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Monsanto Withdraws GM Applications in EU - Copping (2013) - Outlooks on Pest Management

Monsanto has said it will no longer seek approval for the cultivation of new GM crops in Europe because of the EU's negative stance towards biotechnology after more than a decade of hostility from consumers and governments. The EU makes up about 0.1% of the world biotech-crop area, according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications.

The company has said it is withdrawing pending applications for commercial cultivation of new biotech crops in the EU on the grounds that Europe is effectively a conventional seed market. The EU has not approved a major new biotech product for cultivation since 1998, and currently has suspended the progression of cultivation which, according to Monsanto, indicates decisions being made for political reasons.

Monsanto said its business in Europe was strong and growing and it would be investing several hundred million dollars over the next decade to expand its conventional seed business. The company emphasised that GM crops were growing globally and Monsanto remained committed to enabling that growth - including working with EU regulators on import approvals for GM crops grown outside of Europe... In Europe, there are significant opportunities in conventional breeding... 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

The EU may only make up 0.1% of the global area under GM crops, but it is a major importer of GM soybeans, each year importing Billions worth of soybean meal and soybeans, i.e. it uses much more area than those 0.1%... 


Also, like seed companies or not, GMOs are only one part of their business and blocking such crops does not mean seed companies disappear... 

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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 |

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:


Audio-slides, 4 min.:


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De-mystifying family farming: Features, diversity and trends across the globe - Vliet &al (2015) - Global Food Sec

De-mystifying family farming: Features, diversity and trends across the globe - Vliet &al (2015) - Global Food Sec | Food Policy |

Family farms are defined by two criteria: the importance of family labour and the transfer of ownership, land tenure or management to the next generation. Most farms across the globe are family farms, and they vary in size from <1 ha to >10,000 ha.


Trends in farm size (small farms getting smaller and large farms getting larger) are not directly related to farm ownership and do not necessarily impact global food security. Rather, both the causes and effects of farm size trends depend on the availability of farm resources and off-farm employment opportunities. Similarly, environmental sustainability, though impacted by agriculture, cannot be linked directly to family ownership or farm size.


To address issues related to environment, social conditions and food security, focus should not be on the preservation of family farms but on transformations to strive for environmental, social and economic sustainability of farming in all its shapes and forms... 


Development pathways and trends in agriculture differ from region to region depending on varying agro-ecological and socio-economic contexts. Concerns have been raised regarding the impact of current trends on food security, environmental sustainability and rural livelihoods.

We conclude that distinguishing between family farms and non-family farms does not help in explaining trends in (economic) farm size. Also, farm size and intensity do not necessarily impact global food security... Environmental sustainability cannot be directly linked to family farming, nor to farm size or intensity... It is clear that to achieve sustainability in agriculture, all types of farms have to be considered based on their merits...

In developing countries, small farms persist where there are few off-farm employment opportunities, forcing people to stay in agriculture while rural poverty increases... Policies could help the small farms which are under threat of becoming economically unviable to adapt, for instance through cooperation or diversification within or outside agriculture. Supporting unviable farms may encourage too many people to remain in agriculture, stressing the importance of policies to support viable exit strategies.

In conclusion, it is doubtful whether a specific focus on family farming is either necessary or helpful... For the majority of family farms their survival will depend on transformation rather than reservation. Policies need to address the long-term economic viability of farming in all its shapes and forms.


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Is land grabbing always what it is supposed to be? Large-scale land investments in sub-Saharan Africa - Holmén (2015) - Dev Pol Rev

Is land grabbing always what it is supposed to be? Large-scale land investments in sub-Saharan Africa - Holmén (2015) - Dev Pol Rev | Food Policy |

The term ‘land grabbing’ has recently attracted widespread, and sometimes agitated, attention, and its literature grows at exponential speed. At the same time, the concept remains little understood concerning both its meaning, magnitude and consequences and even who the grabbers are.


Different attempts to define land grabbing appear to reflect ideological lenses and pre-defined positions rather than a genuine ambition to find out what is actually going on. Based on a comprehensive literature review, this article aims at presenting a more nuanced understanding of this disputed topic and therefore a less biased account of what land-grabbing and/or private investments in land represent... 


Governments in Africa are currently facing some harsh realities. Population prospects and low technology use call for massive investments in order to boost agricultural productivity. With insufficient fiscal capacity, and the low propensity of the domestic private sector to invest, it is tempting to hope for external solutions. If these materialise on a grand scale, there is an obvious possibility that the opening of Africa for foreign investors will result in a polarised agrarian structure with ‘islands of growth’, i.e. large-scale modern, well capitalised, mechanised and partly foreign-owned farming with an export orientation, surrounded by a ‘sea of poverty’ i.e. subsistence-oriented, low-tech food staples-oriented smallholders with limited access to credit, markets and extension... 


Sub-Saharan Africa still does not seem to be as interesting to foreign land-investors as many want to believe. The sub-continent is not overwhelmed by predatory foreign land grabbers. Instead, governments compete to attract investors. But it will be necessary to avoid investments creating enclaves of advanced agriculture that are detached from local realities... Consequently, there seems to be little need for quick foreign fixes. Instead, most critics of ‘land grabbing’ want to base development on the small farmer, which sounds immediately appealing. However, African governments are well aware that this has been tried before. Such policies became costly and ineffective... Governments do not expect much from the poor, semi-subsistence-oriented smallholder peasants, especially not since many tend to give up on longer-term strategies and concentrate on day-to-day survival.


Many critics of land grabbing (GRAIN, Oakland Institute, ViaCampesina) apparently want to preserve smallholder agriculture for its own sake. A pertinent question then is ‘How small?’ With the average size of a family farm around one or two hectares and subdivision of holdings a continuing problem, it is obvious that farm size has to grow and that many smallholders will have to leave agriculture. One should be careful not to romanticise smallholder agriculture. Africa needs development and development is about diversification. In this sense, those who criticise land acquisitions because they lead to concentration and ‘controlling a scale of land which is disproportionate in size in comparison to average holdings in the region’ completely disregard what development is all about.


AckerbauHalle's curator insight, April 25, 11:36 PM

Land Grabbing wird in den Medien als extrem problematisch diskutiert, dabei ist es oft schwierig zu definieren, ob es sich um notwendige oder wünschenswerte Investitionen handelt, oder tatsächlich um kritische Übernahmen. 

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Systems, food security and human health - Springer - Friel & Ford (2015) - Food Sec

Systems, food security and human health - Springer - Friel & Ford (2015) - Food Sec | Food Policy |

Food security is not just a food policy issue. What, when, where and how much people eat is influenced by a complex mix of factors at the societal and individual levels. These influences operate both directly through the food system and indirectly through political, economic, social, and cultural pathways – peoples’ dietary behaviours are a response to the broader daily living conditions in which they are born, live, learn, work and age. In this paper we propose that to address food insecurity and diet-related death and disease, policy must tackle the systemic problems that generate poor nutrition in all its forms, and reflect how our food systems are making people sick. This has implications for economic, agriculture, food, social and health policy at the global, regional, national and local levels... 


The accumulating international evidence highlights that the empowerment of all social groups and nations to achieve food security is influenced by conditions of everyday life – those daily social experiences; physical environments; financial resources, and material living conditions. Promoting food security also means tackling some of the fundamental political, economic and cultural influences on people’s living conditions and their local food environments.


Traditionally, societies have looked predominantly to the health sector to deal with its concerns about food and nutrition and diet-related health. Technical and medical solutions such as disease control and medical care are, without doubt, necessary for diseases of malnutrition but they are insufficient. Action is needed throughout the whole food system, in trade and investment arrangements; in matters of environment, income and place. Food security is therefore an issue that cuts across many policy domains including economic, social, environmental and food policies.


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The impact of grain self-sufficiency regime on regional welfare and agricultural productivity in China - Selim (2015) - Ag Econ

The impact of grain self-sufficiency regime on regional welfare and agricultural productivity in China - Selim (2015) - Ag Econ | Food Policy |

The nineties’ agricultural reforms in China that were aimed at deregulating the agricultural market eventually resulted in a huge drop in agricultural production and a high rate of inflation in agricultural input prices; this apparently motivated the government to introduce the grain self-sufficiency regime in 1998.

We examine how and to what extent this reform affected the productivity and welfare of grain farmers in China at the regional level. We find that the price regulations that destroyed the incentive to exert more effort adversely affected the growth in agricultural productivity but contributed to the growth in farmers’ welfare.

Although the price regulations resulted in short-term improvement in welfare across all the regions, in the long run such regulations can potentially result in larger drop in agricultural production because of its negative impact on the incentives to produce more.


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How does adopting hybrid maize affect dietary diversity on family farms? Micro-evidence from Zambia - Smale &al (2015) - Food Pol

How does adopting hybrid maize affect dietary diversity on family farms? Micro-evidence from Zambia - Smale &al (2015) - Food Pol | Food Policy |

Maize dominates as a staple food in Zambia, where the government has for many years promoted hybrid seed use in order to enhance the food self-sufficiency of poor rural families.


Despite the policy importance of household nutrition... [no] recent analyses... have related the use of hybrid seed to diets among smallholder maize growers. Previous research has demonstrated a linkage between indices of dietary diversity and healthy diets among women and children.


We... test the association between hybrid seed use and four indicators of dietary diversity: food group diversity (24-h), vitamin A diversity (7-day), food frequency (7-day), and frequency of consuming foods fortified with vitamin A (7-day).


Results are robust to econometric method and indicator: women interviewed in maize-growing households that plant hybrid seed have more diverse diets.


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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Better Infrastructure Would Cut Food Waste - WSJ (2015)

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

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

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

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Original report:


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

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

# Foreword: 


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Entire special issue:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


43. A scalable method for sustainable integrated aquaculture production.


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Global food security & adaptation under crop yield volatility - Fuss &al (2015) - TFSC

Global food security & adaptation under crop yield volatility - Fuss &al (2015) - TFSC | Food Policy |

Climate change projections raise concerns about future food security and needs for adaptation. While a variety of studies quantify and analyze climate change impacts at the level of crop yields, it has been recognized that changes in yield variability may have even more important effects on food security. In addition, large-scale analysis is typically based on different scenarios rather than providing aid to determine decisions that are robust across these scenarios.


We develop a stochastic version of a global... model integrating the agricultural, bio-energy and forestry sectors in order to examine food security under crop yield variability... 


Food security requires overproduction to meet minimum food supply constraints. This does not only lead to higher prices, but also to larger cropped areas associated with an increase in GHG emissions and pressure on biodiversity, as more natural areas are converted to agriculture. Trade liberalization and enhanced irrigation are both found to be promising adaptation channels for food supply stabilization.


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Have we achieved the millennium development goals? BMJ (2015)

As the deadline for the millennium development goals approaches, experts... take stock of the successes, failures, and oversights, and look ahead to the next phase -- the sustainable development goals. The millennium development goals are eight aspirational targets set by the United Nations (UN) in New York in September 2000... 

The progress made towards some of the goals has been remarkable... For example, child mortality has effectively halved worldwide, from 90 per 1,000 births in 1990 to 46 in 2013, equivalent to 17,000 fewer children dying each day. Furthermore, HIV prevention and treatment is now a reality and there have been huge improvements in education. In other areas, however, few inroads have been made... newborn death rates remain stubbornly static, while gender empowerment, and undernutrition lag behind for complex, interconnected reasons... 


With shortfalls in so many areas, the UN has developed 17 new sustainable developmental goals... with ambitious targets for 2030... The three targets of greatest importance remain women's education and empowerment, poverty, and warfare...


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Improving nutrition security through agriculture: an analytical framework based on national food balance sheets to estimate nutritional adequacy of food supplies - Arsenault &al (2015) - Food Sec

Improving nutrition security through agriculture: an analytical framework based on national food balance sheets to estimate nutritional adequacy of food supplies - Arsenault &al (2015) - Food Sec | Food Policy |

An analytical framework is described for assessing the nutritional adequacy of national food supplies and the potential for addressing micronutrient gaps by increased crop production and crop diversity. The micronutrient contents of national food supplies of three countries (Bangladesh, Senegal, and Cameroon) were estimated using data from national food balance sheets. Population-adjusted nutrient requirements and identified nutrient short-falls, defined as not meeting the requirements of at least 80 % of the population, were also estimated.


Linear programming models were used to determine a mix of crops that could meet the gaps the deficits of several nutrients while minimizing the use of additional agricultural land. Out of eight micronutrients included in the present analysis, six were identified as inadequate in Bangladesh and Senegal (vitamins A and C, riboflavin, folate, calcium, and zinc) and three were inadequate in Cameroon (vitamin A, calcium, and zinc). Adequacy of vitamins A and C could be met by increasing production of a few crops that are particularly dense in these nutrients (e.g., carrots or guava), which would necessitate only a small addition of agricultural land. Folate adequacy could be improved with increased production of legumes and green leafy vegetables, but with a greater requirement for agricultural land.


Some micronutrient gaps, however, would probably have to be met by other means, such as enhanced livestock production, food fortification, biofortification, or imports. Despite the limitations of agriculture to meet the entire nutrient needs of a population, agricultural policy should consider the potential to improve nutrient adequacy with the crops currently available and by crop diversification...


Bangladesh’s food supply is the most inadequate of the three countries studied; and the estimated prevalence of adequate intakes based on its food supply is <1 % for vitamin A, folate, and calcium. This indicates that the food supply does not meet the needs of nearly the entire population... Bangladesh had the least diversity in major sources of energy in the food supply and this reliance on one staple crop, rice, contributes to its low levels of micronutrient adequacy...


The analyses did not consider the effect of replacement of current crop production. If the amount of land is fixed, diversification or additional amounts of current crops will have to displace existing crops that may displace nutrients. In our analyses, we simply assumed that additional crop production would take place on additional land... it is clear that if a very large amount of additional land area would be needed to obtain nutritional adequacy, as is the case for Bangladesh, diversification would require a drastic change in the agricultural sector...


Some nutrient requirements can be met with additional crop production... However, other nutrients will need additional approaches to achieve adequacy... such as food imports, large-scale food fortification, biofortification, or greater production of animal-source foods... In addition, agricultural policy will need to consider appropriate means to incentivize additional production and consumption of the foods that are promoted, particularly if the crop is not currently produced or consumed in large amounts in the country. Despite the limitations of agriculture in meeting all of the nutrient needs in certain populations, agricultural policy making should at least consider the potential to improve nutrient adequacy with available crops or crop diversification... Greater focus on the feasibility of increasing production of specific crops, such as pulses and green leafy vegetables, which provide multiple nutrients, is also warranted


Alexander J. Stein's insight:

"In our analyses, we simply assumed that additional crop production would take place on additional land... it is clear that if a very large amount of additional land area would be needed to obtain nutritional adequacy, as is the case for Bangladesh, diversification would require a drastic change in the agricultural sector." >> So much for the populist Let-them-eat-cake argument (or rather Let-them-eat-carrots) that poor people who lack micronutrients should simply (cultivate somewhere themselves and then) eat more fruit and veggies. This might work out out for a few of them who have not only access to a bit of land but also to the necessary input and who have enough time to spare to cultivate a home garden, and the better for them, but it is probably not a general solution. 

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A Call to Look Past Sustainable Development - NYT (2015)

A Call to Look Past Sustainable Development - NYT (2015) | Food Policy |

The average citizen of Nepal consumes about 100 kilowatt-hours of electricity in a year. Cambodians make do with 160. Bangladeshis are better off, consuming, on average, 260. Then there is the fridge in your kitchen. A typical 20-cubic-foot refrigerator – Energy Star-certified, to fit our environmentally conscious times – runs through 300 to 600 kilowatt-hours a year. 

American diplomats are upset that dozens of countries – including Nepal, Cambodia and Bangladesh – have flocked to join China’s new infrastructure investment bank, a potential rival to the World Bank and other financial institutions backed by the United States. The reason for the defiance is not hard to find: The West’s environmental priorities are blocking their access to energy.

A typical American consumes, on average, about 13,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year. The citizens of poor countries... may not aspire to that level of use, which includes a great deal of waste. But they would appreciate assistance from developed nations, and the financial institutions they control, to build up the kind of energy infrastructure that could deliver the comfort and abundance that Americans and Europeans enjoy. Too often, the United States and its allies have said no.

The United States relies on coal, natural gas, hydroelectric and nuclear power for about 95 percent of its electricity... “Yet we place major restrictions on financing all four of these sources of power overseas”... “Most societies will not follow low-energy, low-development paths, regardless of whether they work or not to protect the environment.” If billions of impoverished humans are not offered a shot at genuine development, the environment will not be saved. And that requires not just help in financing low-carbon energy sources, but also a lot of new energy, period. Offering a solar panel for every thatched roof is not going to cut it...

Changing the conversation will not be easy. Our world... expected to reach 11 billion by the end of the century... will require an entirely different environmental paradigm... The “eco-modernists” propose economic development as an indispensable precondition to preserving the environment. Achieving it requires... a strategy to shrink humanity’s footprint by using nature more intensively... To mitigate climate change, spare nature and address global poverty requires nothing less, they argue, than “intensifying many human activities – particularly farming, energy extraction, forestry and settlement – so that they use less land and interfere less with the natural world.”

This new framework favors a very different set of policies than those now in vogue. Eating the bounty of small-scale, local farming, for example, may be fine for denizens of Berkeley and Brooklyn. But using it to feed a world of nine billion people would consume every acre of the world’s surface. Big Agriculture, using synthetic fertilizers and modern production techniques, could feed many more people using much less land and water.

As the manifesto notes, as much as three-quarters of all deforestation globally occurred before the Industrial Revolution, when humanity was supposedly in harmony with Mother Nature. Over the last half century, the amount of land required for growing crops and animal feed per average person declined by half.

Development would allow people in the world’s poorest countries to move into cities – as they did decades ago in rich nations – and get better educations and jobs. Urban living would accelerate demographic transitions, lowering infant mortality rates and allowing fertility rates to decline, taking further pressure off the planet. “By understanding and promoting these emergent processes, humans have the opportunity to re-wild and re-green the Earth...

This, whether we like it or not, would require lots of energy. Windmills or biofuels would put large swaths of the earth’s surface in the service of energy production, so they have only limited usefulness. Solar panels and nuclear plants, by contrast, could eventually provide carbon-free energy on a very large scale.

The new strategy, of course, presents big challenges. Notably, it requires improving the safety of nuclear reactors and bringing down their price. Solar energy at scale requires new energy storage technologies... Until they are developed, poor countries will require access to other forms of energy — including hydroelectric power from dams, natural gas, perhaps even coal...


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Expo Milano 2015: European Commission launches scientific debate on how to feed the planet - EU (2015)

The European Commission has launched an online consultation on how science and innovation can help the EU ensuring safe, nutritious, sufficient and sustainable food globally. The discussion is linked to the theme of this year's Universal Exhibition (Expo Milano 2015) "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life", which aims to go beyond cultural activities and open a real political debate on global food security and sustainability...  

The consultation will underpin the debate on a future research agenda to help tackle global food and nutrition security challenges. It will focus on the areas where the EU's research efforts can have the strongest impact, such as how to improve public health through nutrition, increase food safety and quality, reduce food loss and waste, make rural development more sustainable, increase agricultural yields through sustainable intensification, as well as how to better understand food markets and increase access to food for people around the world.


The consultation is available online for input by all interested stakeholders until 1 September. The results of the consultation will be published on 15 October, ahead of World Food Day, and will contribute to shape the EU's legacy for Expo 2015. They will complement the scientific programme taking place at the EU's Expo Pavillion, which will bring together experts and decision makers from around the world.


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Alexander J. Stein's insight:

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


Alexander J. Stein's insight:

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

AckerbauHalle's curator insight, January 26, 1:52 AM

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

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Renewable resources reach their limits - Helmholtz UFZ (2015)

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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Alexander J. Stein's insight:

Nor really sure about the implications of this article.


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


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


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


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