Scientists develop new high yield rice, 'natural' is top claim in NPD, and the US fights EU over chicken ban
11 February 2009
Higher yield rice hoped to end crisis
A global consortium of scientists is developing a molecularly re-engineered strain of rice capable of more efficient photosynthesis. The group believes it is now very close to delivering the rice plant that can produce 50% more grain using less fertiliser and less water.
As half the world’s population consumes rice as a staple, the project aims to boost supplies in Africa and Asia, where crops in certain areas have been decimated by catastrophic weather systems. The researchers have received a grant of $11m (€8.5m) from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Meanwhile, price volatility in the rice markets remains high, according to the International Rice Research Institute. It says producers suffering from almost 10 months of falling prices are under further pressure from the global credit crunch, which is making future rice production even more uncertain.
Natural is top NPD
Product development centred on ‘natural’ claims was the most common across all food sectors in 2008, according to analyst Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD).
Around the world, 23% of all new products launched in 2008 touted natural credentials, including those labelled as organic, additive/preservative free, and wholegrain.
The development signals a change in consumer trends which previously favoured low/no fat, salt, sugar and calorie products. Similarly, fortified products and foods with “added” health enhancers, such as vitamins or omega 3, also slipped down the list and accounted for only 5% of new product launches in 2008, 20% less than in 2007.
Analysts believe the shift can be explained by the introduction last year of tighter regulation on the use of health claims made by consumer food manufacturers.
US fights EU over chicken restriction
The US has asked the World Trade Organisation to enter dispute settlement consultations with the EU over trade restrictions imposed by the latter on American poultry imports. According to a statement from a US trade representative, the EU has imposed a ban on poultry meat processed with pathogen reduction treatments that are “judged safe by both US and European food safety authorities.”
“We have tried to address this issue through dialogue with the EU for more than eleven years, and neither the European Commission nor EU Member States have offered any legitimate, science-based reason for continuing to block our poultry,” says trade representative Susan Schwab.
She concluded that the US would prefer to resolve the issue without resorting to litigation but that it will act to “defend poultry and other US agricultural exports against non-science based restrictions.”