According to a recent report, organics now represents C$3.7-billion a year in sales in Canada, a number that has tripled since 2006. This makes the Canadian market for organics the fourth largest in the world. 58 per cent of Canadians buy organic foods weekly with such foods representing 23 per cent of their grocery bill. Organics are the fastest sector of the food industry.
Since late 2010, at least five ships loaded with Indonesian minerals have sunk when bound for China. The most recent vessel was carrying nickel ore, a potentially deadly cargo which has accounted for four out of the 20 bulk carriers lost worldwide during 2010-11. The ships were found to have sunk because the cargo had liquified. Nickel ore is dangerous because if it gets too wet, the fine, claylike particles that are often present in the ore, turn to a liquid that sloshes about the holds with such momentum that even a giant ship can capsize.
According to some, the US Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937 is the world's most outdated law. Since 1940, raisin farmers have been required to make over a portion of their crop to a government agency called the Raisin Administrative Committee. The committee decides each year how many raisins the domestic market can bear, and thus how many it should siphon off to preserve an "orderly" market. It does not pay for the raisins it appropriates and gives many of them away, while selling others for export.
A Canadian entrepreneur is planning a C$1-billion underwater transmission line to take electricity from Ontario to the US northeast. The cable, to run across Lake Erie, would carry surplus electricity to Pennsylvania and on to 13 US states and the District of Colombia, where there is an increasing demand for power, particularly from "clean" sources. The project would deliver Canadian-generated power to the grid that supplies power to 60-million Americans. It will involve laying two six-inch high-voltage cables.
The fourth quarter of this year will see shipments of tablet computers top personal computers for the first time. Tablet shipments will hit 84.1-million units, compared with 83-million for PCs. The total market for Internet-connected devices of desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets in 2013 will rise 28 per cent to US$622.4-billion and hit $735-billion by the end of 2015. The growth of smartphones and tablets is making up for a projected decline of 10 per cent of PCs this year.
Canadian wealth is hitting new heights, though debt still remains a worry. Earlier this year, according to Statistics Canada, household net worth climbed to reach a record C$7.2-trillion. On a per capita basis, net worth rose to $204,800. The 1.9 per cent increase in household net worth was led by gains in equities and pension assets
Sophisticated cheese flavours and varieties continue to develop a following in the United States. Bolder flavours are the hottest cheese trend as consumers venture beyond younger-aged cheeses to more robustly aged and flavourful ingredient-filled cheeses. The top three fastest growing natural cheeses at retail are manchego, gruyere and gouda. Restaurants are offering more cheese varieties on menus for appetizers, to accent entrées and for desert. Deli cheeses account for 19.8 per cent of deli department dollar sales.
Between 2011 and 2012, sales in the US of turkey, duck and other specialty birds grew a considerable 6.5 per cent in one year, reaching US$7.1-billion, up from $6-billion in 2008. 84 per cent of Americans surveyed say they eat turkey and 92 per cent eat chicken.
Climate change could lead to bananas becoming a critical food source for millions of people and could replace potatoes in many developing countries. Cassava and the little known cowpea plant could play increasingly important roles in agriculture. As temperature increase, the world's three biggest crops in terms of calories, maize, wheat and rice will decrease in many countries. Potatoes could also suffer from volatile weather patterns and be replaced by bananas in certain regions.
OPEC has acknowledged that technology for extracting oil and gas from shale is changing the global supply picture significantly and that demand for crude will rise more slowly than previously predicted. It is now forecast that shale oil will contribute two million barrels per day (bpd) to global supply by 2020 and three million bpd by 2035. For comparison, two million bpd is equal to the current output of OPEC member Nigeria, which is Africa's top exporter.
It is being billed as the largest "mountain-moving" project in Chinese history. One of China's biggest construction firms will spend US$2.2-billion to flatten 700 mountains, levelling the Lanzhou area and allowing developers to build a new metropolis. The new area could increase the region's gross domestic product by $27-billion by 2030 and has already attracted $7-billion of corporate investment.
The International Energy Agency forecasts that coal will catch up with oil as the world's leading energy source by 2022. Increased demand from India and China are fuelling the push. By 2017, the agency says that global coal consumption will stand at 4.32-billion tonnes of oil equivalent, versus 4.4-billion tonnes for oil itself. However, natural gas offers the best hope for reducing carbon emissions.
New research indicates that a species of invasive grass is making wildfires in the western US larger, hotter and more frequent. A variety of grass called cheatgrass dries out and burns more rapidly than other vegetation. It is believed that this grass has fuelled almost 80 per cent of the largest fires in the American West over the last 10 years. The species gets its name because it grows very early and very quickly and then dies, cheating other varieties out of valuable nutrients.
In 2012, 12-million Canadian households subscribed to basic television services. Of these, 68 per cent obtained the service from a cable company, 24 per cent from a satellite company and eight per cent from companies that deliver television programming over telephone lines. The average amount spent monthly was C$52.
An amateur prospector in the Australian state of Victoria has astonished experts by unearthing a gold nugget weighing 5.5kg (177 ounces). The man used a handheld metal detector and found the nugget lying 60cm underground. The estimated value of the nugget is $315,000.
More than 140 countries have agreed on a set of legally binding measures to curb mercury pollution. Mercury can produce a range of adverse human health effects, including permanent damage to the nervous system. Mercury emissions have been increasing recently in several developing countries. Mercury can be released into the environment through a number of industrial processes, including mining, metal and cement production and the burning of fossil fuels.
The EU has spent billions of euros to build roads in sub-Saharan Africa. The EU now finds that poor maintenance by recipient countries is leaving roads in ruins, jeopardising work to reduce poverty and hunger. A recent review shows that despite the US$6.1-billion spent on building modern highways between 1995 and 2011, the investments were less successful than expected because governments failed to follow up with maintenance or enforced weight limits.
Researchers in Spain have developed a system they say can greatly improve the accuracy of car sat-navs. It combines a conventional global positioning system (GPS) with those of other sensors, accelerometers and gyroscopes, to pinpoint a car's location to within 2 metres (6ft 6in). The system can be installed cheaply in any car and has the potential to help the emerging driverless car industry. The margin of error of a commercial GPS used in cars is about 15 metres in an open field where the receiver has good visibility.
Since a peak in 2008, the share of e-mails that are junk has steadily declined. In 2011, it fell from 80 per cent to 67 per cent of the global total with spam filters doing their job. Also, police are cracking down on spammers and users are ignoring the spam that does get through. Many spammers have switched to peddling fake handbags and baldness cures via online ads which are often cheaper and more likely to be clicked.
France is forcing shops and offices to go dark overnight in a bid to fight light pollution. Under a new law, lights in shop window displays will be turned off at 1am. Interior lights in offices and other non-residential buildings will have to be turned off an hour after the last employee leaves. Exceptions will be made for Christmas and other special occasions. The move is expected to save 250,000 tonnes of CO2, enough energy to power 750,000 French households.
Animals and plants bought to Europe from other parts of the world are a bigger than expected threat to health and the environment, costing at least US$16-billion a year. More than 10,000 "alien" species have gained a foothold, from Asian tiger mosquitos to North American ragweed and at least 1,500 are known to be harmful. Some of them were introduced as early as 77AD by the Romans.
German security researchers have found that freezing an Android phone for one hour to -10C allowed them to reveal its confidential contents, including contact lists, browsing history and photos. They found that quickly connecting and disconnecting the battery of a frozen phone forced the handset into a vulnerable mode allowing them to copy data on the phone.
A new economic impact study has found that the US beer industry, comprising brewers, beer importers, beer distributers, brewer suppliers and retailers, directly and indirectly contributes US$247-billion annually to the American economy. The industry encompasses 2,851 brewing establishments, 3,728 distributers and 576,353 retailers. The beer industry directly employs 1.1-million people paying nearly $31.8-billion in wages.
A recent survey indicates that a high number of bridges in the United States are structurally deficient. In New York, 2,000 bridges are deficient and badly in need of repair. The estimate of the cost of repairs is US$3.6-trillion. There are 607,380 bridges in the national inventory of which 20,808 are considered to be "fracture critical" which means that they have no structural redundancy.
The Royal Mail National Return Centre, a vast warehouse in Belfast, holds 20-million "undeliverable" items which have been separated from their owners. Only a fifth of the 20-million lost items are returned successfully.
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