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Rethinking the Measurement of Undernutrition in a Broader Health Context: Should We Look at Possible Causes or Actual Effects? - Stein (2014) - Global Food Security

Rethinking the Measurement of Undernutrition in a Broader Health Context: Should We Look at Possible Causes or Actual Effects? - Stein (2014) - Global Food Security | Food Policy | Scoop.it

When measuring food and nutrition security, focusing on proxy indicators such as food availability, or on selected head count figures such as stunting rates, gives an incomplete picture. Outcome-based global burden of disease (GBD) studies offer an alternative for monitoring the burden of chronic and hidden hunger. Judging by this measure, the international goal of halving global hunger between 1990 and 2015 has already been achieved.

 

Disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) that are used as metric in GBD studies can be converted into more easily understood monetary terms. The resulting estimate of the annual cost of global hunger of up to 1.9 trillion international dollars may be better suited to illustrate the magnitude of the remaining problem...

 

It is pertinent to recall why we are concerned about hunger and malnutrition: because of the negative consequences it has for people’s health and well-being. Food and nutrition insecurity is usually defined in terms of what determines hunger... However, to measure hunger... the outcome of food and nutrition insecurity, i.e. the burden of disease that is caused by hunger, should be used...

 

One challenge when trying to measure health outcomes of undernutrition is the multitude of adverse health consequences that can be attributed to hunger, in particular to micronutrient deficiencies... Therefore the question is whether health can be measured in a consistent way across such diverse outcomes. To make the burden imposed by different health outcomes comparable... the World Bank introduced the concept of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs)...

 

The WHO used DALYs to quantify the global burden of disease (GBD), for which it reported results at the country level and for a range of health outcomes. Based on these readily available data, DALYs can be used to quantify the global burden of hunger... A more recent GBD study... represents an improvement since it covers more causes and risk factors of poor nutrition... per year more than 160 million DALYs are lost due to hunger, which is more than 6 percent of the total burden of disease...

 

While... using DALYs to measure hunger is a better approach... one challenge for the use of DALYs is their abstractness: what exactly is a “disability-adjusted life year”? ... One way of illustrating the magnitude of the burden of hunger is to express it in money... While there are obvious problems with the monetization of social costs... it offers a coherent framework that permits conducting the kind of broad analyses and comparisons that are needed to guide policy making...

 

Using this approach produces an estimate for the global cost of hunger of Int$1.9 trillion per year, or 2.4 percent of world income. One indication that the global cost of hunger falls indeed into the trillion-dollar range is the estimate for the worldwide cost of undernutrition of US$1.4 trillion to US$2.1 trillion that the FAO gives... using a very different approach...

 

The “cost” of hunger is an opportunity cost, i.e. it provides an estimate for the additional annual national income that society foregoes by not solving undernutrition... One estimate of the costs that would have to be incurred to reach more than 80 percent of the world’s undernourished children with key nutrition interventions suggests this could be as (relatively) little as $10 billion a year, i.e. only one-hundredth of the current cost of hunger...

 

It is interesting to compare the estimate of the number of hungry people with that of the number of DALYs lost due to hunger over time. Judging by the FAO’s indicator, the achievement of MDG 1 is not very likely. However, if the objective was indeed more generally to “reduce hunger by half”, this has already been achieved – if hunger is measured using DALYs... in 1990 the burden of hunger was 320 million DALYs lost, but by 2010 this burden had already shrunk by half to 160 million DALYs lost...

 

The discrepancy in the assessment of the development of global hunger if based on food availability versus actual health outcomes might be surprising, but as... discussed above, food availability is but one determinant of (or input into) hunger, whereas DALYs measure the outcome of hunger that results from all inputs combined. In this case – in the presence of other, uncorrelated inputs into hunger that change over time – an indicator that monitors only one input is bound to show a different development than an indicator that measures the final outcome...

 

Not least in light of the discussion of the post-2015 development agenda... it is important that agreed-upon targets can be operationalized based on indicators that allow precise monitoring of progress… Stakeholders in food and nutrition security need to be aware of the advantages of outcome-based measures like DALYs... those working on GBD studies should pay more attention to undernutrition and to related health risks, and more frequent updates of the GBD or relevant subsets could further increase the usefulness of DALYs...

 

Using DALYs to quantify the burden of hunger has shown that the international efforts to improve global welfare are bearing fruit and that progress in the fight against undernutrition has been more rapid than is generally believed. Still, the problem of global hunger remains unresolved, and its magnitude becomes especially apparent when approximated in more familiar monetary terms. With more detailed, country-level DALYs data becoming available, further research can determine in which countries and for which nutrition-related health outcomes the biggest reductions in the burden of hunger have been achieved – and it can help explain why...

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2014.09.003

 

Audio-slides, 4 min.: http://audioslides.elsevier.com/ViewerSmall.aspx?doi=10.1016/j.gfs.2014.09.003

 

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China signals policy shift away from bumper harvests - Reuters (2015)

China will no longer chase bumper grain harvests and instead make safer foods a priority and boost imports as it bids to tackle its rural environmental problems... Authorities are willing to forgo... agricultural output growth. Achieving bumper harvests has long been considered a political necessity... particularly after Mao's 1958 "Great Leap Forward" industrialisation campaign led to widespread famine...  

China had recently published its sustainable development plan for agriculture, which will cap water use as well as reduce the use of chemical fertilizer and pesticides in its agriculture production. China's huge grain reserves should help ease the transition and reduce the risk of food shortages... 


China should remain self-sufficient in cereals given its huge population, while making full use of international markets for farm products that are in short supply... The country could achieve an 85 percent self-sufficiency ratio by 2020... lower than the controversial 95 percent rate that Beijing has been aiming to maintain over the past few decades... 

China could open up more to agriculture trade. As well as growing amounts of rice and wheat, China is also consuming more protein-rich food, which means it needs extra supplies... 

 

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/23/china-agriculture-idAFL3N0WP2G820150323

 

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Feeding 9 billion by 2050: Putting fish back on the menu - Béné &al (2015) - Food Sec

Feeding 9 billion by 2050: Putting fish back on the menu - Béné &al (2015) - Food Sec | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Fish provides more than 4.5 billion people with at least 15 % of their average per capita intake of animal protein. Fish’s unique nutritional properties make it also essential to the health of billions of consumers in both developed and developing countries. Fish is one of the most efficient converters of feed into high quality food and its carbon footprint is lower compared to other animal production systems.


Through fish-related activities (fisheries and aquaculture but also processing and trading), fish contribute substantially to the income and therefore to the indirect food security of more than 10% of the world population, essentially in developing and emergent countries. Yet, limited attention has been given so far to fish as a key element in food security and nutrition strategies at national level and in wider development discussions and interventions. As a result, the tremendous potential for improving food security and nutrition embodied in the strengthening of the fishery and aquaculture sectors is missed.


The purpose of this paper is to make a case for a closer integration of fish into the overall debate and future policy about food security and nutrition. For this, we review the evidence from the contemporary and emerging debates and controversies around fisheries and aquaculture and we discuss them in the light of the issues debated in the wider agriculture/farming literature. The overarching question that underlies this paper is: how and to what extent will fish be able to contribute to feeding 9 billion people in 2050 and beyond? 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12571-015-0427-z

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Better Infrastructure Would Cut Food Waste - WSJ (2015)

Better Infrastructure Would Cut Food Waste - WSJ (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Between 10-50% of all crops are lost between the time they leave the farm and reach consumers. Reducing post-harvest waste by just 10 percentage points could lower food prices and prevent 60 million people from going hungry... That means building more reliable infrastructure so food gets to markets and refrigeration faster. But doing so would come at an enormous cost – $240 billion worldwide over the next 15 years, the study estimates.

A better option... is putting more money toward agricultural research that could help increase crop yields. Putting around $6 billion a year into R&D could reduce the number of hungry people globally by 79 million by 2030... That amounts to $34 of economic benefit for every dollar spent... it shows the importance of increasing investment in both infrastructure and agricultural research... “It is better to invest in productivity-enhancing public goods, including research and infrastructure, rather than in direct subsidies to farmers” ... 


http://blogs.wsj.com/indonesiarealtime/2015/02/22/better-infrastructure-would-cut-food-waste/


Alexander J. Stein's insight:

Interesting point to live with food waste and to have a greater impact by investing the money in productivity increases instead. 

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Getting Bang for the Buck on New Development Goals - IPS (2015)

Getting Bang for the Buck on New Development Goals - IPS (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Right now, the United Nations is negotiating one of the world’s potentially most powerful policy documents. It can influence trillions of dollars, pull hundreds of millions out of poverty and hunger, reduce violence and improve education — essentially make the world a better place. But much depends on this being done well... 

The Millennium Development Goals... comprised 21 mostly sharp and achievable targets in eight areas, including poverty and hunger, gender equality, education, and child and maternal health. These goals have been hugely successful, not only in driving more development funding but also in making the world better.

 

For instance, the world promised to halve the proportion of people hungry counting from 1990. And the progress has been remarkable. In 1990, almost 24 percent of all people in the developing world were starving. In 2012, ‘only’ 14.5 percent were starving, and... the world will reach 12.2 percent in 2015... Likewise, we promised to cut by half the proportion of poor... 


With the MDGs ending this year, we have to ask what’s next. The U.N. has started an inclusive process... to define so-called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2016-2030... countries, missions, U.N. organisations and NGOs will perform a complex dance to determine... the next set of targets... 


The SDGs will determine a large part of the 2.5 trillion dollars in development aid the world will spend until 2030. In order to spend the money most effectively and help as many people as possible, negotiators now need to zero in on the targets that promise the biggest benefit for the investment... The Copenhagen Consensus, has asked 60 teams of top economists... to identify which targets will do the most good for each dollar spent... Our economists have taken the 169 targets and evaluated the social costs and benefits of each... 


Reducing malaria and tuberculosis, for example, is a phenomenal target. Its costs are small because solutions are simple, cheap and well-documented. Its benefits are large, not only because it avoids death and prolonged, agonizing sickness, but also improves societal productivity and initiates a virtuous circle. 


Similarly, we should focus on at least halving malnutrition, because there is robust evidence that proper nutrition for young children leads to a lifetime of large benefits – better brain development, improved academic performance, and ultimately higher productivity as adults. For every dollar spent, future generations will receive at least 45 dollars in benefits... 

While many ambitious goals are commendable, they may be unrealistic in practice – and could hinder instead of help progress. For example, setting an absolute goal of ending global malnutrition, warn the economists, may sound alluring, but is implausibly optimistic and inefficient. We cannot achieve it, and even if we could, the resources to help the last hungry person would be better spent elsewhere.

At the other end of the scale, some proposed targets are ineffective. The doubling of the renewable energy share by 2030, for example, sounds great in theory but practically is an expensive way to cut just a little CO₂. Instead, the focus should be on providing more energy to poor people, a proven way of inclusive growth and poverty alleviation.

And in order to reduce carbon emissions, removing fossil fuel subsidies in third world countries promises much higher benefits. Reducing these subsidies in countries where gasoline is sometimes sold for a few cents per liter would stop wasting resources, send the right price signals, and reduce the strain on government budgets, while also cutting emissions.

Of course, the ultimate decision for the Sustainable Development Goals is a political one. No doubt, economics is not the only measure of what the global society should ultimately choose as its development priorities, but costs and benefits do play an important role.

But if well-documented economic arguments can help even just to swap a few poor targets for a few phenomenal ones, leveraging trillions of dollars in development aid and government budgets in the right direction, even small adjustments can make a world of difference.

 

http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/02/getting-bang-for-the-buck-on-new-development-goals/

 

Original report: http://www.copenhagenconsensus.com/publication/preliminary-benefit-cost-assessment-final-owg-targets

 

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Aflatoxins in maize and other crops - World Mycotoxin Journal (2015)

Aflatoxins in maize and other crops - World Mycotoxin Journal (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

# Foreword: 

 

Beginning in 2009, addressing food security constraints through research was recognised by... USAID... as a critical component... USAID provides strategically directed funding resources to help USDA target its research to more effectively address global food security. One of the significant topics prioritised under this agreement is addressing the prevention and control of aflatoxins.

 

Aflatoxins, the toxic and highly carcinogenic secondary metabolites of Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus pose serious health hazards to humans and domestic animals, because they frequently contaminate agricultural commodities both prior to harvest and in storage.

 

Presently, numerous countries have established or proposed regulations for controlling aflatoxin levels in food and feeds. For example, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established limits of 20 µg/kg total aflatoxins... In the EU countries, these limits are even (much) lower. However, many countries, especially in the developing world, have experienced contamination of domestic-grown commodities with aflatoxins at alarming levels.

 

Therefore, aflatoxin contamination is both a food safety and economic issue costing millions of dollars worldwide in crop loss and health-related costs. In addition, climate change and global food security are hot topics that have a direct bearing on the aflatoxin contamination problem. 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.3920/WMJ2015.x002

 

# Global impacts of aflatoxin in maize: trade and human health: 

 

Maize is one of the most important agricultural commodities worldwide in terms of amounts produced, consumed, and traded. Hence, naturally occurring aflatoxin contamination in maize has important ramifications for both global trade and health... Over 100 nations have aflatoxin regulations, which are intended to protect human and animal health, but also incur economic losses to nations that attempt to export maize and other aflatoxin-contaminated commodities.

 

These economic effects must be balanced against the health protection afforded by the regulations. It is important to acknowledge that, even in nations that have aflatoxin regulations, many individuals consume maize that has undergone no regulatory inspection, especially in nations where subsistence farming is widespread. Hence, aflatoxin contamination, exposure, and lack of regulation can also contribute to adverse effects on trade and health worldwide.

 

This review... describes economic and health effects of aflatoxin in maize on a global level. It ends with a story of an intervention that reduced maize consumption in one population in China, which is likely the main determinant of the reduction in liver cancer mortality in that population over the last 30 years, from reduced aflatoxin exposure. 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.3920/WMJ2014.1737

 

# Identifying and developing maize germplasm with resistance to accumulation of aflatoxins: 

 

Efforts to identify maize germplasm with resistance to Aspergillus flavus infection and subsequent accumulation of aflatoxins were initiated by [USDA]... in the late 1970s and early 1980s... 

 

Within the scope of germplasm development there are a set of traits that have contributed tremendously to the effort to reduce aflatoxin contamination... For the control of lepidopteran insects that incite A. flavus infection and aflatoxin contamination, the deployment of various Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) endotoxin genes into maize hybrids has consistently resulted in significant reduction in ear feeding with a variable reduction in aflatoxin contamination, but this is influenced by region and the environment...

 

Unlike the germplasm developed for lepidopteran resistance, host plant resistance to the maize weevil and the brown and green stink bugs has lagged behind even though they can increase aflatoxin contamination. Although no specific adapted germplasm has been developed for resistance to these insects, a number of resistant lines have been identified... Transgenic maize with the avidin glycoprotein has also conferred resistance to maize weevil and other grain storage insects... 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.3920/WMJ2014.1751

 

Entire special issue: http://wageningenacademic.metapress.com/content/r6k48j83036m/

 

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The world pays too high a price for cheap meat - New Scientist (2015)

The world pays too high a price for cheap meat - New Scientist (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Not long ago, a meal centred on meat was a rare treat. No longer. Most of us in the West now eat meat every day; many consume it at every meal. And people in less carnivorous cultures are getting a taste for it, too: in China it has become aspirational. Worldwide meat production has surged from 78 million tonnes per year in 1963 to 308 million tonnes in 2014.

The problem, setting aside issues around the morality of eating animals, is that the planet cannot support this growing appetite. Pasture used to graze livestock already accounts for 26 per cent of the planet's ice-free landmass; the meat industry is responsible for 15 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

There is a strong case that meat is now too cheap, its price pushed down... While that is ostensibly good for consumers, it's bad for the environment – in terms of pollution and antibiotic resistance, as well as climate – and very often bad for animals. And it can be bad for consumers if corners are cut to keep prices low.

Is it possible to push the price back up? Governments have succeeded in reducing the consumption of alcohol and tobacco by taxing them. But a "sin tax" on meat lacks the clear case established for drinking and smoking... A more viable option might be to pull back on the agricultural subsidies that underpin meat production.

Persuasion may work better than coercion. In the UK and US, health concerns have already reduced consumption of red and processed meat... latest dietary guidelines... may address effects on the environment as well as health...

 

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22530052.900-the-world-pays-too-high-a-price-for-cheap-meat.html

 

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Top 50 Game-Changing Technologies for Defeating Global Poverty - Berkeley Lab (2015)

Top 50 Game-Changing Technologies for Defeating Global Poverty - Berkeley Lab (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Since the polio vaccine was introduced in the 1950s, one of the most dreaded diseases in history has been all but eradicated. Are there other scientific breakthroughs that could have an equally transformative impact on global human development, and if so, what are they?

 

When Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory... tried to answer this question, it found there were no good answers – or too many answers... a small team... set out to identify the world’s most-needed game-changing technologies... the result is “50 Breakthroughs: Critical scientific and technological advances needed for sustainable global development.” 

 

The breakthroughs are divided into nine categories – global health, food security and agricultural development, human rights, education, digital inclusion, water, access to electricity, gender equity, and resilience against climate change and environmental damage – covering every aspect of global poverty. 

 

“Invention is a powerful tool for improving lives when focused on problems worth solving... This study provides a window into the opportunities and challenges in creating technologies that can become scalable products and that will meet needs of underserved populations. We believe this study can help stimulate discussion of these critical challenges and potential solutions, ultimately leading to new breakthroughs for these important problems... 

 

http://newscenter.lbl.gov/2015/01/14/50-breakthroughs/

 

25. Nutrient-dense and culturally appropriate foods for infants to complement breast milk during the weaning period.

 

26. Affordable off-grid refrigeration for smallholder farmers and small agribusinesses.

 

27. Low cost refrigerated vehicles, sturdy enough for unpaved roads in rural areas. 

 

28. Low cost systems for precision application of fertilizers and water. 

 

29. A low cost drilling system for shallow (rain-fed) groundwater wells... 

 

30. Low cost (under $50) solar-powered irrigation pumps. 

 

31. Affordable herbicides or other mechanisms to control weeds... 

 

32. A low cost (under $50) tilling machine. 

 

33. A low cost alternative to liquid nitrogen for preserving animal semen. 

 

34. High-nutrient and low cost, sustainable animal fodder. 

 

35. A portable toolkit for agricultural extension workers and livestock veterinarians. 

 

37. New seed varieties that are tolerant to drought, heat, and other emerging environmental stresses. 

 

43. A scalable method for sustainable integrated aquaculture production. 

 

https://ligtt.org/50-breakthroughs

 

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The effect of women’s home gardens on vegetable production and consumption in Bangladesh - Schreinemachers &al (2014) - Food Sec

The effect of women’s home gardens on vegetable production and consumption in Bangladesh - Schreinemachers &al (2014) - Food Sec | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Home-based vegetable production has been recognized as a nutrition- and gender-sensitive intervention that has the potential to improve nutrition in developing countries, yet evidence is lacking. This study tested whether women’s training in improved home gardens (including nutrition as well as technical aspects) contributes to increased production and consumption of vegetables, which are necessary preconditions for improving nutrition. The study used data from 582 poor rural women in two districts of Bangladesh (479 control and 103 intervention).

 

Training increased the per capita production of mostly leafy vegetables from 20 to 37 kg per year (+86 %). Diversity of production and frequency of harvesting also increased. In terms of nutrient yields, the improved gardens increased the supply of plant proteins by 171 %, iron by 284 %, vitamin A by 189 % and vitamin C by 290 %. Training had a significant impact on the diversity of vegetables consumed, based on 30-day food frequency data and also increased the relative involvement of women in the home garden for all gardening tasks.

 

These results indicate that women’s home gardens are an effective intervention in Bangladesh for increasing the supply and consumption of a diverse range of vegetables in poor rural households, thereby contributing to nutrition security.

 

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12571-014-0408-7

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

What would be interesting is to know how much the training costs and how the cost-effectiveness and the possibility for scaling up of this approach compares to other interventions. It might well be effective to train 500 women, but is it possible to do so at a national scale? And what happens once the training is over? Many things work well on a small scale but to address undernutrition at scale also those other questions need to be addressed... 

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Nutrieconomic model can facilitate healthy and low-cost food choices - Primavesi &al (2014) - Public Health Nutr

Nutrieconomic model can facilitate healthy and low-cost food choices - Primavesi &al (2014) - Public Health Nutr | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Promotion of healthy eating can no longer be postponed as a priority, given the alarming growth rate of chronic degenerative diseases in Western countries. We elaborated a nutrieconomic model to assess and identify the most nutritious and affordable food choices.

 

Seventy-one food items representing the main food categories were included and their nationally representative prices monitored. Food composition was determined... To define food nutritional quality, the mean adequacy ratio and mean excess ratio were combined. Both prices and nutritional quality were normalised for the edible food content and for the recommended serving sizes for the Italian adult population.


Cereals and legumes presented very similar nutritional qualities and prices per serving. Seasonal fruits and vegetables presented differentiated nutritional qualities and almost equal prices. Products of animal origin showed similar nutritional qualities and varied prices: the best nutrieconomic choices were milk, oily fish and poultry for the dairy products, fish and meat groups, respectively.

 

Analysing two balanced weekly menus, our nutrieconomic model was able to note a significant decrease in cost of approximately 30 % by varying animal-protein sources without affecting nutritional quality. Healthy eating does not necessarily imply spending large amounts of money but rather being able to make nutritionally optimal choices...

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1368980014002651

 

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Food safety must accompany food and nutrition security - Chan (2014) - Lancet

Despite progress in reducing undernutrition, our planet's population is still affected by many food-related challenges, including vitamin and mineral deficiencies, obesity, and non-communicable diseases. These challenges are fuelled, in part, by cheap, convenient, and highly-processed foods that are appealing to the taste. But food threats do not stop there. One area to which the international community has given substantial, but less visible, attention is ensuring the safety from infection and contamination of the food we produce, trade, and eat...  

 

Food must be nutritious – and safe. Yet food safety is a hidden, and often overlooked, problem. Most people suffering from diarrhoea do not consult a physician. Diseases and deaths might be attributed to other causes, even when the food that people have eaten is the culprit... Food-borne diseases, caused either by an acute infection with a pathogen or by chronic exposure to chemicals, are largely under-reported. Nobody has precise figures on their societal effect. All we know is that the most vulnerable populations, infants and elderly people, are increasing in number, and hence the pool of those people at greatest risk of disease is expanding... 

 

Production of safe food is a driving force for sustainable development. Developing countries can access the global market only when proving that their products comply with international food safety norms. Increasingly aware of the link between food safety and economic development, these countries actively participate in setting international food standards within the Codex Alimentarius Commission...  

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(14)62037-7

 

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Aquaculture can grow faster, raising micronutrient supply from fish - FAO (2014)

Aquaculture can grow faster, raising micronutrient supply from fish - FAO (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Technological advances can offset resource constraints... Fish farming will likely grow more than expected in the coming decade, offering a chance for improved nutrition for millions of people, especially in Asia and Africa... Increased investment in the aquaculture sector - particularly in productivity-enhancing technologies including in the areas of water use, breeding, hatchery practices and feedstuff innovation - should boost farmed-fish production by as much as 4.14 percent per year through 2022, notably faster than the 2.54 percent growth forecast made earlier this year... 

 

The primary reason for increased optimism is that there is ample room for catching up with more productive technologies, especially in Asia, where many fish farmers are small and unable to foot the hefty capital outlays the industry requires to expand output without running into resource constraints...  

Aquaculture is a young industry compared to livestock farming and has grown from virtually nothing in 1950 and to a record production of 66.5 million tonnes in 2012, up almost thirty-fold since 1970. About 50 percent of the $127 billion in global fish exports in 2011 came from developing countries, which receive more net revenue from the fish trade than from their exports of tea, rice, cocoa and coffee combined... 

In terms of direct human consumption, farmed fish in 2014 surpassed captured fish, which reached a plateau in the mid-1980s and is expected to grow only 5 percent over the next decade, thanks largely to reduced waste as well as better gear reducing unwanted bycatch and improved fisheries management. Global per capita fish consumption increased from 9.9 kilograms in 1970 to 19.1 kilograms in 2012... 

Fish prices in 2022 will be 27 percent higher than today in FAO's baseline scenario, but up to 20 percent lower if acquaculture expands more quickly... Fish are the healthiest of meats, their farmed production has a far smaller carbon footprint than livestock, and they are also huge providers of the micronutrients people need... Those attributes are invaluable as 800,000 child deaths each year are attributable to zinc deficiency, 250 million children worldwide are at risk of vitamin A deficiency, and almost a third of the world's population is iron deficient. Seafood is also practically the only natural source of iodine. 


However, the new study noted that households with rising incomes often shift away from such humble types - what the industry calls "trash fish" - towards fattier and filet-friendly species such as carp which are less efficient providers of micronutrients. One reason is that the higher-status fish are often eaten as filets while the mola and its kin are typically eaten whole.

"The highest iron, zinc and calcium content of fish lies in their heads, bones and guts, which is often the part that gets thrown away, as with tuna," said Toppe. Somewhat ironically, byproducts such as fish heads or the back-bones of Nile perch whose fresh fillets are exported, may often be of higher nutritional value than the main product... FAO called upon policy makers to take such nutritional considerations aboard, especially in a phase of growing aquaculture operations.

Fish farming ought also to be analysed through a broad food system lens, as it impacts a host of factors, ranging from environmental impacts and hydropower projects through tenure rights for smallholders, sharing systems for common-pool water resources, to the employment of women in local retail networks, all of which involve complex social institutions and customs... 

 

http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/265790/icode/

 

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Global diets link environmental sustainability and human health - Tilman & Clark (2014) - Nature

Global diets link environmental sustainability and human health - Tilman & Clark (2014) - Nature | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Diets link environmental and human health. Rising incomes and urbanization are driving a global dietary transition in which traditional diets are replaced by diets higher in refined sugars, refined fats, oils and meats.

 

By 2050 these dietary trends, if unchecked, would be a major contributor to an estimated 80 per cent increase in global agricultural greenhouse gas emissions from food production and to global land clearing. Moreover, these dietary shifts are greatly increasing the incidence of type II diabetes, coronary heart disease and other chronic non-communicable diseases that lower global life expectancies.

 

Alternative diets that offer substantial health benefits could, if widely adopted, reduce global agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, reduce land clearing and resultant species extinctions, and help prevent such diet-related chronic non-communicable diseases. The implementation of dietary solutions to the tightly linked diet-environment-health trilemma is a global challenge, and opportunity, of great environmental and public health importance... 

 

Diet is an important determinant of human health. Many of the world’s poorest people have inadequate diets, and would have improved health were their diets to include more essential fatty acids, minerals, vitamins and protein from fish and meats and added calories and protein from other nutritionally appropriate sources. In contrast, diets of many people with moderate and higher incomes are shifting in ways associated with increases in non-communicable diseases...

 

GHG emissions are highly dependent on diet. Even foods that provide similar nutrition and have similar impacts on health can have markedly different lifecycle environmental impacts... We calculated annual per capita GHG emissions from food production (‘cradle to farm gate’) for the 2009 global-average diet, for the global-average income-dependent diet projected for 2050, and for Mediterranean, pescetarian and vegetarian diets. Global-average per capita dietary GHG emissions from crop and livestock production would increase 32% from 2009 to 2050 if global diets changed in the  income-dependent ways. All three alternative diets could reduce emissions from food production... with per capita reductions being 30%, 45% and 55% for the Mediterranean, pescetarian and vegetarian diets, respectively.

 

However, minimizing environmental impacts does not necessarily maximize human health. Prepared items high in sugars, fats or carbohydrates can have low GHG emissions but be less healthy than foods they displace. Solutions to the diet-environment-health trilemma should seek healthier diets that have low GHG emissions rather than diets that might minimize GHG emissions... 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature13959

 

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16 ways to maximise the potential of food fortification - Guardian (2015)

16 ways to maximise the potential of food fortification - Guardian (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Fortifying staple foods with vitamins and minerals is proven to have a significant impact on rates of malnutrition... Set a development target: Reducing and/or eliminating micronutrient deficiencies is a legitimate development target. But there are different ways of achieving this – fortification, diet diversification, supplementation, biofortification – each of which has a place. Arguably, the SDGs should focus on the outcome that we want to see, not the means of how we get there... 


Identify opportunities along the food supply chain: Biofortified crops such as orange-fleshed sweet potatoes hold significant promise. However, the optimal moment in the value chain for adding nutrients needs to be carefully considered – as nutrients can be lost in post harvest processing... Remember it’s not either/or with natural nutrients: Increased dietary diversity is important, but it is a longer-run solution. Fortification is the medium-term solution... but these are complementary solutions, not competing... 


Consider how to reach the poorest people: Food fortification is not being used to its full potential because how these foods can be reached by poorer individuals isn’t being considered. Government subsidies must be a policy to make fortified foods affordable. Much as we agree that food manufacturers and distributors should be encouraged to produce fortified foods, the role of governments setting the health of its citizens as a priority must be considered, and efforts made to help bring down the costs of manufacturing these foods to within the reach of the poor....

 

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/mar/24/16-ways-maximise-potential-food-fortification

 

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The challenges of sustainably feeding a growing planet - Hertel (2015) - Food Sec

The challenges of sustainably feeding a growing planet - Hertel (2015) - Food Sec | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Feeding the world’s population while ensuring environmental sustainability is one of the world’s ‘grand challenges’. While population and income will remain the most important drivers of global food production, their relative importance will be reversed by 2050, with income growth becoming the dominant force. Energy prices are a wildcard, with continued low prices dampening demand for biofuels and encouraging intensification of production. In contrast, a return to high oil prices could greatly increase pressure to expand cropland. Regional water shortages are likely to constrain irrigated agriculture in many key river basins. However, at global scale, international trade will moderate the impacts of water scarcity on food supplies and prices.


The key determinant of global food prices in 2050 will be the rate of overall technological progress in agriculture. Here, there are two competing views of the world. Pessimists point to the slowing rate of yield growth in many key breadbaskets, suggesting this will be exacerbated by climate change. In contrast, optimists argue that overall productivity growth has continued to rise – fueled by record public R&D investments in China, India and Brazil, as well as by the private sector. Reduced food waste and post-harvest losses offers another potential source of food supply. However, future agricultural land use is likely to face increasing competition from environmental services, including carbon sequestration and biodiversity.


Understanding these competing demands for global resources will require greater inter-disciplinary research effort, supported by improved global geospatial data and analytical frameworks.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12571-015-0440-2

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

"The key determinant of global food prices in 2050 will be the rate of overall technological progress in agriculture... fueled by record public R&D investments in China, India and Brazil, as well as by the private sector."

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Trade Dimensions of Food Security - Brooks & Matthews (2015) - OECD

This report examines the different channels through which trade openness (and reforms to achieve it) can affect a country’s food security. The overall conclusion is that trade openness has a positive net impact on food security, although specific constituencies, including some poor households, could see their immediate food security threatened by the withdrawal of trade protection.

 

The challenge for policymakers is to design flanking policies which enable countries to reap aggregate gains yet mitigate specific losses. Those policies include social protection and the provision of risk management tools, allied with investments in productivity so that average incomes rise to the extent that any adverse shock to incomes is unlikely to jeopardise food security.

 

Developing countries are increasingly able to deploy such targeted instruments. Lessons are also being learned with respect to the political economy of trade reform, such that changes can be introduced in a way that minimises adjustment stresses and helps build the consensus needed to lock in the benefits of trade policy reform.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5js65xn790nv-en

 

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Have you ever wondered how #hunger is measured? - FAO (2015)

Have you ever wondered how #hunger is measured? - FAO (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

In the year 2000, the UN Member States set the eight Millennium Development Goals. One of the most ambitious was to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. As part of this goal, the United Nations General Assembly set a target to halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger by 2015. 

But have you ever wondered how hunger is measured in the world? One indicator used to monitor progress toward the hunger target is the prevalence of undernourishment in the world. But what does that mean? Every year, FAO estimates the proportion of people who do not have access to enough food. They do this by using national agricultural and trade statistics from each country to estimate how much food is available and survey data to determine how food consumption varies among families.

This “undernourishment” indicator forms the basis for the “hunger numbers” published every year by FAO... This is very useful for monitoring national and regional trends over time, but it relies on data from countries that vary with respect to how current and accurate they are. It also does not reveal which areas and population groups within a country are at a greater risk…

 

To help fill this gap, we launched the Voices of the Hungry project... A new tool has been developed, called the Food Insecurity Experience Scale, to provide information about the extent of people’s ability to access food by asking them eight questions... based on research showing that people all over the world have a similar experience when their access to food worsens: they worry about running out of food, change what they eat to make the food last, such as eating the same foods for every meal and cutting portion sizes, and in the worst situations, eat a single meal a day - or nothing at all. 

The questions are: “During the past 12 months, because of a lack of money or other resources, was there a time when…
1.    You were worried you would run out of food?
2.    You were unable to eat healthy and nutritious food?
3.    You ate only a few kinds of foods?
4.    You had to skip a meal?
5.    You ate less than you thought you should?
6.    Your household ran out of food?
7.    You were hungry but did not eat?
8.    You went without eating for a whole day?

By asking these questions in a survey, we can estimate the proportion of the population in a country that does not have adequate access to food and the severity of their situation. If enough people are surveyed all over the country, it is also possible to know which areas and population groups face the worst situations.

 

http://www.fao.org/zhc/detail-events/en/c/277208/

 

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Global Sustainable Development Goals need clearer, more measurable targets - ICSU (2015)

The proposed UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a universal set of goals to guide international development to 2030 – will struggle to achieve their stated policy objectives without clearer, more measurable targets... overall, the SDGs offer a “major improvement” over their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with a greater understanding of the interplay between social, economic and environmental dimensions. And while the MDGs only dealt with developing countries, the new set of goals will apply to all countries in the world. 


The report finds that of the 169 targets beneath the 17 draft goals, just 29% are well defined and based on the latest scientific evidence, while 54% need more work and 17% are weak or non-essential. The assessment of the targets – which are intended to operationalise the 17 goals set to be approved by governments later this year – is the first of its kind to be carried out by the scientific community, and represents the work of over 40 leading researchers covering a range of fields across the natural and social sciences.

However, the report finds the targets suffer from a lack of integration, some repetition and rely too much on vague, qualitative language rather than hard, measurable, time-bound, quantitative targets... Authors are concerned the goals are presented in ‘silos.’ The goals address challenges such as climate, food security and health in isolation from one another. Without interlinking there is a danger of conflict between different goals, most notably trade-offs between overcoming poverty and moving towards sustainability. Action to meet one target could have unintended consequences on others if they are pursued separately.

Ending hunger is an important goal, but the researchers warn the targets here are not comprehensive, with only two directly addressing hunger and malnutrition, “and even for those the formulation is confusing and potentially contradictory.” They also mention that ending hunger means more than just sustainable agriculture. Inequality is a major factor that is “not explicitly included.”

Further, policy makers need to understand that malnutrition is not simply undernutrition, but also obesity and the presence of micronutrient deficiencies. In addition, care must be taken to simultaneously defeat hunger, increase agricultural productivity and avoid adverse impacts on the natural resource base. As another example of the interlinking of goals, the researchers note that defeating hunger cannot be addressed without ensuring universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

The health-focussed SDG suffers from a lack of distinction between the widely varying starting points of different countries and makes no mention of inequalities within countries. The target which focuses on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis and water-borne diseases “sounds like a catch-all for infectious disease”, but neglects emerging infections such as Ebola and new strains of the flu.

“Targets have to be robust, measurable and should effectively guide implementation... The report clearly shows how targets could be consolidated and points to interlinkages that will be critical for managing synergies and avoiding trade-offs.” For example, an increase in agricultural land-use to help end hunger can lead to biodiversity loss, as well as overuse and/or pollution of water resources and downstream (likely negative) effects on marine resources which in turn could exacerbate food security concerns... 

The scientists’ report highlights the need for an ‘end-goal’ to provide such a big picture vision. “The ‘ultimate end’ of the SDGs in combination is not clear, nor is how the proposed goals and targets would contribute to achieve that ultimate end,” write the authors. They recommend that this meta-goal be “a prosperous, high quality of life that is equitably shared and sustained.” “This is an opportunity for science to be a partner in the post-2015 development process and support evidence-based decision making. For science, that means connecting the dots across disciplines that usually work independently from each other” ... 

 

http://www.icsu.org/news-centre/press-releases/press-releases-2015/sustainable-development-goals-need-clearer-more-measurable-targets-say-scientists

 

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China eyes food safety, modern farms in 2015 rural policy - Reuters (2015)

China eyes food safety, modern farms in 2015 rural policy - Reuters (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

China has listed food safety and modernizing farms as among key priorities this year, its 2015 rural policy outline showed, as it tackles falling agricultural productivity that has raised concerns about its future food supply. The "number one document", issued every January and released by state news agency... showed China will also protect farmland and lend more to farmers to narrow a wealth gap between rural and urban areas.

Attempts to clean up land that has been damaged by heavy metal mining and processing will be widened this year, and "permanent farmland" that is off-limit to industrial and urban development will be created, the document said. Modern farms will be set up, and regulation of the quality of food and other farm products will be enhanced... On land reforms, aimed at allowing farmers to trade their land to alleviate poverty and create bigger and more efficient farms, the document said the focus is on expanding an experiment that registers land usage rights to cover entire provinces... 

 

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/01/us-china-agriculture-idINKBN0L51AL20150201

 

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Who benefits from the rapidly increasing voluntary sustainability standards? - Minten &al (2015) - IFPRI

Who benefits from the rapidly increasing voluntary sustainability standards? - Minten &al (2015) - IFPRI | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) are rapidly increasing in global value chains. While consumers, mostly in developed countries, are willing to pay significant premiums for such standards, it is not well understood how effectively these incentives are transmitted to producing countries.

 

We study VSS in Ethiopia’s coffee sector... We find that transmission of the export quality premiums to coffee pro-ducers is limited, with only one-third of this premium being passed on. Moreover, as quality premiums are small and average production levels in these settings are low, these premiums... have little effect on the welfare of the average coffee farmer.

 

http://www.ifpri.org/publication/who-benefits-rapidly-increasing-voluntary-sustainability-standards

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

While IMHO organic standards should not have been included in these VSS as they do not focus on sustainability criteria but rather on an ideologically motivated avoidance of certain inputs, the question remains why poor smallholders in developing countries join such schemes? Given the notoriously lower average yields in organic farming, this shortfall has to be made up by higher profit margins -- which farmers in rich countries seem to be able to realise, but which apparently do not reach poor smallhoders (but are siphoned off by the organic industry). 

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Spannende Arbeit zu der Frage: wer profitiert eigentlich von Nachhaltigkeitsstandards?

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Renewable resources reach their limits - Helmholtz UFZ (2015)

Renewable resources reach their limits - Helmholtz UFZ (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Using a data set of over 25 resources researchers... demonstrate that several key resources have recently passed... their "peak-rate year" -- the maximum increase year. A potential implication is that as substitution becomes arduous, global society’s expanding needs will be harder to fill... 

 

They examined 20 renewable resources, such as maize, rice, wheat or soya, which represent around 45% of the global calorie intake... as well as animal products, such as fish, meat, milk and egg. For 18 of these renewable resources the annual growth rate (for example the increase in meat production or in fish catch) reached its peak -- the peak-rate year -- around 2006... 


Researchers used a dataset of more than 25 resources and made limited assumptions, relying on computer power to extract pattern from the database. "For many resources, but not oil, we indeed observed a peak pattern"... 


Explanations for why many of the peak-year are synchronized... The global population growth is a major driver. Due to the rising population and change in diet in some regions of the world over the past few decades... the demand for renewable resources increased and thus the pressure to produce as much food as possible...

 

"Experts see opportunities for further increases in agricultural yield of about one to two percent per year due to better breeding techniques and genetically modified organisms... The global community needs to accept that renewable raw materials are also reaching their yield limits worldwide"...  


Conclusions of global relevance can be drawn from the study "We are facing enormous challenges that affect the majority of the resources that we use"... it becomes essential to take action by using fertilizer and water more efficiently for example. "At the individual level, we can start by preferring a vegetarian diet, or eating chicken instead of beef"...

 

http://www.ufz.de/index.php?en=33456

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-07039-190450

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

Nor really sure about the implications of this article.

 

The article doesn't say renewable resources will yield less in future, but that their rate of growth will be smaller. (If a resource yields 1 this year and 2 next year, this is a relative increase of 100% or an absolute increase of 1, but if it yields 200 this year and 210 next year, this is a relative increase of only 5% but an absolute increase of 10.)

 

Like with Malthus, looking back at the growth of resources can only help explain what might happen in future if there is no disruption through technological change. (In this context the authors confirm -- for agricultural yields -- that further increases can be expected "due to better breeding techniques and genetically modified organisms" and they give the example of aquaculture being an expanding resource, i.e. innovation and a focus on new resources can offer ways to help increase renewable resources for some more time.) 

 

To what extent this matters will also depend on how much the need for or use of these resources increases -- and e.g. the peak of global population is also already near. (Or, as the authors suggest, behaviour change can offer an additional way to help match supply and demand.) 

 

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Each dollar spent on kids' nutrition can yield more than $100 later - U Waterloo (2014)

Each dollar spent on kids' nutrition can yield more than $100 later - U Waterloo (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

There are strong economic incentives for governments to invest in early childhood nutrition... every dollar spent on nutrition during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life can provide a country up to $166 in future earnings.

 

“The returns on investments in nutrition have high benefit-cost ratios, especially in countries with higher income levels and a growing economy”... Children who are undernourished during the first 1,000 days of their lives typically show stunted growth patterns by the age of three and have poorer cognitive skills than their well-fed peers. As adults they are less educated, earn lower wages and have more health problems throughout their lives... 

 

“Good childhood nutrition produces people who can contribute more and help boost economic growth.” Studies of a range of low- and middle-income countries suggest that 1 cm more of adult height for men is associated with an increase in their earnings of 2.4 per cent.

“Over an adult’s working life, we can expect that one dollar spent on early childhood nutrition will on average have $45 worth of benefits in low- and middle-income countries... If we can reduce stunting through better early nutrition, we can improve quality of life not only for individuals, but nations as a whole.” 


Currently, the World Health Organization is aiming to reduce stunting among children under age five by 40 per cent as part of its 2025 nutrition goals, and it is widely expected that the rate of stunting will also be included in its Sustainable Development Goals, which will be announced in 2015. 

 

https://uwaterloo.ca/news/news/each-dollar-spent-kids-nutrition-can-yield-more-100-later

 

http://www.copenhagenconsensus.com/post-2015-consensus/nutrition

 

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Fighting malnutrition with a ‘stronger’ chickpea - CDN Sci Pub (2014)

Fighting malnutrition with a ‘stronger’ chickpea - CDN Sci Pub (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Micronutrient malnutrition affects more than 2 billion people. Researchers... are seeking long term solutions to help to alleviate the increasing micronutrient malnutrition problem by enriching food grains with essential micronutrients through breeding and appropriate management practices, collectively known as biofortification. 

Chickpea... is considered an excellent whole food as source of dietary proteins, carbohydrates, micronutrients and vitamins. It is the world’s second most important pulse crop after common bean, and historically is an important daily staple in the diet of millions of people, especially in developing countries... 


“Our study indicated that there is substantial variability present in chickpea germplasm for seed iron and zinc concentration. These findings encourage the effective use of genetic resources and open the possibility for development of a molecular breeding strategy for increasing iron and zinc levels in chickpea cultivars.”  

 

... the germplasm lines that consistently showed high iron and zinc concentrations are already being used in breeding program to develop varieties with enhanced micronutrient content.

 

http://www.cdnsciencepub.com/news-and-events/press-releases/PR-GEN-2014-01008.aspx

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/gen-2014-0108

 

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Agricultural trade liberalization for food security in South Asia - Mukherji (2014) - UN

Agricultural trade liberalization for food security in South Asia - Mukherji (2014) - UN | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Latest available figures indicate that close to 40 per cent of the world’s population suffering from hunger and malnutrition belongs to South Asia. Remarkable strides towards enhancing food production in the recent decades in the region seem to have limited impact on undernourishment that remains pervasive. While recognizing the multidimensionality and complexity of reasons behind persistent poverty and hunger in the region, this study identifies freer intraregional trade in food products as a partial but effective solution which can contribute to substantially enhance food security.


Undertaking a detailed product-by-product analysis at a disaggregated level, with the objective of identifying agricultural and primary products – that have both high regional trade potential and high sensitivity from a food security point of view, this study subjects the composition of food exports and imports of South Asian countries to a thorough examination... to assess the potential for imports of important food items by each South Asian country from regional trading partners, possibly at a cheaper price than current imports from the rest of the world.


In aggregate, the analysis has shown trade complementarity in a wide range of food products within South Asia. From this, a list of 397 food products with trade potential of US$ one million or above were selected for more detailed analysis on possible impact of application of preferential tariff rates under the Agreement on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA). Based on these analyses, the study offers a set of policy recommendations for selection of food products for trade liberalization measures under SAFTA as well as for correction of certain anomalies that currently exist in the application of preferential tariffs and in classification and standardization of traded food items...


http://www.unescap.org/resources/development-papers-1404-agricultural-trade-liberalization-food-security-south-asia


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India’s battle against hunger and malnutrition: The story so far - Livemint (2014)

India’s battle against hunger and malnutrition: The story so far - Livemint (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

While there are a myriad welfare schemes the Indian state sponsors, its most important anti-poverty instrument has been the Public Distribution System (PDS) to distribute subsidized foodgrains. For a long time, the PDS has been considered a classic example of inefficient state intervention but a growing body of evidence suggests that the PDS is reviving, and is reaching the poor more effectively than before.

 

Over the past couple of years, empirical studies by a number of economists have shown that PDS leakages have fallen over time even as its coverage has expanded... the poorest income classes are consuming more cereals and at a lesser price compared with the rich today thanks to the improvements in PDS... Responding to a stream of criticism on the functioning of the PDS, quite a few state governments took important initiatives to improve it... 

 

Conflating hunger and malnutrition has led to a cluttered debate on the issue. Poverty and the lack of appropriate food do play a major role in causing malnutrition but the causal links are not straightforward, for most of India’s population. A child requires very small amounts of food, several times a day. Poor and lower middle-class families are often unable to spend the time and energy involved in arranging for the child’s meals even if they can afford the cost of the food.

 

Besides, two key reasons for India’s malnutrition burden are not related directly to food. First, the absence of sanitation and adequate hygiene is a major driver of malnutrition... Secondly, a large share of India’s malnutrition burden arises because of the high proportion of low birth-weight babies, who start life with a nutritional disadvantage. Given the low social status of women in Asia, most women suffer from nutritional deficiencies and give birth to under-nourished children. Just providing extra calories will therefore not help...

 

http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/BBdMguo9nul09l6CoNU8fP/Indias-battle-against-hunger-and-malnutrition-The-story-so.html

 

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Biofortification: Better nutrition for all - Africa Report (2014)

Biofortification: Better nutrition for all - Africa Report (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

A myriad of African countries have... embarked on agricultural campaigns to increase the nutritional value of crops... Biofortification is a process by which crops are bred in a way that increases their nutritional value. The idea... is to breed nutritious plants, a process which experts consider much cheaper than adding micronutrients to already processed foods. It is a smart method to fight malnutrition, say agriculturists and nutritionists.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a UN food agency, considers malnutrition – caused by a lack of essential micronutrients such as iodine, iron, zinc and vitamin A in diets – a threat to millions of African lives... 

 

Biofortification can mitigate the effects of vitamin A deficiency (VAD) in people, reports HarvestPlus, a research centre committed to fighting global hunger... The organisation further notes that VAD is a serious health problem in more than 90 countries but more acutely in Africa and Asia. The deficiency causes preventable blindness in children and increases the risk of disease and death from severe infections. It also causes night blindness in women and increases the risk of maternal mortality. Around Africa... 42% of children under the age of five and women between 15 and 49 years of age suffer from VAD. 

Uganda, which is severely affected, is now extensively producing the orange-fleshed sweet potato variety rich in beta-carotene, an organic compound that converts to vitamin A in the human body. In 2012, HarvestPlus and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) launched a "Feed the Future" programme and introduced the new sweet potato variety... to more than 10,000 farming households. The results so far indicate that 60 percent of the households replaced a third of the traditional sweet potato varieties.

Thanks to the new sweet potato variety, vitamin A levels have increased among Ugandan children, making them visibly healthier than before... But malnutrition is not just a Ugandan problem; it is widespread in Africa, says the FAO. The agency estimates that 30 percent of children on the African continent are malnourished and stunted, have reduced learning and earning potential and are vulnerable to infections and early death...

Akinwumi Adesina, Nigeria's agriculture minister wants his country to become Africa's leading producer of biofortified foods. Under its agriculture-for-health programme, Africa's most populous country wants to develop vitamin A-enriched cassava varieties to address micronutrient malnutrition. Nigeria has incorporated pro-vitamin A cassava and orange-fleshed sweet potatoes in its Growth Enhancement Support Scheme, whose goal is to reach 2.5 million farming households.

Like Nigeria, Zambia has introduced pro-vitamin A cassava and maize. In Rwanda, about half a million farmers are growing new varieties of beans rich in iron. Farmers using these varieties are harvesting more yields per hectare and earning more income selling the surplus...

HarvestPlus and partners plan to develop more varieties of crops that will provide adequate vitamin A, zinc or iron to more than two billion people worldwide. "We're just beginning to scratch the surface...We want to increase access to these nutritious crops as quickly as possible," says Howarth Bouis, director of HarvestPlus. "I think we have had unequivocal success in Africa with the orange flesh sweet potato."

Yassir Islam, the organisation's spokesperson, told Africa Renewal in an interview that they have scaled up their interventions in about 15 African countries, including in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia with most of the work carried out by the International Potato Centre, a Peru-based research centre... 


The World Food Programme (WFP), a UN food relief agency, has noticed the success stories in the malnutrition fight in Uganda, the DRC and Rwanda. The WFP now buys more than one billion dollars worth of food each year from developing countries, and currently has 77 tonnes of iron-fortified beans for its food support programmes... "The potential for introducing micronutrient and biofortified foods into the WFP's food basket is immense because smallholder farmers in many countries are challenged by micronutrient deficiencies" ... the benefits of biofortification in crops are obvious...


Concerned about malnutrition rates in the region, African policy makers and foreign partners are beginning to appreciate the value of the science behind biofortification... "We are flipping the conversation from: 'is it is possible, can we do it, is it safe, do we get greater yield? to 'how do we get this into the bowl and hands of children across the continent in Africa.'" ... Biofortification is an area in which Africa is taking the lead. "This [biofortification] is one of the greatest innovations in the world and it is being driven by Africans from Africa and it will be Africa in the forefront" ... 

 

http://www.theafricareport.com/East-Horn-Africa/biofortification-better-nutrition-for-all.html

 

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