Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: North America

North America is the northern subcontinent of the Americas covering about 16.5% of the Earth's land area. This large continent has a range of climates spanning Greenland’s permanent ice sheet and the dry deserts of Arizona. Both Canada and the USA are major food producers and some of the largest food exporters in the world. Industrial farms are the norm in North America, with high yields relative to other regions and only 2% of the population involved in agriculture.

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.

20 January 2020

This report from Canada’s National Farmers Union examines how climate change is likely to affect agriculture in Canada, and sets out a strategy for the food system to contribute to mitigating the climate crisis. It argues that low-input, low-emission styles of agriculture should be incentivised.

Image: Angie Six, Quorn Chick-n Nuggets, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic
20 January 2020

This paper reviews the ingredients and nutrient contents of several plant-based meat alternatives (made from soy, other legumes, mycoprotein and cereals) and compares them to traditional meat products. It finds that no broad conclusions can be drawn about whether meat analogues or traditional meat products are healthier, with their composition varying between products.

13 January 2020

This report from FoodPrint, part of the GRACE Communications Foundation, describes the problems associated with plastic, metal and paper/fibre food packaging. It also sets out potential solutions, including reusable food containers, plastics that can be more easily recycled, compostable packaging materials, and bans on certain types of packaging (e.g. plastic straws).

Image: Adam Clark, Baked doughnuts, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
13 January 2020

This review paper argues that obesity and mortality in the United States could be reduced by limiting consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and processed foods and meats, because of the tendency of processed foods to encourage people to eat more food (based on trials in people), and the inflammatory effect of emulsifiers such as carboxymethylcellulose and polysorbate-80 (based on mouse and in vitro studies, not studies in people).

7 January 2020

This report from the US nonprofit Centre for Biological Diversity quantifies the environmental impacts (climate, habitat loss and water use) of caterers or events planners switching from a “conventional American dining menu” (including dairy, beef and other meats) to a mostly plant-based alternative menu. 

9 December 2019

The US think tank Breakthrough Institute has created an interactive series of graphs to visualise how the environmental impact of farming in the United States has changed over time, covering land use, nitrogen loss, water, herbicides, soil erosion, greenhouse gas emissions and spending on research and development.

9 December 2019

This book describes the experiences of a growing minority of Latino/a immigrant farm owners in the United States. According to the book, many of these people use farming practices from their home countries, such as growing several crops at the same time or using integrated pest management.

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.

2 December 2019

According to this article by the New Food Economy, the United States has experienced five E. coli outbreaks in the leafy green supply chain in two years. The latest outbreak, affecting romaine lettuce, originated in Salinas, California. A task force found that a 2018 outbreak was possibly linked to the presence of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) near lettuce farms.

Image: Rebecca Kahn, Broad Bean Seedlings, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
19 November 2019

This commentary argues that there is scientific consensus on the need to build soil organic carbon because of benefits such as resistance to soil erosion, higher fertility and resilience to drought. The authors note that these benefits of building soil carbon are being obscured by high-profile disagreements on the separate question of whether or not building soil carbon may help to mitigate climate change.

11 November 2019

According to this article from Civil Eats, several large food companies, including General Mills, Danone, Kellogg’s and Nestlé, plan to help farmers apply regenerative agricultural techniques to build organic matter in soils. The article questions whether the initiative will help to tackle climate change or only help the companies to sell more products.

Image: kin kate, Pizza, Public Domain Pictures, Public domain
11 November 2019

This paper sets out a definition of so-called hyper-palatable foods (HPF), i.e. foods designed to contain combinations of fat, sugar, carbohydrates, and/or sodium at levels that make it likely that people will continue eating these foods for longer (compared to other foods where they stop eating sooner through the mechanism of sensory‐specific satiety).

4 November 2019

This op-ed by FCRN member Mia MacDonald and Judy Bankman, both of US think tank Brighter Green, argues that affordable, accessible, sustainable and healthy diets for everyone can only be achieved with the commitment of everyone, including policymakers, industry influencers, city planners, local business owners and consumers.

Image: Martin Vorel, Girl with ice cream, Libreshot, Public domain
4 November 2019

Children in New York City who live less than 0.025 miles (about half a city block) from a fast-food outlet are more likely to be obese or overweight than children who live further away, according to this paper. The probability of a child being overweight was up to 4.4% lower and the probability of obesity was up to 2.9% lower for children who lived further away, relative to those who lived closest to fast-food outlets. The study used over 3.5 million data points (measurements of body mass index) from the New York City public school system between 2009 and 2013. 

22 October 2019

This report by US think tank ReThinkX examines the implications of ongoing disruptions to livestock industries. It predicts that current livestock production will be replaced to a large extent by a “Food-as-Software” model, where food can be engineered on the molecular level and produced using “precision fermentation”, e.g. using engineered microorganisms to produce proteins that mimic milk proteins. 

9 October 2019

This report from environmental NGO Friends of the Earth US outlines the health, environmental, ethical and consumer concerns associated with research into genetically engineered livestock. It notes that gene editing can lead to unintended effects, such as unintended modification of portions of DNA, enlarged tongues in rabbits, extra vertebrae in pigs, and novel proteins produced in error (which could result in allergic reactions).

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