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New research gives answers on the relationship between chronic illness and food insecurity - U Toronto (2013)

Research findings provide direct evidence that people with chronic diseases are more likely to be food insecure - that is suffering from inadequate, insecure access to food as a result of financial constraints. Previous research has shown that food insecurity rates are highest among low-income households... These factors provide only a partial explanation for the vulnerability to food insecurity. New research by investigators at the Universities of Toronto and Calgary suggests that adults' health status is another determinant of whether or not households experience food insecurity. 

 

The researchers used Statistics Canada data to examine how the health status of adults influenced the chances of their households being food insecure. Adults with chronic health problems (e.g., back problems, arthritis, migraines, diabetes, heart disease, and mental illness) were more likely than those without such health problems to live in food insecure households. The researchers found a 'dose-response' relationship whereby the more chronic health problems someone had the more extreme their experience of food insecurity.

 

The researchers suggest two main reasons for these findings: 1. The additional cost of managing illness (drugs, travel to and from appointments, special dietary needs etc.) results in people having less money to buy food, and 2. Coping with chronic illness also is likely to limit people's ability to manage with scarce resources - to shop around for bargains, to negotiate with creditors, to seek assistance from family, friends and charitable programs and employ the other tools that people have to use to try and manage the competing demands on their budget... 

 

Article: http://dx.doi.org/10.3945/jn.113.178483
 

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What does fish have to do with food and nutrition security? - Pinstrup-Andersen (2014) - Vulnerability and Poverty

What does fish have to do with food and nutrition security? - Pinstrup-Andersen (2014) - Vulnerability and Poverty | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The short answer is: a lot. Fish from capture fisheries and aquaculture is estimated to provide more than half of the world population with 15 – 20% of their total intake of animal protein. In some low-income countries... the share is more than 50%. Fish also provides several of the micronutrients that are essential for healthy living and a large share of those who benefit are poor. Fisheries and aquaculture, including the related value chains, are also very important sources of income for low-income people and the interaction with natural resource management is very significant. 

 

I expect that those working in or with the fisheries and aquaculture sectors know that. Unfortunately that knowledge does not appear to have penetrated the food and nutrition security deliberations... The current debate and the many papers written recently about how agriculture can be made more nutrition sensitive also miss the point. We should talk about how the food system, including fisheries and aquaculture and the total supply chain, can be made more nutrition sensitive. If we limit the discussion and policy recommendations to agriculture, we are foregoing some very big opportunities for improving food security and nutrition... 

 

As a food policy analyst I am as guilty as the next guy. It was not until a few years ago that I began to include fish in my food and nutrition security work, and it was not until I started interacting with the team who worked with the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security (HLPE), that I fully realized what I had been missing. The HLPE report No. 7 (Sustainable fisheries and aquaculture for food security and nutrition) just completed, is a powerful reminder to all of us, that fisheries and aquaculture and what they produce, are critically important to any debate and action to reduce poverty and improve food security and nutrition...  

 

http://vulnerabilityandpoverty.blogspot.be/2014/07/what-does-fish-have-to-do-with-food-and.html

 

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How much your meat addiction is hurting the planet - WaPo (2014)

How much your meat addiction is hurting the planet - WaPo (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The environment doesn't appreciate our meat obsession. The average meat-eater in the U.S. is responsible for almost twice as much global warming as the average vegetarian, and close to three times that of the average vegan... 


Heavy meat-eaters were defined as those who consume more than 3.5 ounces [100g] of meat per day—making the average American meat-eater (who consumes roughly four ounces per day) a heavy meat-eater. Low meat-eaters were those who eat fewer than 1.76 ounces [50g]... 


The difference found in diet-driven carbon footprints was significant. Halve your meat intake, and you could cut your carbon footprint by more than 35 percent; stick to fish, and you could cut it by nearer to 50 percent... 


The variations were so drastic that the study's authors suggested that countries should consider revising their definition of a sustainable diet. "National governments that are considering an update of dietary recommendations... must incorporate the recommendation to lower the consumption of animal-based products," the study says... 


Global demand for meat is expected to grow by more than 70 percent by 2050, largely driven by burgeoning middle classes in the developing world. Couple that with the potential for changing health narratives in the U.S. ... and even Americans could find themselves putting more meat on their plates in the future.

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/06/30/how-much-your-meat-addiction-is-hurting-the-planet/

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10584-014-1169-1

 

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Nutrition, agriculture and the global food system in low and middle income countries - Popkin (2014) - Food Pol

Nutrition, agriculture and the global food system in low and middle income countries - Popkin (2014) - Food Pol | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The entire food value chain and diet of low and middle income countries (LMICs) are rapidly shifting. Many of the issues addressed by the nutrition community ignore some of the major underlying shifts in purchases of consumer packaged foods and beverages. At the same time, the drivers of the food system at the farm level might be changing.

 

There is a need for the agriculture and nutrition communities to understand these changes and focus on some of their implications for health. This rapid growth of the retail sector will change the diets of the food insecure as much as that of the food secure across rural and urban LMIC’s...

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2014.05.001

 

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Is Globalization Reducing Absolute Poverty? - Bergh & Nilsson (2014) - World Development

Is Globalization Reducing Absolute Poverty? - Bergh & Nilsson (2014) - World Development | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Using data from 114 countries (1983–2007), we examine the relationship between globalization and World Bank absolute poverty estimates. We find a significant negative correlation between globalization and poverty, robust to several econometric specifications... Introducing two instruments for globalization we also show that results are robust to correction for potential endogeneity... In particular information flows and more liberal trade restrictions robustly correlate with lower absolute poverty.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2014.04.007

 

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Reorganization of Crop Production and Trade Could Save China’s Water Supply - Princeton (2014)

Reorganization of Crop Production and Trade Could Save China’s Water Supply - Princeton (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

China's rapid socioeconomic growth continues to tax national water resources – especially in the agricultural sector – due to increasing demands for food. And, because of the country’s climate and geography, irrigation is now widespread, burdening rivers and groundwater supplies. One solution to this growing problem, however, might be to reorganize the country’s crop production and trade, especially in agricultural provinces such as Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang and Hebei... 


The researchers report that reducing agricultural production in these provinces and importing food commodities from other provinces or nations instead could help China conserve more water. These provinces all use large volumes of water to produce crops that are later exported to wetter regions. If balanced with more water-efficient irrigation systems locally, restructuring these regions could reduce national water use while avoiding an excessive geographically centralized agricultural production...

 

In particular, corn production and trade at the domestic level might be an area to target as changes could significantly reduce national water use for irrigation... Overall, China may want to consider a targeted investment in agricultural research and development... 


Of China's industries, agriculture is the most water-intensive in terms of production and covers most of the country's northern provinces. Crops like corn, rice and wheat thrive best in these drier regions, but rainfall is limited, and stores of underground water are diminishing. To fulfill high production demands, water is drawn from underground reservoirs (aquifers) in the northern provinces and used for irrigation more rapidly than it is replenished.

 

Water used during crop production is referred to as “virtual water.” Through food trade, these water resources are transferred across borders in what’s called a “virtual water trade.” The researchers found that, in China, these transfers mostly occur from dry agricultural areas to wetter provinces. This situation places strain upon China's water reserves and will only intensify as China’s economy and consumption of water-intensive food continues to boom. While growing crops in the wetter regions would be more water efficient, land in those places is either urban or industrial or difficult geographically (mountainous terrain, etc.)... 


The need for China to include ‘virtual water’ in its national policy has been pointed out.To this end, the research team... combined a hydrological model with domestic and international trade simulations to determine the efficiency of China's food trade in terms of water use as well as the role of foreign trade in this virtual water-trade system. In particular, the researchers sought to answer one question: Is there a way to reduce China’s water use without decreasing national food security?


The researchers looked at domestic and international trade of corn, rice, soy and wheat, along with such livestock products... These products accounted for 93 percent of China's domestic food supply in 2005, the last year with available data. The researchers combined this information with water use across provinces – from both rainfall and irrigation sources – and determined how much water was transferred between provinces through food trade...


"Our work highlights opportunities for addressing water scarcity in China by adjusting where water intensive crops are grown and how they are traded” said Mauzerall.  “Policies which encourage such adjustments can help conserve water while maintaining China’s food security.”  

 

http://wws.princeton.edu/news-and-events/news/item/reorganization-crop-production-and-trade-could-save-china%E2%80%99s-water-supply

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1404749111

 

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Trade rules, food security and the multilateral trade negotiations - Matthews (2014) - EJAE

Trade rules, food security and the multilateral trade negotiations - Matthews (2014) - EJAE | Food Policy | Scoop.it

This paper makes the case that an open and predictable trading system plays an essential role in promoting global food security by making the international food system more efficient and more responsive to sudden shocks which might threaten food security. It argues that the draft Doha Round agricultural modalities would do much to improve the governance of global food security and examines those areas where agreement remains elusive. It calls for more engagement by economists with an increasingly sceptical civil society to help build momentum for a successful conclusion to the Doha Round.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/erae/jbu017

 

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The Transition to Modern Agriculture: Contract Farming in Developing Economies - Wang &al (2014) - AJAE

Recent years have seen considerable interest in the impact of contract farming on farmers in developing countries, motivated out of belief that contract farming spurs transition to modern agriculture.

 

In this article, we provide a thorough review of the empirical literature on contract farming in both developed and developing countries, using China as a special case of the latter. We pay careful attention to broad implications of this research for economic development.

 

We first find empirical studies consistently support the positive contribution of contract farming to production and supply chain efficiency. We also find that most empirical studies identify a positive and significant effect of contract farming on farmer welfare, yet are often unable to reach consistent conclusions as to significant correlates of contract participation.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ajae/aau036

 

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Food Security and Agriculture in Developing Countries: Measurement and hypotheses for impact evaluations - Bertelli & Macours (2014) - FOODSECURE

Food Security and Agriculture in Developing Countries: Measurement and hypotheses for impact evaluations - Bertelli & Macours (2014) - FOODSECURE | Food Policy | Scoop.it

This paper reviews the challenges related to establishing credible causal links between particular interventions and aggregate food security. A first set of challenges result from the lack of a common measurement of food security, with a multitude of indicators and definitions being used in different studies, making comparisons and broader inferences particularly hard.

 

We discuss various measures and the existing evidence on their validity. We also line out a possible approach to validating some of the multi-dimensional measures in a more comprehensive way. A second set of challenges comes from the need to have credible exogenous variation in order to establish a causal relationship between an intervention and resulting food security outcomes.

 

We review the literature and conclude that the literature to date leaves many open questions regarding the type of interventions that might be most effective to increase food security. This is due in part to the multitude of approaches to measurement of food security, and in part due to methodological concerns that limit causal inference in many of the existing studies. Likely, the optimal policy will also be strongly context-specific, and understanding the sensitivity of impacts to contextual changes hence is equally important.

 

http://www.foodsecure.eu/PublicationDetail.aspx?id=56

 

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Drop in global malnutrition depends on ag productivity, climate change - EurekAlert (2014)

Drop in global malnutrition depends on ag productivity, climate change - EurekAlert (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Global malnutrition could fall 84 percent by the year 2050 as incomes in developing countries grow - but only if agricultural productivity continues to improve and climate change does not severely damage agriculture... "The prevalence and severity of global malnutrition could drop significantly by 2050, particularly in the poorest regions of the world... But if productivity does not grow, global malnutrition will worsen even if incomes increase. Climate change also adds a good deal of uncertainty to these projections." 


Hertel and... Baldos developed a combination of economic models - one that captures the main drivers of crop supply and demand and another that assesses food security based on caloric consumption - to predict how global food security from 2006 to 2050 could be affected by changes in population, income, bioenergy, agricultural productivity and climate. According to the models, income growth coupled with projected increases in agricultural productivity could raise more than half a billion people out of extreme hunger by mid-century... 

 

Growth in income will allow people to increase the amount of food they consume and "upgrade" their diets by adding more meat and processed foods to staples such as crops and starches. The shift toward a diet higher in calories and richer in protein could lift many in hunger-stricken regions... above the malnutrition line. 

 

Globally, the volume of food consumed per capita could increase by about 31 percent. In developing regions with strong growth in income and population, consumption could rise by about 56 to 75 percent.

But these projections depend heavily on corresponding increases in agricultural productivity... a measure of crop yields relative to the inputs used in producing them such as land, labor and fertilizers. Increased global productivity improved the availability of food over the last 50 years, but this trend must continue between now and 2050 to buttress food security. 

 

"There is a clear link between productivity growth in agriculture and the number of malnourished people... Boosting productivity tends to lower food prices, and declines in the cost of food in turn can allow for better nutrition. Income growth alone will not be enough to solve the malnutrition problem." 

 

Historically, agricultural productivity has been driven by investments in agricultural research and development... improvements in food security depend on increasing research spending, especially over the next two decades. "The decisions we make now about funding for agricultural research will have implications for a number of malnourished people in 2050... If agricultural productivity stagnates, there will be far more malnourished people in the future, particularly in regions where chronic hunger is already present." 


The researchers also cautioned that the impacts of a changing climate on crop yields remain uncertain. Rising temperatures could extend the growing season in northern latitudes, and an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could benefit some crops by improving water efficiency. But climate change is complicated... "Up to 2050, there could be some pluses for agriculture... But in the longer run, adverse temperatures will likely become overwhelming, and rising carbon dioxide concentrations won't help after a certain point" ... 

 

The models show that climate change is a less influential driver of global food security than income, population and productivity - but it could still pose a significant risk to the nutrition levels of people living in the world's poorest regions... "People living in the most hunger-stricken areas will be the most vulnerable to climate change."

 

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-05/pu-dig052914.php

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-8489.12048

 

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On the Road to Green Energy, Germany Detours on Dirty Coal - Pearce (2014) - Yale Environment 360

On the Road to Green Energy, Germany Detours on Dirty Coal - Pearce (2014) - Yale Environment 360 | Food Policy | Scoop.it

While Germany continues to expand solar and wind power, the government’s decision to phase out nuclear energy means it must now rely heavily on the dirtiest form of coal, lignite, to generate electricity. The result is that after two decades of progress, the country’s CO2 emissions are rising.

 

Right at the entrance to the Schwarze Pumpe power station in Brandenburg, Germany, there is an electric car plugged in and ready to go. Ostensibly “green,” this car must be one of the dirtiest in the world. For it is charged using power generated at the plant by burning lignite, one of the world’s most polluting fuels. 

This contradiction illustrates a far wider problem in Germany’s pioneering efforts to become the first large industrial nation to run on renewable energy. Behind the millions of solar panels and wind turbines and electric cars, Germany has a dirty secret: its addiction to lignite, also known as brown coal. 


In 2011, the main political parties in Angela Merkel’s Germany, the fourth largest economy in the world, agreed on a new policy known as energiewende, meaning energy transition. Its twin centerpieces are an 11-year phase-out of nuclear power plants, in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima disaster earlier that year, and a target of cutting carbon emissions by 80 to 95 percent by mid-century. Under the plan, renewables, predominantly wind and solar, will supply 80 percent of Germany’s electricity and 60 percent of its total energy. 

Is achieving this goal possible, especially given that until recently nuclear was Germany’s main source of low-carbon energy? Pessimists suggest not. They point out that, since the announcement of energiewende, a long, slow decline in carbon emissions of 27 percent between 1990 and 2009 has gone into reverse, with a 4 percent rise in emissions since 2009. But on a visit to Germany last month, I met many NGOs, politicians, and energy academics and professionals who say there is no turning back, and that the targets will be met... 


http://e360.yale.edu/feature/on_the_road_to_green_energy_germany_detours_on_dirty_coal/2769/


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EU twisting facts to fit political agenda, chief scientist says - EurActiv (2014)

EU twisting facts to fit political agenda, chief scientist says - EurActiv (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

A big challenge for the next European Commission will be to disconnect its evidence gathering processes from the “political imperative” that’s driving policy proposals, according to Anne Glover, the EU’s chief scientific advisor.

 

Speaking before the EU elections last week, Glover reflected upon her role... Glover was appointed in December 2011 to provide the President of the EU Executive with first-class independent scientific advice. A trained biologist who holds a chair in Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Aberdeen, she previously served a as chief scientific advisor for Scotland (2006-2011).

 

More than two years into her job, she seems to have learned a great deal about the internal working of the EU’s flagship institution.

And her assessment of what goes on inside the Commission’s walls is not rosy. “When I spoke to president Barroso about taking up this role, I said to him that for me it would only be attractive if I was regarded as an independent chief scientific advisor... “What I said to him was that, for me to have any value or credibility, I need to focus on evidence and not on political considerations,” she recalled... 


She has made widely-publicised comments on subjects as diverse – and controversial – as climate change, GMOs or shale gas. But it appears she also found it difficult to disentangle the Commission’s evidence gathering processes from what she calls the “political imperative” that’s behind them. Illustrating her point, she used a fictitious example: 


“Let’s imagine a Commissioner over the weekend thinks, ‘Let’s ban the use of credit cards in the EU because credit cards lead to personal debt’. So that commissioner will come in on Monday morning and say... ‘Find me the evidence that demonstrates that this is the case.’” The Commissioner’s staff might resist the idea but in the end... “they will do exactly what they’re asked” and “find the evidence” to show that credit card use leads to personal debt, even though this may not be the case in reality. “So you can see where this is going... You’re building up an evidence base which is not really the best.”

 

To back its policy proposals, the Commission often outsources the evidence-gathering part of the job to external consulting firms, which provide ‘impact assessment studies’ or ‘research’ that are often branded as ‘independent’. However, Glover says such consultancies have little incentive to produce evidence that contradicts the Commission’s political agenda. “If they want repeat business, [they] are not going to go out and find the evidence to show that this is a crazy idea” ... 


“What happens at the moment – whether it’s in Commission, Parliament or Council – is that time and time again, if people don’t like what’s being proposed, what they say is that there is something wrong with the evidence. So everybody blames the evidence and nobody is honest about the fact that in many cases, understanding the evidence is the best possible platform to make the logical extension into policy. But they don’t like it so they say ‘We need more evidence’. And of course scientists can always produce more evidence.” ... 

 

To Glover, such drawn-out battles over the evidence on which policy decisions are grounded should become a thing of the past. “What I am going to propose for the next President of the European Commission is to try and develop a new system of evidence gathering within the Commission that entirely disconnects evidence gathering with the political imperative”... a simple solution would be to create a special department at the Commission whose role would be to assess policy proposals against the evidence – “a central service which would be the evidence portal”... 


And if the policymakers choose to adopt a policy that goes against the evidence, that’s OK, Glover says because other considerations – social, economic, ethical, philosophical – might be more important. “And I think that’s quite justifiable”... 

 

http://www.euractiv.com/sections/eu-priorities-2020/eu-twisting-facts-fit-political-agenda-chief-scientist-says-302399

 

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Best before dates add to food waste - Reuters (2014)

Best before dates add to food waste - Reuters (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

"Best before" dates on food add to a mountain of waste in Europe and could be scrapped for some long-life produce, a group of European Union states have argued... 

 

Food waste in the West has become a hot topic because of its environmental and humanitarian implications. A report last year found up to half of the food produced worldwide was wasted because of poor harvesting, storage and transport methods, as well as irresponsible retailer and consumer behaviour.

 

The discussion paper... says date-labelling in many EU countries is adding to the problem and calls on the European Commission to consider whether products with a very long shelf life could be exempt from best before labels. It also wants EU policymakers to explore how to make consumers better understand durability dates... 

 

Between 30 percent and 50 percent of the food which gets to supermarket shelves is wasted - often because of poor understanding of best before and use by dates.

 

A use by date is applied if there is a health risk in eating food after that date, whereas a best before date is more about quality - when it expires it does not necessarily mean food is harmful, but it may lose flavour and texture... 

 

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/16/eu-food-waste-idUSL6N0O21B120140516

 

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Food security may be increased by new agricultural production modeling - Agronomy (2014)

Predicting crop yields based on climate, planting, and other variables can help regions optimize their limited resources. Farmers are used to optimizing crop production on their own lands. They do soil tests to choose the right amount of fertilizers to apply, and they sometimes plant row crops on some fields while keeping others in pasture. But is it possible to optimize production across a much bigger area... That’s the question a team of USDA-ARS scientists... has begun to tackle by developing a sophisticated new modeling tool. 

 

Known as the Geospatial Agricultural Management and Crop Assessment Framework (GAMCAF), the tool brings together crop models that estimate plant growth and crop yield at scales as fine as 30 meters (90 feet), with spatial sources of information on soils, water, land use, and other factors... “This way, we can make much larger predictions [of yields] across the entire regional scale,”

 

“The real power of this framework is that it lets you look at different scenarios of land use change, water, and climate change.” For example, what will happen to production if more farmland is lost to development, or if average growing season temperatures rise substantially in coming decades?

 

What’s driving the research are mounting concerns about food security... “So, the big question from my perspective is: what are the biophysical constraints that limit agricultural production in this region?” Fleisher asks, such as soil quality, water availability, and the amount of cropland. It’s a complicated question to answer... Once other models are included, the scientists can begin examining trade-offs: for example, where... does potato grow best versus corn or soybean or broccoli? ... 

 

Moreover, the platform now includes climate data, enabling predictions of how future temperature and precipitation scenarios will affect crop yields. It can also examine the effects of land use changes such as farmland loss—or, conversely—of bringing abandoned farmland... back into production... The research... is investigating the benefits that increased regional food production may hold both for consumers... and for local farmers, retailers, distributors, and others in the food supply chain. The goal, in other words... “We also want to know: what is the value of regionally produced food?”

 

https://www.agronomy.org/news-media/releases/2014/0505/626/

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.2134/agronj2013.0277

 

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Confronting China's Water lnsecurity - Hongzhou (2014) - NTU

With the emergence of water insecurity as a major threat to China's economic growth and social stability, preventive measures should start with reforms to the country's food security. Among the numerous challenges China faces... the biggest perhaps is mounting water insecurity. China has 20 percent of the world's population but only seven percent of the world's fresh water. To make matters worse, the country's scarce water resources are unevenly distributed between the south and north of the country.

 

With rapid industrialisation and urbanisation, the demand for fresh water is increasing at a very fast rate... However, China's supply is severely undermined by worsening water scarcity and pollution. Due to over-exploration and inefficient consumption, China's water resources are declining as more rivers disappear and aquifer water levels drop...

 

Also, China's agricultural production and industries are shifting from the southern regions to the central, western, and northern regions where water resources are even scarcer. Unsustainable extraction of underground water has led to the dramatic fall of water levels of aquifers in these regions, in particular, the North China Plain... China's mounting water shortage is compounded by the high levels of water pollution... 

 

Certainly, the Chinese government has well realised the gravity of the water shortage issue, and it is taking serious measures to prevent a water crisis. China is spending trillions of yuan on megaprojects... to boost the country's water supply. These megaprojects, however, might fail to address China's water shortage... based on the presupposition that the south has surplus water. Yet the severe droughts that hit the southern region in recent years illustrated that the southern region might not have excess water that could be transferred... What is worse... the project is causing huge environmental and ecological damage... 

 

Therefore, China should adopt effective measures to address its water insecurity by curbing consumption and by tackling pollution... Agriculture is the biggest consumer of water in China and it currently consumes two-thirds of the country's scarce water resources. Furthermore, agriculture is also the principal polluter to water in China...


China's policy since 2011 is to focus on water conservancy. China also plans to spend two trillion yuan, or US$330 billion to tackle water scarcity and water pollution. These measures, however, are overshadowed by China's overarching goal of grain self-sufficiency in its agricultural policy. To boost domestic grain production, China has planned to further expand the areas of irrigated land, which means that the current trend of overexploitation could continue.

 

Given the extremely low profitability of China's grain sector, to ensure grain self-sufficiency, the country will have to provide heavy subsidies for key inputs include feitilisers, pesticide and water, contributing to water pollution and low irrigation efficiency. Therefore, to curb water consumption and pollution, China needs to strike a balance between water security and food security.

 

Food self-sufficiency is not equivalent to food security; to safeguard both water and food security of the country, China needs to reform its food security policy.

 

The starting point should be promoting regional and structural adjustments of China's agricultural sector. To reverse the trend of worsening water scarcity in the north, some areas will have to be taken out of grain production and some areas need to stop planting water-intensive crops such as rice. ln addition, China needs to tap the potential of growing grains in those rain-fed provinces to a greater extent. Next, at the national level... fully explore the potential for water conservation by means of virual water trade across different provinces. At the international level, it is important to recognise food trade not only as an important measure for securing food supply, but also as an important measure for combating water scarcity.

 

http://hdl.handle.net/10220/19929

 

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Sustainable meat consumption: A quantitative analysis of nutritional intake, greenhouse gas emissions and land use from a Swedish perspective - Hallström &al (2014) - Food Pol

Sustainable meat consumption: A quantitative analysis of nutritional intake, greenhouse gas emissions and land use from a Swedish perspective - Hallström &al (2014) - Food Pol | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Food consumption is one of the most important drivers of environmental pressures. Adoption of healthy diets is suggested to be an option for less environmentally intensive food habits and improved public health. In particular, changes in meat consumption are believed to bring potential benefits.

 

Objective: To quantify the impact of changes in meat consumption on the dietary contribution of nutrients, GHG emissions and on land requirement. Scenario analysis is performed for three scenarios representing different variants of meat consumption in Sweden... The results are evaluated in relation to the recommended daily intake of nutrients, international climate goals and global capacity for sustainable expansion of agricultural land...

 

Meat consumption in line with nutritional guidelines, implying an approximate 25% reduction of Swedish average intake, reduces the contribution of total and saturated fat by 59–76%, energy, iron and zinc by about half and protein by one quarter. Restrictions in meat consumption are most critical for the intake of iron and zinc, whereas positive effects on public health are expected due to the reduced intake of saturated fat.

 

Aligning meat consumption with dietary guidelines reduces GHG emissions from meat production from 40% to approximately 15–25% of the long-term (2050) per capita budget of sustainable GHG emissions and the share of per capita available cropland from 50% to 20–30%.

 

This quantitative analysis suggests that beneficial synergies, in terms of public health, GHG emissions and land use pressure, can be provided by reducing current Swedish meat consumption.  

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2014.04.002

 

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‘Land Grabbing’ Could Help Feed at Least 300 Million People - U Virginia (2014)

‘Land Grabbing’ Could Help Feed at Least 300 Million People - U Virginia (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Crops grown on “land-grabbed” areas in developing countries could have the potential to feed an extra 100 million people worldwide... The large-scale acquisition of land by foreign governments and business – more commonly known as “land grabbing” – is a contentious issue, particularly in Africa...


Improved infrastructure brought about by foreign investment could increase the productivity of subsistence farmlands in countries such as Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. The improvements could enable these lands to feed at least 300 million people around the world. This is compared to about 190 million people that could be fed if the land was left tended to by the local population.

 

Some argue that investment by foreign governments and business will drastically improve crop yields, generate new jobs and bring new knowledge and infrastructure to often deprived areas. Others highlight the fact that any food grown is often exported to other regions and argue that such deals can strip local communities of their land, water and natural resources, leaving them in a far worse state.

 

Researchers quantified the maximum amount of food that could be produced from crops grown on acquired lands and the number of people this could feed and compared the use of traditional farming techniques to industrialised agricultural methods, to come up with the yield gap... If all of the acquired lands worldwide were farmed to their full capacity – a 100 percent closure of the yield gap – there would be a 308 percent increase in rice production, a 280 percent increase in maize production, a 148 percent increase in sugar cane production and a 130 percent increase in oil palm production... 


Taking into account the proportion of crops that can be used for food production, as well as the amount needed for a balanced diet, the results showed that between 300 and 550 million people could be fed by crops grown in the acquired land, compared with between 190 and 370 million people that could be fed if the local community used the land without making major investments... 


“Policymakers need to be aware that if this food were used to feed the local populations, it would be sufficient to abate malnourishment in each of these countries even without investments aiming at the closure of the yield gap. Such investments would lead to substantial improvements in crop yields mainly in African countries.

 

“At the moment, there are still open questions which would help inform the debate over what happens to acquired land, such as ‘What happens to food produced? Is it shipped abroad? Were these lands already used for agriculture prior to the acquisition, and (if so) for the cultivation of what crops? With what yields?’ Answers to these questions would allow us to quantify the decrease in food available to the local communities and come up with management strategies to mitigate possible negative impacts on the local communities of large-scale land acquisition.”

 

https://news.virginia.edu/content/land-grabbing-could-help-feed-least-300-million-people-study-suggests

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/9/6/064030

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

Rather than promoting foreign land acquisitions, the study probably shows the potential impact of moving from traditional farming techniques to modern agricultural methods -- whether this is made possible through foreign investment and knowledge transfer or otherwise. However, it also indicates that land "grabbing" per se is not bad (but rather depends on the conditions of the deal). To ensure that such deals are beneficial for local populations the FAO developed global guidelines: http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/142587/icode/

 

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Natural resources worth more than US$40 trillion must be accounted for - U East Anglia (2014)

Governments and companies must do more to account for their impact and dependence on the natural environment... more needs to be done to foster a sustainable green economy... While the economic value of lost natural resources can be difficult to quantify, much more must be done to make sure that it is... 


When we talk about ‘natural capital’, what we mean is the elements of nature that produce value to people – such as ecosystems, plant and animal species, freshwater, land minerals, the air and oceans, as well as natural processes such as climate regulation. The value of this natural capital is largely excluded from both GDP and corporate accounting. It is assumed that these natural resources are ‘free’ – but using them has an impact on the natural world and future living standards.  This impact is too vast to be left off the balance sheets. The World Bank has estimated the value of natural capital to be at least US$40.2 trillion. That’s around half of gross world product, 1.6 times the combined assets of the world’s 10 biggest banks, and would have paid for the Apollo Space Programme more than 300 times... 

The report calls for public and private sectors to work together to develop Natural Capital Accounts (NCAs) - a metric to show vital information about economic dependence and impact on the natural world. These NCAs could then be integrated into national statistics such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) accounts to provide early warning signs of emerging risks and vulnerabilities in the face of changing climate and land use.

"A good starting point would be to improve corporate carbon accounts and rapidly expand to include impacts on water and other elements of natural capital"... focusing on carbon alone could lead to unintended consequences. 

"Some private sector companies... have started to publish environmental profit and loss accounts. This is a big step forward, and I hope that more firms will examine their natural capital impacts and dependencies throughout their supply chains... 
Natural capital is the foundation of all human wellbeing, yet its degradation is largely unreported and important public and private sector decisions are routinely made without regard for its value. Government and industry must join efforts to disclose both their own dependence on, and also their impact on natural capital." https://www.uea.ac.uk/mac/comm/media/press/2014/June/natural-resources Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2257 ;
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Vegetarian diets produce fewer greenhouse gases and increase longevity - ScienceDaily (2014)

Vegetarian diets produce fewer greenhouse gases and increase longevity - ScienceDaily (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Consuming a plant-based diet results in a more sustainable environment and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, while improving longevity... Based on findings that identified food systems as a significant contributor to global warming, the study focuses on the dietary patterns of vegetarians, semi-vegetarians and non-vegetarians to quantify and compare greenhouse gas emissions, as well as assess total mortality. 

 

The mortality rate for non-vegetarians was almost 20 percent higher than that for vegetarians and semi-vegetarians. On top of lower mortality rates, switching from non-vegetarian diets to vegetarian diets or even semi-vegetarian diets also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The vegetarian diets resulted in almost a third less emissions compared to the non-vegetarian diets. Modifying the consumption of animal-based foods can therefore be a feasible and effective tool for climate change mitigation and public health improvements. "The takeaway message is that relatively small reductions in the consumption of animal products result in non-trivial... 

 

The accompanying article makes the case for returning to a large-scale practice of plant-based diets, in light of the substantial and detrimental environmental impacts caused by the current trend of eating diets rich in animal products. Making a switch to plant-based foods will increase food security and sustainability, thereby avoiding otherwise disastrous consequences... Need to reassess people's nutritional practices, in light of environmental challenges and worldwide population growth. "Throughout history, forced either by necessity or choice, large segments of the world's population have thrived on plant-based diets"...  

 

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140625145536.htm

 

Original articles:

http://dx.doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.113.071589 ;

http://dx.doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.113.071522


 

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Agricultural Trade Policy Distortions and Food Security: Is there a Causal Relationship? - Magrini &al (2014) - AgEcon

The aim of this paper is to assess the causal impact of trade policy distortions on food security. This is an hot issue since restrictions to agricultural trade have been generally applied by national governments, especially in developing countries, as a tool to insulate domestic markets from international prices turmoil...

 

The outcomes of our estimates show clearly that trade policy distortions are, overall, significantly correlated with the various dimensions of food security... countries less prone to adopt trade distortion policies tend to be better off in all the dimensions of food security (food availability, access, utilisation) with the relevant exception of food stability.

 

http://purl.umn.edu/173091

 

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Measuring political commitment and opportunities to advance food and nutrition security - Fox &al (2014) - Health Pol Plan

Lack of political commitment has been identified as a primary reason for the low priority that food and nutrition interventions receive from national governments relative to the high disease burden caused by malnutrition. Researchers have identified a number of factors that contribute to food and nutrition’s ‘low-priority cycle’ on national policy agendas, but few tools exist to rapidly measure political commitment and identify opportunities to advance food and nutrition on the policy agenda.

 

This article presents a theory-based rapid assessment approach to gauging countries’ level of political commitment to food and nutrition security and identifying opportunities to advance food and nutrition on the policy agenda... The article finds that, in a majority of countries, political leaders had verbally and symbolically committed to addressing food and nutrition, but adequate financial resources were not allocated to implement specific programmes... 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/heapol/czu035

 

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Re-examining the Reported Rates of Return to Food and Agricultural Research and Development - Hurley &al (2014) - AJAE

At odds with a vast body of economic evidence reporting exceptionally high rates of return to investments in agricultural research and development (R&D), growth in public R&D spending for food and agriculture has slowed in numerous, especially rich, countries worldwide. The observed R&D spending behavior is consistent with a determination that the reported rates of return are perceived as implausible by policy makers.


We examine this notion by scrutinizing 2,242 investment evaluations reported in 372 separate studies from 1958 to 2011. We find that the internal rate of return (IRR) is the predominant summary measure of investment performance used in the literature despite methodological criticisms dating back more than a half century. The reported IRRs imply rates of return that are implausibly high. We investigate the reasons for these implausibly high estimates by analytically comparing the IRR to the modified internal rate of return (MIRR).


The MIRR addresses several methodological concerns with using the IRR, has the intuitive interpretation as the annual compounding interest rate paid by an investment, and is directly related to the benefit-cost ratio... Our recalibrated estimates of the rate of return are more modest (median of 9.8% versus 39% per year); however, they are still substantial enough to question the current scaling back of public agricultural R&D spending in many countries.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ajae/aau047

 

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Increasing nutrient levels in staple crops will improve health - Guardian (2014)

Increasing nutrient levels in staple crops will improve health - Guardian (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Over the past 50 years, agricultural research has improved crop yields, particularly of staples like cereals and tubers. But this breeding has placed too little emphasis on nutrition, leaving the poorest, who often can only afford these staples, consuming too few essential nutrients like iron, zinc and vitamin A.

 

Biofortification can help redress the balance. But one of the concerns about this technology has been whether these crops, bred to have increased levels of vitamins and minerals, will be attractive to farmers or not. They must yield well, so that farmer incomes from sale of their crops are maintained or improved, and they must have properties that make them attractive for cooking and eating. The evidence is that crops that have been bred for improved micronutrients yield as well, or better than crops currently grown by farmers and are attractive.

 

One of the best documented biofortified crops, an orange fleshed variety of sweet potato, which addresses vitamin A deficiencies, has had extensive adoption in Mozambique and Uganda, showing that a change in colour and texture relative to traditional white African sweet potatoes may not be a constraint. A single scoop of cooked orange sweet potato can provide a small child's entire daily requirement for vitamin A. Rwanda, along with a few other African countries, is making a commitment at the highest political level to biofortification, integrating agriculture, health and rural development programmes to deliver this, with outstanding results...

 

However, increasing the availability of nutrient rich crops to subsistence farmers who also consume what they produce is only a part of the potential of biofortification. With a rapidly urbanising world and growing problems with micronutrient deficiencies in urban populations, locally grown biofortified crops need to become deeply embedded in food chains, in food processing and in markets, in order to reach urban consumers.

 

That means engagement with the private sector and markets, and a whole new challenge for effective partnerships of researchers and entrepreneurs. Governments can provide an important stimulus to demand, for instance by giving incentives to companies that use biofortified ingredients in processed foods... Efforts should also be made to develop nutrition education programmes for consumers – including farmer training for poor households which are both producers and consumers – as well as marketing and nutrition awareness training to drive consumer demand... Governments must focus on improving the technology delivery systems for farmers, especially extension systems to improve farmers' knowledge of nutrient rich crops...

 

Biofortified crops are part of a rich and growing portfolio of agricultural and food interventions to improve nutrition in poor countries, including the encouragement of local livestock and fish production and marketing, home gardens for vegetable production, and programmes to supply cows and goats to households for milk production... 

 

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2014/may/29/biofortification-food-crops-nutrition

 

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3,000 rice genome sequences made publicly available on World Hunger Day - EurekAlert (2014)

3,000 rice genome sequences made publicly available on World Hunger Day - EurekAlert (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The 3000 Rice Genomes Project... provides a massive rice genomic sequence resource for worldwide use... The publication and release of this enormous data set (which quadruples the current amount of publicly available rice sequence data) coincides with World Hunger Day to highlight one of the primary goals of this project — to develop resources that will aid in improving global food security, especially in the poorest areas of the world... 

 

With more than 1/8th of the world's population living in extreme hunger and poverty, and an every-increasing world population... there is a huge need to create new resources to improve crop yield, reduce the impact of agricultural practices on the environment, and develop food crops that are of high yield and nutrition and can grow successfully in environments stressed by drought, pests, diseases, or poor soil quality. While rice research has greatly advanced since the completion of the first high-quality rice genome sequence in 2005, there has been limited change in breeding practices that are important for producing improved and better adapted rice strains.

 

The 3000 Rice Genomes Project provides a major step forward for addressing these challenges by creating and releasing an extensive amount of genetic information that can ultimately be applied to intelligent breeding practices, which take advantage of the natural variation between different plant strains and information on the genetic mechanisms that underlie these traits to select strains for breeding that will be more successful in producing hybrid strains with characteristics that are highly suited for growing successfully in different environments... 

 

The 3000 Rice Genomes Project is part of an ongoing effort to provide resources specifically for poverty-stricken farmers in Africa and Asia... "Rice is the staple food for most Asian people, and has increasing consumption in Africa... With decreasing resources (water and land), food security is — and will be — the most challenging issue in these countries, both currently and in the future. As a scientist in rice genetics, breeding and genomics, it would be a dream to help to solve this problem" ... 

 

"The population boom and worsening climate crisis have presented big challenges on global food shortage and safety. BGI is dedicated to applying genomics technologies to make a fast, controllable and highly efficient molecular breeding model possible. This opens a new way to carry out agricultural breeding... we have made a step forward in big-data-based crop research and digitalized breeding. We believe every step will get us closer to the ultimate goal of improving the well-being of human race" ... 

 

"Access to 3,000 genomes of rice sequence data will tremendously accelerate the ability of breeding programs to overcome key hurdles mankind faces in the near future." This collaborative project... "will add an immense amount of knowledge to rice genetics, and enable detailed analysis by the global research community to ultimately benefit the poorest farmers who grow rice under the most difficult conditions." ...

 

Current breeding practices, which have essentially remained the same since the development of agriculture, typically use apparent physical traits to guide strain selection for cross-breeding with the hope that the offspring will manifest a combination and improvement of the desired traits, such as drought, pest and disease resistance and increased crop productivity and improved nutritional value. However, the underlying genetic makeup can often confound breeder expectations because unknown genetic interactions can block, modify, or alter the development of the selected physical characteristics when two strains are bred. Thus, trial and error and multiple successive breeding stages are often required.

 

Having full knowledge of the genetic makeup of a plant allows researchers to identify genetic markers related to specific physical traits, and better understand how different genetic interactions effect plant phenotypes. This information allows a breeder to make more intelligent choices in strain selection, resulting in more accurate and rapid development of rice strains that are better suited to different agricultural environments in poor and environmentally stressed economies...

 

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-05/g-3rg052314.php

 

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China rebuts remarks over food security - ChinaDaily (2014)

China rebuts remarks over food security - ChinaDaily (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Chinese agricultural authorities... fended off negative remarks... over food security, saying China is able to feed itself. "China poses no threat to world food security but will contribute quite a lot instead," said Bi Meijia, chief economist and spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture... 

 

Bi said China's grain self-sufficiency rate stood above 97 percent in 2013 and cereal imports reached 14 million tonnes, accounting for less than 2.6 percent of the country's cereal output... Soybean remained China's primary grain imports, which rose 8.6 percent year on year to reach 63.38 million tonnes in 2013, according to customs data.

 

The country's grain output gained 2.1 percent year on year to hit 601.94 million tonnes, marking 10 years in a row for increased grain production, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

 

China's rising grain imports in recent years were mainly driven by lower offshore prices as compared to domestic grain prices, Bi said. "As global grain prices headed down, it's in China's interests to import an appropriate amount of grain at lower prices and follow the trend of international agriculture products" ... 

 

The government's emphasis on and policy support to agriculture will encourage farmers to continue growing grain production... Relying more on machines, science and technology for higher grain output, China is also working to upgrade its irrigation system... China has designated permanent cropland to observe a red-line guarantee that arable land shall never shrink to less than 120 million hectares.


http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2014-05/21/content_17531880.htm

 

 
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Payoffs from research and development along the Australian food value chain: a general equilibrium analysis - Borrell & Gould (2014) - Austral J Ag Res Econ

Payoffs from research and development along the Australian food value chain: a general equilibrium analysis - Borrell & Gould (2014) - Austral J Ag Res Econ | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The payoffs... from research and development (R&D) along the food value chain depend on many interacting economic factors. To quantify these, we have developed a general equilibrium model of the Australian economy with detailed farming, processing and marketing information... various R&D scenarios that lead to demand expansion and productivity improvement.

 

We find that productivity improvement caused by R&D is unambiguously beneficial to the whole economy while the benefits of export or domestic market demand expansion mainly accrue to the primary producers and processing industry, when the economy is at full employment. Also, productivity improvement from R&D on-farm may benefit processors while improvements postfarm may benefit farmers. 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-8489.12062

 

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