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EV and Tech Giants Say No to Ocean Minerals in Wave-Making Move to Protect Oceans

This recent announcement ­is making waves in the electric vehicle (EV) market. It makes clear the rapid growth in EVs needed for tackling climate change does not need to be responsible for severe and irreversible damage to ocean biodiversity, fisheries and carbon stores.

The deep seabed is our planet’s final frontier. Covering half the Earth’s surface, it’s a largely unknown, uncharted world. Once believed to be barren, scientists are now discovering it’s a world teeming with life, exerting a major influence on the whole ocean ecosystem and on our climate.

Due to its richness in metals and minerals, some argue that mining the deep seabed is our best solution for providing the cobalt, lithium, nickel and other minerals needed to enable the massive growth in the number of electric vehicle batteries, solar panels and wind turbines over coming decades. Proponents also suggest that mining the deep seabed could avoid the negative environmental and social impacts of mining on land.

But according to a recent report by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) titled In Too Deep, What We Know, And Don’t Know, About Deep Seabed Mining, the risks of deep seabed mining are great:

“Deep seabed mining would have a destructive impact on deep-sea ecosystems and biodiversity, which could have a knock-on effect on fisheries, livelihoods and food security and compromise ocean carbon, metal and nutrient cycles.”

In the report, the negative impacts of deep seabed mining are plenty. They include loss of habitat and life-supporting substrates, killing fauna and flora; exposure of seabed life to toxic metals released during mining operations; harm to genetic links between different populations of deep-sea animals; reduced primary production, affecting marine food webs; and the disruption of key processes affecting ecosystem functions.

According to WWF, the negative effects of deep seabed diving are plenty. ©WWF ‘In Too Deep: What We Know, And Don’t Know, About Deep Seabed Mining’.

By committing to excluding ocean minerals from their supply chains, these companies offer a powerful refutation to the argument by the growing ocean mining industry that we must open up international waters to mining as soon as this year to obtain the metals to build batteries central to this shift toward electrification. In their announcement, these companies also show their support for improved resource efficiency to reduce demand for primary minerals—innovations in battery chemistry, technology and recycling are already reducing mineral demand for next-gen EVs and batteries.

BMW’s continued leadership on sustainable mineral sourcing shows the world that there is a viable alternate pathway to fast-tracking this ramp-up in automotive electrification—without the need to send massive mining machines into the ocean.

Prof. Douglas McCauley, a professor at the University of California Santa Barbara, said:

“By rejecting ocean mining, these companies are helping to protect some of the planet’s oldest corals, whales, beautiful and mysterious deep-sea octopus and countless other ocean species that have not yet been discovered.”

McCauley urges companies such as Tesla, Renault, Volkswagen, General Motors and the world’s other big EV manufacturers to follow suit in taking a leadership role in protecting the future of the oceans.

WWF joins over 90 NGOs, alongside ocean protection advocates like Sir David Attenborough and Dr. Sylvia Earle, who have called for a moratorium or pause on ocean mining. The moratorium will continue until the environmental, social and economic risks are comprehensively understood, and it is clearly demonstrated that deep seabed mining can be managed in a way that ensures the effective protection of the marine environment and prevents loss of biodiversity.

New UN Report Shows Indigenous People Play Vital Role in Protection of Forests

Deforestation rates in Latin America and the Caribbean are significantly lower in Indigenous and Tribal territories where governments have formally recognised collective territorial rights. Improving the tenure security of these facilities is an efficient and cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions.

These are among the key findings of a new report – Forest Governance by Indigenous and Tribal Peoples – from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean (FILAC).

Based on a review of more than 300 studies published in the last two decades, the new report reveals for the first time the extent to which science has shown that Indigenous and Tribal Peoples have been much better guardians of their forests when compared to those responsible for the region’s other forests.

The research also suggests that their protective role is increasingly at risk, at a time when the Amazon is nearing at a tipping point, with worrisome impacts on rainfall and temperature, and, eventually, on food production and the global climate.

“Indigenous and tribal peoples and the forests in their territories play vital roles in global and regional climate action and in fighting poverty, hunger, and malnutrition,” said FAO’s Regional Representative, Julio Berdegué in a recent press release. “Their territories contain about one third of all the carbon stored in the forests of Latin America and the Caribbean and 14 percent of the carbon stored in tropical forests worldwide.”

The best results were seen in indigenous territories that have recognised collective legal titles to their lands. Between 2000 and 2012, deforestation rates in these territories in the Bolivian, Brazilian, and Colombian Amazon were only one half to one third of those in other forests with similar ecological characteristics.

The report calls on governments, climate financiers, civil society and the private sector to invest in initiatives that strengthen the role that Indigenous and Tribal Peoples play in forest governance. This includes bolstering communal territorial rights, compensating indigenous and tribal communities for the environmental services they provide, and facilitating community forest management.

It also states the vital importance of revitalising traditional cultures and knowledge, strengthening territorial governance, as well as supporting the organisations of indigenous and tribal peoples. Recognising the fundamental role of indigenous youth and indigenous women also plays a key role.

Titled territories suffer lower deforestation, emit less carbon

According to one of the studies analysed in the FAO/FILAC report, the deforestation rate inside indigenous woodlands where land property has been ensured were 2.8 times lower than outside such areas in Bolivia, 2.5 times lower in Brazil, and 2 times less in Colombia.

Titled collective territories avoided between 42.8 and 59.7 million metric tons (MtC) of CO2 emissions each year in these three countries. These combined emissions were the equivalent of taking between 9 and 12.6 million vehicles out of circulation for one year.

New UN report calls on governments, climate financiers, civil society and the private sector to invest in initiatives that strengthen the role that Indigenous and Tribal Peoples play in forest governance. ©Angela Jelita

Of the 404 million hectares occupied by the indigenous peoples, governments have formally recognised their collective property or usufruct rights over about 269 million hectares. While the impact of guaranteeing tenure security is great, the cost is very low: only US$6 are needed to title a hectare of land in Colombia, and US$45 in Bolivia.

The FAO/FILAC report says that the costs of securing indigenous lands are 5 to 42 times lower than the average costs of avoided CO2 through fossil carbon capture and storage for both coal and gas fired power plants.

Indigenous and tribal peoples are invaluable agents against climate change

Myrna Cunningham is president of FILAC. In an announcement she said, “Almost half (45 percent) of the intact forests in the Amazon Basin are in indigenous territories, and the evidence of their vital role in forest protection is crystal clear. While the area of intact forest declined by only 4.9 percent between 2000 and 2016 in the region’s indigenous areas, in the non-indigenous areas it fell by 11.2 percent.”

Cunningham adds that the “voice and vision of Indigenous peoples should be taken into account in all global initiatives and frameworks relating to climate change, biodiversity and forestry.”

Indigenous and tribal peoples are involved in the communal governance of between 320 and 380 million hectares of forests in the region, which store about 34,000 million metric tons of carbon, more than all the forests in Indonesia or in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

While Amazon Basin indigenous territories lost less than 0.3% of the carbon in their forests between 2003 and 2016, non-indigenous protected areas lost 0.6%. Other areas that were neither indigenous territories nor protected areas lost 3.6%. As a result, even though indigenous territories cover 28% of the Amazon Basin, they only generated 2.6% of the region’s (gross) carbon emissions.

Celebrating the Spring Equinox – With or Without Eggs!

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This year, the spring equinox arrived on 20 March, marking the astronomical first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Also known as the vernal equinox, it occurs when the Earth’s axis is tilted neither towards nor away from the Sun, resulting in an equal amount of daylight and darkness at all latitudes.

After this date, the Northern Hemisphere begins to be tilted more towards the Sun, which brings increasing daylight hours and warming temperatures. In the Southern Hemisphere, it’s turned on its head. Known as the autumnal equinox, this period marks the beginning of autumn, as the Southern Hemisphere begins to be tilted away from the Sun.

For those in the Northern hemispheres, you’ll be seeing the first flowers emerging after a long, cold winter. Frost will be melting, and flowers such as daffodils, bluebells and marigolds will be in full bloom.

There are some real flowers and insects in there somewhere… ©Creative Commons Prayer

In the Southern hemispheres, you’ll be experiencing a shift into autumn, and leaves will be turning delicious red, yellow and maroon colours. The winds will start to blow cooler air, as the lands prepare for an upcoming winter season.

For people like me, who live on the Equator, the changes are much more subtle. Seeds fall in their millions onto the ground. Fruiting trees such as mangoes and papaya start to show-off their bounty. Squirrels and birds begin their courting rituals, chasing after each other in a dance as old as time.

Origins of Easter

This time of year, we see eggs and bunny rabbits adorning shelves of every shop we visit. It may surprise you to learn that these symbols of spring actually date back to pre-Christian pagan times, where they symbolized rebirth and new beginnings.

Today we know it as ‘Easter’, but this word actually comes from the Goddess of Spring, who was known as Eostre in pre-Christian or Pagan times. She made her first appearance in literature about thirteen hundred years ago in the workings of a British monk known as Venerable Bede, who was born in the year 672. In his Tempoorum Ratione, he tells us that April, which was known as Eostremonath, is named for a goddess that the Anglo-Saxons honoured in the spring:

“Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated “Paschal month”, and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honor feasts were celebrated in that month.”

The word Ostara is just one of the names applied to the celebration of the spring equinox.

Celebrating Ostara usually takes the theme of the coming of Spring and the fertility of the land. This year – due to the Covid-19 pandemic which has affected everybody in the world – the theme of hope is surfacing, and the new season ushers in a feeling of possibility.

How will you take a moment to celebrate Mother Nature and this joyous new season that’s upon us all? Here are some ideas:

Feast in honour of nature

Pagans would celebrate the fertility of the land by feasting. This Ostara, celebrate foods that honour the coming of spring, for instance early spring greens, shoots and sprouts, seeds, first harvest fruits and vegetables, figs, and eggs.

For those of you who follow a plant-based or vegan lifestyle, there are several alternatives to eating bird’s eggs, like Just Egg and OnlyEg. Made from plants such as mung beans, these ‘eggs’ are more sustainable, their ingredients requiring less land, water and carbon emissions. These plant-based eggs also have zero cholesterol and less saturated fat than conventional eggs.

Vegans and those following a plant-based lifestyle can now incorporate ‘eggs’ into their spring equinox celebrations by using alternatives such as Just Egg. ©Just Egg

Another idea is to bake a homemade loaf of bread with your favourite seeds for your family to enjoy together, fresh out of the oven. While enjoying your meal with your nearest and dearest, remember to be present for the food, enjoying every bite, giving thanks to the earth.

Earth meditation

Connect with the earth in an outdoor meditation in a park, forest or under a tree. Give thanks and gratitude to the earth beneath you and the sky above in this powerful awareness exercise that connects you deeply to the land and the element of earth.

Plant seeds and start your own herb garden

The very act of planting, of beginning new life from seed, is a ritual and a magical act in itself. To cultivate something in the soil, see it sprout and then bloom, is to watch a magical working unfold before our very eyes.

This spring, I planted kale, spinach, chilli, papaya, avocado, and aubergine in my urban garden. Every morning I am in awe at the miracle of life and am filled with great joy and hope when I check to see how much the seedlings have grown.

Set up your Ostara altar

Incorporate elements or symbols of the equinox into your home and spiritual practice by adding them to your altar. Some ideas include fresh spring wild flowers, seeds and herbs, and crystals such as lapis lazuli, amazonite, agate, and clear and rose quartz.

Welcoming your new intentions

A beautiful tradition shared to me by spiritual teacher Danielle Van de Velde, is to write your intentions for the coming season on eggs, before burying them under a new plant you keep at your front door. Since I battle with moral issues around taking an animal’s eggs, an alternative is to write on paper or grains, ie. plant’s ‘eggs’ instead.

I hope you find joy and tranquillity in connecting with Mother Nature this season of rebirth, however you choose to celebrate!

First Ever Ocean Blueprint Gives Governments a Way to Mitigate Climate Change

Ground-breaking global study is the first to map ocean areas that, if strongly protected, would help solve climate, food and biodiversity crises.

For the first time ever, a study published in peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature offers a combined solution to several of humanity’s most pressing challenges – and the answer all lies in protecting our oceans. The study is the most comprehensive assessment to date that shows how strict ocean protection can contribute to a more abundant supply of healthy seafood and provide a cheap, natural solution to address climate change, as well as protecting embattled species and habitats.

An international team of 26 authors made up of leading marine biologists, climate experts, and economists, identified specific areas that, if protected, would safeguard over 80% of the habitats for endangered marine species, and increase fishing catches by more than eight million metric tons. The majority of these areas are contained within the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones of coastal nations, with the remaining located in the high seas, or waters governed by international laws. These areas include the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the Mascarene Plateau in the Indian Ocean, the Nazca Ridge off the west coast of South America and the Southwest Indian Ridge, between Africa and Antarctica.

“Ocean life has been declining worldwide because of overfishing, habitat destruction and climate change. Yet only 7% of the ocean is currently under some kind of protection,” said Dr. Enric Sala, lead author of the study, Protecting the global ocean for biodiversity, food and climate and marine biologist who directs National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project.

“In this study, we’ve pioneered a new way to identify the places that, if strongly protected, will boost food production and safeguard marine life, all while reducing carbon emissions,” Dr. Sala said. “It’s clear that humanity and the economy will benefit from a healthier ocean. And we can realise those benefits quickly if countries work together to protect at least 30% of the ocean by 2030.”

To identify the priority areas, the authors analysed the world’s unprotected ocean waters based on the degree to which they are threatened by human activities that can be reduced by marine protected areas such as overfishing and habitat destruction. They then developed an algorithm to identify those areas where protections would deliver the greatest benefits across the three complementary goals of biodiversity protection, seafood production and climate mitigation. They mapped these locations to create a practical “blueprint” that governments can use as they implement their commitments to protect nature.

Experts have pioneered a new way to identify places in the ocean that, if strongly protected, will boost food production and safeguard marine life, all while reducing carbon emissions. ©Angela Jelita

The study offers a first-in-kind framework for countries to decide which areas to protect depending on their national priorities. However, the analysis shows that 30% is the minimum amount of ocean that the world must protect in order to provide multiple benefits to humanity.

“There is no single best solution to save marine life and obtain these other benefits. The solution depends on what a given country cares about, and our study provides a new way to integrate these preferences and find effective conservation strategies,” said Dr. Juan S. Mayorga, a report co-author and a marine data scientist with the Environmental Market Solutions Lab at UC Santa Barbara and Pristine Seas at National Geographic Society.

The study comes ahead of the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, which is expected to take place in Kunming, China this year. The meeting will bring together representatives of 190 countries to finalise an agreement to end the world’s biodiversity crisis. The goal of protecting 30% of the planet’s land and ocean by 2030 (the “30×30” target) is expected to be a pillar of the treaty.

The study follows commitments by the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, the European Commission and others to achieve this target on national and global scales.

Zac Goldsmith is the British Minister for Pacific and the Environment. He believes the study reveals the urgent “need for countries to work together to protect at least 30% of the global ocean by 2030.”

Hanging Up the Fishing Nets

The study finds that smartly placed MPAs that ban fishing would actually boost the production of fish – at a time when supplies of wild-caught fish are dwindling and demand is rising. In doing so, the study refutes a long-held view that ocean protection harms fisheries and opens up new opportunities to revive the industry just as it is suffering from a recession due to overfishing and the impacts of global warming.

“Some argue that closing areas to fishing hurts fishing interests. But the worst enemy of successful fisheries is overfishing, not protected areas,” Dr. Sala said.

“It’s simple: When overfishing and other damaging activities cease, marine life bounces back,” said Dr. Reniel Cabral, a report co-author and assistant researcher with the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management and Marine Science Institute at UC Santa Barbara.

After protections are put in place, the diversity and abundance of marine life increases over time, with measurable recovery occurring in as little as three years. Target species and large predators come back, and entire ecosystems are restored within MPAs.

“After protections are put in place, the diversity and abundance of marine life increases over time, with measurable recovery occurring in as little as three years.” – Dr. Reniel Cabral

Trawling for Carbon

The study is the first to calculate the climate impacts of bottom trawling, a damaging fishing method used worldwide that drags heavy nets across the ocean floor. It reveals that the amount of carbon dioxide released into the ocean from this practice is larger than most countries’ annual carbon emissions, and similar to annual carbon dioxide emissions from global aviation.

Study reveals that the amount of carbon dioxide released into the ocean from bottom trawling is larger than most countries’ annual carbon emissions, and similar to annual carbon dioxide emissions from global aviation. ©Monterey Bay Aquarium

“The ocean floor is the world’s largest carbon storehouse. If we’re to succeed in stopping global warming, we must leave the carbon-rich seabed undisturbed. Yet every day, we are trawling the seafloor, depleting its biodiversity and mobilising millennia-old carbon and thus exacerbating climate change. Our findings about the climate impacts of bottom trawling will make the activities on the ocean’s seabed hard to ignore in climate plans going forward,” said Dr. Trisha Atwood of Utah State University, a co-author of the paper.

The study finds that countries with the highest potential to contribute to climate change mitigation via protection of carbon stocks are those with large national waters and large industrial bottom trawl fisheries. It calculates that eliminating 90% of the present risk of carbon disturbance due to bottom trawling would require protecting only about 4% of the ocean, mostly within national waters.

Closing a Gap

The study’s range of findings helps to close a gap in our knowledge about the impacts of ocean conservation, which to date had been understudied relative to land-based conservation.

“The ocean covers 70% of the earth – yet, until now, its importance for solving the challenges of our time has been overlooked,” said Dr. Boris Worm, a study co-author and Killam Research Professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“Smart ocean protection will help to provide cheap natural climate solutions, make seafood more abundant and safeguard imperilled marine species – all at the same tine. If we want to solve the three most pressing challenges of our century – biodiversity loss, climate change and food shortages – we must protect our oceans.”

 

The Easiest & Yummiest Raw Energy Balls

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Energy balls are a staple in our household. They’re perfect for busy days when the children (and the grown-ups!) need that extra energy kick in a most convenient, bite-sized portion.

This recipe only has three whole food ingredients, which you are likely to have in your pantry. All you have to do is throw them in a blender and mix for a minute or two before rolling into bite-sized balls! And no added sugars at all – the sweetness comes from the dates!

It’s so easy to make your own energy balls, and you’ll be glad you did when they cost around $3 a ball at a health-food store or restaurant. My four-year-old particularly loves to get involved in the preparation of these raw balls – although she loves the eating part even more!

You can consume the balls immediately, although it’s best to put them in the fridge for an hour or so to harden them up before devouring them. Enjoy the whole food goodness!

The Easiest & Yummiest Raw Energy Balls

These raw energy balls are made using only three ingredients, and are packed with nutrition to keep you and your family going on a busy day.
Prep Time 5 mins
Rolling Time 10 mins
Course Dessert, Snack
Servings 10 balls

Equipment

  • High speed blender

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup almonds baked almonds are tastiest
  • 1 cup Medjool dates pitted
  • 1/2 cup desiccated dried coconut

Instructions
 

  • Bung the almonds, dates and dried coconut in a blender and blend until it's become a rough but sticky mixture. You may need to use a spoon to clean down the sides of the blender before blending again to ensure you don't have any large nut pieces.
  • Scoop approximately 1 tablespoon and roll using the palms of your hands into balls. Do the same for the entire mixture.
  • Put in the fridge for an hour before devouring!

Notes

You could substitute the almonds with baked cashew nuts for an equally delicious treat. 
Keyword almonds, coconut, dates, energy balls, raw food

Social Media for Social Good with Vikas Garg of A Billion

Vikas Garg is the founder of abillion, a social app that is a driver of positive change in food, beauty and fashion. Their vision? A world with at least a billion people committed to plant-based living by the year 2030.

I sit down with this visionary to find out more about how they’re going to make this happen, as well as discover how Vikas came to walk the path of inspiring change for a better tomorrow.

Thunder Tea Rice: Singapore’s Most Peculiar Fast-Food

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Singapore is home to one of the oddest yet also healthiest fast foods in the world: Thunder Tea Rice. The name itself is confusing – is it tea or is it rice? The answer is both.

Similar to a grain bowl, which has become an exceedingly popular healthy luncheon food in recent years, Thunder Tea Rice has been around for thousands of years, said to have first been created in the Three Kingdoms period in China, which took place from 220 to 280 AD. During this time of great war, which started with the end of the Han dynasty and was followed by the Jin dynasty, this meal was fed to soldiers to keep them healthy and strengthen their immune systems.

Originally this green soup and rice dish is known as Hakka Lei Cha Fan, or Lei Cha for short, which actually translates to Grind Tea Rice. The ‘thundering’ version of this ancient dish was created in Singapore 18 years ago by Alvin Tan and Callie Lim, whom upon first tasting their concoction of a green tea-based herbal soup broth, reported experiencing a lightning-like shock on their tongues. This is where the ‘thunder’ in the dish’s name comes from.

The creators received much criticism for calling their dish thunder tea, as the literal translation of Hakka Lei Cha Fan is ‘Grind Tea Rice’, and not ‘thunder tea rice’. Today, however, Thunder Tea Rice has become a staple in any Singapore hawker centre, and a much-loved national dish.

Thunder tea rice is a dish made up of a green soup of mixed herbs served with a bowl of rice topped with a variety of healthy vegetables. ©Angela Jelita

Although Thunder Tea Rice is served at hawker centres and is considered a kind of local fast food, preparation of the soup itself is an arduous process. The green soup is made by grinding green tea with a concoction of herbs using a mortar and pestle, including basil, mint, mugwort, Chinese parsley, sesame, coriander, groundnut, saw-tooth and Siberian ginseng. This mixture of herbs is then blended with hot water, resulting in a potent, green-coloured soup, which is served beside a bowl of rice topped with a variety of healthy vegetables, resulting in a dish that is high in antioxidants, nutrition, and fibre.

With the recent worldwide pandemic, more and more people are becoming health conscious and turning to nutritious plant-based foods and herbs to strengthen their immune system. Although several Thunder Tea Rice outlets have closed due to recent economic challenges, Lei Cha has never been more popular.

I tried this dish for the first time recently from Traditional Haaka Rice, a food stall at a Hawker Center in Tanjong Pagar, Downtown Singapore. The scene itself was abuzz with office workers hungry for their lunch, donning masks due to Covid-19 government regulations. Like most of the other stalls, this one was unassuming, and I probably would have walked right past it if hadn’t come in search of this particular dish.

At this stall, the vegan version of this dish is called ‘7 Vegetable Thunder Tea Rice’. You can choose your rice, either white or brown, which is then topped with an assortment of vegetables and toppings, including chopped green beans, tofu, leafy greens, shredded leek, peanuts, and preserved radish. A second bowl was handed over to me with the green herbal tea soup. All this for less than S$5.

When I found a spot to sample this local dish, I poured the entire contents of the soup into the rice bowl. At the bottom of the soup bowl I could see the remnants of the ground herbs that make up this healthy broth. I have to admit, the dish wouldn’t win any aesthetic prizes, but the taste, I can assure you, is worthy of several rewards.

The soup itself tastes unusual, but is extremely tasty, with a slight but welcomed bitterness, similar to green tea. Combined with the brown rice and vegetables, you have a dish that –spoon-upon-spoon – tickled my taste buds and filled my gut with a wholesome happiness. It even gave me a little buzz from the caffeine in the green tea! I have since grown fond of Thunder Tea Rice and come back to enjoy this satisfying and nutrient-dense dish on a regular basis.

Traditional Haaka Rice 河婆客家擂茶

Blok 6 Tanjong Pagar Plaza, Stall 02-21, Singapore 081006

One Third of Fish Stocks are Overfished: Cultivated Meat Could Be the Answer

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Hong Kong-based food tech startup Avant Meats has cultivated its first batch of “clean fish” in a step towards meeting growing global demand for meat and seafood in a sustainable and humane way.

According to Thomson Reuters Foundation, chef Eddy Leung was tasked with cooking the world’s first lab-grown fish fillets in his kitchen in southwestern Hong Kong. Leung cooked the fillets as breaded fish burgers with tartare sauce and said they tasted and smelled like normal fish, but with the consistency of crab cakes.

In December, Singapore become the first government to approve cell-cultivated chicken, which led to the world’s first commercial sale of lab-grown meat, also known as “clean meat”. In a monumental move, U.S. start-up Eat Just was given the green light to sell its lab-grown chicken meat, in what the firm says is the world’s first regulatory approval for clean meat that does not come from slaughtered animals.

According to the The Good Food Institute (GFI), economic growth and rising incomes are expected to drive Asia’s appetite for traditional meat and seafood up nearly 80% by 2050. But the world does not have the resources to sustain such a growth without alternative options coming into play.

According to a 2019 report from global consultancy A.T. Kearney, cultured meats have the potential to disrupt the US$1 trillion conventional meat industry. The report predicted that cultured meats will make up 35% of global meat consumption within the next 20 years.

Cultured meat uses a fraction of the energy, land and water use, while producing far fewer greenhouse gases than normal meat production. According to a University of Oxford study in 2011, cultured meat could lower energy use in meat production by up to 45%, greenhouse gases more than 78%, land use 99% and water use up to 96%.

In a 2020 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, one third of the world’s fish stocks are overfished. Other studies predict the ocean will have more plastics than fish by 2050, with levels of microplastics, heavy metals and contaminants increasingly tainting seafood. Concerns about animal rights can also help drive a switch to lab-grown meat.

According to Carrie Chan, Avant’s co-founder and chief executive officer, cultivating fish in a lab can be done in a fraction of the time it takes to produce fish normally. “Most farmed fish take between a year to two years to grow, depending on the species, while wild fish take longer”, she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. It took approximately two months to create the first 10 of Avant’s cultivated fish fillets.

So how did they create the cultivated fish fillets? Cells were extracted from a grouper fish into a bioreactor and fed glucose, minerals, amino acids, vitamins and proteins, similar to the process to make beer or yoghurt. The cells then grow into muscle tissue, without any organs or body parts.

This technology appeals to companies looking for stable prices and predictable volume to help them overcome volatility in food supplies. Governments can benefit, too, with the COVID-19 pandemic and trade conflicts showing the need to secure and localise food production. According to Avant co-founder and chief scientific officer Mario Chin, cell culture technologies can cultivate a variety of animal proteins almost anywhere.

Many people are sceptical about eating lab-grown meat because it is not natural and because many believe it is genetically modified food. It is critical to educate consumers on the safety of the process, with emphasis on the fact that cultured meat is not genetically modified. It’s important to educate on why alternative proteins are important, including what the benefits are for our health, for animal welfare, and for the planet.

As well as getting the right information to consumers, the success of cultivated meat and seafood will depend on getting the price right. Right now, lab-grown fish is not yet available commercially and is set to supply a niche market, where consumers are willing to pay a premium.

Studies show the idea of eating lab-grown meat has become more palatable to consumers in recent years, especially in Asia. A 2019 survey published in the academic journal Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems showed people in China and India were more open to consuming cultivated meat than consumers in America.

Does Plant-Based Pork Appeal to Muslims in Asia?

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Brands such as Omnipork from Hong Kong, Phuture Minced Pork from Malaysia, and Impossible Pork from the US are becoming more familiar in Asia’s food scene. But do these products, which use the word “pork” in their name, appeal to Muslims in the region?

Of Asia’s 4.14 billion-strong population, 27.5 percent, or 1.14 billion people, are of the Muslim faith. One of the rules of Islam is to abstain from eating pork, a food considered haram, an Arabic term which means forbidden. Other haram practices include the consumption of alcohol and gambling.

Indonesia is home to 225 million followers of the world’s second largest faith, making it the largest Muslim nation in the world. The majority of Indonesia’s Muslims are conservative, therefore any food with the name “pork” in it still holds negative connotations – regardless of whether it has been certified halal (permissible or lawful in Islam).

Indah Kusmini is a practicing, albeit liberal, Muslim living in Jogjakarta, Indonesia, a city which is considered to be more conservative. She believes having the word ‘pork’ in the name of the product will deter Muslims from trying the product. “I think most Muslims would avoid buying any plant-based meat with the word “pork” in it, even if it has a halal certification,” she tells me. “Hearing the word ‘pork’ in the name gives me doubt to buy it.”

According to Kusmini, the topic of plant-based pork is a sensitive one and must be approached with some delicacy. “This is due to deep-held philosophical and social stigma around the consumption of pork, which is strictly forbidden in our religion,” she explains.

Making Impossible Pork ©Impossible Foods

For younger Muslims living in big modern cities, the sentiment is different. Lisa Joesman lives in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, and works for an environmental NGO. She feels there is no moral dilemma so long as she can read the ingredients to ensure it actually is 100 percent from plants.

Omnipork, Phuture Minced Pork and Impossible Pork are not readily available in Jakarta, but if they were, Joesman admits she would try it. “I don’t feel there is any moral dilemma around eating a plant-based pork alternative,” she says. “I can just check the ingredients to make sure there’s no actual pork in it.”

Echoing this sentiment is Erika Anindita, a millennial who lives in Jakarta.” I would love to try it since it’s plant-based and has a halal certification,” she says. When asked if she would feel morally conflicted for consuming such products in any way, she answered, “I wouldn’t feel conflict because it is plant-based, so it doesn’t contain any actual substances from the pig.”

Anindita says there are social connotations attached to the consumptions of such foods. “I think people would be afraid of the discourse that may follow if they choose to consume foods with the word “pork” in it,” she adds.

Kusmini urges us to imagine this scenario: A Muslim person goes to the supermarket and puts a pack of plant-based pork in his or her shopping trolley. He or she then bumps into a friend, who sees the pork product in the trolley, but doesn’t understand that it’s not actually made from pigs.

“This could lead to all kinds of questions being raised about his faith, which could ostracize him from his community,” Kusmini says. “Until every single person in the country has been educated and fully understands the ingredients and reason behind plant-based pork products, this will continue to be in the back of our minds when thinking about the consumption of such products.”

And it’s not only in Indonesia that the view of using the word “pork” in plant-based products can lead to confusion. In neighbouring Singapore, 14 percent of a population of 5.7 million identify as Muslim (Statista, 2018). According to the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS), foods with the word “pork” in it may cause “confusion” since it is a clearly prohibited food item.

MUIS says it needs to be studied whether there are any negative social consequences of consuming such foods. Their current advice to Muslims in Singapore is to refrain from the consumption of plant-based pork items.

If brands wish to truly infiltrate the vast population in Muslim-majority countries with their plant-based pork alternatives, they may need to consider using a different name to avoid social shame and misunderstanding. Muslims such as Kusmini agree that this would make the products more appealing and accessible to people of her faith. “If it was named Omnimeat or Phuture Meat, I would have no hesitation to buy these products,” she shares.

 

World’s First Organic Plant-Based Infant Formula Debuts in Australia

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Highly anticipated organic and certified vegan infant formula company, Sprout, launches in Australia, filling a gap in the market for organic plant-based baby formula.

Sprout Organic Pty Ltd. (Sprout) infant formula and toddler drink is made from a base of rice starch and contains only organic plant-based ingredients, free from soy. Sprout plans to release its toddler and infant formula in the second quarter of 2021.

Sprout Organic’s range includes healthy plant-based kid’s snacks, toddler drinks and baby formula. ©Sprout Organic

In the meantime, Sprout’s first commercial product has been released, and is a range of healthy, whole foods kids snack bars, which launched on World Children’s Day (November 20, 2020).

Sprout develops and manufactures plant-based nutritional products for children, approved by leading paediatricians, dieticians, and food technology experts. The company’s vision is to provide children and their families with access to nourishing plant-based food products across the globe.

Sprout founder, Sel Berdie, is a former professional rugby league footballer for the Gold Coast Titans. In an announcement, he said the company had partnered with Global by Nature and Total Health, distributors in Western Australia (WA) and New South Wales (NSW), in the first of a series of domestic and international partnerships to establish as they grow their business. 

Sprout Organic founders Jen and Sel Birdie, with their two children. ©Sprout Organic

“We are very pleased to announce our distribution agreements with Global by Nature and Total Health. In these two distributors we have found partners that are incredibly passionate about our products. WA and NSW were identified as a key market for us, and we couldn’t be happier with the fit we’ve found in these two companies,” said Berdie. 

Global by Nature General manager, Ryan Mclintock believes Sprout is building a whole new form of inclusivity in the health foods sector. “We are always looking for innovative and delicious ways to surprise and excite our customers,” he said in the announcement. “Sprout’s healthy and tasty kids snack bars and genuine innovation in infant formula is exactly that.”