Russian spies troll GM and glyphosate debate – report
Russian social media accounts linked to disinformation in the 2016 US election have also campaigned against new farming technologies, according to a media investigation.

The Times reports that scores of tweets linking biotechnologies to health scares were posted by fake or robotic accounts managed by Russian organisations.

The messages include "baseless claims" that GM crops and glyphosate-based herbicides such as Monsanto's Roundup cause autism, the newspaper found after interviewing academics analysing the Twitter accounts linked to Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

Russian interest

Investigations have linked many of the accounts to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian organisation allegedly funded by an ally of President Vladimir Putin.

Analysts told The Times it was in Russia's interest to direct public opinion against modern agricultural technologies because the Russian industry is less advanced in that field, and it is a topic likely to create division between the US and its European allies.

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Watch: Ireland takes on the world at Paris food fair
This year marks the 22nd year of Ireland's participation at SIAL.

Imagine walking towards the trade stands at the ploughing, but it’s indoors. Now make that five times bigger, replace the farmers with buyers in suits and replace trade stands with food companies. You have arrived at SIAL Paris 2018, the biggest business to business food fair in the world this year.

There are 7,200 exhibitors from over 110 companies to entertain the 160,000 visitors. Products are presented by category in eight different halls.

Exhibitors on the Bord Bia stands include 16 Irish meat companies, four Irish dairy and dairy ingredients companies, seven prepared foods manufacturers and five confectionary companies. ABP and Dawn Meat Group have their own separate exhibitions.

“It’s mind-blowing the volume of business being done and the amount of companies showing their wares here,” said Barry O’Connor, a dairy farmer from Youghal, Co Cork.

“As you walk around you realise there’s an awful lot of people here buying and there’s a lot to play for. It’s certainly the place for our companies to be, showing what we have to offer.”

Despite the size of the hall and the strong product offerings from other milk processors, he said that on the Origin Green stand the “atmosphere and vitality of the place is encouraging, people want our product".

"Everybody competes on price and we have to be there, or thereabouts. But to get the margin we need to promote the grass-fed image,” O'Connor added.

Meat

The Bord Bia stand held a prominent position in the meat hall where competition from beef factories worldwide was strong.

“You’ve got visitors from all the main markets, SIAL is a particularly good one for the European market and is a good networking opportunity,” said Stephen Keating, CEO of the Kepak's frozen division.

“It’s about making that connection with your existing customers, put your brand out there. Ireland has a fantastic stage here under the Bord Bia banner, it has been phenomenal and we’re very proud to be associated with it.”

SIAL is a biannual event, making this the last one before Brexit. Inevitably it was a major point of conversation among exhibitors and buyers.

“We talk about the opportunities; China and the US, but nothing is going to replace the UK market tomorrow. It’s not about who has the best business plan, it’s who is the most agile,” Keating said.

Farm costs included in French food pricing law
New French legislation aims at restoring balance in the trade of agricultural products, including rules on minimum food prices.

The French parliament has passed legislation introducing a reference to farmers' production costs in minimum food pricing.

The new law states that any contract for the sale of agricultural products must "take into account one of several indicators relative to agricultural costs". However, lawmakers stopped short of defining what those indicators are, asking farmers, processors and retailers to set them through negotiation.

The law also authorises the government to set new rules on promotions and below-cost selling. An industry forum convened by President Emmanuel Macron last year agreed to raise the below-cost selling threshold for food products by 10% and stop aggressive promotions. The government has committed to limiting promotions on food products to a maximum discount of "three for two", as opposed to "two for one" currently.

The legislation also doubles penalties for animal welfare offences and forces pesticide sellers and advisers to operate as separate businesses. Government canteens, including those feeding all French schoolchildren every day, will have to purchase half of their ingredients from organic, local or quality-assured sources by 2022.

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100,000 lambs feared dead after New Zealand storm
Farmers face difficult spring weather in New Zealand as lambing and calving are in full swing.

Strong winds and heavy rainfall on New Zealand's North Island earlier this month have killed an estimated 100,000 new-born lambs, an industry analyst told local media.

Mel Croad of AgriHQ told TV New Zealand that individual farmers had lost hundreds of lambs in the storm, and some thousands.

More than 20m lambs are born each year in New Zealand.

Snow storm

A snow storm is now blanketing parts of the country's South Island, causing further stress to farmers and animals. Power outages were reported in the Otago region this Monday.

The region's dairy herds are in the middle of spring calving and New Zealand's milk production peaks in October.

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Fonterra posts €110m loss

‘New Zealand will have less cows and produce less milk in the future'