Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Food chain stage

The food chain describes the physical flow of goods from agriculture through processing and distribution, to retailing to eventual consumption and waste disposal. The papers and reports in this category highlight the different issues and impacts associated with each particular stage of the food chain.

8 October 2018

The book “Changing the food game: market transformation strategies for sustainable agriculture”, written by Lucas Simons, discusses how markets can be changed to support a sustainable food system. Chapter topics include how food production impacts the world, market failures, and phases of market transformation.

8 October 2018

This book, edited by Chiara Tornaghi and Chiara Certomà, critically explores the social and political implications of urban gardening.

8 October 2018

The UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has published “Health and Harmony: the future for food, farming and the environment in a Green Brexit” - a summary of the responses to its consultation.

Image: Sonja Pieper, Ploughing a rice field in South India, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
8 October 2018

Rice cultivation emits methane and nitrous oxide, which are both more potent greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide. Policies to reduce methane emissions from rice farming generally recommend using intermittent (as opposed to continuous) flooding. However, intermittent flooding could produce much higher nitrous oxide emissions than continuous flooding, according to a recent paper.

Image: Rory MacLeod, 195.365, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
2 October 2018

A traditional variety of corn grown by people from Sierra Mixe in southern Mexico can thrive in poor soils without needing much extra fertiliser. A group of researchers have shown that the plant is able to draw nitrogen from the air through mucus-laden aerial roots on its stems. It’s hoped that the trait can eventually be bred into commercial corn strains.

2 October 2018

This book, edited by Shakeel Ahmed, showcases the latest research and applications in bio-based food packaging materials.

2 October 2018

This book, edited by Ramesh Namedo Pudake, Nidhi Chauhan, and Chittaranjan Kole, highlights ways in which nanomaterials can be used in agriculture. The book covers both social and environmental aspects.

2 October 2018

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations has released the September 2018 version of its quarterly reports, “Crop prospects and food situation”. According to the report, 39 countries currently require external food assistance, driven by conflicts and climate-related shocks. Of those countries, 31 are in Africa, seven are in Asia, and the remaining one is Haiti. World cereal production in 2018 is estimated to be 2.4% lower than in 2017, which saw a record high.

2 October 2018

Utilities company Veolia and plastics charity RECOUP have together released the report “Plan for plastics”, which considers how the UK can improve plastic recycling. The report finds that 93% of people think plastic bottles should be made with recycled materials and are willing to pay 2.5 pence more, on average, for a recycled bottle (compared to a non-recycled bottle). Less than 5% of plastic film is currently recycled, compared to 59% of plastic bottles.

2 October 2018

In a technical report, the American Academy of Pediatrics outlines the health concerns associated with several classes of food additives (including those unintentionally added to food, e.g. from packaging), including bisphenols, phthalates, perfluorinated compounds, artificial food colours, and nitrates and nitrites. The report notes that children may be particularly susceptible to the effects of these additives because of their lower body weight and because their metabolic systems are still developing.

Image: Dario Sanches, Todirostrum cinereum, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
2 October 2018

Birds catch insects less frequently in silvopastures (grazing land with substantial tree cover) than in forest fragments, according to a study in the Colombian Andes. This suggests that silvopasture provides relatively lower quality habitat for the bird species studied. However, the paper proposes some measures to improve the quality of silvopastures as habitats for birds, including encouraging certain tree species and forming particular microhabitats, such as vine tangles and hanging dead leaves.

Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre, Dramatic Views of Hurricane Florence from the International Space Station From 9/12, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
25 September 2018

The flooding caused by Hurricane Florence in North Carolina has drowned millions of chickens and thousands of pigs that were left on farms during the storm. The floodwaters have also caused at least 13 manure storage lagoons to overspill, spreading potentially dangerous bacteria and excess nutrients to the surrounding areas.

Image: George Hodan, Praying hands, Public Domain Pictures, Public domain
25 September 2018

A survey of Canadians finds that a high level of dedication to Christianity is negatively correlated with monetary donations to environmental causes, while being a believer without an affiliation to organised religion is positively correlated to such donations. However, being very religious was positively correlated with volunteering for environmental causes, while being strictly secular or nominally religious were negatively correlated with such volunteering.

18 September 2018

The UK government has published its Agriculture Bill, which reforms how farmers will receive subsidies. Under the current system - the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy - the amount of money that farmers receive is linked to the amount of land that they farm. Under the new system, payments will be linked to producing “public goods” such as protecting habitats, reducing flood risk and improving water quality.

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.

Image: Max Pixel, Cow eating farm, CC0 Public Domain
18 September 2018

If the US were to shift to entirely grass-finished beef (vs. grain-finished), then the US cattle population would have to increase by 30% relative to today, because grass-fed cattle gain weight more slowly than those fattened in feedlots. Furthermore, existing pastures would have to become 40%-370% more productive to avoid converting more natural habitat to farmland or competition with human food supply. Methane emissions from the cattle’s digestive systems might increase by 43%, again because of slower growth rates.

Image: skagman, Modern trawler, Skagen harbour, Denmark, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
18 September 2018

The vast majority of industrial fishing (defined as fishing vessels of over 24 metres) is done by vessels that are registered to relatively wealthy countries, according to a recent paper. Vessels registered to high income and upper middle income countries (according to World Bank classifications) accounted for 97% of industrial fishing effort in international waters and 78% of industrial fishing effort in the national waters of poorer countries. China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and Spain together account for most of the fishing effort.

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