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.

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.

29 October 2018

A hard Brexit, where the UK trades with other nations on the terms and tariffs set out by the World Trade Organisation after leaving the European Union, could cause an additional 5,600 deaths in the UK, mainly due to reduced consumption of fruits, vegetables and nuts, according to a working paper published by the Oxford Martin School.

22 October 2018

The book “Feeding the world: Brazil’s transformation into a modern agricultural economy”, by Herbert S. Klein and Francisco Vidal Luna, examines the development of Brazil’s agricultural production, provides a historical understanding of the changes in Brazil’s economy, and explains Brazil’s impact on the world food system.

16 October 2018

The Food Ethics Council has produced a report of its business forum “Brexit breakfast <200 days to go… How can we get the best post-Brexit outcomes for UK food and farming systems?”, which was held on 11 September 2018. Forum participants discussed the Irish border, future trade deals, organic certification, promoting public health after Brexit, farm labour, and future food standards.

Image: CIAT, A bunch of avocados grown by a smallholder farmer near Palmira, southwestern Colombia, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
17 July 2018

Smallholders with farms under two hectares produce 28–31% of all crops and 30–34% of all food supply on 24% of the world’s agricultural land, according to a new paper. This contrasts with common claims that smallholders produce 70–80% of the world’s food. The paper also finds that, relative to larger farms, farms under two hectares have greater crop species diversity, allocate less of their crop outputs towards feed and processing and are important suppliers of fruit, pulses, roots and tubers.

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: Max Pixel, Shopping Cart, CC0 Public Domain
26 May 2018

A recent paper examines the connections between food system changes and diet and nutrition changes in Latin America and the Caribbean. It finds that food systems are changing to include more processed food, more and more easily available meat, dairy and out-of-season foods, cheaper food and a rise in supermarkets. It concludes that, while some Latin American countries are leaders on interventions to change demand (such as by introducing taxes on sugary beverages or regulating the advertising of unhealthy food), there is a long way to go, and that a change towards healthier food systems will require introducing incentives for companies to market healthy foods, driven by consumer demand.

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