Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Theory, methods and tools

There are different ways to analyse and evaluate impacts from food production and consumption. This section highlights papers that introduce specific methodologies, tools and theories that can be used as a guide or reference when developing a research or policy approach.

Image: Arkansas Highways, I-530 mirage, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic
31 July 2018

Researchers from the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute (of which the FCRN is part) have created a new tool - the “temperature of equivalence” - to map the impacts of varying degrees of climate change in different areas. They find that people living in low-income countries will, on average, experience heat extremes at 1.5°C of (global average) warming that people living high-income countries will not encounter until 3°C. This result is based on combining a map of predicted heat extremes with information on where people actually live within these areas. The paper also finds that, on average, people in high-income countries would experience the same increase in extreme rainfall after 1.0°C of warming that people in low-income countries would experience at 1.5°C of warming.

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.

Image: Ian Sherlock, Fishing boat leaving, Canary Islands, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
31 July 2018

A new paper finds that the global marine fishing fleet produces greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 4% of the total emissions from global food production. The types of fisheries with the highest emissions intensity per unit of catch are those using motorised craft (vs. non-motorised), those harvesting for human consumption (vs. catches used for meal, oil or non-food uses), fishing for crustaceans (vs. other species types) and fisheries in China (vs. those in other regions).

24 July 2018

This book, by Ray A. Goldberg, provides the perspectives of people involved in shaping the global food system, including leaders in academia, nonprofits, public health, and the private and public sectors.

Image: Pxhere, Toucan bird nature, CC0 Public Domain
24 July 2018

Managing tropical forest conservation on the basis of maximising carbon storage might not protect the most biodiverse regions of forest, according to a recent paper. Using datasets from Brazil, the authors found that the correlation between biodiversity and levels of carbon stored in forests depended on whether and how the forest had been disturbed by human activity.

17 July 2018

Irish social enterprise foodture has produced a podcast about food citizenship, featuring Anna Cura of the Food Ethics Council. Anna describes the concept of food citizenship as being a mindset where people to think about themselves as engaged citizens, not just consumers, when making food purchase choices.

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).

17 July 2018

This book, by Klaus Lorenz and Rattan Lal, discusses the present state of knowledge on soil carbon dynamics in different types of agricultural systems, including croplands, grasslands, wetlands and agroforestry systems. It also discusses bioenergy and biochar.

17 July 2018

The UK’s Committee on Climate Change has released its 2018 Progress Report to Parliament on Reducing UK Emissions. Chapter 6 focuses on agriculture and land use, land-use change and forestry. The report finds the UK agricultural emissions were unchanged between 2008 and 2016. In 2017, half of farmers did not think it was important to consider emissions when making decisions about farming practices. The forestry sector’s ability to sequester carbon has levelled off due to the average age of trees increasing relative to the past. Chapter 6 makes only passing reference to demand-side measures for agricultural emissions reductions (see Figure 6.9).

Image: sarangib, Oil Palm Tree, Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons
17 July 2018

A recent paper assesses the carbon implications of converting Indonesian rainforests to oil palm monocultures, rubber monocultures or rubber agroforestry systems (known as “jungle rubber”). It finds that carbon losses are greatest from oil palm plantations and lowest from jungle rubber systems, in all cases being mainly from loss of aboveground carbon stocks. The paper points out that, “Thorough assessments of land-use impacts on resources such as biodiversity, nutrients, and water must complement this synthesis on C but are still not available.”

Image: Charles Haynes, Dosa (rice pancake) with a cup of ghee (clarified butter) at Mavalli Tiffin Room in Bangalore, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
17 July 2018

FCRN member Dr Rosemary Green of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine has published a paper that calculates the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and water use associated with five dietary patterns in India. As shown below, GHG emissions per capita are highest for the “rice and meat” dietary pattern (at 1.2 tonnes CO2 eq. per year) and lowest for the “wheat, rice and oils” pattern (at 0.8 tonnes CO2 eq. per year). For comparison, per capita dietary GHG emissions in the UK have been estimated at 2.6 tonnes CO2 eq. per year for high meat eaters and 1.1 tonnes CO2 eq. per year for vegans (Scarborough et al., 2014). Water use is highest for the “wheat, rice and oils” pattern and lowest for the “rice and low diversity” pattern.

10 July 2018

UK charity Oxfam has launched a new campaign, Behind the Barcodes, to highlight human suffering in the food supply chain. Oxfam has scored the major UK supermarkets on their human rights policies in the categories of transparency, workers, farmers and women, and is encouraging shoppers to contact supermarkets to voice their concerns.

10 July 2018

The European Commission's Joint Research Centre has published a new World Atlas of Desertification, which provides maps of different factors relevant to desertification such as land use, human appropriation of biological productivity, virtual water use, smallholder agriculture and livestock production.

10 July 2018

This book, by Raquel Ajates Gonzalez, uses a multidisciplinary approach to study the contribution of farmers’ cooperatives in the European Union towards sustainable food systems.

10 July 2018

The Better Buying Lab at the World Resources Institute has published a summary of two workshops. The workshops, which brought together over 50 people from the academic community and the food industry, identified research questions on how to increase consumption of plant-based foods by changing the language used to describe it.

Image: Tobias Akerboom, Complaining cow, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
10 July 2018

A paper proposes a new method for evaluating the climate impact of short-lived greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as methane. Different GHGs are currently assessed on the basis of global warming potential (GWP), calculated as carbon dioxide equivalent, usually over a 100 year time horizon. The paper authors say that this misrepresents the impact of short-lived GHGs, because they have stronger climate impacts shortly after being released and lower impacts after being in the atmosphere for some time.

Image: Bob Blaylock, Saccharomyces cerevisiae — baker's yeast, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
10 July 2018

A new paper has estimated the economic and environmental potential of feeding livestock with industrially-fermented microbes such as bacteria, yeast, fungi and algae instead of crop-based feed. The study finds that microbial protein could replace 10-19% of crop-based animal feed protein, with decreases in land use, climate impact and nitrogen pollution.

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