Knowledge for better food systems

Fodder: The FCRN food sustainability newsletter

The FCRN’s weekly newsletter on food sustainability, Fodder, rounds up the latest journal papers, reports, books, jobs, events and more. Sign up to receive it here.

Network updates

From the FCRN: 26 February 202

In Fodder this week

Climate change could cause the areas suitable for certain crops to expand to new regions, with implications for soil carbon loss, water use and biodiversity; zero deforestation commitments in the Brazilian soy sector have limited effects in protecting the Cerrado biome; consumers might be wasting more than double the amount of food previously estimated; and a blog post questions whether the degrowth movement gives enough attention to animals.

Featured FCRN publication

This 2014 FCRN report outlines the work needed to shift societies to consumption patterns that can meet both public health and environmental goals. According to the report, research is now needed in three key areas:

  • What are healthy sustainable eating patterns?    
  • How do we eat now, why, and what are the health and sustainability implications?    
  • How do we achieve positive change?

The report concludes that government leadership and substantial investment in research are needed to shift global consumption habits towards eating patterns that are both healthy and sustainable.

The report is based on the discussions of a workshop organised by the Food Climate Research Network, funded by the Wellcome Trust and the UK’s multi-agency Global Food Security programme. For the workshop powerpoints and discussion papers, see here.

Read the full report, Changing what we eat: A call for research & action on widespread adoption of sustainable healthy eating, here (PDF link). See also the Foodsource chapter What can be done to shift eating patterns in healthier, more sustainable directions?

Research library

MabelAmber, Bread Crust Food, Pixabay, Pixabay Licence

This paper by Verma et al., with FCRN member Thom Achterbosch as co-author, estimates that consumers across the world are probably wasting over twice as much food as previously believed. The study is based on the FAOSTAT Food Balance Sheets, but goes further than the Food and Agriculture Organisation in that it factors in how consumer affluence affects food waste. It finds that once people spend more than $6.70 per day (in total, not just on food), food waste starts to rise - suggesting that consumer food waste is an issue even in lower-middle income countries, not only in wealthier countries.

Image: United Soybean Board, Soybean Pods, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

In this paper, FCRN member Erasmus zu Ermgassen finds that voluntary zero deforestation commitments (ZDCs) cover more than 90% of the soy exported from the Brazilian Amazon, but only 47% of soy exported from the Brazilian Cerrado biome (a type of wooded savannah). 

Image: webandi, Wine grapes agriculture, Pixabay, Pixabay Licence

This paper finds that, as climate change causes the geographical shift of areas suitable for growing certain crops, the potential changes in land use could have impacts on biodiversity, water resources and soil carbon storage. So-called “agriculture frontiers” - areas of land not currently suitable for producing crops but that might become suitable in future due to shifts in temperature or rainfall - cover an area nearly one-third as big as current agricultural land area.

Image: United Soybean Board, Agronomist & Farmer Inspecting Weeds, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

This paper addresses the concept of co-production of actionable knowledge - where researchers and decision makers interact iteratively to produce knowledge that can be acted on, instead of a one-way flow of information from researchers to decision makers - in relation to research on environmental sustainability. 

This report from the global wildlife foundation WWF assesses the global economic impacts of nature loss. It finds that under a business-as-usual scenario, global GDP in 2050 could be 0.67% lower than if six ecosystems services (crop pollination, carbon storage, marine fisheries, protection of coasts from flooding/erosion, water supply and timber production) remain unchanged - a cumulative cost of US$10 trillion. A global conservation strategy could increase global GDP by 0.02% in 2050 relative to no change in these six ecosystems services.

This WHO-UNICEF-Lancet Commission examines the effects of climate change and food advertising on children’s health and likelihood of enjoying a good future. The report argues that children’s wellbeing should be placed at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

This report from the John Hopkins Centre for a Livable Future reviews the most prominent publications on True Cost Accounting, i.e. assessment of the externalities caused by an industry. It looks at how various True Cost Accounting frameworks can be applied to the food system.

This report from the intergovernmental Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development draws on the experiences of Brazil, France, Indonesia, Ireland, Mexico and New Zealand to examine how land use policy can be aligned with climate, biodiversity and food objectives.

This book addresses food waste from a variety of perspectives, including agriculture, food science, industrial ecology, history, economics, consumer behaviour, geography, theology, planning, sociology, and environmental policy.

This explainer from Carbon Brief outlines nine interlinked “tipping points” where climate warming could trigger an abrupt change. They include disintegration of ice sheets, changes in ocean circulation, thawing of permafrost, and dieback of ecosystems such as the Amazon rainforest and coral reefs.

This blog post by Joe Herbert, PhD student in Human Geography at Newcastle University and editor for, argues that the degrowth movement (which advocates for shrinking economic activity) has not sufficiently considered the role of animals in its vision of a “just and redistributive downscaling of material and energetic throughput in wealthy countries as a means to achieve ecological sustainability”.


UK food waste campaign group This is Rubbish is hiring a campaign coordinator to develop and communicate key messages about food waste for various audiences, create campaign content for media and social media, and organise and deliver events targeted at shifting attitudes to food waste and making the connections between wasteful supply chains and broader societal problems.

Candidates should have experience in campaigning, communicating to shift beliefs and deeper values, and events organisation.

Read more here. Apply by 9 March 2020.

Abstracts are invited for papers, special sessions (round tables, symposia), participative sessions, activist and artistic sessions for the 7th International Degrowth / 16th International Society for Ecological Economics Joint Conference, to be held on 1 to 5 September 2020 in Manchester, UK.

The theme of the conference is “Building Alternative Livelihoods in times of ecological and political crisis”. Sub-themes that may be of particular interest to FCRN readers include “Rural/agriculture/food” and “Materials, Energy, Waste and Climate”.

Read more here. The deadline is 15 March 2020.

This online course, developed by EIT Food, will explore how the brain works and how it is affected by diet and nutritional deficiencies. It will also cover the gut-brain axis, the microbiome, and the relationship between food and reproductive health.

Read more here. The course will be available for 16 weeks from 2 March 2020. The course is free to access.

This online course, developed by EIT Food, will address the role of scientific research in addressing challenges in food security. The course is designed for 16-19 year olds studying biology-related subjects at A level or undergraduate level. It will also appeal to adults interested in the technology behind food production.

Read more here. The course will be available for 16 weeks from 2 March 2020. The course is free to access.


At this talk on 19 March 2020, health economist Hiral Shah will present a new study that quantifies the impact of global agricultural production and trade on the burden of infectious diseases. The talk is aimed at anyone interested in how global trade, irresponsible production and consumption can impact human health and sustainability.

Read more here.

This conference on 25 March 2020 will discuss the future of the UK food supply chain, including the effects of future trade talks with the European Union, climate mitigation, and options for ensuring fairness across the supply chain and for consumers.

Speakers will include:

  • Christine Tacon, Groceries Code Adjudicator;
  • Paolo De Castro MEP, Rapporteur, Unfair Trading Practices in the Food Supply Chain and Member, Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development;
  • Rebecca Sudworth, Director of Policy, Food Standards Agency; and
  • Minette Batters, President, NFU.

Read more here

This conference on 25 March 2020, hosted by the Ecosystems Knowledge Network, will look at how governmental targets for woodland creation can be met in England, including discussing the business case for land owners and managers to get involved.

Read more here.

At this free event on 25 March 2020, organised by the University of Nottingham’s Future Food Beacon, panellists will discuss food and poverty.

The panellists will be:

  • Marsha Smith, community food advocate and PhD candidate, University of Coventry
  • Dr Megan Blake, senior lecturer, University of Sheffield
  • Georgiana Nica-Avram, Olio
  • Dr Tereza Campello, Senior Visiting Fellow, Future Food Beacon

Read more here