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Relationship Between Landscape Simplification and Insecticide Use Varies Greatly Year to Year - UC Santa Barbara (2013)

Relationship Between Landscape Simplification and Insecticide Use Varies Greatly Year to Year - UC Santa Barbara (2013) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

A new UC Santa Barbara study... shows that the statistical magnitude, existence, and direction of the relationship between landscape simplification –– a term used for the conversion of natural habitat to cropland –– and insecticide use varies enormously year to year. While there was a positive relationship in 2007 –– more simplified landscapes received more insecticides –– it is absent or reversed in all previous years... 

 

According to Larsen, the increase in agricultural production over the past four to five decades has corresponded to massive changes in land use often resulting in large scale monocultures separated by small fragments of natural land. Ecological theory suggests that these simplified landscapes should have more insect pest problems due to the lack of natural enemies and the increased size and connectivity of crop-food resources.

 

"There is a debate currently in ecology about what the most efficient land use policy for agricultural production is," said Larsen. "Some think that complex landscapes are better, that they have minimal effect on the environment, in which case we'd need to grow over a larger area. Others think that we should grow in a concentrated area and preserve what isn't in agricultural production. This land sparing-land sharing debate is getting a lot of attention. My study results don't support either land sharing or land sparing. They just show that we don't really understand how either of those policies will affect insecticide use." ... 

 

"It would be very difficult to inform policy questions, such as land sparing or land sharing in terms of insecticide use, if the relationship between landscape simplification and insecticide use flip flops year to year," concluded Larsen. "These varied results make it hard to say a complex landscape is better or a simplified landscape is better. My next step would be to try to unlock what's behind that variation." 

 

Orignal study: http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1301900110

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

Sustainable intensification of agriculture, a hot topic. 

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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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Global Food Security 2030: Assessing Trends in View of Guiding Future EU Policies - JRC (2015)

Global Food Security 2030: Assessing Trends in View of Guiding Future EU Policies - JRC (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Despite its multifaceted nature, the debate surrounding food security over the last few decades has largely focused on production and on the challenges facing the agricultural system. Food security has also been directly associated with hunger, poverty and humanitarian aspects.

 

Although agriculture and fisheries are fundamental and essential components of the food system, it is misguided to address the future of food security without looking at the system's many other determinants... The JRC Foresight on Global Food Security 2030 brought together a group of experts and stakeholders to develop a vision for food security in 2030. This vision was then challenged in a test of resilience to unexpected occurrences and/or underestimated trends. The entire process was designed to establish a structured and inclusive discussion that could be useful for guiding future EU policies.

 

This report shows that it is essential for Europe to move towards an integrated examination of a much broader landscape. By 2030 and beyond, food security will increasingly be considered as securing food supply in response to changing and growing global demand. Food security is not only a global and systemic challenge, but also an opportunity for the EU to play a role in innovation, trade, health, wealth generation and geopolitics. Better coordination and coherence at EU level are necessary in order to move from a food-security to a food-systems approach... 

 

Vision 2030 foresees a significant reduction in the relative number of undernourished people and that food security will be guaranteed on a sustainable basis via:

 

• The significant transformation of agriculture production systems (through investments, research and training);

 

• Maintenance of an adequate enabling environment in rural areas (rural development);

 

• A food system where production and consumption are balanced between local, regional and global levels (markets and trade); and

 

• A largely demand-driven food system where responsible consumer behaviour shapes sustainable objectives.

 

Current EU food security policies and initiatives are largely in line with the first two key features... These interventions put smallholder farmers in the most food-insecure regions at the centre of the strategies and rely on the transformation of their activities into competitive and sustainable agribusinesses.

 

This will lead to the achievement of three objectives: 1) ensuring food security; 2) escaping the poverty trap; and 3) fostering the sustainable use of natural resources. Within this approach, global food markets are seen as new and fruitful opportunities for smallholder farming, as long as infrastructure, risk-management mechanisms and information systems are put in place. A special focus on nutrition is maintained and attention is paid to coordination between public and private stakeholders...

 

https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/publication/eur-scientific-and-technical-research-reports/global-food-security-2030-assessing-trends-view-guiding-future-eu-policies

 

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Meat Food Waste has Greater Negative Environmental Impact Than Vegetable Waste - Univ Missouri (2015)

Meat Food Waste has Greater Negative Environmental Impact Than Vegetable Waste - Univ Missouri (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Approximately 31 percent of food produced in the U.S., or 133 billion pounds of food worth $162 billion, was wasted in 2011... Now... researchers have found that the type of food wasted has a significant impact on the environment. Although less meat is wasted (on average) compared to fruits and vegetables, the researchers found that significantly more energy is used in the production of meat compared to the production of vegetables. This wasted energy is usually in the form of resources that can have negative impacts on the surrounding environment, such as diesel fuel or fertilizer being released into the environment.

“While many of us are concerned about food waste, we also need to consider the resources that are wasted when we throw away edible food... Farm equipment used to feed and maintain livestock and plant and harvest crops uses a lot of diesel fuel and other utilities from fossil fuels. When people waste meat, these fuels, as well as fertilizers, are also wasted. Based on our study, we recommend that people and institutions be more conscious of not only the amount but the types of food being wasted.”

During the study, pre- and post-consumer food waste was collected from four all-you-care-to-eat dining facilities over three months in 2014... created a detailed inventory of the specific types of food waste: meat, vegetables or starches. The food waste also was categorized as either edible or inedible (peels and ends of fruits and vegetables).

Once the food waste was categorized... research team analyzed greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting from fertilizer use, vehicle transportation, and utility use on the farm. GHG emission estimates were measured from cradle (land preparation or animal birth) to farm gate (when the grain or animal was sent to a processing facility). Previous studies have shown that the majority of GHG emissions occur in the production stages prior to the farm products’ leaving the farm.

“Based on the findings, we recommend consumers pay special attention to avoiding waste when purchasing and preparing meat; if consumers choose to prepare extra food ‘just in case,’ they should use plant-based foods”... Future research should... improve production as well as ordering decisions to reduce food waste and corresponding GHG emissions.

 

http://munews.missouri.edu/news-releases/2015/0812-meat-food-waste-has-greater-negative-environmental-impact-than-vegetable-waste/

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1742170515000071

 

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Average EU consumer wastes 16% of food, most of which could be avoided - JRC (2015)

Average EU consumer wastes 16% of food, most of which could be avoided - JRC (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

A new study... has estimated that Europeans waste an average of 123 kg [food] per capita annually, or 16% of all food reaching consumers. Almost 80% (97 kg) is avoidable as it is edible food. Averaged for all EU citizens, this translates into 47 million tonnes of avoidable food waste annually. The... scientists... also calculated the water and nitrogen resources associated with the avoidable food waste...


The study... is based on data from six Member States... the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Romania, where consumer patterns are very different due to differing lifestyles and purchasing power.

 

Consumer food waste consists of food waste at the household level (which is the major part) and food waste in the catering sector (e.g. restaurants, schools)... 

 

The blue water – surface and groundwater resources – footprint associated with this avoidable food waste averaged 27 litres per capita per day, which is slightly higher than EU municipal water use. The green water – or rainwater – footprint, meanwhile, was 294 litres per capita per day, equivalent to the amount used for crop production in Spain.

 

The amount of nitrogen contained in avoidable food waste averaged 0.68 kg per capita per year. The food production nitrogen footprint was 2.74 kg per capita per year, the same amount used in mineral fertiliser in both the UK and Germany put together.

 

Vegetables, fruit and cereals are wasted more than other food groups as they tend to have a shorter shelf-life and are often over-purchased because they are generally cheaper than other product groups like meat. Although the amounts of meat wasted are smaller, meat accounts for the largest avoidable food waste footprint because its production is very resource intensive. In other words, a small reduction in wasted meat equates to a large reduction in wasted water and nitrogen resources.

 

In a world with limited resources, food security can only be achieved by a more sustainable use of resources, along with adaptations to our consumption behaviour, including the reduction or, ideally, the eradication of food waste.

 

https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/news/average-eu-consumer-wastes-16-food-most-which-could-be-avoided

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/10/8/084008

 

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Impacts of Supermarkets on Farm Household Nutrition in Kenya - Chege &al (2015) - World Development

Impacts of Supermarkets on Farm Household Nutrition in Kenya - Chege &al (2015) - World Development | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Many developing countries experience a food system transformation with a rapid growth of supermarkets. We analyze impacts of supermarkets on farm household nutrition with survey data from Kenya.

 

Participation in supermarket channels is associated with significantly higher calorie, vitamin A, iron, and zinc consumption... Supermarket-supplying households have higher incomes, a higher share of land under vegetables, and a higher likelihood of male control of revenues... Income and the share of land under vegetables have positive impacts, while male control of revenues has negative impacts on dietary quality... 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2015.03.016

 

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Graduating from destitution - Economist (2015)

Graduating from destitution - Economist (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The poor do not just lack money. They are also often short of basic know-how, the support of functioning institutions and faith in their own abilities. As a result... it takes “that much more skill, willpower and commitment” for the poor to get ahead. No wonder escaping extreme poverty... is so hard.

Even the most successful schemes to lift (and keep) people out of dire poverty seem to work only for some people, in some places, some of the time... What succeeds in one country may fail elsewhere, thanks to different conditions and cultural norms. And the poorest are often the hardest to help.

 

This dispiriting picture makes a new paper by Mr Banerjee, Ms Duflo and several others all the more striking. It claims to have identified an anti-poverty strategy that works consistently, based on a seven-year, six-country study of more than 10,000 poor households. The secret... is to hand out assets, followed by several months of cash transfers, followed by as much as two years of training and encouragement. That formula seems to have made a lasting difference to the lives of the very poorest in countries as different as Ghana, Pakistan and Peru.

BRAC, a big Bangladeshi NGO that originally came up with this approach... calls it a “graduation programme”. Given the many problems of the poor... it is useless to apply a sticking plaster to one while leaving the others to fester... NGOs... give cows, goats or chickens to poor people in developing countries, to enable them to earn an income selling milk or eggs. But what if the recipients are so hungry that they end up eating their putative meal ticket?

BRAC’s idea was to give those in the graduation programme not just chickens but also training on how to keep them, temporary income support to help them to resist the inevitable temptation to eat them, and repeated visits from programme workers to reinforce the training and bolster participants’ confidence. The economists studied schemes along these lines... 


The results were promising. At the end of the programmes, roughly two years after participants first enrolled, their monthly consumption of food had risen by around 5% relative to a control group. Household income had also risen, and fewer people reported going to bed hungry... The value of participants’ assets had increased by 15%, which suggests that they had not improved their diets by eating their chickens. Rather, each person in the programme spent an average of 17.5 more minutes a day working, mostly tending to livestock – 10% more than their peers... Even more striking, the programme had strong, lasting effects on consumption and asset values even for the poorest tenth of households it reached...

Perhaps most important, when the researchers went back and surveyed households a year after the programme had ended, they found that people were still working, earning and eating more... The researchers reckon that the graduation programme would have benefits of between 1.33 and 4.33 times what was spent on it... 


The costs of the schemes, which varied from $414 per participant in India to $3,122 in Peru, look daunting. But the help is intended as a one-off, whereas many anti-poverty drives in the developing world are never-ending. That makes graduation programmes cheaper than many of the alternatives. India, for example, spends about 0.3% of GDP every year on a workfare programme that reaches about 50m households. Reaching the same number of households through a graduation programme would be a one-off cost of about 1% of GDP... 

 

http://www.economist.com/node/21660133

 

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Has the Green Revolution Really Succeeded? - Columbia U (2015)

Has the Green Revolution Really Succeeded? - Columbia U (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Over the past 50 years, human population has more than doubled, but cereal-crop production has grown even faster. Mechanization, synthetic fertilizers, new high-yield seeds and other advances in intensified agriculture have enabled us not only to keep up, but to actually reduce world hunger... 1960s doomsday scenarios of mass starvation have not materialized... 

 

Quantity does not equal quality... researchers... point out that the plentiful cereals now grown are generally lower in nutrients per unit weight than old-fashioned crops. Farms are producing more bulk for more people; but many are still not getting enough macronutrients such as protein, nor micronutrients such as iron, needed for good health... Calls for more realistic metrics to measure and regulate global food supply.

 

The world’s cereal supply has grown by some 220 percent since around 1965, well outpacing a concurrent 130 percent population increase. This is due largely to intensified cultivation of just three crops:  rice, wheat and maize. In this time, the area planted in the big three increased from about two-thirds of cereal acreage to nearly 80 percent; yields per acre rose sharply as well. The switch came at the expense of other crops, such as barley, oats, rye, millet and sorghum; these collectively declined from a third of planted area to less than 20 percent.

The problem: many of the older crops carried dramatically higher counts of nutrients per calorie. Thus, the amount of cereal each person must consume to fulfill daily dietary requirements has gone up. For instance, the iron content of millet is four times that of rice. Oats carry four times more zinc than does wheat. And so on. As a result, between 1961 and 2011, the protein, zinc and iron contents of the world’s directly consumed cereals declined by 4 percent, 5 percent and 19 percent, respectively.

Cereals remain by far the major component of diet in many countries, especially in India and other fast-growing nations. And, despite the huge food supply... some 2 billion to 3 billion people are still undernourished, overweight or deficient in micronutrients. In North America, some 12 percent of women of reproductive age are deficient in iron; in west Africa, the figure is 50 percent. It should be pointed out that this is not all due to lower-nutrient crops; starkly unequal distribution of income and food is a major factor... 

“We need to use land efficiently to produce nutritious food – not just larger quantities of food... The current metrics of agricultural production tell us only the tons or calories per hectare. They just don’t account for nutrition”... more advanced crop metrics that include nutrient content would help promote food systems with mixes of nutritious crops, as well as biofortified crops and better management of soil fertility...

 

http://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2015/07/16/has-the-green-revolution-really-succeeded/

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aaa5766

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

"1960s doomsday scenarios of mass starvation have not materialized". Indeed, so the Green Revolution has succeeded in avoiding wide-spread famines and quite likely the death of hundreds of thousands of people. Of course, now that these people were saved from starvation, a next step is necessary to ensure that they and their kids not only not starve, but actually can have access to a balanced and nutritious diet that enables them to have healthy and fulfilled lives... 

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How Consumer Price Subsidies affect Nutrition - Kaushal & Muchomba (2015) - World Development

How Consumer Price Subsidies affect Nutrition - Kaushal & Muchomba (2015) - World Development | Food Policy | Scoop.it

We study the effect of an exogenous increase in food grain subsidy from a program targeting the poor in rural India and find that the increase in income resulting from the subsidy increased consumption of the subsidized grains and certain more expensive sources of nutrition, lowered consumption of coarse grains, the cheaper, yet, unsubsidized staple food, and increased expenditures on nonfood items but had no effect on nutrition in poor households. Estimates of the price effect of the subsidy on nutrition are also negligible; the price subsidy increased consumption of wheat and rice and lowered consumption of coarse grains. 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2015.04.006

 

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Africa's Rising Demand for Wheat: Trends, Drivers, and Policy Implications - Mason &al (2015) - Dev Pol Rev

Africa's Rising Demand for Wheat: Trends, Drivers, and Policy Implications - Mason &al (2015) - Dev Pol Rev | Food Policy | Scoop.it

This article analyses trends in wheat consumption and imports in sub-Saharan Africa since 1980, and estimates the economic and demographic determinants of this rising demand for wheat.


Results point to rising incomes, growing populations, and increasing women's labour-force participation as key drivers. Urban wheat-expenditure shares generally exceed rural ones and SSA's demand is met largely by imports and partly through domestic production on large-scale farms. Rising demand may therefore entail few farm–non-farm synergies and minimal prospects to spur broad-based economic development.


The article concludes by discussing policy options for African countries to meet their staple food needs while also promoting pro-poor agricultural growth. 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/dpr.12129

 

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Cutting carbon emissions could have indirect effects on hunger - ACS (2015)

Cutting carbon emissions could have indirect effects on hunger - ACS (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

As many of the world’s nations prepare and implement plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions... a new study has found... that efforts to keep global temperatures in check will likely lead to more people going hungry. That risk... doesn’t negate the need for mitigation but highlights the importance of comprehensive policies.

Previous studies have shown that climate change reduces how much food farms can produce, which could lead to more people suffering from hunger. Curbing the greenhouse gas emissions that lead to climate change can help maintain the yields of existing crops. But there might be indirect ways in which cutting emissions could actually put more people at risk of going hungry.

 

For example, some grasses and other vegetation used for biofuels require agricultural land that might otherwise be used for food production. So, increased biofuel consumption could negatively affect the food supply. Also, the high cost of low-emissions technologies such as carbon capture and storage will be borne by consumers, who will then have less money to spend on food...

The researchers used multiple models to determine the effects of strict emissions cuts and found that many more people would be at risk of hunger than if those cuts weren’t in place. The team concludes that governments will have to take measures, such as increasing food aid, as they address climate change.

 

http://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/pressroom/presspacs/2015/acs-presspac-june-10-2015/cutting-carbon-emissions-could-have-indirect-effects-on-hunger.html

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/es5051748

 

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Environmental costs of China’s food security - Norse & Ju (2015) - AEE

Environmental costs of China’s food security - Norse & Ju (2015) - AEE | Food Policy | Scoop.it

China’s successful achievement of food security in recent decades has resulted in serious damage to the environment upstream of the agricultural sector, on farm and downstream. The environmental costs of this damage are not only agro-ecosystem function and the long-term sustainability of food production, but also bio-physical including human health with impacts at all levels from the local to the global, and with economic loss estimates ranging from 7 to 10% of China’s agricultural gross domestic product (GDP)... 

 

Since the 1980s most of the environmental costs have been related to the intensification of first grain production stimulated by high nitrogen fertilizer and irrigation subsidies, and then vegetable production and fruit trees, with the overuse and misuse of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and manure being the dominant cause of eutrophication, soil acidification and high greenhouse gas emissions. However, during the last 10 years or so the expansion of intensive livestock production has become a serious cause of direct and indirect air and water pollution and is destined to be the main agricultural threat to China’s environment... Strategy should focus on improving nutrient management to limit nitrogen overuse, which is now the main cause of the economic losses from agriculture’s damage to the environment... 

 

The environmental costs of food production are at least US $32-67 billion and are equivalent to about 3-7% of agricultural GDP. In addition there are direct economic costs of the overused N fertilizers about US $5.5 billion (at wholesale prices). Some of the costs have been reduced by past policies, for example, the costs of soil erosion from cultivated steep slopes have declined over the last 10-30 years because of the Grain for Green programme and China’s extensive afforestation measures. But the largest costs namely those stemming from the overuse and mismanagement of nitrogen in synthetic fertilizers and manure have continued to grow and are projected to get worse... 

 

Although there has been recent progress in reducing the overuse of synthetic N fertilizer on crops this has not compensated for the increasing N losses from the rapidly expanding livestock sector.

There are additional costs that arise from the lost food production because of greater pest attacks and soil acidification... 

 

The largest proportion of this environmental damage (over 80%) arises from the serious N (and secondarily P) mismanagement in the crop and livestock sectors. This mismanagement is not sustainable... Strategy should be drawn up around the identification of environmental pollution hotspots so that technical manpower and capital resources can be allocated efficiently. In the case of N losses these hotspots will vary in scale. In the case of cereals some of the hotspots may be almost provincial in scale... 


The temporal criteria should focus on those measures that can be implemented and have their impact on the time scale of China’s Five Year Plans, for example, the removal of subsidies for synthetic N fertilizer production, and on the expansion of the mechanisation of precision fertilizer placement.

 

Finally, the dominant economic criteria should be the marginal cost of alternative approaches for pollution control. For example, integrated nutrient management (INM) measures to reduce GHG emissions are commonly less expensive than alternative actions in the industrial sector. Similarly, the reduction of N leaching by INM is a cheaper approach to achieving drinking water standards than specialized water treatment.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2015.02.014

 

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Investigating demand for biofortified seeds in developing countries: High-iron pearl millet in India - Birol &al (2015) - JADEE

Investigating demand for biofortified seeds in developing countries: High-iron pearl millet in India - Birol &al (2015) - JADEE | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The purpose of this paper is to explore farmer acceptance of a biofortified staple food crop in a developing country prior to its commercialization. The paper focuses on the hypothetical introduction of a high-iron pearl millet variety in Maharashtra, India, where pearl millet is among the most important staple crops.

choice experiment is used to investigate farmer preferences for and trade-offs among various production and consumption attributes of pearl millet. The key pearl millet attributes studied include days it takes pearl millet to mature, color of the roti (flat bread) the grain produces, the presence of high-iron content (nutritional attribute), and the price of the pearl millet seed... 

 

High-iron pearl millet is valued the most by larger households that produce mainly for household consumption and currently have lower quality diets. Households that mainly produce for market sales, on the other hand, derive lower benefits from consumption characteristics such as color and nutrition... 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/JADEE-02-2014-0008

 

 

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The Big Waste: Why Do We Throw Away So Much Food? - Yale Env 360 (2015)

The Big Waste: Why Do We Throw Away So Much Food? - Yale Env 360 (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

A glaring paradox of the U.S. food system is that while no country produces food as efficiently, no country wastes as much. Every year, 30 to 40 percent of what is grown and raised in the United States is thrown away or rots between farms and kitchens. That’s a startling 133 billion pounds of food – more than enough to feed the 800 million people worldwide who face hunger every day...

Washington, and the U.S. as a whole, has taken only minor steps to reduce this enormous waste and its related human and environmental costs. By contrast, Seoul has adopted innovative programs to minimize the amount of food that ends up going to landfills to rot... 

The environmental impact of our wastefulness is extraordinarily high, considering the huge amount of fuel, fertilizer, pesticides, and other resources needed to grow and transport food. And when it is dumped in landfills, decaying garbage releases vast amounts of methane. If global food waste were a country, it would rank third in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

The bounty most people in the U.S. enjoy has given rise to a culture of waste. “I think if you really dig down to what’s going on here... it’s that people don’t value their food.”

 

http://e360.yale.edu/feature/the_big_waste_why_do_we_throw_away_so_much_food/2874/

 

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Genotypic variation for seed protein and mineral content among post-rainy season-grown sorghum genotypes - Badigannavar &al (2015) - Crop J

Genotypic variation for seed protein and mineral content among post-rainy season-grown sorghum genotypes - Badigannavar &al (2015) - Crop J | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Sorghum is an important staple food crop of Asian and African countries. As a “poor man’s crop”, it provides dietary starch, protein, and some vitamins and minerals. Minerals are important for various physiological functions in the human body. As a major staple crop of central and southern Indian provinces, sorghum landraces are a source of supplementary micronutrients.

 

Concentrations of micronutrients and protein and yield parameters were studied... Univariate analysis revealed wide variation for iron, zinc, protein, and grain yield among the landraces. High estimates of genetic/phenotypic coefficient of variation, and genetic advances over the mean were identified... High heritabilities were also identified for yield and mineral content.

 

Correlation estimates among the genotypes indicated that grain yield was positively correlated with copper and protein with copper and zinc... The wide range of values with high heritability estimates may favour the use of these landraces in recombination breeding to improve nutritional quality in sorghum.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cj.2015.07.002

 

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World food supply at growing risk from severe weather - Science (2015)

World food supply at growing risk from severe weather - Science (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

In 2007, drought struck the bread baskets of Europe, Russia, Canada, and Australia. Global grain stocks were already scant, so wheat prices began to rise rapidly. When countries put up trade barriers to keep their own harvests from being exported, prices doubled... Just 3 years later, another spike in food prices contributed to the Arab Spring uprisings.

Such weather-related crop disasters will become more likely with climate change, warns a detailed report released... by the Global Food Security (GFS) program, a network of public research funding agencies... “The risks are serious and should be a cause for concern”...

To create the lengthy evaluation, dozens of scientists, policy wonks, and industry experts examined the global food system and its vulnerabilities to severe weather. They created a “plausible” worst case scenario: drought hitting four key staples – wheat, rice, corn, and soybeans – simultaneously... If such a calamity struck next year, it would likely cause the price of grain to triple...

The chance of major global crop failures of this magnitude will increase with climate change, as drought, flooding, and heat waves strike fields more often. To estimate the odds, the researchers turned to existing models of how crops respond to temperature, precipitation, and other factors. By 2040, severe crop failures... are likely to happen every 3 decades... The ever larger volumes of globally traded food raise the risk of large price shocks. Biofuel mandates... are thought to exacerbate the problem...

Hardest hit would be developing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, such as Ethiopia... where people would go hungry. Protests might erupt in middle income countries that depend on food imports, including Egypt. Consumers in rich countries, in comparison, would not see much of an effect on their wallets or dinner tables.

“Action is urgently needed to understand risks better, improve the resilience of the global food system to weather-related shocks and to mitigate their impact on people”... The committee recommends coordinated international action, such as creating an early warning system for price spikes, and improving agricultural insurance to help farmers cope with climate change... 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aad1621

 

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Environmental impacts of land use have been underestimated - SYKE (2015)

Environmental impacts of land use have been underestimated - SYKE (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Environmental impacts of land use have been widely assessed in recent years. In particular, carbon footprints of food and bioenergy production have been studied. Environmental impact assessments are used in decision-making... Surprisingly, environmental impacts of land use have been underestimated in the majority of the life cycle assessment studies... 

Land is required for various types of human actions, such as for food, feed, bioenergy and fiber production. In practice, all human actions including land use have an impact on the environment.

 

In the study, an extensive search of international literature was carried out. Roughly 700 life cycle assessment studies based on systematic selection criteria were reviewed and analysed in terms of their use of land-use reference state... Most often, the reference state was not considered at all, or was chosen to describe the current land use. “In other words, agricultural land was assumed to remain agricultural land, and forest remaining an unchanged forest”...

 

“However, land ecosystems are dynamic, and thus don’t function this way. Neither of the above mentioned reference states does consider the fact that land use for human purposes prevents the natural regeneration of the land towards its natural state”... For example, occupying land for agriculture or wood plantation prevents natural reforestation in many areas, thus resulting in foregone carbon sequestration.


In general, the choice of land-use reference state has been considered to be arbitrary. The new study concludes that this is not true. “The environmental impacts of land use can be coherently described only if the land-use reference state is natural regeneration”... The natural biomass production capacity of land depends among others on climatic conditions and land quality. In order to value the use of various types of land appropriately, the environmental impacts of land use has to be assessed coherently. This way the environmental impacts of various land uses can be compared to each other.


“For example, a managed forest is more close to the natural state than agricultural land cleared from forest. Despite of this, the concept of so called carbon debt is typically raised only when taking about the use of forest biomass, not the agricultural biomass”... Adjustment of the assessment procedure would be necessary to aid in preparing coherent strategies for example for land use and energy production.

 

http://www.syke.fi/en-US/SYKE_Info/Communications_material/Press_releases/Environmental_impacts_of_land_use_have_b%2834206%29

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11367-015-0947-y

 

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Adoption and Impacts of Sustainable Agricultural Practices on Maize Yields and Incomes - Manda &al (2015) - JAE

Adoption and Impacts of Sustainable Agricultural Practices on Maize Yields and Incomes - Manda &al (2015) - JAE | Food Policy | Scoop.it

This paper uses a multinomial endogenous treatment effects model and data from a sample of over 800 households and 3,000 plots to assess the determinants and impacts of adoption of sustainable agricultural practices (SAPs) on maize yields and household incomes in rural Zambia.

 

Results show that adoption decisions are driven by household and plot level characteristics and that the adoption of a combination of SAPs raises both maize yields and incomes of smallholder farmers.

 

Adoption of improved maize alone has greater impacts on maize yields, but given the high cost of inorganic fertiliser that limits the profitability of adoption of improved maize, greater household incomes are associated rather with a package involving SAPs such as maize-legume rotation and residue retention.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1477-9552.12127

 

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Food security requires a new revolution - Ehrlich & Harte (2015) - IJES

Food security requires a new revolution - Ehrlich & Harte (2015) - IJES | Food Policy | Scoop.it

A central responsibility of societies should be supplying adequate nourishment to all. For roughly a third of the global human population, that goal is not met today. More ominously, that population is projected to increase some 30% by 2050. The intertwined natural and social systems, that must meet the challenge of producing and equitably distributing much more food without wrecking humanity’s life-support systems, face a daunting array of challenges and uncertainties. These have roots in the agricultural revolution that transformed our species and created civilization. Profound and multifaceted changes, revising closely-held cultural traditions and penetrating most of civilization will be required, if an unprecedented famine is to be avoided... 

 

Two views on the causes of, and future prospects for, global food insecurity are widely held. The first is that hunger is rooted biophysically because of constraints on how much food our environments can produce, and demographically because of the ultimate impossibility of feeding ever-increasing numbers of people... The second view asserts that the problem of hunger is one of access; sufficient food is, or can be, produced, but its production is not distributed equitably and the hungry do not have the wealth to obtain it. In this view, future food security is attainable, even with a global population that grows to 10 billion or more over the course of this century... We argue that these two general views are entwined. In particular, biophysical and demographic factors not only degrade the environment but also hinder society’s capacity to create the structures of governance and economics that will be necessary if society is to solve the problems of access and distribution... 

 

It is ironic that population pressure and climate change may both have been important factors in the evolution of agriculture, and today both are deeply involved in the nutritional fate of our species. In principle we are optimistic that the necessary increases in production could be attained, although likely with high environmental costs, but it would require an effort equivalent to a global Marshall Plan. Even that would likely not be sufficient without dramatic changes in norms related to the global economic system and especially toward population and economic growth and the emphasis on profits for the few. We admit that our personal view is that such change is nearly impossible, especially since we see little sign of recognition of the need for... even the most obvious of the goals such as a rapid transition away from the use of fossil fuels. It is encouraging that fertility rates are mostly declining throughout the world, but... this is not nearly fast enough. There is no humane scenario in which population size can decline to a possibly sustainable level (perhaps 2 billion people) in less than a couple of centuries... 

 

But events like the civil rights revolution in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s and collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 show that, when the time is ripe, sudden change is possible even when seemingly very unlikely, You can be sure complex adaptive systems will produce emergent properties, and they are not necessarily all bad. What is obvious to us is, however, that if humanity is to avoid a calamitous loss of food security, a fast, society-pervading sea change as dramatic as the first agricultural revolution will be required – and one where the consequences will be carefully considered. Will change be sufficiently great not just in food getting, but in human demographics, consumption patterns, especially in the energy sector, and in norms? For the new revolution to succeed the changes will both require, and help promote synergistically, new forms of governance and of economic relationships. And only then might the resulting nutritional bounty be equitably shared over the planet.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00207233.2015.1067468

 

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How to Write the World’s To-Do List - New Yorker (2015)

How to Write the World’s To-Do List - New Yorker (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

In 2000, the United Nations... established a series of eight goals to help the world’s poorest people. The Millennium Development Goals, as they were known, were an attempt to address the most basic requirements of human life: reducing the child-mortality rate by two-thirds, reversing the course of the AIDS epidemic, vastly increasing the number of people with regular access to safe drinking water. Other targets sought to move closer to a world without poverty or hunger, in which common diseases have been defeated – a world with universal primary education, gender equality, improved maternal health, and environmental sustainability.

Taken together, the M.D.G.s, which were meant to be completed by the end of this year, can be regarded as the largest collective promise that the world’s governments have ever made to their citizens... Depending upon how one interprets the words in the goals, progress has been mixed. We have not been able to halve the number of people living in extreme poverty, for example, or to lower maternal mortality by two-thirds. And while improved drinking water has been extended to more than 2.6 billion people since 1990... more than six hundred and fifty million still lack access to safe water, and nearly a billion people have no sanitation facilities at all. Inequality has deepened between men and women, between rich and poor, and between much of the developed world and the poorest countries, particularly in Africa.

Yet goals are often a combination of guesswork and dreams. And it has become too easy to make the mistake of thinking... that we ought not to have bothered. There has never been more prosperity, possibility, or promise for a higher proportion of the Earth’s population than there is today. Fewer than half as many people live in complete poverty... as did twenty-five years ago. And although we did not reach the goal of reducing childhood mortality by two-thirds, there is no country... where infant or child mortality is higher than it was before... Between 1990 and 2013, vaccination rates rose dramatically, and mortality rates for children under five declined by forty-nine per cent... Today... a child born in one of the world’s poorest nations is likely to live longer than the richest Americans lived a century ago.

Nonetheless, as the M.D.G. deadline approaches, many people have been left behind. At least a billion people go to bed hungry each night. Millions of women are treated nearly as slaves, and a horrifying number still die in childbirth.

This September, the U.N. will meet to ratify a much broader set of targets – this time called the Sustainable Development Goals... Officially, there are seventeen new goals – and the environment... will receive much-needed attention. But with scores of countries participating in consultations, there are now hundreds of targets, sub-targets, and ancillary targets within the over-all goals. Whether one supported the M.D.G.s or not, it is hard to deny that they provided a focal point – and some sense of shame – for governments and N.G.O.s attempting to eradicate poverty. It will be nearly impossible to focus on the S.D.G.s in the same way because... many seem so broad that they will be easy to ignore.

“Having 1,400 targets is like having none at all, and so governments need to make some hard choices, deciding which targets will offer the greatest returns on investment,’’ Bjørn Lomborg... has written... He argues that the U.N. is diluting its power by attempting to eliminate all problems. He is undoubtedly correct. Costs in the S.D.G. plan rarely seem to be linked to benefits. “Of course, economics alone should not determine the world’s top development aims over the next decade and a half... But ignoring costs doesn’t make difficult choices disappear; it makes them less clear.”

Lomborg is often criticized for his focus on economic calculations – which, he has written, indicate that it would be less effective in the next twenty years to spend money on preventing climate change than on universal education, expanding trade opportunities, or cutting back on indoor pollution caused by poor stoves. In effect... feel-good categories such as those in the S.D.G.s will only create the equivalent of a series of ice-bucket challenges, referring to the millions of showy dollars that were raised last year to address A.L.S. – a terrible disease, but one that afflicts relatively few people.

 

For years, we have had tools such as the disability-adjusted life year (DALY), which was created in the early nineteen-nineties, by the World Bank, and has come to serve as the standard measure for assessing the burden of a disease. In the past, the impact of any illness – the common cold, cancer, and everything in between – was usually evaluated on the basis of how likely it was to kill you. But life without good health also carries enormous costs for individuals, families, and societies. The DALY combines years of potential life lost owing to premature death with years of productive life lost to disability.

That sort of principle, which associates benefits with costs, ought to be applied to massive investments in human development. Unfortunately, we need to choose which terrible blights we need to prevent and which we do not. People hate thinking that way (and they hate those who write about it). Nobody wants to put dollar values on a disease, a treatment, a life, an ocean, or the future of a country. But feel-good virtue alone rarely succeeds, and, if the Millennium Development Goals have demonstrated anything, it is that this planet and the people who live so tenuously on it will survive only if we spend our money on programs that work.

 

http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/how-to-write-the-worlds-to-do-list

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

"That sort of principle, which associates benefits with costs, ought to be applied to massive investments in human development. Unfortunately, we need to choose which terrible blights we need to prevent and which we do not. People hate thinking that way... Nobody wants to put dollar values on a disease, a treatment, a life, an ocean, or the future of a country. But feel-good virtue alone rarely succeeds... this planet and the people who live so tenuously on it will survive only if we spend our money on programs that work."

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"That sort of principle, which associates benefits with costs, ought to be applied to massive investments in human development. Unfortunately, we need to choose which terrible blights we need to prevent and which we do not. People hate thinking that way... Nobody wants to put dollar values on a disease, a treatment, a life, an ocean, or the future of a country. But feel-good virtue alone rarely succeeds... this planet and the people who live so tenuously on it will survive only if we spend our money on programs that work."

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Africa needs streamlined regulation to support the deployment of GM crops - Atkinson &al (2015) - Trends Biotechnol

Africa needs streamlined regulation to support the deployment of GM crops - Atkinson &al (2015) - Trends Biotechnol | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Future food security in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) requires enhancement of its crop production. Transgenic crops with a poverty focus can enhance harvests and are available for staples such as cooking bananas and plantains. One constraint is optimisation of national biosafety processes to support rapid and safe uptake of such beneficial crops. 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tibtech.2015.06.005

 

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Think Twice Before Ordering Your Next Steak: The Grave Consequences of Meat Consumption - AlphaGalileo (2015)

Think Twice Before Ordering Your Next Steak: The Grave Consequences of Meat Consumption - AlphaGalileo (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

High consumption of livestock products could have serious consequences for people and the environment... the demand for livestock-based foods has soared over the last few decades... if left unchecked, worldwide meat consumption and production could lead to species loss, climate risks, poverty, and even social breakdown as large meat-producing companies continue to displace small-scale farmers.

“Over the coming years livestock product consumption could soar as more people become wealthier... A vital role for science is to inform and help consumers to switch to healthier non-livestock related diets.” As incomes continue to rise and urbanization continues to occur, meat consumption will continue to grow at an alarming rate... a “diet-altering awareness” is needed to placate both environmental and individual health concerns... 

“An important general lesson from this article is that the livestock sector has such deep and wide-ranging environmental and social impacts that the topic of shifting diets… should rank as one of the leading focal themes for sustainability policy.” Ultimately, efforts to moderate meat and dairy consumption must be made, or there could be grave consequences for the sustainability of both people and the planet in the not-so distant future.

 

http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=154524&CultureCode=en

 

What all of this adds up to is a paradox for sustainability science. One the one hand, the generic evidence of joint social and ecological degradation linked to meat and dairy production is overwhelming. On the other, there is huge structural resistance among the food corporations, the retailing outlets, and the regulators against addressing the connected approaches to information, moral guidance, price incentives, and health gains, linked to interfering with personal dietary behavior...  Sustainability science is understandably cautious about taking on an advocacy role for justifiable fear of creating antagonism, particularly where deep-rooted habitual behavior is concerned, and where social identity is cherished. 
What is at stake here is a deep conundrum. Diet is a function of habit, of social identity, of the history of personal relationships, and of the subtle manipulation of the advertising and food-linked industries over personal choices. What is particularly pernicious is the manner in which this manipulation is so pervasive and persuasive that it shapes values, behavior, and self-esteem... In the context of these “dark forces,” efforts to raise diet-altering awareness over the wider social and ecological repercussions of livestock production... for the most part have landed on stony social and moral ground. This conundrum is underscored by the tendency of researchers of global change not to change their own eating (and indeed air traveling) habits, so few provide the illumination of role models for colleagues and students. Ingrained cultural habits die hard and lead to political headaches. The smoking controversy took 45 years (initiated by massive denial lobbying and science brokering by the tobacco industry) to reach the stage where regulations were put in place to require smokers to inhale out of doors and further away from public buildings. Attempts to provide healthy food in schools failed completely to overcome huge parental resistance to create the conditions for more healthy food to be served in school cafeterias... The ultimate challenge of sustainability science is to grapple with these “dark forces” of interconnected self-replicating power and influence by bringing their moral and ecological dangers into the day-to-day public consciousness... sustainability science practitioners will have to learn to work with opinion formers, faith communities, educational leaders, and young people's role models slowly and purposefully to begin a process of moral reappraisal across the emerging citizenry of the planet...  

http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00139157.2015.1025644

 

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Is the world running out of food? - Economist (2015)

Is the world running out of food? - Economist (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Is the world running out of food? - Not in the short term. Stocks of grain and other foods are high, with another bumper harvest due in the northern hemisphere this year. Food prices have been dropping in real terms since a spike in 2011. The number of hungry people has been falling too, by 167 million in the past decade, chiefly thanks to progress in China and India. Yet that leaves nearly 800m, a third of which are in Africa...

But international bodies... are worried about the coming decades. The world’s population will exceed nine billion in 2050, with most of the growth in developing countries... The number of hungry people in sub-Saharan Africa will rise by a third... Food production will need to increase by 70%... Many trends are negative: new crop diseases, urbanisation, desertification, salinisation and soil erosion, which outstrips renewal even in developed countries.

That does not mean disaster is looming. Agricultural productivity is often shockingly low in “traditional” farming practices. That leaves plenty of room for improvement... Climate change will indeed hurt some farmers but helps others... GM crops (such as drought-resistant rice, heat-resistant maize or blight-resistant wheat) have huge potential.

Technology is only part of the solution. The food chain lacks resilience to other forms of disruption too, from political strife to consumer panics. Scandals about pollution (real or imagined)... can send food flying off the shelves. A new report by... the London insurance market, highlights the need for more innovation in helping farmers and food manufacturers deal with weather and other potential risks...  
 

http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2015/06/economist-explains-13

 

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Revised hunger estimates accelerate apparent progress towards the MDG hunger target - Butler (2015) - Global Food Sec

Revised hunger estimates accelerate apparent progress towards the MDG hunger target - Butler (2015) - Global Food Sec | Food Policy | Scoop.it

In 2012, the Food and Agricultural Organization released new measures of hunger data... These revised estimates of global hunger were not only lower for recent years than previously reported, but also significantly higher for 1990. Both changes have implications for the attainability of the Millennium Development Goal target... making it appear much more within reach. Implications are discussed... 


The global community... has for several decades measured and tracked world hunger. Hunger is most commonly defined as energy insufficiency (measured in kilocalories) rather than micronutrient insufficiency (e.g. of iron, zinc, Vitamin A or even essential amino acids). 

 

It is in the interest of the global community that these data be as accurate, consistent, reproducible, transparent and scientifically defendable as possible. Such estimates will enable policy makers not only to know the magnitude of the challenge of hunger, but also to accurately monitor short and long-term progress. In turn, the achievement of these goals would allow more accurate preparation of budgets, including for agricultural research and development, food relief programs and to pay for the infrastructure and to promote the social policies needed to reduce hunger and thus improve world health. Hunger measures also provide valuable “snapshots” of global development progress...

 

However... the accurate measurement of hunger... is fraught with difficulty. National cultures and external political forces may also influence hunger data, which can be misrepresented both deliberately and inadvertently. Errors are plausible because populations, including nations, can at times have collective motivations to both overstate and understate data. Overstatement of success in reducing hunger might gain international prestige, minimize embarrassment, or even be viewed as promoting national security. Understatement of success (overstatement of hunger) might help gain concessional loans or grants, in order to attempt to reduce hunger, poverty, or both... Finally... inaccuracies are still plausible, due to inadequate resources... 

 

Because these issues continually affect national data relevant to hunger estimates, the global aggregation of these data is also problematic...


There are issues other than data that are also relevant. For example, what energy intake is sufficient to not be counted as hungry? ... Should this intake only account for baseline energy expenditure, or include a buffer to compensate for the energy demand from infections... Should such minimum intake measures vary with energy demand, due for example to take account of differences in physical exertion to obtain necessities such as water or fuel, variations in climate such as from harsh winters, or the exertion due to living in hilly terrain?

 

Or, might a “catch-all” metric for hunger be developed that relies on anthropometry, such as age-standardised measures and distributions of height and perhaps weight and performance? ... Alas, it is not this simple. Most obviously, body metrics at any given age are not only a function of the factors mentioned. They also rely, substantially, on micronutrients. For example, a child may have ingested and absorbed ample calories over her lifetime, but still be stunted due to profound iodine or zinc deficiency. Furthermore, such measures, though certainly of value, would not solely be of hunger, at least not as most people conceptualize it.


Until recently, national hunger estimates have been substantially derived from the aggregation of reported “food balance sheet data”. These reflect national food production, adjusted for data for national food imports and export. These data are also problematic... Given the complexity of these issues it is understandable that periodic adjustments in the methodology used to measure global hunger have occurred and that such changes are likely to continue... 


Changes in the methodology of measuring hunger can affect not only measures for recent years, but may also alter the estimates of data that are more distant. Furthermore, changes to the estimates of world hunger for years long passed may not just have historical interest; they may also affect the magnitude of hunger targets that are still in the future, particularly if, as is the case, data are significantly revised for the period 1990-1992... In recent decades there have been three major global hunger targets, set in 1974, 1996 and 2000...

 

Changing the definition of the MDG food target only five years before the target date at the end of 2015 seems likely to have risked widespread criticism... In 2010, the Committee on World Food Security asked FAO to review its methodology for estimating undernourishment, including to incorporate analysis of the increasing number of household surveys. As a result, SOFI 2011 provided no updated data and none for years more recent than 2008. SOFI 2011 did, however, provide a table of world hunger data... These data were higher for the earlier part of the period from 1990 to 2008 and lower for the later years of this interval than earlier stated, but did not include the time following the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.


SOFI 2012 released the first estimates based on the revised method. These were updated in SOFI 2013 and 2014. The revised data show a substantially different pattern to that in SOFI reports before 2011... Of great relevance to the WFS and MDG targets the number for 1991 (1015.3 million) was over 20% higher than the nadir reported for this year, which was 830 million in SOFI 1999...

 

The main purpose of this paper is not to document the minutiae of FAO hunger data for their own sake, nor to critique the new hunger methodology (which may well be an improvement, though time will tell), but to explain, first, how the transformation of the 1996 WFS hunger target to MDG 1c made for a more attainable goal, and secondly, how the revised data since 2010 has made both the MDG and 1996 WFS hunger targets seem even more within reach...

 

The new methodology... most important is an adjustment for global food waste, resulting in the addition of over 100 million people hungry for each data point from 1990 to 1992 until 2009. Other modifications discussed include revised population data (e.g. for Bangladesh and China as far back to 1990) and different assumptions about the annual average energy intake cutoff, below which people are regarded as energy deficient. As time progresses, this component has become more important. In 1990 this adjustment added 12 million but by 2009 it causes a subtraction of 66 million people to the global total.

 

The revised energy assumptions have been criticized... Many people who are financially poor require a higher energy intake than those with more income, because they disproportionately rely on physical labor for subsistence. Even if they are not formally employed they also often require more energy for routine physical tasks such as fetching water and firewood. Many financially poor people living in hilly areas have limited access to forms of transport that do not depend on human exertion. As mentioned above, many have ill-health such as fevers and acute or chronic diarrhea, which also increase energy demand and can disproportionately harbor parasites (e.g. hookworm) and bacterial infections that rob nutrients and energy, even if they are ingested...

 

The FAO and the broader community that promotes development may at times have conflicting motivations. A key goal of the constitution of the FAO is to “ensure humanity’s freedom from hunger”. To do this, it must alert and motivate policy makers and national leaders to the size and needed reduction of the state of hunger in the world. While speculative, it is plausible that such concern creates an incentive to not understate the degree of hunger... 


The redefinition of hunger used by the FAO since 2011 has made progress towards the MDG target appear better than was the case in the years leading to 2011. This progress has been widely reported, even celebrated. The official UN website currently states that “the hunger reduction target should be almost met by 2015”. There are two reasons for this apparent success. The first is better understood; it is the re-definition of hunger since SOFI 2011, which has led to a downward trend in the number of hungry, particularly since 2005. The second reason is the elevation, by 21% (117 million people) of the numerator for hunger for the important baseline period 1990-1992... 


In 2000, even though the 1996 WFS target was seen by then as too difficult, the new Millennium triggered renewed optimism and a suite of development targets... Then, as 2015 neared, interest in the MDGs returned. It was widely reported that much progress had been made with many key goals and targets close to being met, including MDG target 1a. However... MDG target 1c still seemed beyond reach. The apparent paradox of success with income (MDG target 1a) but failure with food, the other main objective indicator of poverty, received little attention... The two way revision in the estimates of the absolute number who are hungry, both in 1990 and more recently, has led to a substantial narrowing in the gap between the current number of hungry and MDG target 1c. This is heartening to the global community concerned with promoting development, presumably including to the FAO. 


This apparent success should not be accepted completely without criticism. At the least, the second reason here given (i.e. the increase in the baseline measure) needs to be clearly acknowledged. Despite the numerous forms of uncertainty described in this paper, one firm conclusion can be drawn. This is that, without the revision of the data reported in recent FAO reports, the MDG hunger target would now be well beyond reach.

 

The international development community concerned with improving human nutritional status is currently developing a new set of nutritional development targets to be captured in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It would be of value to have broad discussion and agreement within this community about the selection of the starting point for hunger in the baseline year (whether 2015 or earlier). Similarly, it could be argued that “moving the goal posts” mid-stream, which is one interpretation of the events described in this paper should be avoided... 

 

Looking ahead, numerous problems are apparent for global food security and hunger, such as persistent yield gaps, climate change, high and rising inequality, the high price of energy (despite its recent fall, which may not be long sustained) and the need to continue to convert non-agricultural ecosystems to ones that produce food and fiber... Given this context, the agricultural science community should continue their efforts to be responsive, transparent and critical.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2015.04.002


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Effects of food price inflation on infant and child mortality in developing countries - Lee &al (2015) - EJHE

Effects of food price inflation on infant and child mortality in developing countries - Lee &al (2015) - EJHE | Food Policy | Scoop.it

After a historic low level in the early 2000s, global food prices surged upwards to bring about the global food crisis of 2008. High and increasing food prices can generate an immediate threat to the security of a household’s food supply, thereby undermining population health... This paper employs a panel dataset covering 95 developing countries for the period 2001-2011 to make a comprehensive assessment of the effects of food price inflation on child health as measured in terms of infant mortality rate and child mortality rate.

 

Focusing on any departure of health indicators from their respective trends, we find that rising food prices have a significant detrimental effect on nourishment and consequently lead to higher levels of both infant and child mortality in developing countries, and especially in least developed countries (LDCs)... There should be increased efforts by both LDC governments and the international community to alleviate the detrimental link between food price inflation and undernourishment and also the link between undernourishment and infant mortality... 

 

High and increasing food prices can generate an immediate threat to the security of a household’s food supply, thereby undermining population health, retarding human development, and lowering labor productivity for the economy in the long term. Understanding the effect of a food crisis on nutrition and health is therefore critical for the development of public policies and social programs to help the vulnerable groups of individuals, households, and countries alike... 

 

Government health expenditure per capita has a negative relationship with infant and child mortality. The results also show that infant mortality in both LDCs and other developing countries may decrease with improved sanitation facilities. Thus, governments’ strong commitment to public health as evidenced by increasing health expenditure and improving sanitation facilities is crucial in improving child health in developing countries... 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10198-015-0697-6

 

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Agricultural Technology Choice and Transport - Ali &al (2015) - SSRN

Agricultural Technology Choice and Transport - Ali &al (2015) - SSRN | Food Policy | Scoop.it

This paper addresses an old and recurring theme in development economics: the slow adoption of new technologies by farmers in many developing countries. The paper explores... the link between market access and the incentives to adopt a new technology...

 

The paper... uses spatially disaggregated agricultural production data... for Nigeria. The model is used to estimate the impact of transport costs on crop production, the adoption of modern technologies, and the differential impact on returns of modern versus traditional farmers... 


Road survey data are combined with geographic information road network data to generate the most thorough and accurate road network available. With these data and the Highway Development Management Model, minimum travel costs from each location to the market are computed...

 

Transportation costs are critical in determining technology choices, with a greater responsiveness among farmers who adopt modern technologies, and at times a perverse (negative) response to lower transport costs among those who employ more traditional techniques... The constraints to the adoption of modern technologies and access to markets are interconnected, and so should be targeted jointly.

http://ssrn.com/abstract=2607772

 

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World hunger falls to under 800 million, eradication is next goal - FAO (2015)

World hunger falls to under 800 million, eradication is next goal - FAO (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The number of hungry people in the world has dropped to 795 million – 216 million fewer than in 1990-92 – or around one person out of every nine, according to the latest edition of the annual UN hunger report. In the developing regions, the prevalence of undernourishment - which measures the proportion of people who are unable to consume enough food for an active and healthy life – has declined to 12.9 percent of the population, down from 23.3 percent a quarter of a century ago...

A majority – 72 out of 129 – of the countries monitored by FAO have achieved the Millennium Development Goal target of halving the prevalence of undernourishment by 2015, with developing regions as a whole missing the target by a small margin. In addition, 29 countries have met the more ambitious goal laid out at the World Food Summit in 1996, when governments committed to halving the absolute number of undernourished people by 2015.

"The near-achievement of the MDG hunger targets shows us that we can indeed eliminate the scourge of hunger in our lifetime. We must be the Zero Hunger generation. That goal should be mainstreamed into all policy interventions and at the heart of the new sustainable development agenda to be established this year," said FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva.

"If we truly wish to create a world free from poverty and hunger, then we must make it a priority to invest in the rural areas of developing countries where most of the world's poorest and hungriest people live," said IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze. "We must work to create a transformation in our rural communities so they provide decent jobs, decent conditions and decent opportunities. We must invest in rural areas so that our nations can have balanced growth and so that the three billion people who live in rural areas can fulfil their potential."

"Men, women and children need nutritious food every day to have any chance of a free and prosperous future. Healthy bodies and minds are fundamental to both individual and economic growth, and that growth must be inclusive for us to make hunger history," said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin.


Progress towards fully achieving the 2015 food security targets was hampered in recent years by challenging global economic conditions.
Extreme weather events, natural disasters, political instability and civil strife have all impeded progress – 24 African countries currently face food crises, twice as many as in 1990; around one of every five of the world's undernourished lives in crisis environments characterized by weak governance and acute vulnerability to death and disease.

 

SOFI 2015 notes that over the past 30 years crises have evolved from catastrophic, short-term, acute and highly visible events to protracted situations, due to a combination of factors, especially natural disasters and conflicts, with climate change, financial and price crises frequently among the exacerbating factors.

 

Hunger rates in countries enduring protracted crises are more than three times higher than elsewhere. In 2012 some 366 million people were living in this kind situation – of whom 129 million were undernourished – 19 percent of all food-insecure people on the planet.
Yet, alongside these challenges, the world population has grown by 1.9 billion since 1990, making reductions of the number of hungry people all the more striking, the report says.


Large reductions in hunger were achieved in East Asia and very fast progress was posted in Latin America and the Caribbean, southeast and central Asia, as well as some parts of Africa, showing that inclusive economic growth, agricultural investments and social protection, along with political stability makes the elimination of hunger possible.  Above all, the political will to make hunger eradication a paramount development objective has fostered progress.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment in the world – at 23.2 percent, or almost one in every four people. However, African nations that invested more in improving agricultural productivity and basic infrastructure also achieved their MDG hunger target, notably in West Africa... 

 

In southern Asia, the prevalence of undernourishment has declined modestly, to 15.7 percent from 23.9 percent, but much greater progress was made in reducing underweight among young children.
Severe food insecurity is close to being eradicated in North Africa, with the prevalence of undernourishment below 5 percent, while dietary quality is of growing concern in the region, where there is a rising prevalence of overweight and obesity... 

 

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for how to improve food security, the SOFI report outlines several factors that played a critical role in achieving the hunger target.

 

First, improved agricultural productivity, especially by small and family farmers, leads to important gains in hunger and poverty reduction... 

 

Second, while economic growth is always beneficial, not least because it expands the fiscal revenue base necessary to fund social transfers and other assistance programmes, it needs to be inclusive to help reduce hunger. Inclusive growth provides a proven avenue for those with fewer assets and skills in boosting their incomes, and providing them the resilience they need to weather natural and man-made shocks. Raising the productivity of family farmers is an effective way out of poverty and hunger.

 

Third, the expansion of social protection – often cash transfers to vulnerable households, but also food vouchers, health insurance or school meal programs, perhaps linked to guaranteed procurement contracts with local farmers – correlated strongly with progress in hunger reduction and in assuring that all members of society have the healthy nutrition to pursue productive lives.

 

Some 150 million people worldwide are prevented from falling into extreme poverty thanks to social protection, according to SOFI – but more than two-thirds of the world's poor still do not have access to regular and predictable forms of social support. Transfers help households manage risk and mitigate shocks that would otherwise leave them trapped in poverty and hunger. 

 

http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/288229/icode/

 

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