Knowledge for better food systems

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The decisions of everyone in the food chain – from farmers, to distributors and consumers – are heavily influenced by economic factors such as price, risk and resource availability. The food economy is composed of a complicated, global network of trade, which today connects producers and consumers at scales never seen before. Subsidies for food production exist in almost all nations; some reject these as market distorting while others hail them for their ability to ensure sufficient national/regional supply of food at all times and to protect farmers. Foods that are traded as commodities are subject to volatile markets and also show the intimate connection between food prices and other sectors, such as oil.

24 February 2020

This report from the global wildlife foundation WWF assesses the global economic impacts of nature loss. It finds that under a business-as-usual scenario, global GDP in 2050 could be 0.67% lower than if six ecosystems services (crop pollination, carbon storage, marine fisheries, protection of coasts from flooding/erosion, water supply and timber production) remain unchanged - a cumulative cost of US$10 trillion. A global conservation strategy could increase global GDP by 0.02% in 2050 relative to no change in these six ecosystems services.

20 January 2020

This article by Caroline Grunewald and Dan Blaustein-Rejto, both of of the US Breakthrough Institute think-tank, argues that the environmental movement fails to appreciate the environmental benefits that can result from free trade, by enabling producer countries with lower environmental impacts per unit of food to displace products from countries with higher environmental impacts.

9 December 2019

This report from Dalhousie University and the University of Guelph tracks changes in food prices in Canada. It finds that prices in some food categories were impacted by environmental events, including an unexpected 5% increase in fish prices due to warming oceans. It also predicts that consumers will put strong pressure on food producers to avoid single-use plastic packaging, and that the Canadian food system is likely to be stressed by climate change, such as through  droughts, forest fires and heavy precipitation.

25 November 2019

This report, commissioned by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the National Trust and The Wildlife Trusts, examines how the profitability of upland farming systems can be increased at the same time as protecting the natural environment.

9 October 2019

In an open letter, the RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission urges the Secretaries of State in several UK government departments (including Defra, International Trade, Health, Business, and International Development) to consider the environmental implications of any future trade deals, in particular to avoid “offshoring” impacts to countries with weaker environmental standards.

9 October 2019

This report from Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR) (a London-based investor initiative focused on the environmental, social and ethical issues of factory farming) estimates that the global meat substitute market is worth almost $20 billion and is predicted to grow by 7-9% annually. 

16 July 2019

Conservation NGO WWF has released the 40-minute film “Our planet, our business”, which sets out five principles for businesses to follow in order to protect nature and their own future.

17 June 2019

This investor briefing from UK responsible investment charity ShareAction introduces the topic of childhood obesity and sets out the opportunities and risks it poses to investment portfolios.

11 June 2019

This report details the findings of a seven-month bike tour of rural communities in the UK carried out by the RSA Food Farming & Countryside Commission. It gives an account of rural life in the UK, covering topics such as extreme weather (and its impact on farming), housing prices, flood risk, sheep farming, closure of rural businesses and the potential impact of Brexit on trading across the Northern Irish border with the Republic of Ireland.

Image: kschneider2991, Money tower coins, Pixabay, Pixabay licence
29 April 2019

Decoupling of carbon emissions from economic growth is unlikely to happen quickly enough to meet the Paris climate targets of limiting warming to 1.5°C or 2°C, according to this paper. Furthermore, both historical trends and model-based projections suggest there is no evidence that resource use and economic growth can be absolutely decoupled at the global scale in the context of continued economic growth.

15 January 2019

RaboResearch reviews the state of the global animal protein industry, predicting that production will grow in 2019 (albeit at a lower rate than 2018), except in China where production is expected to decline due to African swine fever.

3 December 2018

The Food Research Collaboration argues in this report that every form of Brexit (for non UK readers, this is the UK’s upcoming departure from the European Union) will affect the UK’s food supply, and that Local Authorities should set up “food resilience teams” to assess local risks to food provision.

28 November 2018

Entrepreneur network Forward Fooding has produced a global map of “FoodTech” startups, categorised into agricultural technology, next-generation food, consumers apps and services, delivery, smart appliances, surplus and waste, safety, traceability, and processing.

Image: liz west, cranberries, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
12 November 2018

This piece in the New Food Economy explores why the US cranberry industry has collectively agreed to destroy one quarter of its harvest, but will not ask any farmers to scale back production. A surplus of cranberries on the market means that prices are being driven below the cost of production. The agreement to destroy a portion of the harvest means that prices will rise again. Unlike other industries, which are regulated by antitrust laws, farmers are allowed to make collective agreements such as this under the Capper–Volstead Act.

6 November 2018

The UK government is not preparing well enough for the impacts of Brexit on the food sector, argues Tony Lewis, Head of Policy at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health in a piece for the Food Research Collaboration. Lewis points out that, among other issues, introducing necessary food safety checks on imports could cause 17 miles of tailbacks along the Dover-Calais route, the resources needed to operate the border may not be ready by March 2019 (when the UK will leave the European Union), and businesses do not have enough time to adapt in the event of no deal being reached between the UK and the EU.

6 November 2018

In this piece for The Conversation, researcher Elise Wach discusses the consolidation of farmland in the UK and rising farmland prices. According to Wach, there were nine times more small farms in England 15 years ago than there are today, and the number of high-intensity large farms is rising swiftly.

6 November 2018

This briefing by the Global Forest Coalition looks at subsidies and supports for the livestock sector and how they harm forests and other biodiverse ecosystems. In particular, the briefing assesses the impacts of the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement, which is currently being negotiated.

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