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: 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.

Image: USDA, Man shopping in supermarket, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
21 May 2018

Shoppers do not notice sustainability rating logos on packaging, according to a report by QuadPackaging and Package Insight. In the study, 60 participants had their eye movements tracked while “shopping” in a retail laboratory. The products they were presented with were fictional brands with logos claiming different levels of sustainability. The logos did not represent a real sustainability standard. While 40% of the participants said that sustainability affects their purchasing decisions, the eye-tracking technology showed that 92% of the participants did not notice the sustainability logos.

Image: Craig, Oil palms in Malaysia, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain
21 May 2018

This paper outlines the difficulties of governing the complex global palm oil supply chain, examines the narratives around the environmental and social sustainability of palm oil and analyses how power dynamics create a fragmented governance structure for palm oil. The author concludes that the palm oil industry has created a narrative in which only “unsustainable” palm oil production is to blame for negative environmental and social effects, and in which “sustainable” palm oil - and an increase in its production - is presented as being beneficial for conservation and local communities.​

Image: United Soybean Board, Soybean harvest, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
21 May 2018

The paper presents land use scenarios that provide enough food for 9 billion people, biodiversity protection and terrestrial carbon storage while staying inside the planetary boundaries for land and water use. The main features of these scenarios are improved agricultural productivity (through reducing the gap between current and maximum potential crop yields, and replacing some ruminant meat production with pork and poultry) and redistribution of agricultural production to areas with relatively high productivity and water supplies but low existing levels of biodiversity.

15 May 2018

The Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) has launched a weekly review of food sustainability news, as well as fortnightly in-depth analyses of specific themes such as women farmers and global water management.

Image: European Space Agency, Central-eastern Brazil, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
15 May 2018

Better models are needed to assess and manage conflicting requirements for ecosystems services from land, a recent paper argues. These “uber integrated assessment models”, as the paper calls them, would help decision-makers to better understand the links between local and global land use policies.

Image: William Warby, Monopoly, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
15 May 2018

Large, powerful companies control much of the US food supply chain, with detrimental effects on consumer choice, food safety and food system resilience, according to a recent paper by researchers from NGO Food & Water Watch. The paper discusses the current “nearly unprecedented wave of food megamergers”, impacts on consumers of grocery consolidation and different types of mergers throughout the food supply chain.

Image: Stacy Spensley, Apple cores, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
9 May 2018

FCRN member Ramy Salemdeeb of Ricardo Energy & Environment used Life Cycle Assessment to calculate 14 different categories of environmental impacts of three food waste management options: incineration, composting and anaerobic digestion. Composting had the lowest impacts in 7 out of the 14 impact categories.

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