animals instead of people.