The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Thursday 15 September 2016

On with the shows

A sort of cross-channel autumnal art fair season kicks off today with the appropriately titled Start at London’s Saatchi Gallery. Its third edition sees the fair branching out ever more adventurously to present galleries and artists from outside the regular commercial sphere. The trick for art fairs is finding a balance between offering a sense of discovery and exploration and making it small enough that you can digest what you’ve seen (and, who knows, maybe buy it too). Start’s done this admirably. Additional curated shows include two must-sees this week: Future Island, staging Taiwanese work under a name that sums up the place’s lab-like potential, and Baghdad Manifesto, a darkly comic look at the Iraqi present through menacing household appliances. Next comes Frieze, 1:54, FIAC and Asia Now; we will update you on each.

Cream of the crop?

Big business news broke yesterday when Monsanto accepted German pharmaceutical firm Bayer’s $66bn (£50bn) offer, marking a record-breaking takeover by the German company to create the world’s largest seeds and pesticides business. The news led to a 2.5 per cent rise in Bayer’s shares but not everyone was thrilled about the acquisition of the US agrochemical company, which has a bad reputation across Europe for its genetically modified seeds, the distribution of herbicides containing the potentially carcinogenic glyphosate and its critically viewed business methods. Whether the German company can shake Monsanto’s damaged image and carefully navigate the future of genetically modified crops has yet to be seen. Thus far the Leverkusen-based multinational is positive that this move will be a major step in securing solutions for the agriculture industry, which must prepare to feed an additional three billion people worldwide by 2050.

Image: Kohei Take

Daddy duty

Japanese men enjoy – on paper at least – some of the most generous
 paternity-leave allowance in the world. There is a snag though:
 the country’s famously tough work culture makes it difficult for most men to
 take the leave they’re entitled to. The government has set the goal of 
increasing the number of men who take childcare leave – for up to a
 year – to 13 per cent by 2020 (it was only 2.03 per cent in 2013) and it's looking to lead by example. A survey this week revealed that a record 9.5 per cent of male government employees took paternity leave in fiscal 2015, up 4 per cent on the previous year. Persuading companies in the private sector that men should be encouraged to take time off to look after 
their children is the next hurdle.

Image: Sharyn Cairns

Word on the grapevine

As Australia’s fine produce grows in popularity abroad, the EU ambassador to Australia has urged farmers and government to take cues from counterparts in Champagne and Cognac and step up regional branding efforts. Talking to Australia’s national broadcaster, ambassador Sam Fabrizi said that geographic indicators for food would increase the overall value of products in specific regions, as shown by the success of internationally recognised hallmarks for quality administered by Australia’s wine regions Barossa Valley and Hunter Valley. Yet as Aussie food flavours gain favour with the Asian palate, regional specificity for its world-class beef and dairy has not been so well handled. Rural producers down under should look to the cashmere growers of Mongolia and South Africa’s rooibos industry where pushing for international recognition has helped grow healthy profits.

From Monocle 24

Image: Kitty Kaht

Food Neighbourhoods #1: Hong Kong

The district of Sham Shui Po is home to the most vibrant Cantonese palates and now young creatives are moving in and adding their own spices to the mix. We see the sights – and sample the tastes – with our guide, food writer Janice Leung Hayes.

From Monocle Films

Tasmanian craft

In Tasmania talented craftspeople are making use of the island’s natural materials to design and build furniture, ceramics and more. Monocle Films tours the island to meet the designers and makers putting Tasmanian personality on the map.

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