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Support to agriculture rising after hitting historic lows - OECD (2013)

Support to agriculture rising after hitting historic lows - OECD (2013) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Government support for agriculture in the world’s leading farming nations rose during 2012, bucking a long-term downward trend and reversing historic lows recorded in 2011... Public support to producers stood at an average one-sixth of gross farm receipts in the 47 countries covered in OECD Agricultural Policy: Monitoring and Evaluation 2013. The Producer Support Estimate has increased to 17% of gross farm receipts in 2012, compared to 15% in 2011...

 

The OECD sees a generalised move away from support directly linked to production, but finds that support that distorts production and trade still represents about half of the total. While OECD countries are increasingly de-linking support from production, emerging markets are relying more on border protection and market price support measures that tax consumers.

 

“With world markets for food and commodities buoyant and higher commodity prices expected to continue, the time is ripe for governments to credibly commit to wide-ranging farm support reform,” said OECD Trade and Agriculture Director Ken Ash. “Meeting the needs of a growing and richer world population requires a shift away from the distorting and wasteful policies of the past towards measures that improve competitiveness, allowing farmers to respond to market signals while ensuring that much-needed innovation is fully funded,” Mr Ash said.

 

This year’s OECD report examines the state of agricultural policy in 47 countries that account for nearly 80% of global farm output, including seven emerging economies that are major players in food and agriculture markets: Brazil, China, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Russia, South Africa and Ukraine. It shows that support levels vary widely, both across the OECD countries and across major emerging economies...

 

Some of the sharpest increases in farm support have occurred in countries that have turned their policy focus to self-sufficiency. The OECD sees only weak links between higher self-sufficiency and improved food security, particularly in less developed economies. Access to food would be more effectively improved by reducing poverty and developing safety nets, the report said. Multi-faceted efforts are also needed to increase investment, which would raise domestic production, improve access to imports (and to export markets) and create emergency food reserves.

 

Public investments for the sector overall should receive more attention. Innovation policy is key to improving farm productivity. Investments in research and development, technology transfer, education, and extension and advisory services have high social returns in the long run.  Expenditures on other general services to the farm sector, such as food safety and food quality assurance systems, also contribute to long-term profitability, competitiveness and sustainability.

 

Further de-linking of farm support and production is necessary. Even where a large share of support is now delinked from production, payments tend to be based on past entitlements or on farm area, and as a result favour the largest farms. There is considerable scope to re-orient spending towards specific goals such as those related to low incomes, rural community well-being and environmental sustainability. 

 

http://www.oecd.org/newsroom/support-to-agriculture-rising-after-hitting-historic-lows-oecd-says.htm

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

Key quote: "Some of the sharpest increases in farm support have occurred in countries that have turned their policy focus to self-sufficiency. The OECD sees only weak links between higher self-sufficiency and improved food security... Access to food would be more effectively improved by reducing poverty and developing safety nets.. efforts are also needed to increase investment, which would raise domestic production, improve access to imports (and to export markets) and create emergency food reserves... Public investments for the sector overall should receive more attention. Innovation policy is key to improving farm productivity. Investments in research and development, technology transfer, education, and extension and advisory services have high social returns in the long run." 

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Research is ‘no panacea’ for development, finds DFID - SciDev (2014)

Research is ‘no panacea’ for development, finds DFID - SciDev (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Research is “not a panacea” for development in low-income countries despite making “important and significant contributions to socioeconomic development”, according to an impact review of public research by the UK Department for International Development.

Evidence does not back commonly held assumptions about how research leads to change, for example by directly benefiting economic growth and the quality of higher education, the report says.

The lack of impact may be due to a poor interface between science and policy, and weak technology transfer environments needed to convert knowledge into useful products, it says. But it does add that funding research may lead to improvement of the skill base necessary for development and, to an extent, design of pro-poor technologies... 


It is also important to improve cooperation among donors, policymakers, communities and scientists in order to help governments make better use of research evidence... and in order to develop research relevant to individual countries’ development agendas.

The report... finds that public investment in research plays an important role in developing pro-poor technologies, especially in health and agricultural fields, but a lack of scientific capacity limits opportunities to commercialise advances.

The report says that, rather than driving economic development by generating new knowledge and technology, the value of research in LICs is often as a means of building human capital... As well as helping to fulfil the “urgent need” for technical and critical thinking skills, the report says conducting research can train experts who then advise decision-makers.

Furthermore, the improvements in human capital that research activities bring can lead to development through better appropriation of existing knowledge... “For LICs, the ability to take up and use knowledge and technology is a better predictor of growth than the ability to generate new knowledge and technologies”... “Unless there is sufficient capacity to absorb research results, no amount of research supply will have positive impacts,” it says... 

User-friendly formats such as fact sheets, policy briefs and job aids for practitioners must accompany the publication of traditional research reports or peer-reviewed papers... 


http://www.scidev.net/global/policy/news/research-is-no-panacea-for-development-finds-dfid.html

 

Original report: http://r4d.dfid.gov.uk/Project/60753/

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

"public investment in research plays an important role in developing pro-poor technologies, especially in health and agricultural fields, but a lack of scientific capacity limits opportunities to commercialise advances." 

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From hunger to food security: a conceptual history - Maletta (2014) - Univ Pacifico

From hunger to food security: a conceptual history - Maletta (2014) - Univ Pacifico | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Hunger afflicts hundreds of millions of people around the world. However, the very concept of hunger is difficult to define, and in fact the whole issue of hunger has been subsumed under the more comprehensive concept of food security. This paper retraces the history of this concept, from its original appearance in international usage at the 1974 World Food Conference, to more modern versions like the definition adopted in the First and subsequent World Food Summits.


Originally framed in terms of sufficient world supply of food, the concept of food security initially morphed into the aim of national self-sufficiency in the production of food, but later evolved into its current meaning centred on access to food by individuals and households. Under its more recent incarna­tion, and quite unlike its former meaning, it is recognised that international food trade is a key element for achieving food security. This and other conceptual transformations are revised through this paper.

 

http://www.up.edu.pe/ciup/discusionDetalle.aspx?idDet=3032

 

 
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Bigger Government Makes for More Satisfied People - Baylor Univ (2014)

Bigger Government Makes for More Satisfied People - Baylor Univ (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

People living in countries with governments that spend more on social services report being more contented... “The effect of state intervention into the economy equals or exceeds marriage or employment status — two traditional predictors of happiness — when it comes to satisfaction”... 

 

“Assessing the Impact of the Size and Scope of Government on Human Well-Being” ... analyzed data from 21 advanced industrialized countries collected by the World Values Survey from 1981 to 2007, with nearly 50,000 respondents... 

 

Conservatives and right-leaning political parties tend to champion free market capitalism and are critical of government intervention, maintaining it can lead to inefficiency and waste that hurts employment, wages, and economic growth. By contrast, left-leaning political parties and labor organizations argue for more intervention into the market to even out the ups and downs of the business cycle... 

 

“We assessed respondents’ subjective well-being using a very straightforward question: ‘All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days?’” ... On a scale of 1 to 10 — with 10 the highest level of satisfaction... 

 

Four measures of government policies were used...The study’s findings held true regardless of whether respondents were rich or poor. The researchers also ruled out alternative explanations such as an individual’s health, education level, and marital status as well as the gross national product and unemployment rate of the country that he or she lives in. 

 

"Are we saying we need a bigger government to be happier? No. Instead, our goal is to objectively examine the data and let people draw their own conclusions... If anything, this study is a conversation-starter about what role we envision for government in our lives and the advantages and disadvantages of government intervention into the market economy.” 

 

Countries ranked from most to least satisfied... included:

• Denmark: 8.20

• Switzerland: 8.10

• Iceland: 8.04

• Ireland: 7.95

• Austria: 7.95

• Finland: 7.82

• Sweden: 7.82

• Canada: 7.82

• Norway: 7.78

• Netherlands: 7.76

• United States: 7.61

• Australia: 7.58

• Great Britain: 7.51

• Belgium: 7.49

• Germany: 7.08

• Italy: 7.05

• Portugal: 7.05

• Spain: 6.96

• France: 6.85

• Greece: 6.67

• Japan: 6.63

 

http://www.baylor.edu/mediacommunications/news.php?action=story&story=145501

 

Original paper: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/sf/sou010

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

A bit surprised about UK and US being ahead of Germany and France in this study... 

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Why nutrition-smart agriculture matters - Devex (2014)

Why nutrition-smart agriculture matters - Devex (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The focus of agricultural policy should be to increase productivity, provide employment and reduce poverty. How often have you read or heard statements like this? I am an economist, and I understand this thinking. It has its place. But I will argue that the reason global food systems are failing is because they have neglected the most fundamental purpose of agricultural systems — to nourish people.

 

Today, more than 2 billion people are suffering from hidden hunger — most will get enough calories, which has been the metric for food systems thus far, but not enough vitamins and minerals. We know too well the global costs of this hidden hunger. We see it in women as they risk death during childbirth. We see it in a stunted child with a diminished IQ. And we see it in men and women too weakened by illness and poor immunity to be able to work at an optimal level.

 

We need to re-envision agriculture as the primary source of sound nutrition through the food people harvest and eat. This is a radical concept in the true sense of the word — returning to the root or fundamental purpose of agriculture... 

 

Agriculture must become nutrition-smart. Nutrition-sensitivity is not enough. Our basic food systems have to be optimized to provide the greatest amount of nutrients per square foot that can be produced sustainably, especially in the face of climate change.

 

Central to this is dietary diversity. Agricultural systems have favored cereals and grains, and vast productivity increases through numerous green revolutions have provided enough calories to greatly diminish the specter of famine. However, more nutritious foods such as lentils, pulses, vegetables and other orphan crops have not received the same attention; productivity increases have lagged. As prices of these nutritious foods have increased, the poor eat less of them. This is especially evident in South Asia, home to most of the world’s malnourished people... 

 

Three crops — wheat, rice and maize — provide most of the world’s calories. We call these types of food staples because they are staples for everyone, irrespective of their income. A rich businesswoman in Singapore eats rice every day, just as a poor farmer in Bangladesh does. But one way we can help the poor farmer, who is more reliant on rice for survival, to improve her family’s nutrition is to make sure the rice that she grows to feed her family and the community is more nutritious.


Since last year, the first high-yielding rice varieties in Bangladesh that are rich in zinc have been made available to farmers. Without enough zinc in their diets, children are at risk of being stunted. Over time, more productive, more climate-smart and more nutrition-smart varieties will be released regularly. In the case of zinc rice, there will soon be varieties that can provide up to 80 percent of an adult woman’s or child’s daily zinc needs, 35 percent more than ordinary rice varieties.

 

Other locally grown food, as well as fortified food and supplements, where available, can make up the difference, but we begin with more nourishing food that is grown at home.

 

How are crops such as zinc-rice developed? ... Nutrition-smart plant breeders scour seed banks for neglected and underused varieties that are more nutritious, but that have been passed over in the search for higher yields... they cross these underused varieties with the most popular high-yielding varieties that farmers grow. From the progeny... the best varieties are then selected.

 

Nutrition-smart plant breeders also work with nutritionists to determine the nutrient levels that must be bred into these new varieties to have a measurable impact on improving nutrition and public health. There is evidence that they work.

 

Nutrition-smart food crops are being evaluated or have been released in more than 30 countries... These crops are released as public goods so they are accessible to poor farmers. Furthermore, we are multiplying and delivering these crops to farmers, working with both private and public sector partners to educate farmers and consumers, and to build markets for these foods...

 

A few months ago, I traveled to Uganda... where I met some “biofortified babies.” Their mothers had been educated on the benefits of orange sweet potato over white and yellow ones. These nutrition-smart mothers knew what vitamin A is and why it is crucial to their children’s health. They knew that an ice cream-size scoop of OSP could provide their children with their full daily vitamin A needs. They grew OSP alongside traditional varieties and other food crops and also knew that mangoes, leafy greens and other types of food are good sources of vitamin A. Their awareness and consumption of more nutritious food has increased. And the most important outcome? They have better nourished and healthier babies and children. This is what we are after. 


https://www.devex.com/news/why-nutrition-smart-agriculture-matters-84050


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Three ways to engage science with development governance - SciDev.Net (2014)

Three ways to engage science with development governance - SciDev.Net (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The science community’s plaintive cries for policy attention signal a familiar problem that demands new approaches. 

SciDev.Net was essentially set up in response to a problematic relationship between governance and science: there were few links between the management of public goods in global development — health and education, for instance — and the learning and opportunities that scientific research and technology can offer.

Our preoccupation with this problem... has also given rise to a particular type of headline — what might be referred to as the plaintive cry of science for policy attention... One such... story: Science struggles to see its place in final drafting of SDGs. It suggests that opportunities for scientists to influence the Sustainable Development Goals are now limited as targets that should be determined by scientific evidence are being left to political expediency — despite some compelling evidence...


Interestingly, the story makes clear that the international community regards the science community much like the rest of civil society, which has opportunities to lobby. But scientists have much less capacity for and experience of lobbying as a group... 

A big part of the problem is that science is particularly ill-suited for politics... The chief scientific advisor at the UK Department for International Development, emphasised the difference between the technical professionals who implement policy and the officials who ratify it. Indeed, he said, we see these roles as interchangeable at our peril — who would want a politician to build a bridge? ... 


So what to do? There are three ways to look at this challenge... 


Jeffrey Sachs, head of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, was optimistic about science’s potential role in the negotiations. He... saw science as providing the framework that underpinned the ‘zero draft’ SDG document, drawing on such concepts as planetary boundaries and the Anthropocene era. He also saw that document as a structural map presenting organising principles for mobilising and allocating scientific input... This speaks to the value of looking for various forms of influence...

 

Whitty looked more specifically at the political economy within which development policy operates — and this is the second way to examine the science-based policy challenge. He encouraged scientists to build allegiances with economists, observing that most senior civil servants are trained economists... 

Indeed, SciDev.Net’s research has previously signalled this call for more socioeconomic analysis in science stories. And, arguably, an economics module designed for scientists should be a key element of a quality research education... 


Finally, we could learn from the Rose hypothesis... In the context of science-based policy, this means making the public more science-literate, as opposed to providing high-level access to policymakers for selected scientists. The rationale here is the same as with any other issue: politicians set national agendas, and budgets, according to what they see is exercising voters... 

Complex systems such as the way policy operates in our societies would suggest that, to have impact, the scientific community needs to use every tactic. The complexity also means that no single approach will work everywhere.


The first step then, is to discourage the scientific community from viewing their exclusion as inevitable and insurmountable. Instead, the aim should be to inspire ingenuity and confidence. We can do this by celebrating the stories where science has made a difference in public decision-making, even if, at first, there appears little to celebrate... 

 

http://www.scidev.net/global/policy/editorials/engage-science-development-governance.html

 

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Cassava flour in bread and confectionery - IITA (2014)

Cassava flour in bread and confectionery - IITA (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is supporting the inclusion of cassava flour in bread and other forms of confectionery as part of efforts to improve food security and the livelihoods of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

 

This follows the launching in Lagos on 23 July of two projects under IFAD grants: Enhancing the Competitiveness of the High Quality Cassava Flour Value Chain (HQCF) in West and Central Africa; and Improving Quality, Nutrition and Health Impacts of the Inclusion of Cassava Flour in Bread Formulation in West Africa (Nigeria and Ghana).

 

The projects will, among others, support the generation, dissemination, and adoption of improved technologies for production and processing; develop and pilot-test a set of integrated best-bet options for HQCF production and promote market access to secondary products; and develop and promote appropriate evidence-based models for sustainable value chain development for African agricultural commodities...

 

Grown mostly by small-scale farmers, cassava is a source of livelihood for about 300 million people in sub-Saharan Africa. However, because the value chain is underdeveloped and the crop spoils relatively quickly after harvesting, farmers are yet to exploit the full potential in terms of livelihood improvement.

 

Recently researchers from IITA and partners successfully baked bread with 40% percent cassava flour and 60% wheat flour, showing bakers a window of possibilities. IFAD sees this inclusion as a major step that would address food insecurity, create jobs especially for the rural youth, and improve incomes.

 

http://www.iita.org/2014-press-releases/-/asset_publisher/CxA7/content/ifad-backs-cassava-flour-in-bread-and-confectionery

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

If the use of cassava can increase food security by helping poor and undernourished people increase their calorie intake that's of course a good thing. If cassava flour is poorer in micronutrients than other flour this would be a bad thing, though, depending on the trade-off. Another solution is, of course, to biofortify cassava -- whether through genetic engineering (BioCassava Plus) or through "conventional" breeding (HarvestPlus)...  

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Insects to Feed the World - Food Chain (2014)

Insects to Feed the World - Food Chain (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The conference brought together the largest assembly to date of stakeholders from all over the world to consider key aspects of collection, production, processing, nutrition, marketing, and consumption related to insects in a global multi-stakeholder dialogue. The conference marked an important step towards mobilizing the potential of insects as human food and animal feed to contribute to global food security and in particular to exchange information on the feasibility of mass rearing of insects to increase the availability of animal proteins in a more sustainable way... 

 

The use of insects as food and feed proved to be very relevant, mainly due to the rising costs of major protein sources for animal feed (such as fish and soybean meal), food and feed insecurity, environmental pressure, population growth, and the increasing demand for animal protein (meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, etc.) among the world’s rapidly growing middle classes.


The overall objective of the conference was to lay the foundations for continued dialogue, further research, evidence-based policymaking, and investments to promote the use of insects as human food and as animal feed in the context of food and feed security.

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Stunting: The Cruel Curse of Malnutrition in Nepal - IPS (2014)

Stunting: The Cruel Curse of Malnutrition in Nepal - IPS (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Durga Ghimire had her first child at the age of 18 and the second at 21. As a young mother, Durga didn’t really understand the importance of taking care of her own health during pregnancy. “I didn’t realise it would have an impact on my baby” ... It is late in the afternoon and she is waiting expectantly for her two older daughters to return from school. One is nine and the other is six, but they look much smaller than their actual age.

 

“They are smaller in height and build and teachers at school say their learning process is also much slower”... She is worried that the girls are stunted, and is trying to ensure her third child gets proper care... UNICEF explains stunting as chronic under-nutrition during critical periods of growth and development between the ages of 0-59 months. The consequences of stunting are irreversible and in Nepal the condition affects 41 percent of children under the age of five...

 

“Reducing stunting among children increases their chances of reaching their full development potential, which in turn will have a long-term impact on families’, communities’ and the country’s ability to thrive.”

Child health and nutrition experts argue that, while poverty is directly related to inadequate intake of food, it is not the sole indicator of malnutrition or increased stunting... the immediate causes include poor nutrient intake, particularly early in life. Fifty percent of stunting happens during pregnancy and the rest after infants are born.

 

“When we are talking about nutrient-rich food […] we are talking about ensuring that children get enough of it even before they are born” ... Thus it is incumbent on expecting mothers to follow a careful diet 

 

In preparation for her daughter’s feeding time, Ghimire mixes together a bowl of homemade leeto, a porridge containing one-part whole grains such as millet or wheat and two-parts pulses such as beans or soy.

“I was only using grains to make the leeto before I was taught to make it properly by the health workers... I had no idea that simple things like washing my hands properly could have such a long term effect on my daughter’s health”... Even seemingly common infections like diarrhoea can, in the first two years, put a child at greater risk of stunting...

 

Experts recognise the need to fight simultaneously on multiple fronts. “Our work in nutrition has proven again and again that a single approach to stunting doesn’t work because the causes are so many – it really has to be tackled in a coordinated way”... In 2009 the government conducted the Nutrition Assessment and Gap Analysis (NAGA), which recommended building a multi-sector nutrition architecture to address the gaps in health and nutrition programmes. 

 

“The NAGA study stated clearly that nutrition was not the responsibility of one department”... Thus, in 2012, five ministries in Nepal came together with the NPC and development partners to form the Multi-Sector Nutrition Plan (MSNP)... Interventions include biannual vitamin D and folic acid supplements for expectant mothers, deworming for children, prenatal care, and life skills for adolescent girls. On the agricultural front, ministries aim to increase the availability of food at the community level through homestead food production, access to clean and cheap energy sources such a biogas and improved cooking stoves, and the education of men to share household loads... 

 

The World Bank has estimated that malnutrition can cause productivity losses of as much as 10 percent of lifetime earnings among the affected, and cause a reduction of up to three percent of a country’s GDP... 

 

http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/stunting-the-cruel-curse-of-malnutrition-in-nepal/

 

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Fertilizer subsidies and food self-sufficiency in Indonesia - Warr & Yusuf (2014) - Ag Econ

Fertilizer subsidies and food self-sufficiency in Indonesia - Warr & Yusuf (2014) - Ag Econ | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Indonesia is a net importer of almost all of its staple foods. National self-sufficiency in food, especially the main staple, rice, is a core objective of economic policy. Poverty reduction is also a core policy objective.

 

Since the 1970s, Indonesia has used agricultural input subsidies, especially on fertilizer, to stimulate agricultural production, largely in pursuit of the goal of rice self-sufficiency. More recently, it has also used output protection, especially in rice, for the same purpose.

 

This article utilizes a multisectoral, multihousehold general equilibrium model of the Indonesian economy to study the trade-offs between the goals of self-sufficiency and poverty reduction when two alternative means are used to achieve them: a fertilizer subsidy, on the one hand, and output protection, on the other. It does this by analyzing the aggregate and distributional effects of these two sets of policies and by comparing their effects with nonintervention.

 

The analysis shows that, in terms of its effects on poverty, a fertilizer subsidy can be a more effective instrument for achieving the goal of rice self-sufficiency than final product import restrictions.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/agec.12107

 

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Climate: Meat turns up the heat - Carnegie Sci (2014)

Climate: Meat turns up the heat - Carnegie Sci (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Eating meat contributes to climate change, due to greenhouse gasses emitted by livestock. New research finds that livestock emissions are on the rise and that beef cattle are responsible for far more greenhouse gas emissions than other types of animals... 

 

Carbon dioxide is the most-prevalent gas when it comes to climate change. It is released by vehicles, industry, and forest removal and comprises the greatest portion of greenhouse gas totals. But methane and nitrous oxide are also greenhouse gasses and account for approximately 28 percent of global warming activity.

 

Methane and nitrous oxide are released, in part, by livestock. Animals release methane as a result of microorganisms that are involved in their digestive processes and nitrous oxide from decomposing manure. These two gasses are responsible for a quarter of these non-carbon dioxide gas emissions and 9 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions overall...

 

The research team... estimated the greenhouse gas emissions related to livestock... over a nearly half a century and found that livestock emissions increased by 51 percent... They found a stark difference between livestock-related emissions in the developing world, which accounts for most of this increase, and that released by developed countries. This [difference] is expected to increase further... as demand for meat, dairy products, and eggs is predicted... to double by 2050. By contrast, developed countries reached maximum livestock emissions in the 1970s and have been in decline since that time.

 

“The developing world is getting better at reducing greenhouse emissions caused by each animal, but this improvement is not keeping up with the increasing demand for meat... As a result, greenhouse gas emissions from livestock keep going up and up in much of the developing world.”

 

Breaking it down by animal, beef and dairy cattle comprised 74 percent of livestock-related greenhouse gas emissions, 54 percent coming from beef cattle and 17 percent from dairy cattle. Part of this is due to the abundance of cows, but it is also because cattle emit greater quantities of methane and nitrous oxide than other animals. Sheep comprised 9 percent, buffalo 7 percent, pigs 5 percent, and goats 4 percent.

“That tasty hamburger is the real culprit... It might be better for the environment if we all became vegetarians, but a lot of improvement could come from eating pork or chicken instead of beef.”

 

https://carnegiescience.edu/news/climate_meat_turns_heat

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10584-014-1197-x

 

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Water Resources and Food Security - Ringler & Zhu (2014) - Agronomy J

Agricultural water use includes a continuum from purely rainfed to fully irrigated systems. Growing pressures on limited water supplies from domestic, industrial, and environmental uses will likely lead to a decline in water availability for food production. Similarly, income growth and urbanization lead to dietary shifts that require more water resources per calorie consumed, putting further pressures on water supplies. As a result, semiarid and arid countries continue to increase net imports of food. Crop water use for sugarcane, maize, soybean, and fruits are expected to grow over time, whereas water use for wheat and rice are expected to decline after 2030.

 

These projections include substantial improvements in water use efficiency at the field, farm, and river basin scale over the coming decades in response to growing water scarcity. If these efficiency improvements are not achieved, future crop water demands would be even larger. Although water resources are a key limiting factor for future food security, policy and investment options to reduce agricultural water use exist on both the water supply and demand side; but political will and ingenuity are needed for their implementation... 

 

Water is essential for agricultural production and irrigation has been crucial for global food security and has contributed to significant crop yield increases and saved large land areas from deforestation. At the same time, the future of irrigation and all crop water uses are threatened... Food production will need to increase by an estimated 70% between 2005 and 2050 to meet growing food demands. However, under business-as-usual, this can only be achieved at higher food prices, reducing access to food for the poorest.

 

Much of the growth in water use for food production will be driven by the rapidly growing middle class in much of Asia, Latin America, and parts of Africa... per capita consumption of vegetables, meat products, milk, and sugars is increasing while consumption of cassava, rice, and maize as food is declining. At the same time, maize is increasingly used as animal feed with a much larger total water footprint compared with direct consumption of cereals... 

 

Key avenues to reduce the pressure on growing water scarcity for food production include increased water use efficiency at the field, irrigation system, and basin scale through regulatory measures, better institutions and management practices, and economic incentives. Although water pricing has been highly successful for reducing demand in the domestic and industrial water sectors, for irrigation, zero or very low levels of water prices are common... 

 

Other important avenues for water savings in agriculture include crop breeding toward more water-conserving crops, expanded use of water-saving technologies such as laser land leveling and precision agriculture, and development of new water resources, particularly through the construction of new reservoirs or better use of groundwater storage...

 

Importantly, all water-conserving strategies—be it new infrastructure, new crop varieties or other technologies, institutional change, or irrigation water pricing—have significant lag times and many are costly to implement. It is therefore important to work on these water-saving technologies today to enhance food security for future generations.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.2134/agronj14.0256

 

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Is Green Growth Good for the Poor? - Dercon (2014) - World Bank Res Obs

The developing world is experiencing substantial environmental change, and climate change is likely to accelerate these processes in the coming decades. Due to their initial poverty and their relatively high dependence on environmental capital for their livelihoods, the poor are likely to suffer most due to their low resources for mitigation and investment in adaptation. Economic growth is essential for any large-scale poverty reduction.

 

Green growth, a growth process that is sensitive to environmental and climate change concerns, can be particularly helpful in this respect. We focus on the possible trade-offs between the greening of growth and poverty reduction, and we highlight the sectoral and spatial processes behind effective poverty reduction. High labor intensity, declining shares of agriculture in GDP and employment, migration, and urbanization are essential features of poverty-reducing growth.

 

We contrast some common and stylized green-sensitive growth ideas related to agriculture, trade, technology, infrastructure, and urban development with the requirements of poverty-sensitive growth. We find that these ideas may cause a slowdown in the effectiveness of growth to reduce poverty. The main lesson is that trade-offs are bound to exist; they increase the social costs of green growth and should be explicitly addressed. If they are not addressed, green growth may not be good for the poor, and the poor should not be asked to pay the price for sustaining growth while greening the planet.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/wbro/lku007

 

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How existing cropland could feed billions more - Science Daily (2014)

How existing cropland could feed billions more - Science Daily (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Feeding a growing human population without increasing stresses on Earth's strained land and water resources may seem like an impossible challenge. But... focusing efforts to improve food systems on a few specific regions, crops and actions could make it possible to both meet the basic needs of 3 billion more people and decrease agriculture's environmental footprint. 

 

The report... focuses on 17 key crops that produce 86 percent of the world's crop calories and account for most irrigation and fertilizer consumption on a global scale. It proposes a set of key actions in three broad areas that that have the greatest potential for reducing the adverse environmental impacts of agriculture and boosting our ability meet global food needs. For each, it identifies specific "leverage points" where nongovernmental organizations, foundations, governments, businesses and citizens can target food-security efforts for the greatest impact. The biggest opportunities cluster in six countries -- China, India, U.S., Brazil, Indonesia and Pakistan -- along with Europe... 

 

The major areas of opportunity and key leverage points for improving the efficiency and sustainability of global food production are:


1. Produce more food on existing land. Previous research has detected the presence of a dramatic agricultural "yield gap" -- difference between potential and actual crop yield -- in many parts of the world. This study found that closing even 50 percent of the gap in regions with the widest gaps could provide enough calories to feed 850 million people. Nearly half of the potential gains are in Africa, with most of the rest represented by Asia and Eastern Europe.

 

2. Grow crops more efficiently. The study identified where major opportunities exist to reduce climate impacts and improve the efficiency with which we use nutrients and water to grow crops. 


Agriculture is responsible for 20 to 35 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, largely in the form of carbon dioxide from tropical deforestation, methane from livestock and rice growing, and nitrous oxide from crop fertilization. The... biggest opportunities for reducing greenhouse gas production are in Brazil and Indonesia for deforestation; China and India for rice production; and China, India and the United States for crop fertilization. 

 

With respect to nutrient use, ... worldwide, 60 percent of nitrogen and nearly 50 percent of phosphorus applications exceed what crops need to grow. China, India and the U.S. -- and three crops, rice, wheat and corn -- are the biggest sources of excess nutrient use worldwide, so offer the greatest opportunity for improvement.

 

With respect to water, rice and wheat are the crops that create the most demand for irrigation worldwide, and India, Pakistan, China and the U.S. account for the bulk of irrigation water use in water-limited areas. Boosting crop water use efficiency... could reduce water demand 8 to 15 percent...

 

3. Use crops more efficiently... making more crop calories available for human consumption by shifting crops from livestock to humans and reducing food waste. 

 

The crop calories we currently feed to animals are sufficient to meet the calorie needs of 4 billion people. The... U.S., China and Western Europe account for the bulk of this "diet gap," with corn the main crop being diverted to animal feed. Although cultural preferences and politics limit the ability to change this picture, ... shifting crops from animal feed to human food could serve as a "safety net" when weather or pests create shortages. 

 

In addition, some 30 to 50 percent of food is wasted worldwide. Particularly significant is the impact of animal products: The loss of 1 kilogram of boneless beef has the same effect as wasting 24 kilograms of wheat due to inefficiencies in converting grain to meat... U.S., China and India... reducing waste in these three countries alone could yield food for more than 400 million people.

 

"Sustainably feeding people today and in the future is one of humanity's grand challenges. Agriculture is the main source of water use, greenhouse gas emissions, and habitat loss, yet we need to grow more food... Fortunately, the opportunities to have a global impact and move in the right direction are clustered. By focusing on areas, crops and practices with the most to be gained, companies, governments, NGOs and others can ensure that their efforts are being targeted in a way that best accomplishes the common and critically important goal of feeding the world while protecting the environment." ... 

 

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140717141957.htm

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1246067

 

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Is producing more food to feed the world beside the point? - Grist (2014)

Is producing more food to feed the world beside the point? - Grist (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Imagine you are a small farmer in a poor country, growing corn and a small mix of other crops to support your family. One year a drought destroys most of your harvest, and suddenly you — along with everyone else in the region — face the threat of going hungry.

 

You were able to salvage a fraction of the corn you hoped to harvest. The question is, what do you do with it? You could keep it to feed your family. But processing corn takes an incredible amount of time and labor. And you can’t live on corn alone: You’ll need some money to buy other foods, and for the inevitable expenses... 


If you decide to sell some of your corn, where do you sell it? Prices are low in your region: Because of the drought, people can’t afford to pay what they normally do. But prices are higher to the north, where there was more rain and no threat of famine. The logical thing to do would be to keep some corn for your family and sell the rest for the best price you can get.

 

But this logic means that, when there’s threat of famine, food tends to flow away from where it’s needed most, into more affluent areas. Hunger creates a demand for food, but wealth creates an even stronger demand.

 

When I started... people began preemptively warning me that I was probably headed in the wrong direction. They feared that I would start by asking: How are we gonna feed 10 billion people without wrecking the planet? And then answer it by saying, well technology X can increase farm yields by this much, and technology Y can bump it up a little more… Instead of focusing on agricultural productivity, these people said, we should be working on access to food. We currently have plenty of food, and yet we still have hunger, even in the U.S. So how will increasing yields further help?

 

As Gordon Conway points out, in his book One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World? : “If we were to add up all of the world’s production of food and then divide it equally among the world’s population, each man, woman, and child would receive a daily average of over 2,800 calories — enough for a healthy lifestyle.” And Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, has demonstrated that famines stem primarily from poverty, not a widespread food shortage. “Famine has often taken place when statistics have shown little or no decline in food supply,” Sen wrote... The key to preventing famines, according to Sen, is to create government programs that move resources and ensure that everyone gets food... 

 

Does this mean that we can stop worrying about agricultural production entirely? Should we just ignore farmers, and instead focus on building democracies? Absolutely not, say the agricultural economists. “The way I learned it, as an applied economist, is that productivity is necessary, but not sufficient,” said Melinda Smale, a professor of international development... You also need the markets, the distribution, the governance, perhaps the egalitarian class structure, so that each person gets that bare minimum.

 

Since I quoted Conway saying that we have enough food for everyone, I should now also include his next sentence: “But of course, food is not divided in this way (nor is income), and it is unrealistic to expect it will happen in the near, or even distant, future.” Oh yeah. There’s that.

 

If anyone knew how to flip the democracy switch on, and the inequality switch off, that would obviously be the first step. But those are tough, slow problems. On the other hand, we do know how to increase farm yields... It’s worth noting that China, the country that’s done best in the past 50 years decreasing poverty and hunger, is not a democracy... 

 

Good agriculture can help with the project of achieving good politics. The primary reason to increase yields, Rosegrant said, is to combat poverty by providing more income to farmers. The fact that yields increase the food supply and lower prices for everyone is secondary... 

 

So people are absolutely right to say that — if you are concerned about hunger — farm yields are less important than politics and poverty. But it’s not an either-or proposition: A large body of evidence  suggests that improving agriculture is a powerful way to reduce poverty .

 

http://grist.org/food/is-producing-more-food-to-feed-the-world-beside-the-point/

 

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Feeding humanity through global food trade - D'Odorico &al (2014) - Earth's Future

Feeding humanity through global food trade - D'Odorico &al (2014) - Earth's Future | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The recent intensification of international trade has led to a globalization of food commodities and to an increased disconnection between human populations and the land and water resources that support them through crop and livestock production... 


Despite the recognized importance of the role of trade in global and regional food security, the societal reliance on domestic production and international trade remains poorly quantified. Here we investigate the global patterns of food trade and evaluate the dependency of food security on imports. We investigate the relationship existing between the trade of food calories and the virtual transfer of water used for their production.


We show how the amount of food calories traded in the international market has more than doubled between 1986 and 2009, while the number of links in the trade network has increased by more than 50%. Likewise, global food production has increased by more than 50% in the same period, providing an amount of food that is overall sufficient to support the global population at a rate of 2700-3000 kcal per person per day. About 23% of the food produced for human consumption is traded internationally... 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/2014EF000250

 

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An app that helps you buy good food at the best price - Europa (2014)

Nothing to cook for dinner? While rushing to the supermarket, you will soon be able to consult the FoodLoop app and find the best offers close to you. This system... informs you if a product is reduced in price because the "best before" date is coming up. You save money but also help reduce waste.


Food close to expiry date is often thrown away by retailers, and as a result, 90 million tons of edible food ends up in the trash in the EU every year. Now these products can be tagged with new "special offer" barcodes and FoodLoop’s users will be informed in real-time... 


http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-14-909_en.htm


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The other Asian enigma - IFPRI (2014)

South Asia has long been synonymous with persistent and unusually high rates of child undernutrition—the so-called Asian enigma. Yet contrary to this stereotype, Bangladesh has managed to sustain a rapid reduction in the rate of child undernutrition for at least two decades... 


We aim to understand the sources of this unheralded success with the aspiration of deriving policy-relevant lessons from Bangladesh’s experience. To do so we employ a regression analysis of five rounds of Demographic and Health Surveys covering the period from 1997 to 2011. 

 

Statistical decompositions suggest that five broad factors explain slightly more than half of the improvement... rapid gains in both maternal and paternal education, wealth accumulation, increased utilization of or access to prenatal and neonatal health services, reductions in open defecation, and demographic changes in the form of reduced fertility rates and longer birth intervals.

 

Most of these broader economic and social improvements can be plausibly linked to pro-poor economic policies and community-led development schemes, and for the most part the results are robust to various sensitivity analyses... 

 

http://www.ifpri.org/publication/other-asian-enigma

 

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Diet change: a solution to reduce water use? - Aalto U (2014)

Diet change: a solution to reduce water use? - Aalto U (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Eating less meat would protect water resources in dry areas around the world, researchers... have found. Reducing the use of animal products can have a considerable impact on areas suffering scarce water resources, as meat production requires more water than other agricultural products... 


Growing population and climate change are likely to increase the pressure on already limited water resources and diet change has been suggested as one of the measures contributing to adequate food security for growing population.

 

The researchers assessed the impact of diet change on global water resources over four scenarios, where the meat consumption was gradually reduced while diet recommendations in terms of energy supply, proteins and fat were followed... 

 

Global population is expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, adding over 2 billion mouths to be fed to the current population, according to the UN. By reducing the animal product contribution in the diet, global green water (rainwater) consumption decreases up to 21 % while for blue water (irrigation water) the reductions would be up to 14 %. In other words, by shifting to vegetarian diet we could secure adequate food supply for an additional 1.8 billion people without increasing the use of water resources... 

 

The researchers... found substantial regional differences... In Latin America, Europe, Central and Eastern Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa, diet change reduces mainly green water use... In the Middle East region, North America, Australia and Oceania, also blue water use would decrease considerably. In South and Southeast Asia... diet change does not result in savings in water use, as in these regions the diet is already [or still?] largely based on a minimal amount of [animal food] products.

 

http://www.aalto.fi/en/current/news/2014-08-04/

Original paper: http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/9/7/074016

 

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Smart Aid for the World's Poor - WSJ (2014)

Smart Aid for the World's Poor - WSJ (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

How can rich countries best help poor ones? Matt Ridley identifies five priorities that provide the biggest benefits for every dollar spent. 

 

In September next year, the United Nations plans to choose a list of development goals for the world to meet by the year 2030. What aspirations should it set for this global campaign to improve the lot of the poor, and how should it choose them?

 

In answering that question, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his advisers are confronted with a task that they often avoid: setting priorities. It is no good saying that we would like peace and prosperity to reach every corner of the world. And it is no good listing hundreds of targets. Money for foreign aid, though munificent, is limited. What are the things that matter most, and what would be nice to achieve but matter less? ... 

 

What Mr. Ban needs is an objective way of paring down the list. In doing so, I would recommend to him an unlikely ally: Bjorn Lomborg, a T-shirt-wearing, vegetarian, Danish political scientist who shot to fame in 2001 with a book called "The Skeptical Environmentalist," which infuriated those who support environmental protection at all costs, including the welfare of the poor.

 

Mr. Lomborg is the founder of an international think tank called the Copenhagen Consensus Center. He has invented a useful method for dispassionately but expertly deciding how to spend limited funds on different priorities. Every four years since 2004, he has assembled a group of leading economists to assess the best way to spend money on global development. On the most recent occasion, in 2012, the group—which included four Nobel laureates—debated 40 proposals for how best to spend aid money.

 

The goal was simple: to create a cost-benefit analysis for each policy and to rank them by their likely effectiveness. For every dollar spent, how much good would be done in the world? ... 

 

Surprising as it may seem, the global-aid industry has rarely done such cost-benefit analysis. People in this line of work generally recoil from such rankings as a heartless exercise implying discrimination against still-worthy global goals. The aid industry often seems implicitly to take the view that funds are unlimited and that spending on one priority doesn't crowd out spending on another. But this is patently not the case: The problems are far bigger than the available budget and will remain so even if the world's rich countries ever meet their 35-year-old goal of spending 0.7% of their GNP on development aid. 

 

In December last year, Mr. Lomborg came to New York to address the U.N. Open Working Group's ambassadors directly. He handed them his strips of paper and asked them to put them down in preferred order. It was an eye-opening exercise in a place where people are accustomed to saying, in diplomatic earnest, "Everything is important." ... 

 

Champions of aid aren't used to having their homework marked in this stark fashion, and some didn't like it at first. As Ambassador Elizabeth M. Cousens, the U.S. representative to the U.N. Economic and Social Council, told Mr. Lomborg, "I really don't like you putting one of my favorite targets in red." But she added, "I'm glad you're saying it, because we all need to hear economic evidence that challenges us."

 

Having gone through this useful document myself, I found myself in full sympathy with those forced to choose among them. But at least this sort of analysis provides some rigor and direction.

 

What would my own list of five 2030 goals look like, based on the work of the Copenhagen Consensus group? 

 

1. Reduce malnutrition... Every dollar spent to alleviate malnutrition brings $59 of benefits. 2. Tackle malaria and tuberculosis... 3. Boost preprimary education... 4. Provide universal access to sexual and reproductive health... 5. Expand free trade... 


One of the discoveries of the Copenhagen Consensus process is that incremental goals such as expanding free trade are often better than supposedly "transformational" goals. A successful Doha Round of the World Trade Organization could deliver annual benefits of $3 trillion for the developing world by 2020, rising to $100 trillion by the end of the century.

 

Those who fear that the rankings might reflect Mr. Lomborg's own prejudices will be relieved. He convened the economists, to be sure, but they are the ones who did the color coding.

 

Mr. Lomborg accepts the basic conclusions of today's climate science... the experts he brought together conclude that phasing out fossil-fuel subsidies is a "phenomenal" value... But they judge it poor value, for the world's poor, to attempt either to double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix or to hold the increase in global average temperature below a certain level... allowing emissions to rise initially while investing in rapid advances in energy technology is a much better idea than trying to limit emissions now with today's expensive renewables... 


Figuring out the best way to help the world's poor isn't like solving a math problem. There are not right and wrong answers. But there are better and worse answers, and the only way to assign those priorities is to set aside our sentimental commitments and do the hard work of assessing costs and benefits.


http://online.wsj.com/articles/smart-aid-for-the-worlds-poor-1406326677


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How the private sector is tackling the global food security challenge - Devex (2014)

How the private sector is tackling the global food security challenge - Devex (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Food security is an urgent global issue. The reasons behind food insecurity are numerous, complex and multifaceted. Persistent poverty and undernourishment, combined with political and socio-economic challenges, are the major underpinnings of food insecurity globally. Other major contributing factors include production shortfalls, agricultural impact on the environment, global climate change, water scarcity, natural disasters, rapid population growth, changing consumption trends and price volatility. All these and other challenges only heighten the concern for the future of food access and security over the coming decades.


The good news is many leading companies are on the forefront of helping solve the global food security crisis. In 2008, for example, General Mills launched Partners in Food Solutions, a consortium of leading global food companies, including Royal DSM and Cargill, and in partnership with TechnoServe and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The consortium aims to help strengthen the capacity of hundreds of food companies in several African nations... impacting 550,000 small-holder farmers. It encourages other companies with additional capabilities to join to broaden its reach to continue to improve the food value chain in Africa.

 

Additionally, six coffee industry leaders — Starbucks, Keurig Green Mountain, S&D Coffee, Farmer Brothers, Counter Culture Coffee and Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers — have launched the Coffee Lands Food Security Coalition, which aims to combat seasonal hunger among coffee-farming families in coffee-producing regions. A three-year program, “Empowering Food Secure Communities,” was established in partnership with the global humanitarian organization Mercy Corps and Nicaraguan organization Asociación “Aldea Global” Jinotega... 

 

In 2010, Wal-Mart and the Wal-Mart Foundation launched “Fighting Hunger Together,” a $2 billion cash and in-kind commitment through 2015 to combat hunger in the U.S., in partnership with hunger relief organizations and food banks. Goals include donating more than 1.1 billion pounds of food valued at $1.75 billion, award $250 million in grants to hunger relief organizations, mobilize Wal-Mart customers and employees to contribute their time and expertise to fight hunger, and partner with other companies, foundations, government and food manufacturers. In addition, Wal-Mart is collaborating with USAID through the government’s Feed the Future initiative, which aims to support rural small-holder farmers in Central America, connect them to Wal-Mart’s international and regional supply chains, and improve nutrition for customers through greater access to more diverse local produce.

 

Part of the Feed the Future initiative, the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition is a broader collaborative effort that brings together the private sector, donors and the investment community to drive sustainable agriculture in Africa and lift 50 million people out of poverty by 2022.

 

In 2012, Dupont set food security goals for 2020, including committing $10 billion to R&D and introducing 4,000 new products focused on producing more food, reducing waste, bolstering food availability and shelf life, and enhancing food and agriculture sustainability; educating 2 million youth; and improve the livelihoods of at least 3 million farmers and their communities... 

 

https://www.devex.com/news/how-the-private-sector-is-tackling-the-global-food-security-challenge-84042

 

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Leverage points for improving global food security and the environment - West & al (2014) - Science

Achieving sustainable global food security is one of humanity’s contemporary challenges. Here we present an analysis identifying key “global leverage points” that offer the best opportunities to improve both global food security and environmental sustainability. We find that a relatively small set of places and actions could provide enough new calories to meet the basic needs for more than 3 billion people, address many environmental impacts with global consequences, and focus food waste reduction on the commodities with the greatest impact on food security. These leverage points in the global food system can help guide how nongovernmental organizations, foundations, governments, citizens’ groups, and businesses prioritize actions... 


We focused our analysis on 17 key global crops... composing the 16 highest-calorie–producing crops consumed as food, as well as cotton, because of its intensive water and nutrient use. These 17 crops cover 58% of the global cropland area harvested and produce 86% of the world’s crop calories. They also account for most resource use on croplands: 95% of irrigated area, 92% of irrigation water consumption, and ~70% of all nitrogen and phosphorus application... 


Increasing yields in low-performing areas by closing the yield gap to 50% of attainable yields could increase total production by 358 megatons per year... which is enough calories to meet the basic needs of ~850 million people... Targeting reductions in fertilizer use to a small set of crops and countries could... have a large effect on global nitrogen and phosphorus pollution... 


If current crop production used for animal feed and other nonfood uses (including biofuels) were targeted for direct consumption, ~70% more calories would become available, potentially providing enough calories to meet the basic needs of an additional 4 billion people. The human-edible crop calories that do not end up in the food system are referred to as the “diet gap” ... Maize represents the largest potential gain, accounting for 41% of the global diet gap. Maize in the United States accounts for 19% of the global diet gap, which is enough calories for 760 million people... 


Curbing consumer waste of major food crops (i.e., wheat, rice, and vegetables) and meats (i.e., beef, pork, and poultry) in [the United States, China, and India] alone could feed ~413 million people per year if the feed calories embodied in meat are included... 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1246067

 

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The Real Price of Steak - Weizmann Sci (2014)

The Real Price of Steak - Weizmann Sci (2014) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

New research reveals the comparative environmental costs of livestock-based foods... Eating beef is bad for the environment, but do we know its real cost? Are the other animal or animal-derived foods better or worse? New research... compared the environmental costs of various foods and came up with some surprisingly clear results...  [The researchers] asked which types of animal based-food should one consume, environmentally speaking. Though many studies have addressed parts of the issue, none has done a thorough, comparative study that gives a multi-perspective picture of the environmental costs of food derived from animals.

 

The team looked at the five main sources of protein in the American diet: dairy, beef, poultry, pork and eggs. Their idea was to calculate the environmental inputs – the costs – per nutritional unit: a calorie or gram of protein. The main challenge the team faced was to devise accurate, faithful input values. For example, cattle grazing on arid land in the western half of the US use enormous amounts of land, but relatively little irrigation water. Cattle in feedlots, on the other hand, eat mostly corn, which requires less land, but much more irrigation and nitrogen fertilizer...   

 

Using the US for this study is ideal... because much of the data quality is high, enabling... to include, for example, figures on import-export imbalances that add to the cost. The environmental inputs the team considered included land use, irrigation water, greenhouse gas emissions, and nitrogen fertilizer use. Each of these costs is a complex environmental system. For example, land use, in addition to tying up this valuable resource in agriculture, is the main cause of biodiversity loss. Nitrogen fertilizer creates water pollution in natural waterways. When the numbers were in, including those for the environmental costs of different kinds of feed (pasture, roughage such as hay, and concentrates such as corn), the team developed equations that yielded values for the environmental cost – per calorie and then per unit of protein, for each food.


The calculations showed that the biggest culprit, by far, is beef. That was no surprise... The surprise was in the size of the gap: In total, eating beef is more costly to the environment by an order of magnitude – about ten times on average –  than other animal-derived foods... Cattle require on average 28 times more land and 11 times more irrigation water, are responsible for releasing 5 times more greenhouse gases, and consume 6 times as much nitrogen, as eggs or poultry. Poultry, pork, eggs and dairy all came out fairly similar. That was also  surprising, because dairy production is often thought to be relatively environmentally benign. But the research shows that the price of irrigating and fertilizing the crops fed to milk cows – as well as the relative inefficiency of cows in comparison to other livestock – jacks up the cost significantly...  This study could have a number of implications. In addition to helping individuals make better choices about their diet, it should hopefully help inform agricultural policy. And the tool the team has created for analyzing the environmental costs of agriculture can be expanded and refined...  

 

http://wis-wander.weizmann.ac.il/the-real-price-of-steak

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1402183111

 

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Eating meat: Constants and changes - Smil (2014) - Global Food Sec

Expanding the current practices of meat production would worsen its already considerable environmental consequences but more environmentally sensitive ways of meat production are possible. Although they could not match the current levels of meat supply, they could provide nutritionally adequate levels worldwide. This would mean a break with historical trends but such a shift is already underway in many affluent countries and demographic and economic factors are likely to strengthen it in decades ahead.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2014.06.001

 

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Resource needs for a socially just and sustainable urban agriculture system: Lessons from New York City - Cohen & Reynolds (2014) - Renew Ag Food Syst

Resource needs for a socially just and sustainable urban agriculture system: Lessons from New York City - Cohen & Reynolds (2014) - Renew Ag Food Syst | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Many urban agriculture programs, and the organizations that run them, require substantial resources to remain viable and provide the multifunctional benefits that practitioners and supporters hope to achieve. As urban agriculture activity expands, practitioners and supporters face significant challenges, including how to match resources to the needs of practitioners and expectations of municipalities, and how to distribute those resources effectively and equitably so that communities... capture the benefits of these projects. This is particularly important as cities face increasing pressure to reduce costs and maximize the return on public expenditures...

 

The data showed that resource needs go beyond the material and financial needs discussed in the urban agriculture literature (e.g., land, soil, money). Interviews documented that urban agriculture projects have broader goals than merely producing food, and that attaining these goals... requires the support of government and networks of practitioners, non-profit organizations and philanthropies. Moreover, interviewee comments suggested that significant disparities in access to resources make the urban agriculture system in New York unequal and constrain the efforts of some farms and gardens... 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1742170514000210

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

Home gardens, kitchen gardens, allotment gardens, urban agriculture, local production etc. might all provide benefits -- but they don't come for free... 

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Launching a New Food Product or Dietary Supplement in the United States: Industrial, Regulatory, and Nutritional Considerations - Finley &al (2014) - Annual Rev Nutr

Launching a New Food Product or Dietary Supplement in the United States: Industrial, Regulatory, and Nutritional Considerations - Finley &al (2014) - Annual Rev Nutr | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Launching a new food/dietary supplement into the US market... Regulatory issues determine how a product can be produced and marketed... A primary distinction is made between food and drugs, and no product may enter the food market if it is in part or whole a drug.


Product safety is a major concern, and myriad regulations govern the determination of safety. New foods/dietary supplements are often marketed by health claims or structure/function claims, and there are specific regulations... Not understanding the regulatory issues involved... or failing to comply with associated regulations can have legal and financial repercussions. 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-nutr-071813-105817

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

... but none of this prevents (interested and vociferous) third parties to make claims about certain foods or substances, such as suggesting that organic foods are more healthy or that substance X prevents Y... 

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