Showing results for: Issues
Food is a nodal point for multiple interconnected issues and concerns. The categories below highlight a few of the most critical, including food security and nutrition, water, governance and policy, and health issues.
A new law requires that state institutions such as hospitals, nursing homes and prisons in California must provide a vegan menu option. The move has been welcomed by health and animal welfare campaigners.
The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council has passed a resolution concluding the UN Declaration for the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. The Declaration will be used to influence national policies on food, agriculture, seeds and land, while keeping in mind the interests of rural food producers - if, that is, the Declaration is adopted by all UN Member States after a vote in November.
A new lab-grown meat startup, Meatable, claims that it has overcome a key technical barrier - the use of serum from unborn animals to grow cells. Meatable’s meat-growing process allegedly does not need serum, because it uses pluripotent stem cells (avoided by other startups because they are hard to control). Meatable also claims their process only needs to take one cell from an animal (as opposed to a larger piece of tissue).
FCRN member Christopher Schlottmann and Jeff Sebo, both of New York University, have written a book discussing empirical, ethical, and social dimensions of food, animals, and the environment, providing both big picture and more detailed analysis, including updated statistics.
The UK’s Global Food Security programme has published a think piece that argues for a systemic approach to food sustainability and health by governments and businesses. The report argues that the whole food system must be examined to identify the root causes of problems before policies are designed.
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.
A global model of how child stunting could be affected by climate change and poverty in 2030 has been developed by FCRN member Simon Lloyd of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. By 2030, an estimated 570,000 to over one million children under 5 will suffer from stunting that can be attributed to climate change, with both greater poverty and greater climate change causing more stunting.
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.
Startup New Age Meats has served the world’s first lab-grown pork sausages to journalists. The fat and muscle cells were allegedly grown from pork cells extracted from a live pig - in contrast to the world’s first lab-grown burger, showcased in 2013, where the initial cell samples came from slaughtered cattle.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The cost-effectiveness of different methods of cutting agricultural greenhouse gas emissions is often calculated using marginal abatement cost curves (MACCs). FCRN member Dominic Moran of the University of Edinburgh has quantified the uncertainties in calculating MACCs for Scottish agricultural mitigation options, including improving land drainage, improving the timing of nitrogen application, and using controlled release fertilisers. The paper suggests that policymakers may wish to exclude options that have a high uncertainty, as they may not always be as cost-effective as the MACC suggests.
The common weed killer glyphosate targets an enzyme only found in plants and microorganisms. However, a new paper finds that glyphosate can harm honey bees even though they lack the targeted enzyme. Glyphosate does this by changing the balance of microorganisms (some of which contain the relevant enzyme) found in the bees’ guts, making the bees more susceptible to infections.
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.