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Push for traceable supply chains threatens smallholder farmers - Pearce (2013)

Push for traceable supply chains threatens smallholder farmers - Pearce (2013) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Those who want effective policies to protect smallholders and promote sustainable landscapes need to do some serious thinking about how to handle agribusiness corporations – how to lobby, influence, co-opt and hold them to account.

 

One interesting early step on this road was taken at a meeting of NGOs, aid professionals and others... which debated how to push the agenda on community land rights. One of five strategy sessions running through the event was addressed at the private sector. It largely consisted of people from mining companies like Rio Tinto, food companies like Nestle, and banks like the International Finance Corporation, being cross-questioned by activists...

 

It was fascinating. A constant theme from those on the corporate side was that they were often lone voices within their companies, and that they felt poorly armed. They badly needed case studies, data and “simple effective story telling” to take to their CEOs. But few among those NGOs who knew about the problems were willing to make the case for sustainability, and being good neighbours and employers, in ways that would work with corporate bosses and their investors.

 

Too many pitches from NGOs sounded to CEOs like “communism or new-age stuff,” said finance analyst Lou Munden. “Corporations need to be told about the risks of ignoring land rights in terms that they understand,” he said, “because in this day and age, no land is empty.” Corporations needed to know that land grabbing was folly because it seriously raised the risks of local conflict that could result in failed projects and squandered investment. Corporations, he said, may not see human rights or environmental degradation as relevant to their bottom line, “but they understand corporate risk.” ...

 

“Agribusiness is far behind the mining sector and others in recognising land rights,” said Megan MacInnes, campaign leader at Global Witness. Chris Jochnick of Behind the Brands said most corporate social responsibility reports by big companies buying agricultural commodities “don’t even mention land”. Why is that? Is it because agricultural corporations are uniquely bad, or perhaps because those involved in defending smallholders and pastoralists have failed to press the case where it needs to be heard? ...

 

The social agenda in particular needs urgent attention. In some areas there is a real risk of that agenda being submerged by corporate responses to environmental activism. Let’s take the case of the huge food-to-soap combine Unilever which, among other things, is the world’s largest purchaser of palm oil... Just over a decade ago, worried about the long-term sustainability of its business — and in particular the supply of agricultural products like palm oil — it joined environment group WWF to establish the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. The aim was to set environmental standards for an industry with a reputation for rainforest destruction.

 

But Unilever has found that the round table’s loose certification system cannot eliminate deforesters from supply chains, and efforts at reform have been slow. “It’s not good enough,” Gail Klintworth, the company’s global chief sustainability officer, told me. “We want 100 per cent traceability.” Unilever needed to know exactly where all its palm oil came from. And that turned out to be a problem. Unilever discovered that it had hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers feeding palm oil to mills owned by other companies that in turn sold to the company. Every one of those smallholders was, it felt, a potential deforester – a potential PR time bomb.

 

So here we are into the world of perverse incentives. To achieve “100 per cent traceability” Unilever has decided to cut the number of smallholder farmers who supply its palm oil – by 80 per cent... to ensure standards”. It was not he said, that the smallholders were bad guys, but that for a large corporation they were untraceable and therefore a risk... The result is a greater reliance on large palm oil plantations and a further turn of the land grabbing screw – all in the name of green ethics.

 

While Greenpeace has been pressing hard for the company to deliver a traceable supply chain that could demonstrate no deforestation – and by some accounts threatened to “destroy’ Dove, the company’s top soap brand, if it did not act – nobody, so far as I could establish, has been insisting that the company should stick with its smallholders... “no deforestation” is a powerful slogan that many companies are willing to adopt. The phrase appears in board room agendas and annual reports. But as yet similar attention is rarely paid to “no exploitation” or “no land grabbing”. Somehow the voices demanding these things do not get heard in the places where it matters.

 

http://wle.cgiar.org/blogs/2013/10/09/push-for-traceable-supply-chains-threatens-smallholder-farmers/

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

Interesting perspective on the unintended consequences of first-world labelling requirements on the livelihoods of smallholders in poor countries. 

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AckerbauHalle's curator insight, October 25, 2013 1:49 PM

Die Fragen der Kennzeichnung einmal aus einer anderen Perspektive - es gibt auch Verlieren!

Food Policy
Scoops relating to international food policy and development issues (not necessarily endorsements). CLICK on the titles to get to the full, original, and possibly hyperlinked versions!
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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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A Food Demand Framework for International Food Security Assessment - Beghin &al (2017) - J Pol Model

We present a parsimonious demand modeling approach... The approach incorporates price effects, food quality variation across income deciles, and consistent aggregation over income deciles and food qualities. 


The approach is based on a simple demand approach for four food categories. It relies on data on food availability, complemented by own-price and income elasticities and food price data. Beyond consistent aggregation, the framework exhibits desirable characteristics: food quality is increasing with income; price and income responses become less sensitive with income; and increasing income inequality decreases average per capita food consumption. 


The proposed approach is illustrated for Tanzania. We assess future food insecurity in Tanzania using the calibrated model and evaluate the impact of safety net policies and their budgetary costs. Food-insecure population is estimated as well as the implied food gap expressed in calorie per day per food-insecure person as well as in total annual food volume in grain equivalent. The food gap measure gauges the depth of the chronic food insecurity... 


Corn consumer price subsidies and direct income transfers targeted to two food-insecure deciles were compared with respect to their budgetary implications. The price subsidy policy was found to be more cost-effective. The presented modeling framework is easily scalable to a large set of countries provided data and elasticity estimates are available, and food security policy options can be examined. 


https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpolmod.2017.06.001


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German breeders develop ‘open-source’ plant seeds - Science (2017) 

German breeders develop ‘open-source’ plant seeds - Science (2017)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

There's open-source software, open-source pharma research, and open-source beer. Now, there are open-source seeds, too. Breeders... released tomato and wheat varieties under an open-source license. Their move... is the first that provides legal protection for the open-source status of future descendants of plant varieties.

The idea behind the open-source license is that scientists and breeders can experiment with seeds – and improve them – unimpeded by legal restrictions. The license “says that you can use the seed in multiple ways but you are not allowed to put a plant variety protection or patent on this seed and all the successive developments of this seed” says... Kotschi, who helped write the license last year... 


People have been breeding plants in search of desirable features, such as drought- and pest-resistance, for millennia. But until 1930, when the United States began applying patent law to plants, there was little a breeder could do to assert ownership over a new variety.

Since then... “plant variety protection,” has begun to block the way for researchers trying to breed new varieties, open-source advocates say. Developing the famous Golden Rice, for example, required so-called humanitarian exemptions to plant patents... 


International agreements on plant variety protection include an exception that allows for research and breeding. But patents are more restrictive... “When one trait in a plant is patented, you are in principle not allowed under the research exemption to use such materials for further breeding”... 

The recent German licensing action circumvents those problems. Anyone can use the varieties, so long as they do not prevent others from conducting research on derivatives; all of the plant's future descendants are also in a “commons”...  

The Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) tried for several years to write a similar binding license but concluded... that it was too unwieldy to gain widespread acceptance among breeders and seed companies... Because patents play a bigger role in plant intellectual property in the United States, breeders are more hemmed in than in Europe. Instead, OSSI now encourages supporters to make and follow a "pledge" to keep new varieties and derivatives open... 

There's a similar development in India, where agriculture scientist GV Ramanjaneyulu... organized an open-source network that has bred and shared eight varieties of rice, wheat, and pulses. That may seem superfluous, because Indian law does not recognize patents on plants or plant traits at all. But a much-debated seed law pending since 2004 could change that. "We are trying to prepare for the future... Conditions should be much simpler and easier for sharing"... 

A complete shift to an open-source system would harm innovation. Commercial breeders, the main producers of economically important new crop varieties, can't use open-source seeds because they would not be able to claim royalties for any varieties they develop from them. If too many seeds were in the... commons, they would be "killing the business model”... Universities would also lose out if they could no longer charge royalties for plant traits or breeding tools.

How much of an impact the various sharing systems have remains to be seen. For now, it's best to experiment with them in different legal systems... 


http://doi.org/10.1126/science.aan6961


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Optimizing feeding is necessary to maintain milk production in organic herds - EurekAlert (2017) 

Optimizing feeding is necessary to maintain milk production in organic herds - EurekAlert (2017)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Decisions on pasture use and feed management affect greenhouse gas emission. 


Consumer demand for organic milk recently surpassed the available supply, with sales of organic products reaching $35 billion in 2014 and continuing to rise. As farms transition to organic production to meet demand, feeding strategies will need to be adapted... Currently, agriculture accounts for approximately 9% of total US greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; the US dairy industry has committed to a 25% reduction... 


Researchers... created a study to compare the effects of feeding strategies and the associated crop hectares on GHG emissions... "Herd feeding strategies and grazing practices influence on-farm GHG emissions not only through crop production, but also by substantially changing the productivity of the herd... Managing more land as pasture, and obtaining more of the herd feed requirements from pasture, can increase the GHG emissions"... 

Production of organic corn resulted in the greatest nitrous oxide emissions and represented about 8% of total GHG emission; corn also had the highest carbon dioxide emissions per hectare. Emissions decreased as the proportion of soybeans in the diet increased, as soybeans require less nitrogen fertilization... More intensive grazing practices led to higher GHG emission per metric tonne. However, allowing cows more time on pasture resulted in lower emissions associated with cropland. Manure management and replacement heifers accounted for 26 and 20% of GHG emissions... 

"Consumers often equate more dependence on pasture with environmentally friendly farming, but this study demonstrated that low milk production per cow is a major factor associated with high GHG emission. Managing both pasture and supplementation to increase milk production per cow will substantially reduce GHG emissions"... 

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-06/e-ofi061517.php


Underlying study: http://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2016-11909


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
As with "organic" crop production, also "organic" dairy production needs more land to supply the same quantities as conventional agriculture, putting a big question mark over its sustainability... 
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“Big Food” Companies Have Less Power Than You Might Think: Progress Toward Sustainability Slowed by Limited Knowledge and Influence on the Farm - Dartmouth (2017) 

“Big Food” companies are striving to make food more sustainable from farm to factory but have less power than you might think... most Big Food companies have little knowledge about or control over the farmers who supply their raw materials... 


As Big Food companies have grown increasingly concerned about climate change and other forms of environmental degradation, many have set ambitious goals to reduce emissions, energy and water use across their supply chains. 


Reducing on-farm impacts is an especially high priority, because these generally account for a larger share of food's environmental footprint than transport or processing. But most Big Food companies know little about the sustainability of the farms... because they procure... ingredients not directly from farmers but rather from commodity trading companies...  


Commodity traders also know remarkably little about the farms they buy from, despite their unparalleled access to other forms of market intelligence.  

Many major food companies are pursuing agricultural sustainability as members of multi-stakeholder initiatives such as the Walmart-backed Sustainability Consortium and Field to Market. Alongside nongovernmental organizations such as WWF and The Nature Conservancy, they have developed a variety of tools for collecting data about on-farm emissions, energy and natural resource use. The challenge is getting farmers to cooperate. 


Few companies offer to pay farmers for this information, despite the time required to compile it. Guarantees of confidentiality have also not reassured farmers about how companies might use their data.
Conflicting priorities inside Big Food companies can also slow progress toward more sustainable supply chains. 


"A lot of the people who work on sustainability for these companies are really committed to changing things for the better... but they don't always have the resources and buy-in that they need to push the industry as far and as fast as it needs to go"...  


http://www.dartmouth.edu/press-releases/big_food.html


Underlying study: http://doi.org/10.1080/24694452.2017.1309967


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
"The challenge is getting farmers to cooperate. Few companies offer to pay farmers..." -- Looks as if the answer might be right there... 
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Could edible insects help global food security? - Univ Adelaide (2017) 

Consumers are taking part in a... research study to help realise the potential for edible insects as a food industry. Researchers will put consumer attitudes to the test... with an offering of roasted crickets and ants, mealworm cookies and cricket energy bars.

“We want to further investigate consumers’ attitudes towards edible insects, evaluate taste preferences and consumers’ willingness to buy such products... We will also be asking consumers questions relating to food neophobia – reluctance to eat novel or new foods. We’ll be interested to see if a consumer’s ethnicity influences their acceptance of edible insects.”

In a preliminary online survey of 820 Australian consumers, the researchers found that 20% had tried edible insects. Of those surveyed, 46% said they would be willing to try a cookie made from insect flour. “In the earlier survey, consumers said they were most likely to try flavoured or roasted insects and least likely to want to try cockroaches or spiders”...  

The research will help guide the development of an edible insect industry. “In Australia, edible insects remain an emerging agricultural industry. Consumer research is needed to improve consumer acceptance of edible insects, so as to realise their potential as an alternate protein source... We hope to be able to pinpoint target markets for edible insects and ways of encouraging their uptake by consumers as an alternative protein source. As such, this research will help to identify strategies for realising the potential of edible insects, not only in the domestic market, but also as a high-value product for the export market”...   

Edible insects could play a role in global food security. “Issues such as climate change, increasing global population, scarcity of agricultural land and rapidly changing consumer preferences, particularly in developing countries where there is increasing demand for high quality animal protein... These food security issues will only be overcome by a shift in food consumption habits, particularly when we are talking about meat consumption. Edible insects could provide one solution. We want to look at ways of overcoming barriers to insect consumption in Australia.”

 https://www.adelaide.edu.au/news/news92762.html


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​Where climate change is most likely to induce food violence - Ohio State (2017) 

While climate change is expected to lead to more violence related to food scarcity, new research suggests that the strength of a country’s government plays a vital role in preventing uprisings. “A capable government is even more important to keeping the peace than good weather,” said Bear Braumoeller... 


“We’ve already started to see climate change as an issue that won’t just put the coasts under water, but as something that could cause food riots in some parts of the world”... Extreme weather such as droughts and floods could hurt agricultural production in some countries, leading to violence there or elsewhere by people who are desperate for food.

“Climate-induced food scarcity is going to become an increasingly big issue and we wanted to understand which countries are most threatened by it”... The researchers estimated the effects of food insecurity and state vulnerability on the occurrence of violent uprisings in Africa for the years 1991 to 2011... 

For the climate-related causes of food shocks, the researchers analyzed rainfall, temperature and – importantly – the international prices of food, including sudden increases in prices. “We recognized that countries that imported food could be impacted by climate shocks in other parts of the world that suddenly increased prices, even if they weren’t experiencing any significant weather impacts themselves”... 

When examining countries’ vulnerabilities, the researchers analyzed a host of factors including a country’s dependence on agricultural production, its imports, the strength of its political institutions and its wealth. “We found that the most vulnerable countries are those that have weak political institutions, are relatively poor and rely more on agriculture... Less vulnerable countries can better handle the problems that droughts or food price fluctuations create.”

These results suggest ways that... the worldwide community can respond... Addressing the vulnerabilities of countries is “crucial to breaking the link between food insecurity and violence”... That means more than providing food aid to offset shortages in the short-term. More broadly, efforts should be focused on strengthening government institutions in vulnerable countries and helping them invest in “green growth” policies aimed at increasing economic growth while fostering resilience to climate shocks...


https://news.osu.edu/news/2017/06/08/climate-food-violence/


Underlying study: http://doi.org/10.1177/0022343316684662

 

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Greenhouse gas emissions and irrigation water use in the production of pulse crops in the United States - Gustafson (2017) - Food Sci Technol

Supplying our world’s growing nutrition needs in more sustainable ways has become an urgent global imperative, given the constraints of finite resources and the challenges of accelerating climate change. 


Pulse crops, which are the dried seeds of legumes such as dry peas, chickpeas, beans, and lentils, play a key role in maintaining affordable, nutritious diets, as they provide high amounts of protein and fiber, and relatively low amounts of fat. As legumes, they are also advantageous from an environmental perspective, because they fix atmospheric nitrogen, thereby reducing the need for added fertilizers... 


In order to quantify eco-efficiency metrics associated with the production of pulse crops in the United States, life cycle assessment techniques were used to calculate “cradle to farm-gate” greenhouse gas emissions and irrigation water use, both on a per unit of production basis... Pulse crops have low carbon and water footprints relative to most foods, with greenhouse gas emissions of 0.27 kg CO2e/kg and irrigation water use of 0.19 m3/kg...


http://doi.org/10.1080/23311932.2017.1334750



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Selenium Biofortification - Bañuelos &al (2017) - Springer

Selenium (Se) is an essential trace element for animals and humans, and thus, low dietary intake of Se can cause health disorders in humans and animals. The Se content of food is highly dependent on soil Se bioavailability and the ability of plants to take up and accumulate Se in edible tissues... The estimated Se intake rate from food consumption is often lower than... recommended value in many parts of the world. 


To overcome the Se deficiency and its related public health issues, biofortification strategies have been applied to produce Se-enriched agricultural products through alternative new agronomic practices and the development of new biotechnologies in recent decades. For example, Se-amended soil fertilizers or foliar Se applications have been used to increase Se accumulation in crops, and genetically engineered plants have also been developed to increase the uptake of Se from soil. 


In addition, the use of Se-laden plant materials as organic Se fertilizers represents a unique environmentally-friendly strategy to implement the goal of Se biofortification. The importance of plant and soil microbial interaction and identification of selenoamino acids in plant tissues have also been documented for the enhancement of soil and biological Se bioavailability, respectively. 


This chapter has explored some major mechanisms underlying the Se biofortification process and potential benefits in promoting functional agricultural production. The authors have also addressed the economic and public acceptance aspects of Se biofortification.


http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-56249-0_14


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Inter-relationship between Food Security Status, Money Spending, and Availability of Fruits and Vegetables at Home - Armah & Dharod (2017) - FASEB

Food insecurity is a major public health concern due to its negative effects on nutritional health status among adults. However, it is not clear the mechanisms by which food insecurity is associated with poor dietary behaviors and increased risk of excess weight gain among adults. 


In this study, we investigated the relationships among food security status, money spending behavior and home food environment of households with children using data from the 2009/2010 cycle of the [US] National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey... 


Food security status was classified as secure if they were fully food secure or marginally food secure... Availability of fruits and dark green vegetables at home were also categorized as available (always or most of the time) or unavailable... in the past month... 


14% of households were food insecure. In case of home food environment, 87% had fruits and 79% had dark green vegetables, available at home... Food secure household had higher odds of having fruits available at home or dark green vegetable available at home than food insecure households. 


Overall, the average amount of money spent at supermarket/grocery store over the past 30 days before the survey was $ 411. In comparison, food insecure households spent significantly lower amount of money at supermarket/grocery store than their secure counterparts ($368 vs. $418). 


Every additional dollar spent on food at supermarket/grocery store was associated with a 0.15% increase in the odds of having fruits at home, and a 0.12% increase in the odds of having dark green vegetables at home... Food insecure households spend less money on food at grocery stores, which in turn, is a strong predictor of poor availability of fruits and dark green vegetables at home. 


http://www.fasebj.org/content/31/1_Supplement/791.7.short


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Prevalence of Food Insecurity of Adolescent Students from 83 Countries - Nguyen &al (2017) - FASEB

Children are especially vulnerable to food insecurity, leading to nutritional, developmental, and behavioral consequences. Data for global monitoring of child food insecurity have not been available, making bringing global attention to address child food insecurity difficult.

This study examined the prevalence of food insecurity among adolescent students in 83 countries by region and gender, and investigated potential explanatory factors for the variation among countries in this prevalence.

Data on food insecurity from students of ages 11 to 18 years from 2003 to 2014 were from the Global School-based Student Health Study (GSHS) organized through the WHO... Surveys included one item asking whether or not the student went hungry due to shortage of food in home over the past 30 days... 


The mean prevalence of food insecurity of adolescent students of both genders among the countries was 0.3... The food-insecurity prevalence of adolescent students was significantly higher in Africa and Western Pacific than in South East Asia, Eastern Mediterranean, and Americas. 


The mean prevalence of food insecurity was 0.29... for females and 0.31... for males. The male-female difference in the prevalence was larger in Eastern Mediterranean and South East Asia... Out of 83 countries, 10 had significantly higher male prevalence of food insecurity compared to that of females, while only one country had a significant difference in the opposite direction.

The prevalence of food insecurity of adolescent students was lower in countries with higher GDP, larger population, lower fertility rate, lower domestic food price index, and more access to clean water and sanitation facilities. The fertility rate alone explained 21% of the variance among countries in the prevalence, and total population explained an additional 11%. GDP per capita and others did not further explain the variance after the fertility rate.

Nearly a third of adolescent students in these 83 countries reported food insecurity... with highest prevalence in the African and Western Pacific regions. Fertility rate, a measure of country social development, explained the most variation in food-insecurity prevalence. Further investigation is needed to understand the gendered pattern of food insecurity in adolescent students.


http://www.fasebj.org/content/31/1_Supplement/791.5.short


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Sustainability: A meaty issue - Heffernan (2017) - Nature 

Sustainability: A meaty issue - Heffernan (2017) - Nature  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Our insatiable appetite for red meat is bad for our health and for the planet. Sustainable alternatives are in the pipeline, but will they convince us to make the switch?

As the burger hits the pan, it sizzles. A familiar smoky aroma fills the air. The first bite reveals a juicy pink centre. But this is no ordinary hamburger. It's formed entirely from plants and was made to mimic a burger in every way by scientists... “Meat is really delicious stuff, but it's created by a very inefficient process... And in the last 40-50 years it's gone from something that's eaten on special occasions to something that's eaten all the time.”

By 2050, the human population is expected to increase by around 15% to more than 9 billion people, bringing unparalleled environmental and nutritional challenges. During the same period, the global demand for meat is expected to rise by 73%, and meeting this demand will require an additional 160 million tonnes of meat per year. 


Our planet cannot easily keep up with the anticipated demand for meat. “We're running out of good land”... Thirty per cent of Earth's land surface is already devoted to livestock production, a practice that accounts for nearly 15% of global greenhouse-gas emissions. Cows are the worst culprits, not only because they emit a lot of methane, but also because the production of beef uses vast quantities of water – 15,400 litres for a kilogram of beef – as well as land.

What's more, eating red meat in high quantities... is bad for our health, and typically associated with a higher risk of diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Switching to more sustainable protein sources would both ease health concerns and help to tackle climate change, but there's a problem: many of us are unable to wean ourselves off beef. Despite a change in tastes in Western countries over the past three decades that has seen people swapping their steak for chicken and pork, public appetite for beef – particularly in the form of hamburgers – remains strong. 


Scientists are keen to persuade the public, especially in developed countries, where choice is plentiful, to rethink their diets. This may mean embracing the unfamiliar and eating insects or satiating carnivorous cravings with burgers that have all of the taste, but a fraction of the environmental impact of conventional burgers... 


There is, however, scope to influence what people consume... “What is deemed to be desirable food changes over time... We need to be imaginative.” But how do the alternatives stack up against beef in terms of their environmental and health credentials? ... 

Impossible Foods says that an analysis of the environmental impact of each ingredient of its burger suggests that it is much better for the planet than a conventional burger. The research is unpublished, but the company says that switching a quarter-pound beefburger for an equivalently sized Impossible Burger saves as much water as a 10-minute shower, eliminates the greenhouse gases emitted during a 29-kilometre drive in an average car, and frees up around 7 square metres of land. Nutritionally, it contains levels of protein and iron comparable with an average hamburger... 

Even die-hard beef lovers could soon have the option of a more-sustainable diet. In the past few years, scientists have been working hard to grow beef... in the lab. Typically, making a cultured burger begins with harvesting muscle cells from a living cow, and then culturing these cells in a lab by feeding them with a nutrient-rich serum so that they can grow into muscle tissue.

The muscle cells grow as small strands; 20,000 of these strands make one regular-sized burger. Biologically, the meat is identical to that from a cow, although an ordinary burger also contains small amounts of bone, cartilage and connective tissue. It provides as much protein and iron as a conventional burger, and could be manipulated to be even more nutritious by bumping up its vitamin or mineral levels, for example.

The argument is that production of a lab-grown burger emits a fraction of the greenhouse gases... and requires just 10% of the water that production of a conventional beefburger does. The energy requirements for large-scale production are unclear. These will depend on the production process, which is still in development... 

Post's hope is that in ten years, his team will be producing beefburgers at a retail price of €60 ($64) per kilogram, and possibly even as low as €12 per kilogram (comparable to the cost of organic beef mince in UK supermarkets), depending on how efficient the team can make production... 

And Post's team have made another advance... Apart from the cultured muscle and fat cells, the team has removed all other animal products from the process... Now, the team grow cells in an animal-free medium. This could make their burgers acceptable to some vegetarians and animal-welfare advocates... 

The success of each of these alternatives is dependent on people being prepared to eat them. Generally, Western societies have a low rate of willingness to try cultured beef, eat insects or switch to vegetarianism. But proponents argue that if the alternatives taste good, then people will eat them. “People will ultimately choose to eat what is most delicious”... “People are willing to eat foods, such as a hot dog, without fully knowing what it's made of or how it's being made”... the same will eventually be true of food such as the lab-grown burger.

The overwhelming feeling is that the more informed people are, the more willing they will be to change their habits. In one study, for example, when people were told about the environmental benefits of cultured beef, the number of respondents willing to try it rose from 25% to 43%. “We're always changing our consumption patterns, and our diets are constantly in flux... It's a failure of imagination to assume that behaviour can't change.”


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Box 1: Insects: Tiny livestock 


Around the world, more than 2 billion people eat insects as part of their diet. Almost 2,000 species have been used for food; among these the most popular are beetles, caterpillars, bees, wasps, ants, crickets and locusts. Farming insects instead of cattle has many environmental advantages. “If you want to continue eating meat, you can get ten times more efficiency by switching to insects”... 


10 kilograms of plant protein is needed per 1 kilogram of live beef cows, but only 1.7 kg of feed is needed per kilogram of crickets. As well as being highly efficient food converters...  insects can be fed organic waste, breed rapidly and need comparatively little land or water. For locusts, crickets and mealworm larvae (considered the most likely to make it to the Western market) the greenhouse-gas emissions are around 100 times lower than for cattle. Insects are also highly nutritious – one reason they've long been eaten in the developing world. In general, they're high in fat, protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals... 


The industry faces two hurdles: scaling-up production in a way that's cost-effective, and winning over consumers... Insects are gradually cropping up in Western diets, often as ingredients in snacks... “People who are not used to eating insects will accept something they can't see much more quickly”... Most of us already eat insects without knowing it, he says. Insect parts routinely end up in processed foods made from harvested crops because otherwise producers would have to pay for the labour to remove every insect from a tomato or coffee plant. Dicke expects that whole insects will be a common sight in European supermarkets in the next few years. “Locusts, I'd recommend as a first try – it's basically the same as a shrimp. If you eat shrimp, there's no reason why you wouldn't eat locusts”...  

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http://doi.org/10.1038/544S18a


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Special Issue devoted to Biofortification - AJFAND (2017)

Mineral and vitamin deficiencies are a serious public health problem in Africa. The terrible consequences of these deficiencies are well known. Biofortification is the process of breeding nutrients into staple food crops. It is one cost-effective and sustainable agricultural investment that can help to reduce mineral and vitamin deficiencies, especially in the diets of the rural poor... 

Developing and delivering biofortified crops has required donor buy-in and investment, evidence of the potential to address the targeted micronutrient deficiencies, and promoting adoption and sustainability at the country level. For biofortification to successfully address micronutrient deficiencies, the given micronutrients must be present in sufficient amounts, adequately retained during processing and storage, and bioavailable for absorption. Chapters 2, 3, and 4 address these aspects, presenting summaries of the nutrition and food science research undertaken to date on consumption levels of staple food crops, nutrient retention, bioavailability, and efficacy... 

Crop development requires effective screening and testing of varieties. Chapters 5 and 6 discuss the progress in crop development using conventional plant breeding methods. Investments in crop development have first focused on the most widely consumed food staple crops, and more than 150 varieties of biofortified crops have been developed and released in more than 30 countries (Chapter 5). In Chapter 6, measurement of minerals and vitamins in the edible portions of biofortified crops and foods made from such crops are discussed, including innovations in high throughput, low-cost analytical methods... 

Chapters 7, 8, 9, and 10 are crop specific – discussing the range of discovery-development-delivery experiences to date in Africa for four biofortified crops – orange sweet potato across the continent, vitamin A orange maize in Zambia, vitamin A yellow cassava in Nigeria, and iron beans in Rwanda, respectively. General marketing and branding issues are discussed in Chapter 11. Integrating biofortified crops into existing international development projects is explored in Chapter 12, which focuses on the use of biofortified crops in World Vision International’s programs. 

Chapters 13, 14, and 15 focus on economic analysis. Chapter 13 summarizes the Theory of Change and how the nutritional impact of biofortified crops is measured and maximized. Chapter 14 examines complementarities and tradeoffs among a range of micronutrient interventions – supplementation, fortification, and biofortification -- in three countries. This analysis is also ex-ante. Chapter 15, however, is a summary of expost findings of the pilot delivery of orange sweet potato to white sweet potato-growing farm households in Mozambique and Uganda – using a randomized, control testing design.

The importance of advocacy to build stakeholder and policy support for scaling up farmer adoption and the sustainable mainstreaming of biofortification is discussed in Chapter 16... Several countries where biofortified crops are available (including Rwanda, Zambia, Mozambique, and DRC) have incorporated biofortification into their national nutrition strategies. Biofortification programs are increasingly supported by national governments, particularly in China, India, and Brazil, as well as several other countries in Latin America. The specific policy approaches to incorporating biofortified crops into regional and national nutrition strategies are discussed... 

Finally, Chapter 17 evaluates lessons learned from all previous chapters and charts a proposed way forward for accelerating the integration of biofortified crops in African diets... Biofortification has made more rapid progress in Africa than in Asia or Latin America. Thus, Africa provides an important first view into learning how to implement biofortification successfully, and its potential to improve nutrition and public health. 

The preceding articles have summarized the evidence available for biofortification, particularly in the African context. Over the last 15 years, biofortification research demonstrated broadly that: 
- Conventional breeding can add extra nutrients in the crops without reducing yields. 
- When consumed, the increase in nutrient levels can make a measurable and significant impact on human nutrition. 
- Farmers are willing to grow biofortified crops and consumers to eat them. 

While there remains more to be learned, the biofortification intervention should now be scaled up. To reach full potential, a global effort, with many partners – governments, researchers, private sector actors, civil society organizations, and farmers – is now required to bring more crops to more farmers, changing more lives.


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
"The evidence available for biofortification, particularly in the African context... (i) Conventional breeding can add extra nutrients in the crops without reducing yields. (ii) When consumed, the increase in nutrient levels can make a measurable and significant impact on human nutrition. (iii) Farmers are willing to grow biofortified crops and consumers to eat them... Biofortification intervention should now be scaled up." 
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Corn better used as food than biofuel - Illinois (2017) 

Corn better used as food than biofuel - Illinois (2017)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Corn is grown not only for food, it is also an important renewable energy source. Renewable biofuels can come with hidden economic and environmental issues, and the question of whether corn is better utilized as food or as a biofuel has persisted since ethanol came into use. For the first time, researchers... quantified and compared these issues in terms of economics of the entire production system to determine if the benefits of biofuel corn outweigh the costs... 

The... group introduced a comprehensive view of the agricultural system, called critical zone services, to analyze crops’ impacts on the environment in monetary terms. “The critical zone is the permeable layer of the landscape near the surface that stretches from the top of the vegetation down to the groundwater... The human energy and resource input involved in agriculture production alters the composition of the critical zone, which we are able to convert into a social cost.”

To compare the energy efficiency and environmental impacts of corn production and processing for food and for biofuel, the researchers inventoried the resources required for corn production and processing, then determined the economic and environmental impact of using these resources – all defined in terms of energy available and expended, and normalized to cost in U.S. dollars.

“There are a lot of abstract concepts to contend with when discussing human-induced effects in the critical zone in agricultural areas... We want to present it in a way that will show the equivalent dollar value of the human energy expended in agricultural production and how much we gain when corn is used as food versus biofuel.”

Kumar and Richardson accounted for numerous factors in their analysis, including assessing the energy required to prepare and maintain the landscape for agricultural production for corn and its conversion to biofuel. Then, they quantified the environmental benefits and impacts in terms of critical zone services, representing the effects on the atmosphere, water quality and corn’s societal value, both as food and fuel.

In monetary terms, their results show that the net social and economic worth of food corn production in the U.S. is $1,492 per hectare, versus a $10 per hectare loss for biofuel corn production.

“One of the key factors lies in the soil”... The assessment considered both short-term and long-term effects, such as nutrients and carbon storage in the soil. “We found that most of the environmental impacts came from soil nutrient fluxes. Soil’s role is often overlooked in this type of assessment”... “Using corn as a fuel source seems to be an easy path to renewable energy... However... the environmental costs are much greater, and the benefits fewer, than using corn for food.” 


https://news.illinois.edu/blog/view/6367/520569


Underlying study: http://doi.org/10.1002/2016EF000517


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Prevalence and Correlates of Food Insecurity among Children across the Globe - Pereira &al (2017) - UNICEF

Prevalence and Correlates of Food Insecurity among Children across the Globe - Pereira &al (2017) - UNICEF | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Target 2.1 of the Sustainable Development Goals calls for an end to hunger, in all its forms, by 2030. Measuring food security among children under age 5, who represent a quarter of the world’s population, remains a challenge that is largely unfeasible for current global monitoring systems. 


The SDG framework has agreed to use the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) to measure moderate and severe food insecurity. The FIES is an experience-based metric that reports food-related behaviours on the inability to access food due to resource constraints. We present the first global estimates of the share and number of children below age 15, who live with a respondent who is food insecure. 


Among 147 countries and four territories, 41% of children under age 15 live with a respondent who is moderately or severely food insecure, 19% live with a respondent who is severely food insecure, and 45% live with a respondent who reported not having enough money to buy food in the previous 12 months. These estimates translate into roughly 605 million, 260 million and 688 million children under age 15, respectively... 


Correlations of food insecurity and income per capita between 2006 and 2015, show that some regions were harder hit by the shocks in food prices and the Great Recession than others. Our estimates are the first to quantify the extent of food insecurity among households with children across countries and ideally, will encourage and provide motivation for continued global efforts to address this issue and monitor progress towards SDGs...


https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/900/


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On the Measurement of Food Waste - Bellemare &al (2017) - Am J Ag Econ

One-quarter to one-third of all the food produced worldwide is wasted. We develop a simple framework to systematically think about food waste based on the life cycle of a typical food item. Based on our framework, we identify problems with extant measures of food waste and propose a more consistent and practical approach. 


In so doing, we first show that the widely cited, extant measures of the quantity and value of food waste are inconsistent with one another and overstate the problem of food waste. By misdirecting and misallocating some of the resources that are currently put into food waste reduction efforts, this overstatement of the problem could have severe consequences for public policy. 


Our framework then allows documenting the points of intervention for policies aimed at reducing the extent of food waste in the life cycle of food and the identification of interdependencies between potential policy levers.


https://doi.org/10.1093/ajae/aax034


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Global diet and farming methods ‘must change for environment’s sake’ - IOP (2017) 

Reducing meat consumption and using more efficient farming methods globally are essential to stave off irreversible damage to the environment... Future increases in agricultural sustainability are likely to be driven by dietary shifts and increases in efficiency, rather than changes between food production systems.

Researchers examined more than 740 production systems for more than 90 different types of food, to understand the links between diets, agricultural production practices and environmental degradation... “If we want to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture, but still provide a secure food supply for a growing global population, it is essential to understand how these things are linked.”

Using life cycle assessments – which detail the input, output and environmental impact of a food production system – the researchers analysed the comparative environmental impacts of different food production systems (e.g. conventional versus organic; grain-fed versus grass-fed beef; trawling versus non-trawling fisheries; and greenhouse-grown versus open-field produce), different agricultural input efficiencies (such as feed and fertilizer), and different foods.

The impacts they studied covered levels of land use, greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), fossil fuel energy use, eutrophication (nutrient runoff) and acidification potential.

“Although high agricultural efficiency consistently correlated with lower environmental impacts, the detailed picture we found was extremely mixed. While organic systems used less energy, they had higher land use, did not offer benefits in GHGs, and tended to have higher eutrophication and acidification potential per unit of food produced. Grass-fed beef, meanwhile, tended to require more land and emit more GHGs than grain-fed beef.”

However, the authors note that these findings do not imply conventional practices are sustainable. Instead, they suggest that combining the benefits of different production systems... 


“A shift away from ruminant meats... would have significant benefits, both for the environment and for human health. Larger dietary shifts, such as global adoption of low-meat or vegetarian diets, would offer even larger benefits to environmental sustainability and human health.”

“It’s essential we take action through policy and education to increase public adoption of low-impact and healthy foods, as well the adoption of low impact, high efficiency agricultural production systems.

“A lack of action would result in massive increases in agriculture’s environmental impacts including the clearing of 200 to 1000 million hectares of land for agricultural use, an approximately three-fold increase in fertilizer and pesticide applications, an 80 per cent increase in agricultural GHG emissions and a rapid rise in the prevalence of diet-related diseases such as obesity and diabetes... 

“The steps we have outlined, if adopted individually, offer large environmental benefits. Simultaneous adoption of these and other solutions, however, could prevent any increase in agriculture’s environmental impacts. We must make serious choices, before agricultural activities cause substantial, and potentially irreversible, environmental damage.”


http://ioppublishing.org/news/global-diet-and-farming-methods-must-change-for-environments-sake/


Underlying article: http://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aa6cd5


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Can insects increase food security in developing countries? An analysis of Kenyan consumer preferences and demand for cricket flour buns - Alemu &al (2017) - Food Sec

Can insects increase food security in developing countries? An analysis of Kenyan consumer preferences and demand for cricket flour buns - Alemu &al (2017) - Food Sec | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Achieving food security in an environmentally sustainable manner is one of the biggest challenges of our time. Using insects as food can serve this purpose because they are nutritionally valuable and environmentally friendly. Embracing insects as food requires information on potential consumer demand... 


We present... assessments of consumer demand for an insect-based food... the demand in terms of Kenyan consumer preferences and willingness to pay for buns containing varying amounts of cricket flour... 


The study used an incentivized discrete choice experiment integrated with sensory evaluations. This was intended to reduce any hypothetical bias and to allow participants to acquire experience by tasting the buns. 


We found significant and positive preferences for the cricket-flour-based buns. The bun products with medium amounts (5%) of cricket flour were preferred to no or high amounts (10%) of cricket flour... Cricket-flour-based buns were likely to obtain greater market shares...


A market for breads made with cricket flour is likely in Kenya since the demand is present. This signals that insect-based food products may serve as a viable and demand-driven way to increase food security in Kenya in the future.


http://doi.org/10.1007/s12571-017-0676-0


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Scientists Create 'Biofortified' Seeds to Help Fight Malnutrition - VOA (2017) 

Scientists Create 'Biofortified' Seeds to Help Fight Malnutrition - VOA (2017)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

One in eight people in the world do not get enough to eat. One in three are lacking... essential nutrients... vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and other nutrients that the body needs for good health.

A Washington, D.C.- based organization is trying to reduce hunger and its effects through better, more-nutritious crops. The group is creating seeds that grow into more nutrient-rich crops than normal ones. This process called biofortification. A non-profit group called HarvestPlus created the seeds. 


“It’s very important that the seeds are not just high in nutrition, but that they are still high-yielding, they're pest-resistant, they're climate-resistant -- because these are the things that farmers still want more.”

If people do not get enough essential nutrients from the foods they eat, they are more likely to get sick or develop infections. In some cases, they can go blind or they may not grow to their full height and weight... Two billion people are at risk of the most serious effects of this “hidden hunger”... 450,000 people die every year because of poor nutrition.

Scientists have created 150 kinds of 12 food crops, including corn, beans, rice, lentils and wheat. They have shipped the seeds to 30 developing countries, reaching an estimated 20 million people since 2003... The group hopes to reach one billion by 2030.

“We’re not trying to change behavior -- we are looking to see what people are eating and we're just switching out to make that food more nutritious.”

HarvestPlus distributes its seeds through seed companies and sometimes directly to farmers. “We’ve learned that in some countries if we give the seed away, we can encourage the farmers to not just grow this new variety, but then ask them to give the next year’s seed that they harvest to four new farmers.” 


https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/scientists-create-biofortified-seeds-to-help-fight-malnutrition/3881731.html


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Where will the next food production problem occur? – launch of a new early warning system - EU (2017) 

A new early warning system detecting agricultural production anomaly hotspots will be launched at the European Development Days on the 8 June 2017 in Brussels.

The Anomaly hot Spots of Agricultural Production (ASAP) system, developed by the JRC, will produce monthly reports that identify hotspot countries to support further investigation as well as early planning of aid interventions or adaptation of rural development programmes.

The system covers 80 countries, and is based mainly on Earth observation and meteorological model outputs. In addition to the monthly warning reports, every ten days, it will issue automatic warnings at province level and make available crop monitoring indicators for technical experts.

The early warnings of impending problems for food production in food insecure countries can then feed into the main existing international coordination mechanisms including for example the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, complementing the information provided in the Global Network against Food Crises, and will also contribute to multi-agency early warning products such as the Crop Monitor for Early Warning...  

United Nations' representatives will present how existing early warning systems of the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme link with the ASAP.

The JRC has long-standing experience of monitoring agricultural production in food insecure areas around the world. JRC scientists have been using Earth observation data since... the late 1980’s. The first remote-sensing-based crop monitoring bulletin was published in 2001 for Somalia and was followed by similar products for other countries in East, West and Southern Africa in the following years.

However, while this work addressed country-specific information needs, the full potential of global datasets of remote sensing and weather information for monitoring agricultural production in all countries affected by risk of food insecurity remained largely underexploited. At the same time, the availability and coverage of satellite data is rapidly increasing, thanks also to programmes funded by the EU such as the Copernicus programme.

With climate change and the increase in extreme events, the recurrence of droughts and the related crop failures are not going to decrease. The 2015-2016 El Niño phenomenon in Southern and Eastern Africa, as well as the current situation in Somalia, show that the climatic dimension remains a fundamental driver that should continue to be monitored and analysed.

For the utmost accuracy, full advantage has to be taken of the latest technological and science developments, including the Copernicus Earth observation programme. 


https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/news/where-will-next-food-production-problem-occur-launch-new-early-warning-system


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Research suggests eating beans instead of beef would sharply reduce greenhouse gasses - LLUH (2017) 

The key to reducing harmful greenhouse gases (GHG) in the short term is more likely to be found on the dinner plate than at the gas pump... One simple change in American eating habits would have a large impact on the environment: if Americans would eat beans instead of beef, the United States would immediately realize approximately 50 to 75 percent of its GHG reduction targets for the year 2020.

The researchers explained that beef cattle are the most GHG-intensive food to produce and that the production of legumes (beans, peas, etc.) results in one-fortieth the amount of GHGs as beef... 

“The study will be useful in demonstrating just how much of an impact changes in food production can make and increase the utility of such options in climate-change policy”... 

Dietary alteration for climate change mitigation is currently a hot topic among policymakers, academics and members of society at large... In addition to reducing GHG... shifting from animal-sourced to plant-sourced foods could help avert global temperature rise. 


“The nation could achieve more than half of its GHG reduction goals without imposing any new standards on automobiles or manufacturing”... 


The study... also found that beef production is an inefficient use of agricultural land. Substituting beans for beef would free up 42 percent of U.S. cropland currently under cultivation — a total of 1.65 million square kilometers or more than 400 million square acres, which is approximately 1.6 times the size of the state of California...  

More than a third of American consumers are currently purchasing meat analogs: plant-based products that resemble animal foods in taste and texture... The trend suggests that animal-sourced meat is no longer a necessity.

“Given the scale of greenhouse gas reductions needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, are we prepared to eat beef analogs that look and taste like beef, but have a much lower climate impact? ... It looks like we’ll need to do this. The scale of the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions needed doesn’t allow us the luxury of ‘business as usual’ eating patterns.” 


https://news.llu.edu/for-journalists/press-releases/research-suggests-eating-beans-instead-of-beef-would-sharply-reduce-greenhouse-gasses


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Six-legged livestock: sustainable food production – U Copenhagen (2017) 

Six-legged livestock: sustainable food production – U Copenhagen (2017)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Farming crickets for human consumption is less of a burden on the environment than other livestock production systems... Insect farming systems can be improved to become even more environmentally sustainable in the future.

Identifying areas of particular high impact is an important step to improving the environmental sustainability of production systems. Insects have been heralded as the foods of the future – and now the first study to measure the environmental impacts and identify hotspots associated with commercial insect production has been published.

The study demonstrated that cricket farming can be a sustainable means of producing animal source foods. The study compared cricket production in Thailand to broiler chicken production. Fifteen different environmental impacts were investigated including global warming potential, resource depletion and eutrophication. In most cases, cricket production had a lower impact than broiler chicken production. The major reason for the lower impacts is the fact that the feed conversion into animal protein is more efficient, as the production of the feed is a major hotspot in both systems.

“This research is very timely, as there are many different stakeholders interested in farmed insects. Many people have seen insects as a means of lowering the environmental burden of animal production. Insects, in many cases, can be comparable to meat and fish in terms of nutritional value. The fact that we have shown here that they can be produced more environmentally sustainably than meat means that they represent a massive potential for lowering the impact of the food production”... 

The study also demonstrated the need for further research to look into alternative ways of feeding the crickets: “While crickets consume plant matter in the wild, farmers started to use commercial chicken feeds because they saw that the crickets grew faster. Unfortunately, the production of feed ingredients like maize and soy can have detrimental effects on the environment. Luckily our colleagues... are looking into other feed sources farmed crickets, such as different kinds of plants and waste products”... 


In Thailand, cricket farming has been occurring for nearly 20 years with 20,000 farms scattered throughout the northeastern and northern parts of the country. Around the world, there are over 2,000 insect species that are regularly eaten. Most of these species are harvested from the wild, but around nine insect species are currently farmed for food and feed. 


http://nexs.ku.dk/english/news/2017/six-legged-livestock--sustainable-food-production/


Underlying article: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.04.017


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Does trade openness contribute to food security? A dynamic panel analysis - Dithmer & Abdulai (2017) - Food Pol

Despite significant progress in the fight against hunger during the last decades, food insecurity remains a major problem in many countries, especially developing ones. In this study, we use a large cross-country data to investigate the impact of trade openness and other factors on food security, measured by dietary energy consumption... 


The empirical results reveal that trade openness and economic growth exert positive and significant impacts on dietary energy consumption, and also contribute to improvements in dietary diversity. The results are robust to the inclusion of additional variables capturing specific agro-climatic constraints (e.g. weather-related) and regional/country characteristics and to the sample composition. 


Most geographical regions are found to have significantly higher food security levels compared to Sub-Saharan Africa. Additional results indicate that besides calorie consumption, trade openness also improves dietary diversity and diet quality-related aspects of food security.


https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2017.04.008


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Edible insects could cut harmful emissions - Univ Edinburgh (2017) 

Eating insects instead of beef could help tackle climate change by reducing emissions linked to livestock production... Replacing half of the meat eaten worldwide with crickets and mealworms would cut farmland use by a third, substantially reducing emissions of greenhouse gases...

While consumers’ reluctance to eat insects may limit their consumption, even a small increase would bring benefits... This could potentially be achieved by using insects as ingredients in some pre-packaged foods.

Using data collected primarily by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, scientists have compared the environmental impacts of conventional meat production with those of alternative sources of food... Researchers... considered a scenario in which half of the current mix of animal products is replaced by insects, lab-grown meat or imitation meat.

They found that insects and imitation meat – such as soybean-based foods like tofu – are the most sustainable as they require the least land and energy to produce. Beef is by far the least sustainable...  Lab-grown meat was found to be no more sustainable than chicken or eggs, requiring an equivalent area of land but using more energy...  

The team... says halving global consumption of animal products by eating more insects or imitation meat would free up 1680 million hectares of land – 70 times the size of the UK... As well as being a major contributor to human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, current livestock production has other environmental impacts.

Globally, pasture covers twice the area of cropland, and livestock consume around a third of all harvested crops... Reducing food waste and potentially introducing insects more commonly into diets, would help achieve land savings and a more sustainable food system.


http://www.ed.ac.uk/news/2017/edible-insects-could-cut-harmful-emissions


Underlying article: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2017.04.001


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Perspective: Look beyond production - Ingram (2017) - Nature

Perspective: Look beyond production - Ingram (2017) - Nature | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Food-security challenges will not be met by simply increasing primary production. Many – mostly poor people living in developing countries – do need more calories and nutrients, and increases in production are required to satisfy this need. But a significant proportion of these people are becoming wealthier, and if the concomitant changes in diet towards the consumption of more energy-dense foods continue, the nutritional status of this rapidly increasing group will probably diminish, even as its calorific intake grows.

The current status of global nutrition is far from satisfactory... 795 million people are hungry – they are unable to access enough food to meet their daily minimum dietary energy requirements. Given the challenges of determining such a precise number... the number of people who often have to cope with insufficient calories may well be about one billion. Estimating the number of people who do not get enough nutrients is even harder, but between 2 billion and 3 billion is likely. Too little iron, vitamin A, iodine and zinc are the most prevalent deficiencies. Paradoxically, at least 2 billion people consume excess calories, many of whom also do not get enough nutrients. Malnutrition is often taken to mean too little nutrition, but really it means poor nutrition... 

The failure to consistently recognize that it is not only people who are hungry but also those who have too few nutrients and those who overconsume calories who can be malnourished challenges efforts to address the problem comprehensively. It is essential to increase the supply of food for people who are hungry. There are, however, growing concerns about the health consequences of overconsumption, particularly in the form of 'empty calories' from foods that contain solid fats or added sugars that supply energy, but little or no other nutrition... Poor diets constitute the number-one driver of the global burden of disease.

Malnourishment is related to consumption patterns of calories and nutrients, rather than food production. Major determinants of consumption include food preference (for example, taste and appearance), allocation (such as who eats first in a household), cultural norms (such as excluding certain foods for religious reasons), cooking skill and convenience. But, arguably, the most important is affordability. This is dictated by both the price... and people's ability to pay. It is the increased availability and affordability of processed, high-energy foods for the emerging global middle class (those who earn US$6,000-30,000 a year) coupled with the aspirations of many to consume a more-Western diet that is making malnutrition a global problem.

Most international efforts to improve food security focus only on hunger and undernutrition, and hence push to increase food production. But this productionist approach will not solve all forms of malnutrition. More emphasis should be placed on changing consumption patterns – identifying problems at the consumer end of the supply chain, and working backwards to the producer from there. This will not only help to identify the root causes of malnutrition, but also send a signal to producers about the nature of foods needed to address malnutrition... 


http://doi.org/10.1038/544S17a


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Approaches to reduce zinc and iron deficits in food systems - Gregory &al (2017) - Global Food Sec

Approaches to reduce zinc and iron deficits in food systems - Gregory &al (2017) - Global Food Sec | Food Policy | Scoop.it

There is a deficit of mineral micronutrients in global food systems [which leads to] ‘hidden hunger’, especially in the global south. This review focuses on zinc (Zn) and iron (Fe), whose entry into food systems depends primarily on soil and crop factors. 


Approaches to increase dietary supplies of Zn and Fe include: (1) supplementation, (2) food fortification, (3) dietary diversification, and (4) crop biofortification, including breeding and fertilizer-based approaches. 


Supply-based estimates indicate that Zn deficiency might be more widespread than Fe deficiency in sub-Saharan Africa, although there are major knowledge gaps at an individual biomarker level. 


Recent analytical advances, including the use of stable isotopes of Zn and Fe, can play an increasing role in improving our understanding of the movement of micronutrients in food systems, and thereby help to reduce the immense human cost of ‘hidden hunger’.


https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2017.03.003


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