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.

25 September 2018

A survey of Canadians finds that a high level of dedication to Christianity is negatively correlated with monetary donations to environmental causes, while being a believer without an affiliation to organised religion is positively correlated to such donations. However, being very religious was positively correlated with volunteering for environmental causes, while being strictly secular or nominally religious were negatively correlated with such volunteering.

18 September 2018

FCRN member Nicole Tichenor Blackstone of Tufts University has recently authored a paper that compares the environmental impacts of three healthy eating patterns recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The vegetarian eating pattern had lower impacts than the US-style and Mediterranean-style eating patterns in all six impact categories considered.

18 September 2018

If the US were to shift to entirely grass-finished beef (vs. grain-finished), then the US cattle population would have to increase by 30% relative to today, because grass-fed cattle gain weight more slowly than those fattened in feedlots. Furthermore, existing pastures would have to become 40%-370% more productive to avoid converting more natural habitat to farmland or competition with human food supply. Methane emissions from the cattle’s digestive systems might increase by 43%, again because of slower growth rates.

12 September 2018

Lasers might replace poison or shotguns to stop birds from eating fruit crops, according to some farmers who have used automated laser systems to successfully defend their crops. The systems are also quieter than propane cannons and more reliable than trained falcons. However, it isn’t clear whether the lasers can harm birds’ eyes.

12 September 2018

The World Wildlife Fund has released a report measuring on-farm crop waste at various locations in the United States. During the 2017-18 growing season, 40% of tomatoes, 39% of peaches, 2% of potatoes and 56% of romaine lettuce were left in the field. Causes of waste at the farm stage include strict quality standards, damage due to weather, variable consumption patterns and unpredictable labour supply. Some growers pointed out, however, that the nutrients in on-farm waste food are almost always recycled, e.g. as animal feed or by ploughing the waste back into the field.

4 September 2018

This book, by Jonathan Coppess, explores the history of agricultural policies in the United States.

4 September 2018

The New York-based Guarini Centre on Environmental, Energy and Land Use Law has released a report exploring the policies that US cities could use to reduce meat and dairy consumption. Three main categories of policy are proposed: informational (to raise public awareness of the health and climate implications of meat and dairy consumption), procurement policies for public institutions, and economic interventions to incentivise different purchasing patterns.

4 September 2018

A survey of 18- to 24-year-old students in the US finds that very few study participants had high knowledge of the issue of food waste, and many participants estimated that they wasted less than the average American. Students often attributed blame for food waste to university dining halls, food service outlets or society in general, rather than to themselves as individuals. The paper grouped factors that both increased and reduced food waste production (depending on context) into several categories, including taste and appearance, reuse value, scheduling, personal values, portion sizes, cost, social norms, whether or not the food was prepared by the person who ate it, sharing of food, convenience, and food safety.

20 August 2018

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the key ingredient in the plant-based burger created by Impossible Foods. Soy leghemoglobin, which releases a protein called heme that gives the burger its red colour and meat-like flavour, is made by Impossible Foods using genetically modified yeast. The FDA’s approval is based on the conclusions drawn by a panel of food safety experts and experimental data submitted by Impossible Foods.

20 August 2018

The Trump administration has reversed a ban on using neonicotinoid pesticides (linked to declining bee populations) and genetically modified crops in over 50 national wildlife refuges (out of 560 total). Limited farming activity is permitted in some of the wildlife refuges. Previously, a blanket ban had prohibited the use of neonicotinoids and genetically modified crops in the wildlife refuges, but now decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.

20 August 2018

Animal advocacy organisation Faunalytics has released the report “Messages to overcome naturalness concerns in clean meat acceptance: primary findings”, which studied how people perceive the “naturalness” of cultured meat (also known as laboratory-grown meat) when it is described in different ways. The report found that study participants (based in the US) were more accepting of cultured meat when presented with a message about the “unnatural” conditions in which conventional meat is produced. Messages arguing that cultured meat has a “natural” side or that “naturalness” does not matter did not result in greater acceptance of cultured meat.

24 July 2018

Scientists used DNA barcoding (testing a short section of the genome) to check whether fish in Metro Vancouver are really the species that they are labelled as being. They found that 25% of fish sampled were mislabelled, with error rates higher in restaurants than in grocery stores or sushi bars. Since the price of the claimed species was often higher than that of the real species, the paper suggests that some labelling may be intentional. However, the paper also suggests that some errors could be due to confusion between vernacular fish names (rather than scientific species names).

24 July 2018

This paper surveys 195 cities in the United States and finds that the number of water conservation measures adopted in a city depend on both the climate (drier cities tend to have more water conservation measures than wetter cities) and political leanings (cities that lean towards the Democrats have more water conservation measures than Republican-leaning cities).

17 July 2018

The US divisions of Danone, Mars, Nestle and Unilever have established the new Sustainable Food Policy Alliance, hoping to influence policymakers and regulators in five key areas: product transparency, nutrition, the environment, food safety and a positive workplace for food and agriculture workers. According to the Washington Post, the new alliance supports the reduction of salt in packaged foods and the introduction of “nutrition facts panels” to highlight sugar and calorie information (read more here).

10 July 2018

A study has found that people who view vegetarianism as a threat to their way of life, and those who believe in human supremacy over animals, are likely to have fewer animal species that they view as worthy of moral consideration (compared to people who do not see vegetarianism as a threat or who do not believe in human supremacy over animals). Moral attitudes varied strongly towards different animal species, for example, 90% of participants a felt moral obligation to care for the welfare of dogs, compared to 51% who felt the same obligation for pigs.

26 June 2018

The Spoon interviewed the founder of iUNU, a company that makes a robotic system to monitor and manage commercial greenhouses. The system, known as Luna, uses cameras that are mounted on rails to observe the plants, and uses machine learning to interpret what it sees and help growers manage yields.

26 June 2018

US media organisation NPR discusses the tensions between housing developers and people who use vacant city plots for food production. Around 15% of land in US cities is classed as “vacant”. Urban farms on vacant land can be an important source of fresh food in some low-income neighbourhoods, but this can clash with the need for more housing. New York City council has passed an urban agriculture bill in an attempt to give urban farmers some control over how land is used.

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