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.

9 October 2015

This paper by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) suggests that as much as 47 percent of the edible U.S. seafood supply is lost each year.  The paper shows that the majority of the waste is produced mainly at the consumer stage. The waste issue adds another layer of pressure on fish stocks and the global seafood supply that are already seriously threatened by overfishing, climate change, pollution, habitat destruction and the use of fish for other purposes besides human consumption.

9 October 2015

It has been announced that the U.S. will not be incorporating sustainability into the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans (which are updated every five years). According to a blog-post written by Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Secretary of Health and Human Services  (HHS Secretary) and Tom Vilsack, Department of Agriculture USDA Secretary, the US government does “not believe that the 2015 DGAs are the appropriate vehicle for this important policy conversation about sustainability.” The two argue that although the final recommendations are still being drafted, the final guidelines should remain within the mandate in the 1990 National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act (NNMRRA);  to provide “nutritional and dietary information and guidelines”… “based on the preponderance of the scientific and medical knowledge.”

31 July 2015

This Bloomberg article and video interview discusses the new recommendations published to inform the development of the 2015 US dietary guidelines.

19 April 2015

This paper discusses urban farmers’ markets in relation to food accessibility, the type and variety of foods they offer and their price and quality. This US based study is the first to itemize farmers’ market products in an entire urban county—in this case the Bronx—and compare them with what is available in nearby stores. It finds that farmers’ markets located in urban areas may not contribute positively to nutrition or health.

19 April 2015

This study argues that government biofuel policies rely on reductions in food consumption to generate greenhouse gas savings. It looks at three models used by U.S. and European agencies, and finds that all three estimate that some of the crops diverted from food to biofuels are not replaced by planting crops elsewhere. About 20 to 50 percent of the net calories diverted to make ethanol are not replaced through the planting of additional crops.

31 March 2015

A number of major US NGOs, research institutions and academics have come together to support the recommendations of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC). An open letter, signed by more than one hundred individuals and institutions has been published in major daily newspapers urging Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to adopt the DGAC’s scientific recommendations on sustainability.

26 March 2015

This blog-post by Georgetown University professor Thomas Sherman discusses what he calls the “surprise feature” of considering sustainability in the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, suggested by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

In addition to the blog-post, Georgetown university’s Food Studies Group has published a series of videos on what the new dietary recommendations mean.

26 March 2015

This is a special issue introduction, providing a brief overview of the CSES project (Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply (CSES)) to serve as an introduction for the papers that follow in this volume of Poultry Science. The full issue focuses on providing empirical information on the sustainability of commercial-scale egg production. 

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26 March 2015

This research from Duke University presents policymakers with a more accurate framework for estimating the costs of a broad range of health, climate and environmental damages linked to emissions from fossil fuels, industry, biomass burning and agriculture.

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26 February 2015

The 2015 USDA’s Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, has published a report that sets out its revised dietary recommendations to encourage Americans to eat more healthily, and this time the recommendations also take account of environmental sustainability considerations. The report, Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (Advisory Report) will be reviewed by the Secretaries of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Federal government will determine how it will use the information in the Advisory Report as the government develops the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015 to be released later this year.

18 February 2015

Two reports this week by the US National Research Council look at whether humans could artificially steer Earth's climate by reflecting sunlight back into space, or by taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. The twin reports– Climate Intervention: Carbon Dioxide Removal and Reliable Sequestration and Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool the Earth argue that carbon dioxide removal might have a place in a broader response plan, but sunlight-reflecting technologies are too risky.

18 February 2015

This paper presented in EHP (Environmental Health Perspectives) claims to be the largest study to look at organophosphate exposure in humans.  It specifically compares pesticide exposure from eating organic food as compared with conventionally farmed food. The question of whether organic foods are better relate both to a food’s nutrient values and to its pesticide exposure; this paper examines whether the belief that organic produce contains less pesticide holds true.

12 February 2015

This article from Nasdaq describes what they call a “shocking” reduction in meat consumption and how this may impact the meat industry and other sectors. The potential catalyst they argue is the release of preliminary recommendations from the committee of medical and nutrition experts involved in developing USDA dietary guidelines.

30 January 2015

Two new papers from researchers at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University have analysed the portion sizes and nutritional contents (including calories, sodium, saturated fats and trans fats) of popular menu items served at three national fast-food chains between 1996 and 2013. The researchers found that average calories, sodium, and saturated fat stayed relatively constant, at high levels and the only decline seen was of trans fat of fries that took place between 2000-2009. The products analysed were: French fries, cheeseburgers, grilled chicken sandwich, and regular cola.

22 July 2014

The next version of Dietary Guidelines for Americans, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) seem likely to include advice on sustainable diets. Preliminary conclusions from a subcommittee on food sustainability and safety indicate that the message of how the food is produced will be included in the final recommendations. For more on these subcommittee discussions read an article in Science here.         

Read more a bout the dietary guidelines here.

You can also find more information on our website about other dietary guidelines and food policy.

23 June 2014

In this feature on Food Choices & Health, the United States Department of Agriculture and Economic Research Service (ERS) discusses food loss and food waste and points out the distinction in meaning between the two. They describe food loss as includes moisture loss and cooking shrinkage; loss from mould, pests, or inadequate climate control; and food waste.

22 May 2014

This ILRI blog post discusses a new US report from President Obama’s Global Change Research Program.

1 November 2013

A new study by researchers at University of Calgary published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that the long-term legacy of past fertilizer applications must be considered in reducing nitrate contamination of aquatic ecosystems. The study finds that nitrogen fertilizer leaks out in the form of nitrate into groundwater for much longer than was previously thought.  The long-term tracer study revealed that three decades after synthetic nitrogen (N) was applied to agricultural soils, 12–15% of the fertilizer-derived N was still residing in the soil organic matter, while 8–12% of the fertilizer N had already leaked toward the groundwater.

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