Knowledge for better food systems

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.

Image: USDA NRCS Texas, Cows grazing in a silvopasture, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
11 June 2018

FCRN member Eric Toensmeier, of Yale University, has written an op-ed for the Washington Post in which he discusses the potential of silvopasture - including trees on grazing land - to reduce agricultural emissions. Trees increase production by providing shade to livestock, according to the op-ed.

Image: Sumita Roy Dutta, Ice stupas near Phyang monastery, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
11 June 2018

A project in Ladakh, India, creates “ice stupas”, a form of artificial glacier, to complement intermittent water flow from retreating natural glaciers. Water from streams is sprayed from vertical pipes during the winter, freezing into pointed mounds, which melt slowly throughout the year, irrigating crops in the summer.

11 June 2018

Bayer, the German pharmaceutical and life sciences multinational, has bought US agribusiness Monsanto in a $63 billion deal after receiving approval from antitrust regulatory authorities. The US Department of Justice required Bayer to sell some of its crop science assets to BASF as a condition of approving the merger.

Image: USDA, Chicken wings with celery, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
11 June 2018

The FCRN’s Tara Garnett was interviewed for a piece on the difficulties of eating ethically by UK newspaper the Evening Standard. The piece, which discusses meat replacements, lab-grown meat and trade standards, also features Dan Crossley of the Food Ethics Council and Kath Dalmeny of Sustain.

11 June 2018

This book, edited by Alessandro Isoni, Michele Troisi and Maurizia Pierri, uses the concept of “food diversity” - diversity in many different factors in the food system, including crops and culture - as an overarching theme to gather work on many aspects of food, including genetic modification, promotion of local foods, food security, ethical purchasing and legal regulation.

11 June 2018

This book, by Annoula Paschalidou, Michael Tsatiris, Kyriaki Kitikidou and Christina Papadopoulou, identifies the challenges and opportunities surrounding the conflict between food production and energy crop production.

11 June 2018

TEEBAgriFood, part of the UN Environment initiative The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, has released a report on the environmental, health and social costs and benefits of the agriculture and food system. It finds that the food system does not keep everyone healthy or protect the environment. It calls for a reform in how we measure food system performance, because relying on yield per hectare and market prices neglects other costs such as food-borne disease and environmental degradation.

11 June 2018

Sixty suppliers of meat and fish have been ranked according to their management of nine sustainability categories, in an index prepared by Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR), a London-based investor initiative focused on the environmental, social and ethical issues of factory farming. 60% of the companies assessed are deemed “high-risk” on their overall sustainability strategy (or lack of it). Antibiotics are the most poorly managed risk, while waste and pollution are the best-managed risks.

Image: vbranyik, Corn cornfield fall, Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons
11 June 2018

FCRN member Ben Phalan of the Universidade Federal da Bahia has written a paper discussing the strengths and limitations of the land sparing-sharing framework, which aims to allocate land use and production intensity so as to maximise the value of land for wildlife while still producing enough food for people. He notes that most studies show that wildlife would be favoured by producing food intensely on as little land as possible, and addresses some common criticisms of the model.

Image: Rik Schuiling, Agricultural scientist taking notes at research station in Saria (Burkina Faso), Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
11 June 2018

This paper examines the role that agricultural research and innovation has in changing the food systems of developing regions, including urbanisation, decline in the importance of cereals in the diet, rise in processed foods, and shift in types of grains produced. Ways in which research affects the food system include: new breeds and varieties that are suited to small farms and/or ease of processing; cheaper inputs such as irrigation, fertilisers, herbicides and tractors; and introduction of motorised transport and temperature controlled storage. The authors call for more investment in the post-farm stages of the food system, such as processing, logistics, and wholesale, because these stages add significant value to food products.

Image: Bharathimohanr, Vellappallam Rice, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
11 June 2018

600 million people could be affected as climate change decreases the levels of several nutrients in rice, according to a new paper. The paper estimated changes in rice nutrient content using experiments where rice (of several different cultivars) was grown under conditions of enriched CO2. At the higher CO2 levels, the following average decreases in nutrient levels were found compared to rice grown under ambient CO2: 10% for protein; 8% for iron; 5% for zinc; 17% for vitamin B1; 17% for vitamin B2; 13% for vitamin B5; 30% for vitamin B9. In contrast, vitamin E levels were 14% higher under elevated CO2 levels.

Image: Olearys, Alimentos Saudáveis à Mesa, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
5 June 2018

A new study published in Science has consolidated data on five environmental impact categories (land use, freshwater withdrawals weighted by local water scarcity, climate change, acidification and eutrophication) for 40 agricultural goods from over 38,000 farms. It finds that the environmental impacts of producing the same food are highly variable between different farms. It also finds that the environmental impacts of animal products are generally higher than plant-based products.

Image: Bangdoll, Mango with section on a white background, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic
4 June 2018

A new edible and almost invisible coating could extend the shelf life of fruit and vegetables and help farmers sell more of their crops, reports Civil Eats. The maker of the coating, Apeel Sciences, says that the coating is made from fats that can be derived from the peel, seeds and pulp of “any kind of fruit or vegetable”. Apeel Sciences claims that the coating can double the lifespan of produce, even without refrigeration.

Image: Neil McIntosh, Cockerel, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
4 June 2018

A podcast by Planet Money discusses price fixing in the US chicken industry.

Image: olle svensson, avocado, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
4 June 2018

Some avocado plantation owners in Chile are illegally diverting water from rivers and leaving local villagers without enough water, according to a feature in the Guardian. Demand for avocados has increased by 27% in the UK in the last year. Activist Veronica Vilches claimed that local people are getting sick because of the lack of water, while activist Rodrigo Mundaca says that the water provided to resident by trucks is of poor quality.

Image: Angie Six, Quorn Chick-n Nuggets, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic
4 June 2018

France recently amended its agriculture bill to ban non-animal foods from being labelled similarly to animal products, e.g. “soy sausage”, on the basis that such labelling could be misleading to consumers.

Image: Juan Manuel, Bumblebees, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
4 June 2018

The BEEHAVE model is a freely available simulation tool that can be used to understand how different stressors affect the development and survival of honeybee colonies. A newly launched update, Bumble-BEEHAVE, models the behaviour of six UK bumblebee species.

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