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: William Warby, Cow in a field by the quad biking place in Devon, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
11 June 2018

The FCRN’s Tara Garnett is featured in this video by UK climate website Carbon Brief, which discusses how farmers could reduce the carbon footprint of beef production. Tara points out that production-side measures only go so far, and that consumption changes are needed as well.

11 June 2018

This book, edited by Alessandro Isoni, Michele Troisi and Maurizia Pierri, uses the concept of “food diversity” - diversity in many different factors in the food system, including crops and culture - as an overarching theme to gather work on many aspects of food, including genetic modification, promotion of local foods, food security, ethical purchasing and legal regulation.

11 June 2018

This book, by Robert Hafner, explores the factors influencing soy agribusinesses and local people in soy-producing town in Northwest Argentina.

11 June 2018

TEEBAgriFood, part of the UN Environment initiative The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, has released a report on the environmental, health and social costs and benefits of the agriculture and food system. It finds that the food system does not keep everyone healthy or protect the environment. It calls for a reform in how we measure food system performance, because relying on yield per hectare and market prices neglects other costs such as food-borne disease and environmental degradation.

Image: vbranyik, Corn cornfield fall, Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons
11 June 2018

FCRN member Ben Phalan of the Universidade Federal da Bahia has written a paper discussing the strengths and limitations of the land sparing-sharing framework, which aims to allocate land use and production intensity so as to maximise the value of land for wildlife while still producing enough food for people. He notes that most studies show that wildlife would be favoured by producing food intensely on as little land as possible, and addresses some common criticisms of the model.

Image: Rik Schuiling, Agricultural scientist taking notes at research station in Saria (Burkina Faso), Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
11 June 2018

This paper examines the role that agricultural research and innovation has in changing the food systems of developing regions, including urbanisation, decline in the importance of cereals in the diet, rise in processed foods, and shift in types of grains produced. Ways in which research affects the food system include: new breeds and varieties that are suited to small farms and/or ease of processing; cheaper inputs such as irrigation, fertilisers, herbicides and tractors; and introduction of motorised transport and temperature controlled storage. The authors call for more investment in the post-farm stages of the food system, such as processing, logistics, and wholesale, because these stages add significant value to food products.

Image: Juan Manuel, Bumblebees, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
4 June 2018

The BEEHAVE model is a freely available simulation tool that can be used to understand how different stressors affect the development and survival of honeybee colonies. A newly launched update, Bumble-BEEHAVE, models the behaviour of six UK bumblebee species.

Image: Tempeh salad, Pxhere, Public domain
4 June 2018

Redesigning restaurant menus to promote vegetarian dishes can change behaviour, but the effect depends on how frequently customers have eaten vegetarian food in the last week, according to an online survey. Presenting vegetarian dishes as the chef’s recommendation or using more appealing menu descriptions both make infrequent eaters of vegetarian foods more likely to choose the vegetarian option (compared to a control case), and frequent eaters of vegetarian foods less likely to do so. Putting vegetarian options in a separate menu section didn’t affect the choices made by infrequent eaters of vegetarian foods, but made those who eat them frequently less likely to choose a vegetarian dish.

Image: Nazmulhuqrussell, Floating Agricultural Field in Bangladesh, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported
26 May 2018

The FAO runs the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems programme, which documents and protects traditional farming methods and systems from around the world. Systems included in the programme include agroforestry in northern Tanzania, floating gardens in Bangladesh and rice terraces in the Philippines.

Image: Scott Bauer, Researchers examining wheat in a field, Free Stock Photos, Public domain
26 May 2018

In this IFSTAL blog post, Harley Pope of the University of Reading addresses some of the challenges of thinking about food systems that are too complex for any one person to understand fully.

26 May 2018

The European Public Health Alliance have published a study of ten EU policies on sustainable food and farming. The report finds that the policies lack a systemic perspective and are particularly weak on the health, governance and resilience aspects of sustainability. The report recommends a mix of supply- and demand-side interventions and points out the importance of considering the “food environment” when devising policies.

Image: Hydrosami, Drought land dry mud BOUHANIFIA Algeria, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
26 May 2018

Researchers from Nasa have used satellite data to identify areas where freshwater reserves have increased or decreased. The study found that in 14 regions, the changes were likely due to human factors (e.g. groundwater pumping), and in 8 areas, the changes were caused mainly by climate (e.g. drought or ice-sheet melting). Freshwater availability decreased in several areas including northern India, north-east China, the Caspian and Aral Seas and some of the Middle East.

Image: Julie, Apples, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
26 May 2018

FCRN member Elinor Hallström of the Research Institute of Sweden has authored a systematic review paper on how dietary quality scores are used in environmental sustainability assessment of food. The paper identifies two broad types of dietary quality scores and four different approaches to integrating nutritional and environmental assessments. It finds that both the type of dietary quality score and the way it is combined with environmental assessments can make a difference to which foods appear more sustainable.

Image: Eric Jones, An enclave of grazing land south of Tyddyn Du, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
21 May 2018

Data visualisations by Max Roser and Hannah Ritchie, published at Our World In Data, show global land use types, changes over time and land use in agriculture. For example, a graph shows that half of the Earth’s habitable land surface is used for agriculture, of which 77% is used for livestock (including both grazing land and land for feed production). For comparison, livestock accounts for 17% of global calorie supply and 33% of global protein supply.​

Image: Detmold, FIshing boat, Pixabay, Creative Commons CC0
21 May 2018

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) hopes to use blockchain technology to make the entire seafood supply chain traceable. Working with tech startup TraSeable, fishing company Sea Quest and blockchain company Viant, WWF is running a pilot project to trace tuna through the supply chain by tagging catches with radio-frequency identification chips and QR codes - which can be scanned by a mobile phone.

21 May 2018

This book, edited by Anne Barnhill, Tyler Doggett, and Mark Budolfson, provides an overview of the philosophy of food ethics across a range of subject matter. Topics include genetically modified food, animal sentience, vegan and omnivorous diets, body image, global markets and activism.

Image: George Hodan, Brexit Referendum UK, Public Domain Pictures, Creative Commons CC0
21 May 2018

The report “Brexit: food prices and availability” from the EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee of the UK House of Lords examines the potential impacts of Brexit on the UK food supply. 30% of the UK food supply is currently imported from the EU and a further 11% from non-EU countries under terms set by EU trade deals.

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