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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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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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What is this thing called organic? – How organic farming is codified in regulations - Seufert &al (2017) - Food Pol

What is this thing called organic? – How organic farming is codified in regulations - Seufert &al (2017) - Food Pol | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Although it represents only 1% of world agricultural area, organic is one of the most recognized food labels and most people in developed countries consume some amount of organic food... 


There is a wide range of interpretations of what organic means by different actors in the sector. Here we examine eight different organic regulations from across the world to understand how they have codified the large diversity of ideas inherent in organic agriculture. 


Our analysis shows that organic practices and regulations do not differ substantially between countries – across the board organic regulations define organic mainly in terms of 'natural' vs. 'artificial' substances that are allowed (or not) as inputs. 


This interpretation of organic as “chemical-free” farming, largely void of broader environmental principles, does not fully incorporate the original ideas of organic theoreticians who conceived it as a holistic farming system aimed primarily at improving soil health... 


This narrow focus of organic regulations can be explained by the interest of organic consumers who predominantly buy organic because they believe it is healthier and more nutritious due to the absence of harmful substances. 


Organic regulations need to place more emphasis on environmental best practices in order to ensure that organic agriculture can contribute to sustainability objectives. 


http://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2016.12.009


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The association of food insecurity and school absenteeism: systematic review - Tamiru & Belachew (2017) - Ag Food Sec

The association of food insecurity and school absenteeism: systematic review - Tamiru & Belachew (2017) - Ag Food Sec | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Household food insecurity not only affects normal physical growth of young children, but also adversely affects their intellectual capacity and social skills. Studies showed that household food insecurity has a significant association with students’ poor school attendance. 


The aim of this review was to systematically identify, appraise and synthesise the best available evidence on the association between food insecurity and school absenteeism. All relevant papers for this review were searched using various databases... 


Finding of this review showed that students from food secure households were 57% less likely to be absent from school... than students from food insecure households... Household food insecurity has a strong linkage with students’ school absenteeism... 


The impacts of household food insecurity should be taken into consideration in national nutrition policy formulation and there is also a need of strengthening programs like school feeding. 


http://doi.org/10.1186/s40066-016-0083-3


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Is increasing inorganic fertilizer use for maize production in SSA a profitable proposition? Evidence from Nigeria - Liverpool-Tasie &al (2017) - Food Pol

Is increasing inorganic fertilizer use for maize production in SSA a profitable proposition? Evidence from Nigeria - Liverpool-Tasie &al (2017) - Food Pol | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Inorganic fertilizer use across Sub-Saharan Africa is generally considered to be low. Yet, the notion that fertilizer use is too low is predicated on the assumption that it is profitable to use rates higher than currently observed. There is, however, limited empirical evidence to support this. 


Using a nationally representative panel dataset, this paper empirically estimates the profitability of fertilizer use for maize production in Nigeria. We find that fertilizer use in Nigeria is not as low as conventional wisdom suggests. Low marginal physical product and high transportation costs significantly reduce the profitability of fertilizer use. 


Apart from reduced transportation costs, other constraints such as soil quality, timely access to the product, and availability of complementary inputs such as improved seeds, irrigation and credit, as well as good management practices are also necessary for sustained agricultural productivity improvements.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2016.09.011


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Diet and Global Climate Change - UC Santa Barbara (2017) 

Diet and Global Climate Change - UC Santa Barbara (2017)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

While good dietary choices boost your own health, they also could improve the health care system and even benefit the planet. Healthier people mean not only less disease but also reduced greenhouse gas emissions from health care... 

Some relatively small diet tweaks could add up to significant inroads in addressing climate change. That’s the finding of a new study... who analyzed the potential effects of healthier model diets for the United States...  

The food system contributes about 30 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, with the largest proportion coming from animal-based food. In addition, the poor quality of the standard U.S. diet – including high levels of red and processed meat and low levels of fruits and vegetables – is a major factor in a number of preventable diseases. The U.S. spends $3 trillion on health care every year –18 percent of the gross domestic product – much of it allocated to diseases associated with poor diets...

To create healthier model diets, the researchers altered the standard 2,000-calorie-a-day U.S. diet, changing the sources of about half of those calories. The different model diets progressively reduced the amount of red and processed meats, with the most stringent diet eliminating them completely. Fruit and vegetable intake was doubled, and peas and beans increased to replace the meat protein removed. Refined grains were partially replaced with whole grains. 


Added sugar... was not reduced. Neither was dairy, eggs, fish or non-red meat. “This means our estimates are probably very conservative, both in terms of health and climate change implications... Just changing half of the diet and including only some of the diseases associated with diets, we found a huge effect.  

“Food has a tremendous impact on the environment... That means that there is enormous potential for our food choices to have positive effects on our environment as well on our health and our health care costs.” That is exactly what the scientists found. 


The adoption of healthier model diets reduced the relative risk of coronary heart disease, colorectal cancer and Type 2 diabetes by 20 to 40 percent. Health care costs went down by $77 billion to $93 billion annually and direct greenhouse gas emissions dropped by 222 kilograms to 826 kilograms per person per year... 

In terms of climate policy, the healthier diets could contribute up to 23 percent of the U.S. Climate Action Plan goal to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020... Further, the diets could generate up to 134 percent of California’s goal of reaching 1990 emission levels by 2020... 

The findings add weight to the conclusion of several other recent studies: Diet change must be part of successful climate change mitigation policies, and climate change mitigation must be included in policies to improve the food system... 

http://www.news.ucsb.edu/2017/017751/diet-and-global-climate-change


Underlying article: http://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-017-1912-5


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Staple Crops Biofortified with Vitamins and Minerals: Considerations for a Public Health Strategy - NY Academy of Sciences (2017) 

Staple Crops Biofortified with Vitamins and Minerals: Considerations for a Public Health Strategy - NY Academy of Sciences (2017)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The World Health Organization, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Sackler Institute... convened a technical consultation entitled “Staple Crops Biofortified with Vitamins and Minerals: Considerations for a Public Health Strategy” in April 2016. 


Participants of the consultation reviewed the definition of biofortification of staple crops, patterns of crops production, processing, consumption, seed varieties, and micronutrient stability and bioavailability, as well as farmers’ adoption and acceptability of the modified crops. Also discussed were economic, environmental, safety, and equity aspects of biofortified crops, as well as legal, policy, regulatory, and ethical issues for the implementation of biofortification strategies in agriculture and nutrition. 


Consultation working groups identified important and emerging technical issues, lessons learned, and research priorities to better support the evidence of improved nutrition and unintended adverse effects of biofortification. This special issue presents papers from the consultation. 


http://www.nyas.org/Publications/Annals/Detail.aspx?cid=c97a8d69-c16a-4249-b23f-d61d4355c424


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Attitude towards the cultivation and utilisation of indigenous leafy vegetables in rural communities - Mungofa (2016) - Univ South Africa

Food insecurity remains a major challenge affecting the rural poor households in South Africa. The consumption of green leafy vegetables is important to address micronutrients deficiency in rural communities and, at the same time, it contributes to fibre intake. 


This study investigated the people’s attitude towards the cultivation and utilisation of ILVs [indigenous leafy vegetables] in rural communities. A cross-section survey study was conducted among 1000 respondents in randomly selected households... 


The majority of respondents were not willingly consuming ILVs... It would be important to find ways of encouraging cultivation of ILVs for both nutrition and as income generating activities. 


http://hdl.handle.net/10500/22069


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
This is an interesting finding as certain activists claim that crops such as genetically modified Golden Rice (that are bred to address micronutrient deficiencies) are not necessary because (i) people simply could and should eat leafy green vegetables etc. that are readily available and (ii) anyway, people will not accept differently-colour staples. However, it seems what people do not want to eat are the indigenous leafy vegetables. (Whereas elsewhere in Africa the successful introduction of nutrient-rich orange-fleshed sweet potatoes showed that people are willing to accept staples.) This is not to say that ILVs shouldn't be promoted and couldn't have a more important role to play in addressing micronutrient deficiencies, but the simple and ideology-driven solutions of certain activists are not so simple after all... 
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Winners and losers: climate change will shift vegetation - Umeå Univ (2017) 

Winners and losers: climate change will shift vegetation - Umeå Univ (2017)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Projected global warming will likely decrease the extent of temperate drylands by a third over the remainder of the 21st century coupled with an increase in dry deep soil conditions during agricultural growing season.


“I was impressed by the scope of the computer model: with many components of the water cycle calculated daily for 30 years, at 20,000 sites. All of this to simulate the current climate as well as 16 possible future climates. The variety of possible future climates gave pretty consistent outcomes, lending credibility to the results”... 


Dryland habitats expanded by 4-­8% in the 20th century and now cover 40% of the global terrestrial surface. As the global climate warms this expansion will likely continue... However... much uncertainty still existed concerning temperate drylands... Warming leads to shifts from temperate to subtropical drylands, which leads to changes in precipitation and soil moisture, which in turn has profound effects on ecological services, provided to humanity, including the viability of certain temperate agricultural systems... 

The results suggest that climate change will convert much of the area currently occupied by temperate grasslands and deserts to subtropical vegetation with effects on associated wildlife and human populations. Specifically, these results predict a loss of 15 to 30 per cent of temperate grasslands by the end of the century with a substantial increase in deep soil drought conditions. 


The impacts can have large consequences for humanity. “For example, with the expansion of subtropical drylands as temperate drylands warm cool season crops such as wheat and potato would no longer be economically viable... Further, these subtropical drylands are home to aggressive diseases such as dengue and schistosomiasis. Given the predicted changes to dryland habitats globally, the outcome of this research is essential for developing strategies for adaptation by policy makers.”


http://www.teknat.umu.se/english/about-the-faculty/news/newsdetailpage/winners-and-losers-climate-change-will-shift-vegetation.cid279336


Underlying article: http://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms14196


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Study Finds Consumers Willing to Pay More for “All-Natural” Labeled Foods - IFT (2017) 

Expectations of product quality, nutritional content and the amount of money consumers were willing to pay increased when consumers saw a product labeled “all-natural” as compared to the same product without the label. 

Researchers... used virtual reality technology to simulate a grocery store taste-test of peanut butter. In one condition, consumers were asked by a server to evaluate identical products with only one being labeled all-natural. In the other, the server additionally emphasized the all-natural status of the one sample.

In the first condition, expectations of product quality and nutritional content increased, but not liking or willingness to pay... However, expectations of product quality and nutritional content as well the amount of money subjects were willing to pay increased further when a virtual in-store server identified one of the peanut butters as being made with all-natural ingredients. This result was observed across a diverse group of subjects... 

FDA has not provided a clear definition of the phrases “natural” or “all natural”, despite extensive use in... marketing. Prior research has indicated that consumers define “natural” primarily by the absence of “undesirable” attributes such as additives and human intervention, as opposed to the presence of specific positive qualities... 

“Our findings provide sound, evidence-based guidance to the FDA and suggest the term natural be regulated so as to minimize consumer and manufacturer confusion over the term. This will serve to protect America’s consumers and manufacturers by ensuring food labels convey accurate and non-misleading information”... 


http://www.ift.org/newsroom/news-releases/2017/february/21/all-natural-label-release.aspx


http://doi.org/10.1111/1750-3841.13639

 

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Urbanization, Food Security and Nutrition - Ruel &al (2017) - Springer

Urbanization, Food Security and Nutrition - Ruel &al (2017) - Springer | Food Policy | Scoop.it

More than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. This has profound implications for global trends in poverty, food security and nutrition and for global and local food systems... 


The location of poverty is rapidly shifting from rural to urban areas and... food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms are highly prevalent among urban dwellers. Particularly alarming are the rapid rises in overweight and obesity in urban areas, while undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies persist. 


Our review highlights critical gaps in knowledge and understanding of the distinctive factors and conditions that shape poverty, food security and nutrition in urban areas; it calls for new research to better document how food systems affect the nutrition transition, as well as urban diets and nutrition, and how, in turn, the food system could be leveraged to prevent future deterioration... 


To counter the rising challenge of the nutrition transition and to achieve zero hunger and malnutrition, policymakers and programmers must be equipped with better data to design adequate programs and policies that: 


(1) support increased food availability and access of the urban poor to healthy, nutritious and safe foods and stimulate demand for healthy diets; (2) promote and facilitate physical activity; (3) promote and support urban agriculture and safe, affordable and nutritious street foods; (4) create income-generating opportunities for urban dwellers, including women, and use tailored and well-targeted social safety net programs as needed; (5) ease trade-offs for working women; and (6) improve access of poor urban dwellers to high-quality health care, water, sanitation, waste removal and electricity services. 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-43739-2_32

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State Capitalism and Chinese Food Security Governance - Lin (2017) - Jap J Pol Sci

Since the financial crisis of 2008-9, how a state can play a more active role in correcting market failure has become a central topic in political economy. Thus, academia is again discussing state capitalism seriously. 


Contemporary state capitalism assumes state intervention in markets is becoming more multifaceted. Consequently, traditional state-owned enterprises exist alongside new government-favored actors, such as privately owned national champions and sovereign wealth funds, intervening in markets. This coalition helps the state achieve its security, political, economic, social, and nationalistic goals more efficiently. Its growing power in markets also heralds the return of state capitalism. 


This paper uses state capitalism theories to re-interpret China's food security governance. The three preliminary findings are as follows. 


First, China's food security governance is typically operated under state capitalism, which has successfully managed China's food availability, though not without some corruption, but has weakened its food accessibility. 


Second, using state capitalism to manage China's food safety has been impeded, so the effects remain to be seen. 


Third, state capitalism has successfully improved the stability of the food supply and demand in China, but its agricultural business branching-out strategy has worried the international community and should be observed further. 


https://doi.org/10.1017/S1468109916000335


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Globalisation of agrifood systems and sustainable nutrition - Qaim (2017) - Proc Nutr Soc

The globalisation of agrifood systems is a mega-trend with potentially profound nutritional implications. This paper describes various facets of this globalisation process and reviews studies on nutritional effects with a particular focus on developing countries... 


Global trade and technological change in agriculture have substantially improved food security in recent decades, although intensified production systems have also contributed to environmental problems in some regions. 


New agricultural technologies and policies need to place more emphasis on promoting dietary diversity and reducing environmental externalities. Globalising agrifood systems also involve changing supply-chain structures, with a rapid rise of modern retailing, new food safety and food quality standards, and higher levels of vertical integration... 


Emerging high-value supply chains can contribute to income growth in the small farm sector and improved access to food for rural and urban populations. However, there is also evidence that the retail revolution in developing countries, with its growing role of supermarkets and processed foods, can contribute to overweight and obesity among consumers. 


The multi-faceted linkages between changing agrifood systems and nutrition are a new field of... research, combining agricultural, nutritional, economics and social sciences perspectives. The number of studies... is still limited, so the evidence is not yet conclusive. A review at this early stage can help to better understand important relationships and encourage follow-up work. 


https://doi.org/10.1017/S0029665116000598


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Linking Agriculture and Nutrition: An Ex-ante Analysis of Zinc Biofortification of Rice in India - Nirmala &al (2016) - AERR

Biofortification has been recognized as a promising option to combat the micronutrient deficiencies, including zinc deficiency. Rice is the staple food crop in India, but, the daily zinc requirement cannot be achieved through typical rice-based vegetarian diet. 


ICAR-IIRR has developed the high zinc-content rice variety... with overall mean zinc content of 24 ppm in polished rice. This study has measured the potential impact of zinc-biofortified rice using disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) saved based on the counterfactual approach, estimating the impact as the difference in the number of DALYs attributable to zinc deficiency before and after the introduction of the zinc-biofortified rice. 


The current zinc-content of the popular rice varieties is about 13 ppm and the potential zinc content of the biofortified rice is 23-24 ppm with a potential increase of 80 per cent. The calculated annual burden of zinc deficiency in India in 2011 is 1.3 million DALYs lost and with biofortified rice this burden could be lowered up to 35 per cent... 


The cost of saving one healthy life year through zinc biofortification of rice costs US$ 20 under pessimistic scenario and US$ 3 under optimistic scenario, proving the cost-effectiveness of the intervention. 


http://purl.umn.edu/253175


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Tackling vitamin A deficiency with biofortified sweetpotato in sub-Saharan Africa - Low &al (2017) - Global Food Pol

Tackling vitamin A deficiency with biofortified sweetpotato in sub-Saharan Africa - Low &al (2017) - Global Food Pol | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) is a rich plant-based source of beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A. In sub-Saharan Africa, sweetpotato is known as a food security crop but most varieties grown are high dry matter white-fleshed types, lacking beta-carotene... 


Researchers recognized the potential of OFSP varieties to address widespread vitamin A deficiency in SSA using an integrated agriculture-nutrition approach... They confronted conventional wisdom concerning food-based approaches and institutional barriers, to build the evidence base and breed 42 OFSP varieties adapted to farmer needs and consumer preferences. 


Subsequently, a multi-partner, multi-donor initiative, launched in 2009, has already reached 2.8 million households. This review summarizes that effort describing how the changing policy environment influenced the process. 


100 g of orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) can meet the daily vitamin A needs of a young child. Dominant sweetpotato varieties in Africa lack pro-vitamin A; growing OFSP is an easy adjustment. 


Breeding in Africa was requisite to obtain OFSP varieties competitive with local varieties. Integrating nutrition education is essential for impact on young child vitamin A status. 


The policy environment drastically changed in 2007, facilitating enhanced investment in OFSP. 


http://doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2017.01.004


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Characteristics of maize cultivars in Africa: How modern are they and how many do smallholder farmers grow? - Abate &al (2017) - Ag Food Sec

Characteristics of maize cultivars in Africa: How modern are they and how many do smallholder farmers grow? - Abate &al (2017) - Ag Food Sec | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Maize is the most important cereal and most widely cultivated staple that plays a key role in the food security of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Although some countries have achieved significant gains in maize productivity, the SSA average yields are far below what could be obtained with improved cultivars under good crop management. Low cultivar turnover is one among many contributing factors to low maize yields... 

This study revealed that nearly 500 maize cultivars were grown in 13 African countries... Approximately 32% of all the cultivars were hybrids, 23% were improved open-pollinated varieties (OPVs), and 46% were locals... The average area planted to modern cultivars in the surveyed areas was estimated at 57%... The overall weighted average age of the cultivars was 15 years, with hybrids and OPVs being 13 and 18 years, respectively.

Maize variety turnover in SSA is slower than what is practiced in the USA and other world regions... The substantial variations among regions and countries in all parameters measured suggest a tailored approach to mitigation interventions. Findings of this current study pave the way for replacing the old cultivars with more recent releases that are tolerant or resistant to multiple stresses and are more resilient.


http://doi.org/10.1186/s40066-017-0108-6


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Agricultural commercialization and nutrition revisited: Empirical evidence from three African countries - Carletto &al (2017) - Food Pol 

Agricultural commercialization and nutrition revisited: Empirical evidence from three African countries - Carletto &al (2017) - Food Pol  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The transition from subsistence to commercial agriculture is key for economic growth. But what are the consequences for nutritional outcomes? The evidence to date has been scant and inconclusive. This study contributes to the debate by revisiting two prevailing wisdoms: (a) market participation by African smallholders remains low; and (b) the impact of commercialization on nutritional outcomes is generally positive... 


The analysis reveals high levels of commercialization by even the poorest and smallest landholders, with rates of market participation as high as 90%... Second, we find little evidence of a positive relationship between commercialization and nutritional status. As countries and international agencies prioritize the importance of nutrition-sensitive agriculture, better understanding of the transmission channels between crop choices and nutritional outcomes should remain a research priority... 


Despite the inconclusiveness of the available empirical evidence to date, agricultural commercialization among poor smallholders continues to be heralded as an effective solution to reduce poverty, improve household food and nutrition security, and foster growth in rural areas. Based on new comparable data from across sub-Saharan Africa which enables the calculation of commercialization indexes at the individual and crop level, this paper contributes to the ongoing debate by investigating the relationship between increased agricultural commercialization and several nutritional indicators in three African countries, differentiated by gender and types of crops sold. 


Against conventional wisdom, the data reveal very high levels of commercialization by even the poorest and smallest land holders, with rates of market participation as high as 90% in Malawi. Similarly, against common perceptions, a considerable portion of this market presence is driven by the sale of staple and other food crops and not necessarily by traditional cash crops. This is in part due to the fact that the great majority of smallholders are still specializing in the production of food crops... with only a relatively small share cultivating both food and traditional cash crops. 


However, in most cases, particularly in Malawi, market participation only involves the sale of relatively small quantities of own food production, resulting in low food CCI [Crop Commercialization Index]... Another important finding of the cross-country analysis is that although female farmers appear to participate less in market activities, when they do participate, they tend to sell larger shares of the production under their control relative to their male counterparts. 


In line with previous research, we also find little evidence of a relationship between increased commercialization and improved nutritional status. The only exception is a weak negative relationship between the portion of commercialization accruing to females and short-term nutritional indicators, which could be the results of the negative effect of greater female market participation on time allocated to child care and homemaking. 


 Nonetheless, these findings should still be taken with caution, as we are still unable to fully control for the potential simultaneity of the CCI and total harvest value and other variables, despite the use of panel data. That said, the arguably more robust and representative evidence presented here is in line with the bulk of evidence to date, and yet another piece of empirical evidence of the weak association between increased commercialization and improved food security and nutritional outcomes. 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2016.09.020


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Ten striking facts about agricultural input use in Sub-Saharan Africa - Sheahan & Barrett (2017) - Food Pol

Ten striking facts about agricultural input use in Sub-Saharan Africa - Sheahan & Barrett (2017) - Food Pol | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Conventional wisdom holds that Sub-Saharan African farmers use few modern inputs despite the fact that most poverty-reducing agricultural growth in the region is expected to come largely from expanded use of inputs that embody improved technologies, particularly improved seed, fertilizers and other agro-chemicals, machinery, and irrigation. 


Yet following several years of high food prices, concerted policy efforts to intensify fertilizer and hybrid seed use, and increased public and private investment in agriculture, how low is modern input use in Africa really? This article revisits Africa’s agricultural input landscape, exploiting... Surveys on Agriculture... in the region... 


At a time when governments and donors are redoubling efforts to stimulate a Green Revolution in Africa, it is imperative to interrogate longstanding conventional wisdoms, especially in light of substantial changes in both governments’ policies and in the overall contexts within which farmers make input use decisions. 


Sweeping general statements, often based on outdated or statistically non-representative data, like “modern input use in Africa is low,” do little to advance constructive policy analysis or debate. The descriptive evidence we summarize... underscore the need for basing policy and business decisions on more nuanced and up-to-date assessments and, indeed, continuing to invest in good quality national agricultural statistics. 


We learn, for example, that some longstanding beliefs remain largely true. Irrigation use and mechanization levels remain low in SSA agriculture. Women farmers use far fewer inputs than men. The use of credit to purchase agricultural inputs is nearly non-existent. And a strong inverse relationship exists between farm, or even plot, size and input use intensity. 


But other widespread beliefs about agricultural input use in SSA appear in need of updating and further exploration. For example, while the use of inorganic fertilizer and agro-chemicals remains relatively low on average, use rates are actually quite high in some countries and regions within countries. This may relate to the fact that input use is no higher on cash crop plots than on those cultivated mainly with staple cereals, particularly maize, a staple crop in most of the survey countries. 


Concerted efforts to stimulate modern input use, especially around maize, seem to be experiencing some success that has perhaps gone under-recognized. Yet... these inputs are rarely used together on plots, despite widespread evidence of agronomic synergies from, for example, coupling irrigation, improved seeds, and inorganic fertilizer use. Similarly, despite considerable agronomic evidence of variable returns to input use on soils of different quality, there is negligible variation in input use by farmer self-reported soil quality, or even by plot-level erosion status. 


These findings suggest significant, and somewhat puzzling, foregone productivity gains that merit deeper exploration. While this paper provides us with, at a minimum, nationally-representative descriptive statistics derived from micro-data that have been largely absent from input intensification debate, it cannot speak to critically important issues of the causal mechanisms behind the patterns we describe, nor to dynamics of diffusion and disadoption of agricultural inputs, much less to implications for profitability, welfare gains, bargaining power, etc. that are most directly relevant to policy. 


And policy matters a lot. Indeed, we find that country-level factors, like policy differences, explain far more of the predictable variation in agricultural input use decisions than do biophysical, market, farm, or household socioeconomic characteristics. Since our findings can only go so far in uncovering key inter-country differences and certainly cannot identify the specific policies that have caused expanded input use in particular areas, mainly our results open up a range of important new policy research questions amenable to exploration... 


The challenge of sparking a Green Revolution in Africa requires a solid foundation in descriptive evidence on contemporary African farmers. Our findings may be best conceptualized alongside related work on the correlates with intensification patterns in the region, labor productivity differentials as potentially driven by input use, and the existence of multiple market failures... 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2016.09.010



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Improving nutrition through biofortification: A review of evidence from HarvestPlus, 2003 through 2016 - Bouis & Saltzman (2017) 

Improving nutrition through biofortification: A review of evidence from HarvestPlus, 2003 through 2016 - Bouis & Saltzman (2017)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Biofortification is a feasible and cost-effective means of delivering micronutrients to populations that may have limited access to diverse diets and other micronutrient interventions... This agriculture-based method of addressing micronutrient deficiency through plant breeding works. More than 20 million people in farm households in developing countries are now growing and consuming biofortified crops. 


This review summarizes key evidence and discusses delivery experiences, as well as farmer and consumer adoption. Given the strength of the evidence, attention should now shift to an action-oriented agenda for scaling biofortification to improve nutrition globally. 


To reach one billion people by 2030, there are three key challenges: 1) mainstreaming biofortified traits into public plant breeding programs; 2) building consumer demand; and 3) integrating biofortification into public and private policies, programs, and investments. While many building blocks are in place, institutional leadership is needed to continue to drive towards this ambitious goal. 


http://doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2017.01.009



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Is there an association between dietary intake and academic achievement: a systematic review - Burrows &al (2017) - J Hum Nutr Diet

Is there an association between dietary intake and academic achievement: a systematic review - Burrows &al (2017) - J Hum Nutr Diet | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Moderate associations exist for dietary intakes characterised by regular breakfast consumption, lower intakes of energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods and overall diet quality with respect to outcomes of academic achievement... 


http://doi.org/10.1111/jhn.12407


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HarvestPlus plans 500,000mt demand for biofortified crops, foods in 2017 - Guardian (2017) 

HarvestPlus plans 500,000mt demand for biofortified crops, foods in 2017 - Guardian (2017)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

HarvestPlus is targeting 500,000 metric tonnes demand for biofortified crops and foods in Nigeria this year; to tackle micronutrient deficiency... Country Manager, Dr. Paul Ilona... said the gaps created by the shortage of flour for small-scale entrepreneurs and processors, who are in constant demand for roots, require farmers with keen business acumen to spot and exploit.

He noted that the overwhelming turnout of investors at the forum points to the growing adoption of biofortified crops by Nigerians, adding that this calls for a marshal plan to ensure that rural poor can access and afford biofortified crops and foods.

The event... was organised for stakeholders in the biofortified seeds and foods sector to share experiences, challenges and successes recorded in the course of commercialising vitamin A cassava and vitamin A maize in Nigeria, to stimulate increased investment and bridge the supply gap in the biofortified seeds and foods value chain.
The participants consisted of existing and potential investors in the value chains, who were encouraged to strategise and build linkages to meet the estimated 500,000 metric tonnes demand... 

Meanwhile, HarvestPlus has been named as one of the eight semi-finalists... by 100&Change, a global competition for a single $100 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The World Health Organisation estimates that malnutrition contributes to 3.1 million deaths of children under-five every year, almost half of all deaths for that age group.

HarvestPlus has pioneered a simple but transformative way to increase the nutritional value of staple food crops, such as sweet potatoes, beans, maize, and cassava. These improved varieties provide higher amounts of vitamin A, iron, and zinc-the three micronutrients identified by the World Health Organisation as most lacking in diets globally...  

https://guardian.ng/features/agro-care/harvestplus-plans-500000mt-demand-for-biofortified-crops-foods-in-2017/


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Fifth of food lost to over-eating and waste - Univ Edinburgh (2017) 

Almost 20 per cent of the food made available to consumers is lost through over-eating or waste... The world population consumes around 10 per cent more food than it needs, while almost nine per cent is thrown away or left to spoil... 

Efforts to reduce the billions of tonnes lost could improve global food security – ensuring everyone has access to a safe, affordable, nutritious diet – and help prevent damage to the environment, the team says.

Scientists... examined ten key stages in the global food system – including food consumption and the growing and harvesting of crops – to quantify the extent of losses. Using data collected primarily by the FAO, the team found that more food is lost from the system than was previously thought.

Almost half of harvested crops – or 2.1 billion tonnes – are lost through over-consumption, consumer waste and inefficiencies in production processes... 


Livestock production is the least efficient process, with losses of 78 per cent or 840 million tonnes... Some 1.08 billion tonnes of harvested crops are used to produce 240 million tonnes of edible animal products including meat, milk and eggs. This stage alone accounts for 40 per cent of all losses of harvested crops... 

Increased demand for some foods, particularly meat and dairy products, would decrease the efficiency of the food system and could make it difficult to feed the world’s expanding population in sustainable ways... Meeting this demand could cause environmental harm by increasing greenhouse gas emissions, depleting water supplies and causing loss of biodiversity.

Encouraging people to eat fewer animal products, reduce waste and not exceed their nutritional needs could help to reverse these trends... 


Reducing losses from the global food system would improve food security and help prevent environmental harm. Until now, it was not known how over-eating impacts on the system. Not only is it harmful to health, we found that over-eating is bad for the environment and impairs food security. 


http://www.ed.ac.uk/news/2017/fifth-of-food-lost-to-over-eating-and-waste


Underlying article: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.agsy.2017.01.014


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Emmy Dela Pena 's curator insight, February 27, 2:44 PM
All over the world at this moment there is food being wasted throughout many countries which means that other less fortunate countries could be using those foods for their needs. The author makes great points in what is happening across the world and what the changes are being done to stop food from being wasted. For example he states that "The world population consumes around ten percent more food than it needs, while almost nine percent is thrown away or left to spoil. Even though we don't really think about it, it's almost vital to finish all your food because it'll prevent damage to the environment and save the cost of wasting food products. I think that this article is reliable because it even leaves the link to a page that helps back up the claims that were stated in the article. It makes me want to take the initiative to make a change in my life so I can prevent waste from happening. Some changes that I would make is having a nutritious diet.
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Widely accepted vision for agriculture may be inaccurate, misleading - Penn State Univ (2017) 

Widely accepted vision for agriculture may be inaccurate, misleading - Penn State Univ (2017)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

To feed the world's growing population... agriculture... production likely will need to increase between 25 percent and 70 percent to meet 2050 food demand. The assertion that we need to double global crop and animal production by 2050 is not supported by the data... 


"Agriculture will be called upon to both feed people and ensure a healthy environment... To get the agriculture we want in 2050, we need quantitative targets for both food production and environmental impacts." A review of recent trends in agriculture's environmental impacts shows that they are increasing and must drop dramatically to maintain clean water and stabilize the climate... 

http://news.psu.edu/story/452218/2017/02/22/widely-accepted-vision-agriculture-may-be-inaccurate-misleading


Underlying article:  https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/bix010


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
"'Food production must double by 2050 to feed the world's growing population.' This truism... has become widely accepted... but now researchers are challenging this assertion" >> To me this seems as if the authors are putting up a straw man, to then tear it down easily in their work: Already in 2009 the FAO put forward the estimate that food production might have to be increased by 70% -- which is what also the authors find:  http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/35571/icode/

"Right now, the narrative in agriculture is really out of balance, with compelling goals for food production but no clear sense of the progress we need to make on the environment." >> Same here, also this is not really a new point, that environmental sustainability and agricultural production need to go hand in hand but that corresponding measures are lacking -- e.g. IFPRI put that forward in 2013:  http://www.ifpri.org/publication/2012-global-food-policy-report

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The Spectrum of Malnutrition - Taren & Pee (2017) - Springer

The Spectrum of Malnutrition - Taren & Pee (2017) - Springer | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Indicators that are used to measure the spectrum of malnutrition... how to use indicators of food security, dietary intake, anthropometry, and biomarkers to assess the nutritional status at the global, national, household, and individual level... 


These indicators of nutritional status have significant variation across regions of the world and are used to assess global and national prevalence of different forms of malnutrition as well as to track progress toward improving nutrition... 


When selecting indicators... it is important to take into account what they indicate, how responsive they are likely to be to the specific intervention(s) and to note that indicators are also affected by a person’s age, sex, and non-nutritional factors. 


http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-43739-2_5


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
Depending on the purpose, one possibility to avoid using different and mutually incompatible indicators to measure different forms of malnutrition is to use a measure of the burden of disease using a single, comprehensive metric (DALYs lost), as I explained here: 
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Agricultural Trade and Food Security - Martin (2017) - ADB

Agricultural Trade and Food Security - Martin (2017) - ADB | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Reducing protection in agricultural trade can reduce poverty and improve nutrition.

Agricultural trade is vitally important for achieving the goal of ending hunger by 2030, as enshrined in the second Sustainable Development Goal. While trade is frequently seen as posing threats to this vitally important goal, it can in fact play a major role in achieving it. 


Trade helps in a number of ways, by allowing countries to take advantage of their radically different factor endowments, with land-abundant countries providing exports and land-poor countries taking advantage of much more efficiently-produced imports. 


Trade liberalization can also help by raising production efficiency in agriculture, allowing improvements in dietary diversity and increasing access to food. Allowing trade substantially reduces the volatility of food prices by diversifying sources of supply. By contrast, beggar-thy-neighbor policies of price insulation such as the imposition of export bans in periods of high prices redistribute, rather than reduce, volatility. 


However, the tendency of other countries to use price-insulating policies creates a serious collective action problem in world markets. Proposals for Special Safeguards would exacerbate these problems by adding massive duties – and creating even larger declines in world prices – during periods of already-depressed prices.


https://www.adb.org/publications/agricultural-trade-and-food-security


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Improving the sustainability of global meat and milk production - Salter (2017) - Proc Nutr Soc

Global demand for meat and dairy products has increased dramatically in recent decades and, through a combination of global population growth, increased lifespan and improved economic prosperity in the developing world will inevitably continue to increase. The predicted increases in livestock production will put a potentially unsustainable burden on global resources, including land for production of crops required for animal feed and fresh water. Furthermore, animal production itself is associated with greenhouse gas production, which may speed up global warming and thereby impact on our ability to produce food. There is, therefore, an urgent need to find methods to improve the sustainability of livestock production. 


This review will consider various options for improving the sustainability of livestock production with particular emphasis on finding ways to replace conventional crops as sources of animal feeds. Alternatives, such as currently underutilised crops (grown on a marginal land) and insects, reared on substrates not suitable for direct consumption by farm animals, represent possible solutions. Coupled with a moderation of excessive meat consumption in wealthier countries, such strategies may secure the long-term sustainability of meat and milk production and mitigate against the adverse health effects of excessive intake. 


https://doi.org/10.1017/S0029665116000276


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Agricultural systems research and global food security in the 21st century: An overview and roadmap for future opportunities - Stephens &al (2017) - Ag Systems 

With the release of the Sustainable Development Goals in late 2015, the United Nations has continued to put food security front and center in its vocalization of the great challenges facing humankind. Replacing Millennium Development Goal Target 1C (‘Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger’), the latest iteration emphasizes not just hunger, but also sustainability and nutrition: (Sustainable Development Goal 2: end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture). The explicit inclusion of the agricultural sector in the goal's design represents a growing recognition and concern that stresses on the world's agricultural systems from climate change, environmental degradation and population growth will increasingly threaten our collective fundamental right to food security. This comes despite dramatic increases in global food production during the 20th century and concurrent impressive declines in worldwide undernourishment and hunger over the last quarter century, with near-universal global attainment of Millennium Development Goal 1C. 

Despite hundreds of variations and contextualizations, a frequently used definition of food security emanated from the 1996 FAO World Food Summit: “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, [social] and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. Implicit in this definition are four key dimensions of food security that have driven the research agenda in recent decades: 1) Food availability… “The amount of food that is present in a country or area”… 2) Food access… “A household's ability to acquire an adequate amount of food regularly”… 3) Food utilization… “Safe and nutritious food which meets dietary needs”... 4) Stability of dimensions 1, 2 and 3… over time… 

The role of agricultural systems in ensuring these critical dimensions of food security varies widely across economic, geographic and sociocultural contexts and is also evolving over time… Many factors that may be linked to, but not entirely determined by the agricultural system, are sure to influence the food security status of households and individuals… The influence of such external factors and internal decision-making and agency may be even more conspicuous… Despite long historical acknowledgement within both the agricultural and food security stakeholder communities of the importance of these many interlinkages… the research agendas in both fields have not typically reflected these relationships or attempted to bridge the interfaces. Starting with the identification in the 1970s of widespread food insecurity and food shortages, the main response and contribution of the agricultural research community to these food security issues was to focus on improving yields and food productivity to reduce shortages and increase the supply of total food calories… The most obvious manifestations of this ‘food shortage paradigm’ era of agricultural research were the Green Revolution innovations in high yield varieties of staple grains with accompanying fertilizer and pesticide programs. After the great success of these initiatives… further attempts to use agricultural research to improve food quality and food security, as a follow on to increased food quantity and aggregate supply, did not emerge. 

However the experience of the global food price crisis in 2007-08 refocused and reenergized the conversation between agriculture and food security, with renewed calls in many quarters to examine the future of our food systems in the context of shifting trends in commodity price volatility, climate change and population growth. Within this, reassessment of many aspects of food security relating to quality, such as malnutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and obesity, are being incorporated into more systems approaches to understanding food security to improve analysis and make headway in solving critical issues within these complex systems… 

The works highlighted in this special issue show several innovations in the use of agricultural systems research to look at food security questions and may provide some guidance for the future. Of immediate note is the incorporation of a host of food security metrics beyond crop yields into agricultural systems models in many of the papers. These include dietary diversity, micronutrient availability and child anthropometric status. These metrics provide important insights into understudied relationships between yields and food security and seem increasingly feasible with better data collection within agricultural systems research projects. There is increasing demand from the food security stakeholder community for this information and seems a natural contribution that can be made from agricultural systems research. Similarly, the basic framing of the research questions contained in this special issue recognizes the distinction between yields and food security. This simple identification is an important shift and the contributing authors have all made some headway at calibrating the size and scope of the potential divergences between agricultural and food security systems…  


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