Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Food security and nutrition

In 1996, the World Food Summit stated that food security ‘exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.’ This definition encompasses four key elements: 1) the physical availability of food, 2) the legal, political, economic and social arrangements which assure access to food, 3) the ability to utilise food through adequate diet, clean water, sanitation and health care to reach a state of nutritional well-being, and 4) the stability of all these factors across time. Today, just under 800 million people are undernourished. Compounding this problem, changing dietary patterns (sometimes referred to as the ‘nutrition transition’) brought on by the processes of globalisation mean that, obesity is also now a growing problem, and many developing and emerging countries now find themselves presented with a ‘double burden’ of poor nutrition. Over 2 billion people worldwide are now overweight or obese and most of these are to be found in middle and low income countries simply because their populations are so great. Overlapping with these numbers some 2 billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies (most commonly of iron, vitamin A and iodine) which causes physical and cognitive problems, particularly in children and women of childbearing age.

28 November 2018

This book, edited by David Barling and Jessica Fanzo, explores challenges related to protecting environmental resources while also meeting human nutritional requirements.

27 November 2018

This report finds that the ten largest US food and beverage manufacturers lack comprehensive strategies for effectively addressing obesity and diet-related diseases. Assessing a portfolio of the manufacturers’ products, the report classifies only 30% as “healthy”.

19 November 2018

This book, edited by John Dixon et al., sets out different farming systems used across Africa and their relationships to food security.

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.

22 October 2018

The book “Food and sustainability”, edited by Paul Behrens, Thijs Bosker and David Ehrhardt, is a textbook that addresses food sustainability from a multidisciplinary perspective.

22 October 2018

The book “Farm to Fingers: The culture and politics of food in contemporary India”, edited by Kiranmayi Bhushi, explores diverse viewpoints on current food issues in India, including food security, global policies, and the impact of food bloggers.

16 October 2018

A quarter of survey respondents claim that healthy and nutritious food in the UK is too expensive, while 10 million people live in “food deserts”, according to a report by London-based think tank the Social Market Foundation. The report examined three barriers to healthy eating: prices, affordability (relative to income) and access to food stores.

Image: The Advocacy Project, Smiling with an Armful of Food, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic
8 October 2018

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.

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.

25 September 2018

The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has released the 2018 edition of its report on food security and nutrition around the world. The report give key statistics on several indicators of nutrition and explores the links between climate-related events and food security.

Image: C.G. Newhall, Pyroclastic flows at Mayon Volcano, Philippines, 1984, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain
20 August 2018

A recent paper uses data from volcanic eruptions to estimate the effects that geoengineering with sulphate aerosols would have on agricultural production. It concludes that the damage that geoengineering would do to maize, soy, rice and wheat outputs (because of reduction in sunlight reaching the crops) would have roughly the same magnitude as the benefits of the cooling it would provide.

31 July 2018

This book, by Ramesh Ray and S Ramachandran, presents technological interventions in ethanol production from food crops, addresses food security issues arising from bioethanol production and identifies development bottlenecks.

Image: CIAT, NP Nicaragua75_lo, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
31 July 2018

A group of researchers from the University of Michigan’s Sustainable Food Systems Initiative has called for a new approach to solving food system problems, based on the intersection of four key areas: the ecology of agroecosystems, equity on a global and local scale, cultural dimensions of food and agriculture, and human health.

24 July 2018

This book, by Jules Pretty and Zareen Pervez Bharucha, explores the current state of knowledge of sustainable agricultural intensification in a variety of settings, including smallholder farms and industrialised countries.

Image: Balaram Mahalder, Maize, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
24 July 2018

As global mean temperature rises due to climate change, the chance of multiple shocks in maize production occurring at the same time rises, due to greater variability in yields. The top four maize-producing countries are United States, China, Brazil, and Argentina. The chance of all four suffering a yield loss of more than 10% in the same year is presently almost zero, but rises to 6% for 2°C of warming and 87% for 4°C of warming. The study does not account for changing variability in temperature (only the increase in mean temperature), nor any gains from breeding heat-tolerant maize varieties.

Image: Bicanski, Organic apple fruits on tree, Pixnio, CC0 Public domain
24 July 2018

This review paper reports that organic agriculture has lower yields than conventional agriculture, by 19-25% on average across all crops, according to three meta-analyses. Lower yields may be due to the lack of use of synthetic fertilisers - organic systems are often limited by low levels of nitrogen or phosphorus - and higher susceptibility to pest outbreaks. Widespread uptake of organic farming (to produce the same amounts of output as today) would probably require some conversion of natural habitats to farmland, because of this lower land-use efficiency compared to conventional agriculture - an important consideration, as the area of certified organic production has increased from 15 million ha in 2000 to 51 million ha in 2015 (although this is only 1% of agricultural land).

Image: Max Pixel, Harvest farm, CC0 Public Domain
10 July 2018

A new paper reviews evidence on agricultural intensification in low- and middle-income countries and concludes that intensification rarely leads to both environmental and social benefits. Only 17% of the case studies were found to have win-win outcomes. The paper finds that the two outcome categories most frequently reported in the literature are food production and income, and that these outcomes are the most likely to be positive (at 52% and 68%, respectively). Other outcomes, such as for various ecosystems service indicators, are less frequently reported and are less likely to have positive outcomes.

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