Knowledge for better food systems

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18 September 2018

In the latest of its Food Brexit Briefings, the Food Research Collaboration examines how UK food standards may be affected by post-Brexit trade deals - specifically, the case of hormone-treated beef, which is currently permitted in the United States but not in the European Union. The report points out that at least one of the hormones routinely used in US beef production is a cancer risk, and that there is not enough evidence to show that five other hormones are safe to use.

18 September 2018

In a write-up of a meeting of its Business Forum, the Food Ethics Council asks whether the concept of “ethical consumerism” is adequate for addressing food system sustainability issues. The report points out that “ethical” can have many different meanings, that businesses can lack a cohesive sustainability strategy if they are too responsive to current trends on consumer concern, that focusing on consumers can neglect systemic problem, and that not all people can afford to prioritise ethical concerns when buying food. The report also offers some recommendations to businesses.

12 September 2018

The Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration’s report “Restoring forests and landscapes: the key to a sustainable future” presents case studies of the successful restoration of landscapes that have been affected by deforestation and land degradation.

Image: trf57, Sheep New Zealand, Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons
12 September 2018

New Zealand’s Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has released a report exploring how much and over what timescale the climate is affected by methane emissions from livestock. It focused on two questions. First,if methane emissions from livestock were held at current levels or followed business-as-usual trajectories, what would their contribution to future warming be? Second, what reduction in methane emissions from livestock would be needed so that they cause no additional contribution to warming?

12 September 2018

The World Wildlife Fund has released a report measuring on-farm crop waste at various locations in the United States. During the 2017-18 growing season, 40% of tomatoes, 39% of peaches, 2% of potatoes and 56% of romaine lettuce were left in the field. Causes of waste at the farm stage include strict quality standards, damage due to weather, variable consumption patterns and unpredictable labour supply. Some growers pointed out, however, that the nutrients in on-farm waste food are almost always recycled, e.g. as animal feed or by ploughing the waste back into the field.

12 September 2018

14.4 million households don’t currently spend enough on food to follow the UK’s Eatwell Guide recommendations for a healthy diet, according to a report released by the UK-based Food Foundation. The report estimates that a household of two adults and two children (aged 10 and 15) would have to spend £103.17 per week to follow the Eatwell Guide. To meet the Eatwell Guide recommendations, the poorest 50% of households would have to spend around 30% of their disposable income (after tax and housing costs), while the richest 50% of households would have to spend around 12% of their disposable income.

4 September 2018

The New York-based Guarini Centre on Environmental, Energy and Land Use Law has released a report exploring the policies that US cities could use to reduce meat and dairy consumption. Three main categories of policy are proposed: informational (to raise public awareness of the health and climate implications of meat and dairy consumption), procurement policies for public institutions, and economic interventions to incentivise different purchasing patterns.

4 September 2018

The Adam Smith Institute, a UK-based free-market think tank, has published a briefing paper in which it argues in favour of lab-grown meat (also known as cultured meat). The authors say that the potentially lower land use of lab-grown meat, compared to conventional meat, could allow some farmland to be rewilded, managed in less intensive ways, or used to build more houses.

20 August 2018

The University of Exeter’s Centre for Rural Policy Research has released the report “Changing food cultures: challenges and opportunities for UK agriculture”. The report gives an overview of how UK agriculture might be affected by future changes in the food system, such as health concerns or increases in purchases of ready-meals and snacks.

20 August 2018

Animal advocacy organisation Faunalytics has released the report “Messages to overcome naturalness concerns in clean meat acceptance: primary findings”, which studied how people perceive the “naturalness” of cultured meat (also known as laboratory-grown meat) when it is described in different ways. The report found that study participants (based in the US) were more accepting of cultured meat when presented with a message about the “unnatural” conditions in which conventional meat is produced. Messages arguing that cultured meat has a “natural” side or that “naturalness” does not matter did not result in greater acceptance of cultured meat.

31 July 2018

Environmental campaigning organisation Feedback have released a new report in which, having examined environmental, economic and safety factors, it lays out the case for lifting the ban on feeding surplus food to pigs in the UK. The report finds that up to 2.5 million tonnes of food waste from the UK manufacturing, retail and catering sectors could be fed safely to pigs, if legalised. The report draws on the work of an expert panel convened by EU REFRESH, who concluded that food waste can be safely fed to pigs if it is heat-treated and processed properly, and conducted in a limited number of well-regulated off-farm processing facilities. The report was featured on BBC1’s Countryfile and in the Times.

31 July 2018

The FAO has released a report on the current state of knowledge on how climate change will affect fisheries and aquaculture, including mitigation and adaptation options. The report finds that “climate change will lead to significant changes in the availability and trade of fish products”. Marine catches could decrease by 2050 in the tropics and rise in some high latitude regions, with a global decrease in Exclusive Economic Zones of 3% to 12%. Inland fisheries in Pakistan, Iraq, Morocco and Spain may come under greater stress, while those in Myanmar, Cambodia, the Congo, the Central African Republic and Colombia may remain under low stress in the future.

31 July 2018

A report by the Food Research Collaboration argues that the sustainability and security of Britain’s food supply would be put at risk by a hard Brexit or a no-deal Brexit, where the UK reverts to trading according to World Trade Organisation rules. The report points out that the UK imports 30% of its food from the EU, plus another 11% via trade deals negotiated between the EU and other countries. The report claims that the government may suspend food regulations if a no-deal Brexit happens, to minimise barriers to importing food. Furthermore, it criticises the UK government for neglecting the importance of retail and food service in the UK food system.

24 July 2018

The FAO has released its 2018 report on world fishery and aquaculture statistics. Key findings include that fisheries output peaked in 2016, having remained approximately static since the late 1980s, while aquaculture production is rising, as shown in the figure below. In 2015, fish accounted for around 17% of global animal protein consumption. One third of fish stocks are currently overfished, although progress has been made in the United States and Australia in increasing the proportion of fish stocks that are sustainably fished.

24 July 2018

A new report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP, a US non-profit research and advocacy organisation) and Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN, a non-profit headquartered in Spain) finds that the five largest meat and dairy companies together account for more greenhouse gas emissions than ExxonMobil, Shell or BP. The top 20 meat and dairy companies have greater emissions than some nations, including the UK and Australia. The report argues that by 2050, the meat and dairy industry could account for 80% of the planet’s greenhouse gas budget if the industry grows as projected.

17 July 2018

The UK’s Committee on Climate Change has released its 2018 Progress Report to Parliament on Reducing UK Emissions. Chapter 6 focuses on agriculture and land use, land-use change and forestry. The report finds the UK agricultural emissions were unchanged between 2008 and 2016. In 2017, half of farmers did not think it was important to consider emissions when making decisions about farming practices. The forestry sector’s ability to sequester carbon has levelled off due to the average age of trees increasing relative to the past. Chapter 6 makes only passing reference to demand-side measures for agricultural emissions reductions (see Figure 6.9).

17 July 2018

The UK’s Food Research Collaboration initiative has released a briefing paper on the differences in animal welfare standards between the UK and its likely post-Brexit trading partners, such as the fact that antibiotic use in cattle is nine to sixteen times higher in the US than the UK, by weight of cattle. The report points out that welfare standards risk being weakened to help obtain trade deals, and recommends several measures to protect animal welfare after Brexit, including farmer subsidies for higher welfare standards, mandatory labelling to help consumers choose better welfare standards, and using public procurement policies to promote higher welfare.

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