A paper from Oxford’s Livestock, Environment and People project finds that many of the foods that would support better health could also contribute to reduced environmental impacts. Farmland use is likely to change in the UK if climate change is not mitigated, with the south east becoming drier and requiring more irrigation. The Food Research Collaboration sets out best practices in engaging with convenience store operators to offer more healthy food options.
In Fodder this week: Mixtures of pesticides, commonly found in foods and soils in the UK, could be significantly more harmful than their individual components. A paper sets out an ambitious roadmap for how the land sector could help in meeting the 1.5°C climate goal. Two books look at African agriculture, arguing for sustainable intensification and the use of wireless sensor networks. Finally, switching all food production in England and Wales to organic agriculture would probably increase emissions from overseas agriculture, due to lower yields in the UK.
Last week, we published all Foodsource Building Blocks as PDFs, making them easier to share with others, store on your computer, or use for educational and discussion purposes. Building blocks provide accessible, peer-reviewed introductions to the most important concepts, debates and contestations around food system sustainability. A button to download the PDF version is available at the top of each individual Building Block.
In Fodder this week
Solving sustainability challenges linked to nitrogen fertilisers could have many co-benefits, such as improving access to food and protecting human health. A “jury” at a Food Ethics Council event concluded that packaging on unhealthy food and drink should be more closely regulated, but that introducing plain packaging (as for cigarette packages) is unlikely to be beneficial if implemented as a standalone measure. Meanwhile, a paper argues that the “blue economy”, e.g. fishing, aquaculture and tourism, should be carefully managed to promote both environmental sustainability and social equity.
A controversial series of review papers advises adults to continue current levels of red and processed meat consumption. The recommendations do not incorporate environmental or ethical concerns. Meanwhile, some areas of China and India are hotspots for antimicrobial resistance in livestock; the Food Ethics Council calls for people to think of themselves as “food citizens”, not just consumers or producers; and an open letter from the RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission urges the UK government to consider the environmental implications of any future trade deals.
In the latest FCRN blog post, our founder Tara Garnett examines why the word "veganism" has become a difficult, uncomfortable or dirty word to some environmentalists. She traces how perceptions of veganism have changed over the past couple of decades, noting that veganism's recent surge in popularity has given rise to a backlash whereby veganism is seen (by some) to be linked to intensive arable monocultures, an industrialised food system and alienation from nature. Read the blog post here.
In Fodder this week: A paper models several diets and finds that vegan, two-thirds vegan or “low food chain” diets would, in most countries, lead to greater reductions in carbon and water footprints than lacto-ovo-vegetarian or low red meat diets. Meanwhile, ending hunger without further endangering the environment will probably require tackling overconsumption and food waste in addition to increasing agricultural yields.
The IPCC report on oceans and frozen landscapes shows that ocean warming could increase human exposure to health hazards from seafood, while Feedback has ranked UK supermarkets on their efforts to promote “less and better” meat.
In Fodder this week: The UK’s National Farmers Union has set out its plans for making agriculture in England and Wales net zero by 2040 via approaches that include improved production efficiency, carbon capture through land management, and bioenergy. Meanwhile, the Food Research Collaboration has published two new Brexit briefing papers: one on the impact of a no-deal Brexit on food flows across the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; and one on whether food standards in the UK are likely to be lowered as a result of post-Brexit trade deals.
In Fodder this week: FCRN member Peter Alexander was inspired by the British cycling team to apply the approach of multiple marginal gains to the food system, finding that a set of 29 incremental improvements across the supply chain could reduce agricultural land use by between 21% and 37%. The FAO reports that the number of undernourished people is rising, Eating Better makes policy recommendations for halving UK meat and dairy consumption, and the UK’s Food, Farming and Countryside Commission sets out 15 recommendations to policymakers, business and communities.
In Fodder this week: Two papers examine replacements for animal products, with one focusing on developments in the field of cellular agriculture and the other examining both plant-based and cellular products using a “food tech justice” approach - the carbon footprint of food packaging tends to be lower per serving when each package contains multiple servings - and could Brexit enable more small-scale farming and food production on allotments?
In Fodder this week: Scenario analyses could help to envisage future possibilities for food, despite the non-linear and hard-to-predict nature of the food system - converting Irish agriculture to an organic vegan system could produce three times as many calories on 38% of currently used land, argues a report - Feedback investigates the use of wild fish and land by the Scottish farmed salmon sector - and global forest cover could be increased by a quarter without using any current urban or cropland areas.
In Fodder this week: The UK government has launched a year-long review of the food system. Consultation with experts, people throughout the supply chain and a randomly-selected Citizen’s Assembly (a form of sortition), will lead to a new National Food Strategy for England.
Meanwhile, taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages are found to reduce their consumption, a report from the Centre for Food Policy underlines the importance of policymakers considering food as a whole system, and Lancaster University has launched a new research project, Rurban Revolution, on the potential of urban greening and food growing.