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Fukushima's food champion fends off taint of nuclear disaster

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altThe laughter coming from diners in a corner of Kenji Suzuki's restaurant is flowing as effortlessly as the beer. The chatter cuts through the steam drifting from a nabe, or hotpot, in the centre of the table. There is talk of work, and praise for the chicken, vegetables and tofu being transferred to bowls from the bubbling stock.

Their exuberance is unusual, not just because the working week is only a day old, but because every dish is made with produce many Japanese have spent the past 20 months doing everything possible to avoid.

In an age when serious diners insist on knowing the provenance of their food, the example set by Suzuki's restaurant is hard to beat. About 80% of his menu – from perilla-infused pork to daikon pickles and saké - is from Fukushima.


Brazil's Amazon rangers battle farmers' burning business logic

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altAs his helicopter descends through the smoke towards an Amazonian inferno, Evandro Carlos Selva checks the co-ordinates via a global positioning satellite and radios back to base a witness testimony to deforestation.

Flames lick up from below the canopy, smoke billows across the horizon, and down below, the carbon that has been stored in the forest for hundreds of years is released into the atmosphere.

Skeletal trees are charred grey, others burnt black. Nearby, what was once forest is reduced to an expanse of ash, dust and embers. Trudging through the debris, Carlos Selva points to a soya farm: "They've been paid to do this. Forty per cent of next year's harvest on this land has already been bought."


Italy floods prompt fears for future of farming

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altThe floods that have devastated Italy over the past week could become even more severe in the future, threatening food production and destroying the country's natural beauty, experts warn.

Storms have battered ancient towns and left large swaths of farmland in Tuscany under water, prompting a warning from the region's governor, Enrico Rossi, that "climate change is making us get used to ever more violent flooding".

Three people were found dead on Tuesday after their car fell from a collapsed bridge near Grosseto, while the town of Albinia was under two metres of water. As army units were called in to help locals evacuate, towns in neighbouring Umbria were also put on alert and sections of the main road linking north and south Italy were blocked by water. On Monday a 73-year-old man was drowned in his car by rising floodwaters near the walled town of Capalbio, with residents evacuated near Cortona, the setting for the novel Under the Tuscan Sun. Much of the rich farmland of the Maremma had become a lake of mud.


'Humane' fishing net wins Dyson award

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altA young British designer has won a prestigious international award for creating a "humane" net to make fishing more sustainable by preventing small fish from being trapped.

Dan Watson devised a system based on a series of escape rings for fish – which can be fitted to a fisherman's trawler net – in response to the problem of overfishing and the controversial and wasteful practice of throwing away healthy and edible fish or other creatures as so-called bycatch.


Climate change threatens coffee crops

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altRising temperatures due to climate change could mean wild arabica coffee is extinct in 70 years, posing a risk to the genetic sustainability of one of the world's basic commodities, scientists said on Wednesday.

Although commercial coffee growers would still be able to cultivate crops in plantations designed with the right conditions, experts say the loss of wild arabica, which has greater genetic diversity, would make it harder for plantations to survive long-term and beat threats like pests and disease.