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Should cost-benefit analysis be mandatory part of USAID project design? - Devex (2013)

Should cost-benefit analysis be mandatory part of USAID project design? - Devex (2013) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The U.S. Agency for International Development is hiring economists and arming in-house staff with cost-benefit analysis expertise to make project design more “rational” and help missions choose between alternative investment opportunities.

Officials say the effort is part of Administrator Rajiv Shah’s drive to reposition USAID as a “premier” development institution... 

As development donors everywhere are looking to get more bang for their buck, cost-benefit analysis gives project designers a helpful tool for choosing between alternatives — like which road to rehabilitate in Haiti, or which agricultural supply chain to support in Egypt... 

Agency leaders have asked him whether cost-benefit analysis ought to be a required part of project design. His answer: USAID is “not ready” yet. “If it comes from Washington, first people will push back, because they push back about anything that comes from Washington... We want it to be done seriously.”

USAID’s “project design guidance” defines cost-benefit analysis as “a decision-making approach used to determine if a proposed project is worth doing, or to choose between several alternative ones.” ... 

 

https://www.devex.com/en/news/82270

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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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Changing the agriculture and environment conversation - Bennett (2017) - Nature Ecol & Evol

Changing the agriculture and environment conversation - Bennett (2017) - Nature Ecol & Evol | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The land sharing/sparing debate has stagnated. Finding a way forward requires that we ask new questions and, crucially, focus on human well-being and ecosystem services.

One of the most critical problems of our time is guaranteeing food security for all while at the same time shrinking agriculture's overlarge environmental footprint. In environmental and agricultural circles, a debate has arisen as to the best way to do this. Some argue that achieving balance will require land sparing, while others argue that land sharing is a better solution. 


The former propose an agricultural landscape in which some land is set aside for wildlife and the rest farmed intensively for the highest possible yields; the latter propose an increase in farmed land, but use of wildlife-friendly techniques such as retaining hedgerows. This debate is being spurred on by increasing recognition of the role of agriculture in both poverty alleviation and environmental degradation and a sense that the political will to do something about it might be close at hand... 


How we frame the problem of feeding people while shrinking the environmental impact of agriculture will influence how we solve it. Make the question an artificial choice between sparing and sharing, and those become the only options for solutions. Indeed, addressing an artificial choice is likely to lead to an ‘artificial solution’, one that does not, in the end, secure all of the factors required for human well-being. 


The conversation about land sharing and land sparing has been useful for focusing attention on the intersection of food security and conservation, and many scientists have engaged with this issue, contributing to important scientific discoveries. But now it is time to move on to a broader question, one that fully addresses the larger challenge of ensuring human well-being. 


This will require science that considers all the ecosystem services provided in agricultural landscapes, and that incorporates issues of governance, equity, poverty, and the other important social factors that contribute to food security and human well-being for nations and individuals.


http://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-016-0018


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Do School Food Programs Improve Child Dietary Quality? - Smith (2016) - AJAE 

Do School Food Programs Improve Child Dietary Quality? - Smith (2016) - AJAE  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

This paper estimates the impact of U.S. school food programs on the distribution of child dietary quality... to better understand how school food impacts children prone to low-quality diets separately from those prone to higher-quality diets.... 


I find notable heterogeneity in the general population – school food has positive impacts below the median of the dietary-quality distribution, and... insignificant impacts at upper quantiles. Children demonstrating substantial nutritional needs (i.e., food insecure or receiving free... meals) exhibit positive impacts at all levels of diet quality with especially high benefits at low quantiles. 


Although school food programs may not benefit the “above-average” child, they do improve the diets of the most nutritionally disadvantaged. 


https://doi.org/10.1093/ajae/aaw091


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Despite Pledges To Cut Back, Farms Are Still Using Antibiotics - NPR (2016) 

Despite Pledges To Cut Back, Farms Are Still Using Antibiotics - NPR (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

It's a continuing paradox of the meat industry. Every year, more restaurants and food companies announce that they will sell only meat produced with minimal or no use of antibiotics. And every year... more antibiotics are administered to the nation's swine, cattle and poultry... Antibiotic sales for use on farm animals increased by 1 percent in 2015... 


Public health agencies have been pushing farmers to rely less on these drugs. Heavy use of antibiotics both in human medicine and in agriculture has led to the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria, complicating the task of treating many infections... 

The poultry industry has made the most ambitious promises to reduce antibiotic use. Perdue Farms says that 95 percent of its chickens already are raised with no antibiotics at all. Tyson Foods, the largest producer, has announced that it is "striving" to end the use of antibiotics that also are used in human medicine...  

There are some concerning trends... Some species of bacteria found on cattle have shown increasing levels of resistance to ciprofloxacin, and turkey samples showed a big increase in Salmonella that's resistant to several different drugs. 


http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/12/22/506599017/despite-pledges-to-cut-back-farms-are-still-using-antibiotics


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The strange effects of thinking healthy food is costlier - Ohio SU (2016) 

The strange effects of thinking healthy food is costlier - Ohio SU (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Consumers believe healthy food must be more expensive than cheap eats and that higher-priced food is healthier – even when there is no supporting evidence... The results mean not only that marketers can charge more for products that are touted as healthy, but... consumers may not believe that a product is healthy if it doesn’t cost more... 

“It’s concerning. The findings suggest that price of food alone can impact our perceptions of what is healthy and even what health issues we should be concerned about” said Rebecca Reczek... 


She and her colleagues conducted the study to examine the lay theory that we have to pay more to eat healthfully. Lay theories are the common-sense explanations people use to understand the world around them, whether they are true or not... 

The researchers conducted five related studies... In one, participants were given information on... a new product called “granola bites,” which was given a health grade of either A- or C. They were then asked to rate how expensive the product would be. Participants who were told the health grade was A- thought the granola bites would be more expensive than did those who were told the grade was C.

In a second study... participants rated a breakfast cracker that they were told was more expensive as healthier than an identical cracker that cost less. 


In the next experiment... people was asked to imagine that a co-worker had asked them to order lunch for them. Half the people were told the co-worker wanted a healthy lunch, while the others weren’t give any instructions... Participants were given... two different chicken wraps to choose... ingredients were listed for both... For some participants the Chicken Balsamic Wrap was listed as more expensive, and for others the Roasted Chicken Wrap cost more... When participants were asked to pick the healthiest option, they were much more likely to choose the more expensive chicken wrap – regardless of which one it was... 

Participants were told to imagine they were at a grocery store to buy trail mix and they were presented with four options, all at different price points. The option that the researchers were interested in was called the “Perfect Vision Mix.” Some participants saw the mix touted as “Rich in Vitamin A for eye health.” Others saw the line “Rich in DHA for eye health.”

While both Vitamin A and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are indeed good for eye health, the researchers had previously determined that few people are familiar with DHA. Some participants saw the trail mix listed at an average price, while others saw it listed at a premium price above the other three trail mixes.

Participants were then asked about their perceptions of the key ingredient in the trail mix, either Vitamin A or DHA. When the ingredient was Vitamin A, people thought it was equally important in a healthy diet, regardless of the price. But if the ingredient was DHA, participants thought it was a more important part of a healthy diet if it was in the expensive trail mix than when it was in the average-priced mix.

“People are familiar with Vitamin A, so they feel they can judge its value without any price cues... But people don’t know much about DHA, so they go back to the lay theory that expensive must be healthier”... When participants were told DHA helped prevent macular degeneration, people thought this was a more important health issue when the trail mix with DHA was more expensive... 
 

In the final study, participants were asked to evaluate a new product that would have the brand slogan “Healthiest Protein Bar on the Planet.” They were told this bar would compete against other products that averaged $2 per bar. 


Some participants were told this new bar would be $0.99, while others were told it would be $4. They were then given the opportunity to read reviews of the bar before they offered their own evaluation... Participants read significantly more reviews when they were told the bar would cost only $0.99 than when it cost $4.

“People just couldn’t believe that the ‘healthiest protein bar on the planet’ would cost less than the average bar... They had to read more to convince themselves this was true. They were much more willing to accept that the healthy bar would cost twice as much as average” ... 


“We need to be aware of our expensive-equals-healthy bias and look to overcome it by searching out objective evidence... It makes it easier for us when we’re shopping to... just assume we’re getting something healthier when we pay more. But we don’t have to be led astray. We can compare nutrition labels and we can do research before we go to the grocery store. We can use facts rather than our intuition.” 


https://news.osu.edu/news/2016/12/19/healthy-expensive/


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Can Africa feed itself? - Wageningen UR (2016) 

Can Africa feed itself? - Wageningen UR (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

In 2050, when the population of Africa is two and a half times larger than now, the continent will scarcely be able to grow enough food for its own population. Even if much higher yields are achieved on all current cropland, further expansion into uncultivated areas is likely and very risky due to biodiversity loss and increased greenhouse gas emissions. Based on local data and model calculations, this was the conclusion of a study conducted by a team of researchers from Wageningen University & Research, several African institutes and the University of Nebraska... 


Agricultural yields per hectare in sub-Saharan Africa are currently low. For example, the maize yield is only 20% of the potential yield with good management. In comparison, the yield in the Netherlands or USA is 80% of the potential yield. Although extensive farming now satisfies most of the African population's demand for grain, in the next few decades the African population will grow by a factor of 2.6 and grain demands even 3.4 times. Therefore in 2050  self-sufficiency on existing farm land is only feasible if the yield per hectare will rise to 80% of the potential... 

During the past decade, the maize yield per hectare was less than 2 tonnes, with a very small annual increase... In 2050, the yield must be approximately 7 tonnes per hectare. As a result, an annual increase in yield per hectare of 130 kg must be achieved – starting now... If that fails, then major expansions of farmland are required, which will be at the cost of natural habitats and increased greenhouse gas emissions, or enormous grain imports that must be paid with scarce foreign exchange. In some countries, the required area is simply not available, and expansion of farmland is not sustainable... 


Consequently... a rapid intensification of African farming is required... options that will lead to improved yields, such as grain varieties that are adapted to local conditions, and improved fertilisation and control of diseases and pests, including parasitic plants... importance of improved farming with multiple crops per year and the expansion of sustainable irrigation... “large investments are required in research and development, in the private and public sectors, to increase production while limiting environmental impact.”

Although the researchers restricted their study to biophysical limits and possibilities, they also call for attention to market access, especially for smallholder farmers, and to transport, infrastructure, farm loans and insurance... 


The researchers... collected data from 10 African countries which accommodate 54% of the total population of sub-Saharan Africa and which contain 58% of the total cropland on this part of the continent. They mapped out the production and demand for five major grains – maize, millet, rice, sorghum and wheat – in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. They consider it unlikely that the situation is more favourable in other African countries because there the availability of arable land per capita is slightly lower.


http://www.wur.nl/en/newsarticle/Can-Africa-feed-itself.htm


Underlying article: http://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1610359113


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Beans and peas increase fullness more than meat – Univ Copenhagen (2016) 

Beans and peas increase fullness more than meat – Univ Copenhagen (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Meals based on legumes such as beans and peas are more satiating than pork and veal-based meals... sustainable eating may also help with weight loss... 

Consuming more vegetable-based protein from beans and peas, and less protein from meats such as pork, veal and beef, is recommended because meat production is a far greater burden on our climate than vegetable cultivation. Until now, we haven’t known very much about how legumes like beans and peas stack up against meat in satiating hunger.... 


Protein-rich meals based on beans and peas increased satiety more in the study participants than protein-rich veal and pork based meals... when participants ate a protein-rich meal based on beans and peas, they consumed 12% fewer calories in their next meal... 

"The protein-rich meal composed of legumes contained significantly more fiber than the protein-rich meal of pork and veal, which probably contributed to the increased feeling of satiety"... a less protein-rich meal based on beans and peas was as satiating and tasty as the protein-rich veal and pork-based meals... 

"Vegetable-based meals – particularly those based on beans and peas – both can serve as a long term basis for weight loss and as a sustainable eating habit"...


http://nexs.ku.dk/english/news/2016/beans-and-peas-increase-fullness-more-than-meat/


Underlying article: http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/fnr.v60.32634



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How Tracking Product Sources May Help Save World’s Forests - Yale (2016) 

How Tracking Product Sources May Help Save World’s Forests - Yale (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Global businesses are increasingly pledging to obtain key commodities only from sources that do not contribute to deforestation. Now, nonprofit groups are deploying data tools that help hold these companies to their promises by tracing the origins of everything from soy to timber to beef...


NGOs launched... the first global ecological tracking system for the commodities that drive tropical deforestation... Trase – Transparency for Sustainable Economies... “Over the next five years, we aim to cover over 70 percent of the total production in major forest-risk commodities, for the first time laying bare the flows of globally traded commodities that are driving deforestation” says Toby Gardner... Through transparency, Gardner hopes for accountability. And if the deforesters are accountable, he hopes they will stop – or be forced to stop.

The threat posed to rainforests by the international trade in agricultural commodities now far exceeds any other. At least two-thirds of deforestation comes down to a few key commodities: palm oil, soy, timber, paper and pulp, beef, and leather, according to Forest 500, a program of the GCP that ranks corporations and others according to their progress towards deforestation-free supply chains... The growing, trading, processing, and selling of these commodities accounts for nearly a trillion dollars in corporate revenues a year.

Under pressure from consumers and investors to decouple their supply chains from this destruction, some businesses have been promising to deliver deforestation-free supply chains... Did they know what they were getting into? To have any hope of achieving such a goal, they need to know how clean their supply chain is. But even large corporations keen to meet their pledges, like Unilever, admit they are ignorant about their own suppliers and what happens in the forests.

Not everyone will be convinced of such claims of ignorance. But Gardner insists it is so. Indonesia, for instance, has more than 2 million small landholders growing about 40 percent of its palm oil. In any case, he says that Trase was developed... to fill that data gap – for companies, but also for those that want to hold companies accountable. “Radical transparency,” Gardner calls it.

A number of NGOs have embarked on systematic efforts to track the ecological footprint of major commodity traders and processors... Optimists hope it may soon be the norm in the corporate world. Investors are demanding it because... “analysts increasingly see a positive correlation between sustainable performance and strong financial performance”... 


So what exactly is Trase trying to do? The aim is to map complex supply chains by tapping into publicly available data such as shipping bills of lading, corporate statements, and customs and tax records, along with information published by transport companies, warehouses, refiners, producers, and traders. The trick is then to overlay maps of the geography of production and trading with maps of the geography of deforestation. The guilty parties can then be named, and hopefully shamed into mending their ways.

The first supply chain to come under Trase’s microscope is Brazilian soy. Soy is one of the world’s most widely traded international commodities. Brazil produces around 30 percent of the global crop, and exported 73 million tons last year, more than any other country. In a world with fast-rising demand for meat and dairy products, soy is an essential source of feed for farm animals... But that level of data detail is not enough for anyone interested in the environmental impact of such trades. Some Brazilian soy is sustainably produced; most is not. Gardner wants to know the precise source of the commodity, and what happened on the land before soy was planted.

“The supply chain data is already there. We simply stitch it together... For example, port documents will detail that Cargill is exporting a shipment of soy that originated from Mato Grosso. With data sets on the ownership of soy silos in that state, we can bring in other trade data to narrow down the origin of the soy to a specific municipality.”

In all, Trase has tracked 320,000 unique soy supply chains in Brazil, involving more than 400 companies, dozens of ports, and hundreds of importers, all linked back to one of the 2000 or so municipalities that grow soy, and each with its unique ecological history. The data is still incomplete... “but we can now begin to link specific actors to deforestation. We go from having a supply chain for soy to a supply chain for deforestation”...  

For instance, Cargill and ADM, another major trader with a zero deforestation commitment, operate in municipalities where 72,400 hectares of deforestation is “linked specifically to soy expansion in the Cerrado,” according to Trase’s analysis. That does not necessarily mean they are responsible for that deforestation, but it raises questions about their role on the soy frontline. These are questions that, equipped with the new data, both NGOs and the corporations themselves can now ask.

Government regulators could also use such information in the future. The European Union is considering an Action Plan on Deforestation that would crack down on agricultural commodities implicated in deforestation from European markets. Adoption of this plan is urgent. Europe may have a reputation for caring about the environment, says Lake, “but our analysis shows that the EU’s deforestation footprint for soy in the Brazilian Cerrado is actually as big as that of China, which people talk about far more”...   

Next is beef. Forest 500, in its 2016 report, identified the cattle industry as still globally “the largest commodity driver of deforestation,” with only 16 percent of companies it surveyed having policies to avoid beef raised on recently deforested pastures. After that, Gardner will target palm oil... Malaysian palm oil companies are now expanding into Africa... If Trase can crack the supply chains of those companies, then maybe the forests of Africa can be saved.


http://e360.yale.edu/feature/tracking_commodities_to_save_world_forests_trase/3062/


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Researchers call for urgent shift in food research to address world's 'rising nutrition crisis' - Phys (2016) 

Researchers call for urgent shift in food research to address world's 'rising nutrition crisis' - Phys (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Researchers have proposed a new global approach to tackling the world's mounting nutrition and food production crisis... Leading food policy experts argue there must be an urgent change in direction for research and have recommended ten priorities. 

 
The authors... warn health and economic problems are set to deteriorate significantly in the next few decades. They call on governments, research funders and academics to concentrate on nourishing people, instead of simply increasing the volume of food that is produced... 


Around 44 per cent of 129 countries in the world today are struggling with both undernutrition and obesity simultaneously, one in three people suffer from malnutrition and two billion people are overweight or obese... 


"Poor quality diets have become the most significant driver of sickness in the world – collectively responsible for more of the global burden of sickness than unsafe sex, drugs, alcohol and tobacco combined. This rising nutrition crisis now affects every nation. In the next few decades, food systems will be subject to major stresses arising from population and income growth, urbanisation, globalisation, climate change, and increasingly scarce natural resources, making the situation worse – unless something is done."

The authors' ten priorities for research:
1. Identify points in the food production process where research is most needed.
2. Make more data on diets widely available and establish open access data portals.
3. Characterise what makes a healthy diet in all countries.
4. Analyse how to tackle the coexistence of different forms of malnutrition.
5. Understand effective combinations of local and long-distance supply chains.
6. Analyse incentives for businesses to improve diets.
7. Shape healthy diets while considering environmental impact.
8. Study the impact of supply and demand of different foods.
9. Identify the appropriate economic levers of change.
10. Fix measurement of each food's impact on health, climate and other issues...

The report concludes that efforts from the international community must be on an "unprecedented scale" and require scientists, governments and donors to create a new research agenda for global diets...  

"Solving malnutrition requires fixing the food system. It's not just about growing more food or education, it's about feeding people well from a healthy and sustainable food system. If we don't diagnose our food system correctly, we won't fix it. And if we don't fix it soon, the world's health and economic problems of the future will be so much greater than they are today."


http://phys.org/news/2016-12-urgent-shift-food-world-nutrition.html


Underlying article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/540030a


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Looking into the future of European food safety and nutrition policy - EU (2016) 

Looking into the future of European food safety and nutrition policy - EU (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The EU legislative framework governing food safety appears to be robust and well prepared to respond to challenges in 2050... However, risk assessment, early warning for emerging hazards, official controls and inspections, provision of clear food information as well as food and nutrition education are elements that could be strengthened to better address future challenges.

EU food legislation aims to provide safe, nutritious, high-quality and affordable food to the consumer and is based on an integrated and comprehensive approach that covers all steps of the food and feed chain. The food system, however, is dynamic, constantly influenced and shaped by many factors. Policy-making should, therefore, respond... through preparedness, forward thinking and proactive policy-making... 

Food safety and nutrition are usually neglected in forward-looking studies that focus primarily on the food sufficiency aspect of food security. The study assesses the future resilience of the current EU food safety and nutrition policy and regulatory framework by examining potential scenarios up to 2050 and the challenges they may present, and suggests possible policy options.

Four challenging scenarios were constructed based on different combined developments of specific drivers of change that may significantly impact the food system such as global trade, EU economic growth, agri-food chain structure, technology uptake, social cohesion, food values, climate change, depletion of natural resources and world population growth... 


Food and nutrition education has been identified as a cornerstone of any society that aspires to have a healthy population, along with crucial backing by governance that – together with policy-makers, industry and the society – maintains nutrition and health high on the agenda.


https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/news/looking-future-european-food-safety-and-nutrition-policy


Underlying report: http://dx.doi.org/10.2787/625130


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Do SNAP participants expand non-food spending when they receive more SNAP Benefits? – Evidence from the 2009 SNAP benefits increase - Kim (2016) - Food Pol

Do SNAP participants expand non-food spending when they receive more SNAP Benefits? – Evidence from the 2009 SNAP benefits increase - Kim (2016) - Food Pol | Food Policy | Scoop.it

This study examines the expenditure response to the largest increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, instituted in April 2009... 


The rise in SNAP benefits increased not only food at home expenditures, but also housing, transportation, and education expenditures... The freed up resources allowed households... to fund other essential needs, such as paying mortgage, rent, utility fee, transportation expenses as well as tuition. 


Examining non-food expenditures provides a more complete picture of the impact of the SNAP benefit increase by shedding light on the spillover effect of the policy change. The result also derives policy implication on ongoing debate about SNAP allotment generosity. 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2016.10.002



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The effectiveness of extension strategies for increasing the adoption of biofortified crops: the case of quality protein maize in East Africa - De Groote &al (2016) - Food Sec

The effectiveness of extension strategies for increasing the adoption of biofortified crops: the case of quality protein maize in East Africa - De Groote &al (2016) - Food Sec | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Biofortified crops can be promoted... based on their agronomic qualities, nutritional qualities, or both... Since 2003, quality protein maize (QPM) has been disseminated using both approaches in East Africa. This study therefore analyzes the effectiveness of promoting biofortified crops based on their agronomic and their nutritional qualities... 


A random sample survey was conducted... to assess determinants of QPM adoption, including farmers’ awareness of QPM, understanding of its nutritional benefits, and evaluation of agronomic performance to evaluate the agronomic and nutritional extension strategies. 


Results showed high familiarity with QPM, but low understanding of nutritional benefits. Farmers evaluated QPM varieties as equal or superior to conventional maize for post-harvest traits, but not always for agronomic traits (in particular yield in Ethiopia and Tanzania). 


Adoption in extension areas varied from 73% in Uganda... to none in Kenya. Key factors that increased adoption were farmers’ participation in extension, having heard of QPM, higher overall evaluation ratings of QPM vs. conventional maize varieties, and understanding of QPM’s nutritional benefits. 


Agronomic performance was found to be more important than an understanding of nutritional benefits. For biofortified crops to be adopted and have a nutritional impact on target populations, they should, first and foremost, be agronomically equal or superior to conventional varieties. 


If farmers are convinced of the agronomic performance of biofortified crops, additional gains in adoption can be achieved by focusing extension efforts on imparting to farmers knowledge of the benefits of biofortified crops for human nutrition.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12571-016-0621-7


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The role of mycotoxin contamination in nutrition: The aflatoxin story - Ayalew &al (2016) - IFPRI

The role of mycotoxin contamination in nutrition: The aflatoxin story - Ayalew &al (2016) - IFPRI | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Over the past decade, there has been increasing recognition that the quantity of food alone guarantees neither food security nor adequate nutrition… Increasingly, policy and decision makers understand the need to include nutritional aspects into improvements of food systems. However, not as fully recognized is that unsafe, contaminated foods thwart these efforts and maintain an unacceptable status quo in food insecurity, poverty, and a range of health-related problems. All of this makes sustainable development more challenging. 


In 2010, foodborne hazards caused 600 million illnesses and 420,000 deaths across the world, with 40 percent of this disease burden occurring among children under five years of age. Yet food safety has become an important precondition for access to global food markets and, increasingly, for high-value domestic markets in developing countries. Contamination of food with mycotoxins is a prominent food safety challenge in tropical regions. In Africa, the most important mycotoxins from both a human health and an economic perspective are aflatoxins and fumonisins. Much of the public- and private-sector’s attention has focused on aflatoxin due to its high pre- and postharvest contamination potential, which causes widespread occurrence in diverse food matrices, and its extreme toxicological significance to humans and animals, with impacts on food safety, nutrition, public health, and markets and income. 


Aflatoxin is a potent liver cancer-causing chemical, and there is mounting evidence that aflatoxin interferes with nutrient absorption and plays a role in inhibiting immune system function, potentially retarding child growth. With respect to food processing and trade, much of African produce is affected by aflatoxin, diminishing the region’s access to high-value export markets. Food-processing firms serving emerging domestic high-value markets are also testing for the contaminant in the production chain. 


This chapter focuses on the nutritional and economic consequences of aflatoxin contamination in Africa and on the opportunities for its management… Aflatoxins, which are potent carcinogens in human and animals, mainly get into the biological system via diets. The human health impacts resulting from acute and chronic aflatoxin exposure add losses in productive years and cost of illness, contributing to the cycle of poverty, which may, in turn, contribute to further ill health. Several interventions are available for reducing the adverse impacts of aflatoxins on the economy. However, the complexity and cost of implementing the available strategies require effective partnerships. 


http://www.ifpri.org/publication/role-mycotoxin-contamination-nutrition-aflatoxin-story


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Food packaging is not the enemy of the environment that it is assumed to be - Economist (2016) 

Food packaging is not the enemy of the environment that it is assumed to be - Economist (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Vacuum packs mean meat can stay on shelves for between five and eight days. Roughly a third of food produced... never makes it from farm to fork... In the poor world much of this waste occurs before consumers even set eyes on items. Pests feast on badly stored produce; potholed roads mean victuals rot on slow journeys to market. In the rich world, waste takes different forms: items that never get picked off supermarket shelves; food that is bought but then goes out of date.

Such prodigious waste exacts multiple costs, from hunger to misspent cash. Few producers and processors record accurately what they throw away, and supermarkets resist sharing such information. But some estimates exist: retailers are reckoned to mark down or throw out about 2-4% of meat, for example. Even a tiny reduction in that amount can mean millions of dollars in savings for large chains.

Waste also damages the environment. The amounts of water, fertiliser, fuel and other resources used to produce never-consumed food are vast. The emissions generated during the process of making wasted food exceeds those of Brazil in total. Squandering meat is particularly damaging: livestock account for more emissions than the world’s vehicle fleet. Consumption of the red stuff is also set to increase by three-quarters... as newly-rich diners in China, India and elsewhere develop a taste for it. The UN wants to halve food waste... 


Help is at hand in the sometimes squishy, see-through shape of packaging. Far from being the blight that green critics claim it is, food wrappings can in fact be an environmental boon. By more than doubling the time that some meat items can stay on shelves, for example, better packaging ensures that precious resources are used more efficiently. Planet and profits both benefit.

Vacuum packaging helps enormously here (even though shoppers tend to prefer their cuts draped behind glass counters, or nestled on slabs of black polystyrene). The plastic packs, which prevent oxidation, mean meat can stay on shelves for between five and eight days, rather than two to four. It also makes it more tender... 


Packaging works wonders for customers, too. The resealable kind keeps certain dairy products fresher for far longer in customers’ fridges. The practice of packaging a lump of produce in portions allows the growing number of singletons to prepare exactly what they need and freeze the rest... Longer-lasting products ought to mean fewer trips to the shops... 


Vacuum packs and other kinds of wrapping do themselves consume energy and resources in their manufacture. But they make more sense than letting food go to waste... Every tonne of waste means the equivalent of 3.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide are released without purpose. In contrast, a tonne of packaging causes emissions of 1-2 tonnes.

This fact is insufficiently recognised by many rich-world retailers. Some supermarkets are trying to cut down on packaging because the common perception is that it is wasteful. But cutting the amount of plastic covering food makes no sense if products then spoil faster.. The next frontier for the world of packaging... is ensuring that as much of it can be reused as possible. That will be a challenge, however... 


The hope is that rich-world adoption of more efficient packaging could encourage supermarkets in places such as China and Brazil, where retail chains are growing apace, to follow suit... By the middle of the century, when the UN projects the world’s population to be almost 9.7bn people, nutrition needs mean that farms, food processors, shops and homes will need to use resources far more efficiently. Unpack the numbers, and it is clear that wrapping up well will help. 


http://www.economist.com/news/business-and-finance/21711846-vacuum-packs-mean-meat-can-stay-shelves-between-five-and-eight-days-food-packaging


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Global value chains, large-scale farming, and poverty: Long-term effects in Senegal - Broeck &al (2016) - Food Pol

Global value chains, large-scale farming, and poverty: Long-term effects in Senegal - Broeck &al (2016) - Food Pol | Food Policy | Scoop.it

This paper presents panel data evidence on the impact of expansion of global value chains and large-scale export-oriented farms in developing countries over almost a decade. We estimate the income effects of wage employment on large-scale farms in the horticultural export sector in Senegal, using data from two survey rounds covering a seven-years period of rapid expansion of the sector. 


We estimate average income effects... poverty and inequality reduced much faster in the research area than elsewhere in Senegal. Employment in the horticultural export sector is associated with higher household income and the income effect is strongest for the poorest households. 


Expansion of the horticultural export sector in Senegal has been particularly pro-poor through creating employment that is accessible and creates substantial income gains for the poorest half of the rural population. These pro-poor employment effects contrast with insights in the literature on increased inequality from rural wage employment.


http://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2016.12.003


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Political Economy of Fertilizer Subsidy Programs in Africa: Evidence from Zambia - Mason &al (2013) - AJAE

Fertilizer subsidy programs have re-emerged as popular policy tools in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite a burgeoning body of literature on program impacts, the political economy of the programs remains poorly understood. In particular, there is a dearth of empirical evidence to support or refute the conventional wisdoms that governments systematically target subsidized inputs to certain areas based on past voting patterns and that fertilizer subsidies win votes. 


This article discusses the theoretical links between government targeting of subsidized fertilizer and voter behavior, then uses panel data from Zambia to... test these... wisdoms. Results suggest that Zambia’s... governments targeted more subsidized fertilizer to households in areas where it had strong support in the previous presidential election. However... changes in the scale or coverage of the fertilizer subsidy program had no statistically significant effect on the share or number of votes won by incumbent presidents.


https://doi.org/10.1093/ajae/aaw090



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Agronomic biofortification of crops to fight hidden hunger in sub-Saharan Africa - Valença &al (2017) - Global Food Sec

Agronomic biofortification of crops to fight hidden hunger in sub-Saharan Africa - Valença &al (2017) - Global Food Sec | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Micronutrient deficiencies or ‘hidden hunger’ resulting from unbalanced diets based on starchy staple crops are prevalent among the population of sub-Saharan Africa. This review discusses the effectiveness of agronomic biofortification – the application of mineral micronutrient fertilizers to soils or plant leaves to increase micronutrient contents in edible parts of crops – and it's potential to fight hidden hunger... 


Agronomic biofortification can increase yields and the nutritional quality of staple crops, but there is a lack of direct evidence that this leads to improved human health. Micronutrient fertilization is most effective in combination with NPK, organic fertilizers and improved crop varieties, highlighting the importance of integrated soil fertility management. 


Agronomic biofortification provides an immediate and effective route to enhancing micronutrient concentrations in edible crop products, although genetic biofortification may be more cost effective in the long run. 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2016.12.001


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Research to Increase Wheat Yields & Funds for Smart Technology Innovations in Agriculture - USDA (2016) 

USDA... announced the award of $3.4 million for research into the development of new wheat varieties that are adapted to different geographical regions and environmental conditions... 
 
“Wheat delivers a significant amount of daily nutrients for American families and people around the world... As demand for wheat grows with the population, wheat research plays a vital role in meeting that need. These grants help support agricultural researchers developing new wheat varieties with greater yield and help us improve global collaboration on wheat research.”
 

Among the projects announced today, scientists... will use the advancing technology of unmanned aerial vehicles outfitted with cutting-edge imaging tools to rapidly assess field trials in wheat breeding programs and use aerial images to gather precise measurements of plant traits relating to yield and health. A consortium of 19 institutions... will train a new generation of 15 plant breeders as well as identify, characterize and deploy wheat genes to increase grain yield... 

https://nifa.usda.gov/announcement/usda-awards-34-million-research-increase-wheat-yields-0


USDA... announced the availability of up to $5 million for research to strengthen the science behind the next generation of internet-connected agricultural implements and resources through the Cyber Physical Systems program... 


“Data driven analytical tools throughout the food supply chain... will allow us to make smarter decisions that can promote efficient food production, reduce food waste, and increase food safety... These investments in cyber physical systems will improve efficiencies across the agricultural industry” ... 


Self-driving tractors and cars, remote patient monitoring apps and smart irrigation scheduling are some examples of the cyber-physical systems already in use or testing... CPS technologies can increase efficiencies in agribusiness, provide economic opportunities to workers and promote practices that sustain the environment. Increased secure access to information also helps producers meet the challenges of global population growth, food waste and the impacts of a changing climate. 


https://nifa.usda.gov/announcement/usda-announces-funds-%E2%80%9C-internet-agricultural-things%E2%80%9D


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The Future of Meat: An Outlook on Omnivorism and the Environmental “Hoofprint” of Livestock - Breakthrough (2016) 

The Future of Meat: An Outlook on Omnivorism and the Environmental “Hoofprint” of Livestock - Breakthrough (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Each year, humanity produces more than 310 million tonnes of meat. That entails raising and slaughtering billions of chickens, pigs, and cows and processing and distributing meat all over the world. The sheer volume of global livestock generates massive environmental impacts. Pasture land for cattle alone covers a quarter of the world’s land area, and the global livestock sector is responsible for about 14% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions… Producing food leaves the largest environmental footprint of any human activity, and meat plays a leading role. By mid-century, meat production is projected to rise by 42% over 2014 levels, to 450 million tonnes. Despite growing awareness of the impacts of meat production, global trends toward increased consumption remain robust. 


In recent years, conversations about mitigating this impact have focused on two strategies: convincing people to eat lower on the food chain and shifting meat production toward more extensive systems. But a growing body of evidence suggests that the former may not prove particularly practical, while the latter may not always bring about better environmental outcomes, particularly at global scales. This essay considers trends in meat consumption and production to assess what sorts systems might be best equipped to mitigate the environmental impacts of global meat production… 


Drastically reducing meat consumption has provided a common, if not a popular, prescription for addressing the food system’s environmental impacts. It is undeniable that eliminating meat consumption would obviate the need for meat production, and a variety of scientific studies confirm that eliminating meat from diets would reduce environmental impacts… Substituting a vegetarian diet for current omnivorous diets could reduce future food system GHG emissions by 55%. 


There is little evidence, however, that growing environmental or health consciousness has appreciably influenced rates of vegetarianism… More promising, perhaps, is “flexitarianism,” or a diet of reduced meat consumption, which may prove a more achievable goal for most than strict vegetarianism. In a 2015 poll, 36% of Americans reported that they eat at least one vegetarian meal per week, reflecting efforts to moderate meat consumption. In part for this reason, meat consumption has plateaued in affluent regions like Europe and North America, albeit at relatively high… levels. 


The composition of meat consumption in the United States has also shifted from predominantly beef to predominantly chicken, a trend driven by lower cost and health concerns… The shift… gives rise to substantial environmental benefits, as chicken provides a much more environmentally efficient source of protein than beef. Producing a pound of chicken requires less than a quarter of the land and produces less than a quarter of the emissions than that for a pound of beef. 


Thus, in affluent economies with relatively high levels of health and environmental concern, efforts to moderate the impacts of meat consumption through behavior change might be best focused on moderating, rather than eliminating, meat consumption and encouraging consumption of less resource-intensive meats such as chicken and pork. [AS: But to get 500 pounds of beef only one animal has to endure the process of raising and slaughtering, for pork it’s already three animals, and for chicken it’s 100…] 


The majority of global meat demand growth, however, is projected to occur in Asia, Latin America, and Africa where not only are populations growing, but average meat consumption is well below developed country levels and rising strongly. Indeed, historically, meat demand tends to increase as incomes rise, a pattern nutrition researchers call the “dietary transition.” When people’s incomes rise from very low levels, they begin to increase their overall calorie consumption. As incomes rise further, they substitute away from simple starches towards refined carbohydrates like wheat, and from plant-based protein like beans towards animal products… For many around the world, “Meat eating is not just a matter of taste or the environment, it’s a foothold, it’s a stake in the rich, modern world. It’s a sign that they too can leave behind the hierarchical societies of the past and be full citizens and enjoy what we already enjoy in the United States”… 


The distinctions between “extensive” and “intensive” meat production are manifold, from how animals are bred and housed, to what they are fed, to how their waste is handled. Most beef today is raised in extensive systems, where cattle graze on pasture areas, eating grass and other forages. Cattle have historically been highly valued in many societies because of this trait: they produce high-quality animal protein by grazing on lands that may not be suitable for growing crops… Pigs and chickens cannot survive on grass. In extensive farming systems they are mostly fed locally produced crop residues or swill, rather than specially grown feeds. In this way, extensive livestock function as an integrated part of a broader agricultural system, feeding on waste products from crop production and providing manure for fertilizer. This integration provides advantages for producers, since the livestock produce both fertilizer and animal protein while requiring relatively few external inputs. 


It was the tectonic economic and demographic shifts of the twentieth century that initiated an intensification of meat production in the United States and other Western countries. Rising wealth increased demand for meat, and new technologies like refrigeration and cold supply chains enabled centralized production and distribution. Labor shortages in the post-war era helped drive intensification as well: confined, indoor housing of animals required fewer workers, reduced problems from weather exposure, and sped up animal growth. With cattle production, a scarcity of grazing lands in the American West also contributed to the increased use of feedlots, and feeding cattle grain resulted in faster growth and more fat-marbled meat. Today, intensively managed livestock systems dominate in the United States for all meat types, and for pork and poultry production intensive systems dominate globally… 


On the whole, extensive systems are being displaced by intensive ones throughout the world because intensive livestock systems offer higher productivity that can more easily meet demand from rapidly urbanizing, wealthier populations… This evolution of livestock production around the world “is shifting the balance of environmental problems caused by the sector”… At the global level, livestock’s environmental “hoofprint” is significant. Due to the high land demands and GHG emissions associated with beef production, beef is the main event as far as most environmental impacts associated with meat production are concerned… 


In all intensive livestock operations, the need for external feed presents a demand for crops and land to grow them that must be weighed against food security and biodiversity considerations. Today, about one-third of global cropland is used to produce feed crops. Soybean production for livestock feed becomes especially relevant in this regard because of its concentration in areas like the Brazilian Amazon that have undergone major deforestation in the wake of agricultural expansion. The added impacts of land-use change in systems that source feeds from high-deforestation areas can certainly outweigh the gains from higher productivity… 


Animal manure is a final source of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as water pollution, in livestock systems. In extensive systems, manure is recycled as fertilizer for crop production or, with cattle, left dispersed in grazing areas. In intensive production systems, on the other hand, manure presents a pollution problem because it accumulates in a centralized setting. Concentrated manure generates ammonia emissions, which contribute to local air pollution. When manure piles are left exposed to the elements, rainfall can cause runoff into waterways, where the excess nitrogen from the manure can lead to algae blooms and create “dead zones” in coastal areas… 


Given the sheer scale of global livestock production, how we produce and consume meat in the future will have a significant impact on our environmental future. However, trends in global demand for meat cannot be disentangled from the production systems used to meet that demand. Extensive systems depend on locally available crop residues for feeds, or natural forage production in grazing areas, which limits their ability to scale up production… “Extensive systems are incapable of meeting the surging urban demand in many developing countries, not only in terms of volume but also in sanitary and other quality standards”… 


Environmental impacts are, of course, not the only consideration; for many people, concerns over animal welfare outweigh concerns about emissions or productivity. Conditions like high stocking densities, confinement, and lack of outdoor access can restrict natural animal behaviors and are common in many intensive livestock systems. While trade-offs do exist between improving animal welfare, reducing environmental impacts, and increasing productivity, however, there are also some synergies. Because poor animal welfare can lead to the spread of disease and lower quality meat, for instance, producers share an interest in the wellbeing of their animals… Many of the practices that draw objections from an animal welfare perspective, like unhealthy manure accumulation and extreme confinement, can be improved upon… although they do usually come at some cost. 


Researchers are also developing technological innovations to improve animal welfare; for example, a scientific innovation called in-ovo sexing may eliminate the need to kill male chicks in the egg industry and a gene-edited dairy cow has been bred without horns, which would normally be painfully removed. On the other hand, some interventions intended to improve animal welfare in large-scale operations have led to unintended consequences: commercial egg producers who have shifted to cage-free production have seen an increase in bird mortality, hazardous working conditions, and particulate emissions. This serves as a reminder that confinement in industrial systems originated partly from the motivation to protect animals from one another and from disease. 


Ultimately, animal health or poor treatment are both possible in extensive, industrial, and organic farms alike… “People get into, ‘big is bad, small is good.’ It’s not that simple. The key is management. Whether you are big or small, you’ve got to have good management.” Even with good management, some may still see commercial livestock production as inhumane. Consumers, farmers, and societies will have to determine the right balance between animal welfare, cost, and environmental performance of livestock systems based on their own values, while also taking into account the growing demand for meat worldwide… 


There is exciting research to support the prospect of producing meat without livestock. The idea behind “cultured meat” is to grow meat from animal muscle cells in culture, producing a genuine animal product without the animal. Although this technology currently exists only at the laboratory scale, many researchers and animal-rights activists have set their sights toward to scaling up to commercial production, the way we have with beer, cheese, and other beloved cultured products… “Right now people eat meat despite how it's produced, not because of how it's produced.” In the future… it will be “absurd to use live animals to create meat.” Additionally, although plant-based meat alternatives have historically held a low market share compared to meat, new innovations have improved the texture, taste, and appearance of plant-based meat substitutes… 


http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/issues/the-future-of-food/the-future-of-meat


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Forecasting, commodity futures, new crops needed to break Southern Africa's cycle of hunger - Reuters (2016) 

Forecasting, commodity futures, new crops needed to break Southern Africa's cycle of hunger - Reuters (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Breaking the cycle of drought and hunger in Southern Africa, where 39 million people are suffering a drought-induced food crisis, will need better early warning systems, switching to new crops and hedging commodity prices... 


After the region's worst drought in 35 years, people across Southern Africa are pulling their children out of school, eating vital seed stocks, and selling their possessions. Some 13.8 million people need international aid... 


How to stop the next major drought becoming a crisis... grain marketing boards that function transparently, helping to stabilize prices, better management of water, and planting more drought-resistant crops... improving early warning systems... and expanding social safety nets... that can be scaled up in a crisis... 

Most people affected by the drought are small farmers growing maize... a crop susceptible to poor rainfall. Some farmers may be reluctant to switch... "I can propose to the farmer a drought resistant crop, like a certain type of bean," but people may not like the taste and farmers will find them hard to sell... 

Keeping big food stocks is an old measure to prepare for drought, but it is also an expensive way to do it... Cheaper alternatives include buying options on commodity exchanges so, when the harvest fails, a country can buy food at a locked-in price, or keeping dollar reserves... that can subsidize the cost of grain imports... 

Better forecasting can also play a role. Last year, meteorologists gave several months notice of the drought and warned of severe drought within a month of the planting season.

"One of the obvious things is (to say) don't plant maize this time, plant sorghum, millet"... while NGOs and governments can arrange imports and support... "In the world of better forecasts we should now be able to go into action a good three months earlier than we ever did in the past and thereby do a lot more good"... 


http://www.reuters.com/article/us-africa-drought-idUSKBN13Y24C


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How Trade Can Boost Food Security - Anderson (2016) - Springer

How Trade Can Boost Food Security - Anderson (2016) - Springer | Food Policy | Scoop.it

International trade and investment optimizes the use of resources devoted to producing the world’s food, maximizes real incomes globally, and minimizes fluctuations in international food prices and quantities traded. It thereby contributes to three components of food security: availability, access, and market stability. 


It should therefore be considered among the food policy options of national governments, as it can reduce poverty, hunger, and under-nutrition; boost diet diversity, food quality, and food safety; and thus boost national and global food security. 


These gains derive not just from the fact that openness enables citizens to consume more of everything, including food, but also from the fact that openness to trade can raise an economy’s growth rate.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-46925-0_2


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Stop buying organic food if you really want to save the planet - New Scientist (2016) 

Stop buying organic food if you really want to save the planet - New Scientist (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Wander around the local supermarket and you will struggle to find any clues to the environmental impact of the food you eat. If you are lucky, some of the seafood might bear the mark of the Marine Stewardship Council, which certifies fish caught in a sustainable way, but that’s about it.

Yet farming is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, only slightly behind heating and electricity. And while it’s relatively easy to cut emissions from electricity by switching to solar, reducing emissions from farming is a tougher nut to crack.

You might think buying local food is always preferable to imported food when it comes to carbon emissions, but even this is not a reliable guide. Food flown thousands of miles can still have a much lower carbon footprint than, say, local produce grown in heated greenhouses.

The one label you’re likely to find on many food items is the “organic” one. But if you care about the environment, don’t buy it (it’s not healthier either, but that’s another story).

For starters, you are not helping wildlife. Yes, organic farms host a greater diversity of wildlife than conventional ones. But because the yields are lower, organic farms require more land, which in the tropics often means cutting down more rainforests.

And organic food also results in higher greenhouse gas emissions than conventional farming.

The trouble is, there is no way to tell whether that basic loaf of bread is better in terms of greenhouse emissions than the organic one sitting next to it on the supermarket shelf.

This divide will become ever greater in the future, because the organisations that set the rather arbitrary standards for what counts as “organic” have firmly rejected the technology showing the greatest promise for reducing farming emissions: genetic modification.

Existing GM crops may already be reducing carbon emissions even though they were not designed to do so. Next up: crops that can capture more of the sun’s energy, require less fertiliser and tolerate drought or salt.

But the organic movement will have none of it. There was a faint hope that some might at least accept gene editing, given that gene-edited crops can be genetically indistinguishable from conventional crops. But no... 

What we really need are climate labels on foods... This isn’t going to be easy. Measuring all the emissions associated with producing food and getting it onto a supermarket shelf is extremely complex... Most schemes so far have foundered. Tesco tried introducing its own carbon labelling in 2007... but eventually abandoned the idea.

And it’s pointless unless the labels are easy to follow. One promising proposal is to describe the greenhouse emissions associated with particular food items in terms of what percentage of a person’s typical daily carbon footprint they represent.

Climate labelling is definitely worth pursuing despite the challenges. The only alternative is to allow consumers to continue being hoodwinked by feel-good mumbo jumbo – and the stakes are far too high to let this happen. 


https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23231022-900-stop-buying-organic-food-if-you-really-want-to-save-the-planet/


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How Drug-Resistant Bacteria Travel from the Farm to Your Table - Scientific American (2016) 

How Drug-Resistant Bacteria Travel from the Farm to Your Table - Scientific American (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-drug-resistant-bacteria-travel-from-the-farm-to-your-table/


Antibiotics are used more heavily in farm animals than in people. This may be the largest source of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Drug-resistance genes spread more widely and rapidly on farms than scientists ever thought, new discoveries show… I was in a pungent, crowded barn on a farm that raises 30,000 pigs a year… The farm belonged to Mike Beard… The pigs belonged not to Beard but to TDM Farms, a hog production company. Beard has a contract to raise TDM's pigs… The 40-by-200-foot barn housed 1,100 pigs. Because Beard is paid for the space he provides rather than by the number of pigs, “it's to the company's advantage to keep the buildings as full as they can”… Beard planned to give them TDM-approved feed containing antibiotics – a necessity if they were to stay healthy in their crowded, manure-gilded home. Antibiotics also help farm animals grow faster on less food, so their use has long been a staple of industrial farming. 


But there is a terrifying downside to this practice… Antibiotics seem to be transforming innocent farm animals into disease factories. The animals become sources of deadly microorganisms, such as the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacterium, which is resistant to several major classes of antibiotics and has become a real problem in hospitals. The drugs may work on farms at first, but a few microbes with the genes to resist them can survive and pass this ability to fight off the drugs to a larger group. Recent research shows that segments of DNA conferring drug resistance can jump between different species and strains of bacteria with disturbing ease, an alarming discovery. By simply driving behind chicken transport trucks, scientists collected drug-resistant microbes from the air within their cars. Early this year scientists discovered that a gene coding for resistance to a last-resort antibiotic has been circulating in the U.S. … 


Many researchers worry – and the new findings add fresh urgency to their concerns – that the abundant use of antibiotics on farms is unraveling our ability to cure bacterial infections. This latest research, scientists now say, shows resistance to drugs can spread more widely than previously thought and… links… resistance… from animal farm to human table. In 2014 pharmaceutical companies sold nearly 21 million pounds of medically important antibiotics for use in food animals, more than three times the amount sold for use in people. Stripped of the power of protective drugs, today's pedestrian health nuisances – ear infections, cuts, bronchitis – will become tomorrow's potential death sentences… 


Scientists now counter that the farm industry is… engineering scientific uncertainty to protect their interests… “It reminds me of the tobacco industry, the asbestos industry and the oil industry”… Researchers admit that it is difficult to connect all the dots, but the farm industry… deliberately makes it harder. Some big meat companies instruct their farmers to keep researchers away, arguing they need to keep animals free of outsiders and their diseases, which makes it impossible for scientists to solidify the science… 


In 2005 researchers in the Netherlands, which has a large pig industry, determined that livestock-associated strains of MRSA were ailing Dutch pig farmers and their families. MRSA can cause deadly skin, blood and lung infections; it has circulated in hospitals for decades and, more recently, has been affecting people outside of medical settings. By 2007 one fifth of the Netherlands' human MRSA infections were identical to bacteria that had come from Dutch livestock. After this discovery, in 2008, the Dutch government announced strict policies to reduce farm antibiotic use, which then dropped by 59 percent between 2009 and 2011. Denmark, another major pork exporter, had already banned the use of antibiotics in healthy pigs in 1999; in general, Europe has taken a harder line against animal antibiotics than has the U.S. 


Now scientists know that this livestock-associated MRSA is spreading throughout the U.S., too… Animal poop is used to fertilize crop fields, too, which means that its bacteria are literally spread on the soil used to grow our food. A 2016 study reported that after manure from hog and dairy farms was applied to soil, the relative abundance of antibiotic-resistance genes in the dirt shot up… A 2006 Escherichia coli outbreak in spinach was traced back to crop irrigation water that, investigators believe, had been contaminated by pig and cow manure from a nearby farm. The outbreak killed three people. Clearly, antibiotic resistance is a problem both for people and for livestock. 


But how can we be sure that the two are connected and that resistance is exacerbated by on-farm antibiotic use? … Levy and his colleagues fed low doses of the antibiotic tetracycline to a group of 150 chickens… that had never gotten antibiotics… Within a week, almost all the E. coli bacteria in their intestines were tetracycline-resistant. Three months in, the bacteria… were also resistant to four other types of antibiotics. After four months, the bacteria growing inside chickens on the farm that had not been fed tetracycline also harbored resistance… When Levy and his colleagues analyzed the bacteria growing inside the farm owners, they found that 36 percent were tetracycline-resistant, compared with only 6 percent of bacteria from their neighbors… One study reported that more than 90 percent of E. coli in pigs raised on conventional farms are resistant to tetracycline, whereas a whopping 71 percent of E. coli in pigs raised on farms without antibiotics are also resistant… because resistance genes spread so well… Microbiologist Lance Price… and his colleagues traced the evolutionary origins of the livestock-associated MRSA… Their findings showed that this MRSA strain started out in people… Then the bacteria jumped into livestock… and spread further… 


At first, antibiotic resistance spreads slowly and through parent-offspring relationships – the descendants of resistant bacteria are born resistant, too. But emerging research shows that over time, resistance genes find their way onto nimble pieces of DNA that dance around the bacterial genome, and many end up on small circles of DNA called plasmids – copies of which can easily be shared among bacteria of different species. In a 2014 study, a group of international researchers collected samples of antibiotic-resistant E. coli from both people and chickens. Although the bacteria were genetically different, many contained nearly identical plasmids with the same antibiotic-resistance genes. It was the organism-jumping plasmids, rather than the bacteria themselves, that spread resistance. 


The fact that resistance can be spread in this way… “horizontally”… changes everything…. It also means that exposing one type of bacteria to one antibiotic in one place has the potential to change how other types of bacteria respond to other antibiotics in other places. Resistance typically comes at a cost: The mutations draw down the cellular energy a microbe uses to reproduce. Individuals survive, but the whole population grows more slowly. So when bacteria stop being exposed to antibiotics, they ditch their resistance genes over multiple generations. Yet new research suggests that when bacteria are repeatedly exposed to antibiotics, they evolve resistance mutations that let them maintain higher reproductive rates – and then they stay resistant even if antibiotics are taken away… 


Some of the antibiotics used by the farm industry are rarely or never used in humans, and the assumption – often touted by industry – is that resistance that develops to these nonhuman drugs will not pose a risk to people. But co-selection means that the use of one antibiotic could “select for resistance in another”… Growing levels of resistance to a farm antibiotic may also increase levels of resistance to, say, penicillin. Making matters worse, new research suggests that when bacteria get exposed to antibiotics, they share their resistance plasmids at a faster rate. It is as if the microbes band together in the face of a common enemy, sharing their strongest weapons… And once bacteria become resistant, the presence of antibiotics only makes them more successful. One reason that resistant infections are so common in hospitals is because antibiotic use there is so common: the drugs kill off susceptible bacteria yet allow the resistant bugs, suddenly devoid of competition, to thrive – making it easier for them to contaminate medical equipment, staff and other patients. 


In the face of these terrifying observations, one might think the U.S. government is cracking down on agricultural antibiotic use. It is – kind of. The FDA released two voluntary recommendations… that will be phased in by January 2017. In them, the agency has asked veterinary pharmaceutical companies to change the labels of their medically important antibiotics to say they should no longer be given to animals just to help them grow larger on less feed. The guidances also ask companies to stop selling feed- or water-grade antibiotics over the counter, requiring prescriptions from veterinarians instead. Most companies have agreed to comply with the suggested rules. The problem is that a lot of livestock farms… say they stopped using antibiotics for growth promotion a long time ago. Their main reason for using antibiotics now, they say, is for “disease prevention and control”… As long as their vets agree, farmers will still be able to mass-treat their animals with antibiotics when they fear that they may be vulnerable to infection… 


According to 2012 USDA data, almost 70 percent of American hog farms mass-feed antibiotics to their animals to prevent or control the spread of disease; nearly all give their pigs antibiotic-laced feed at some point in their lives. Likewise, more than 70 percent of cattle raised on large U.S. feedlots are fed medically important antibiotics, and between 20 and 52 percent of healthy chickens get antibiotics at some time as well. Yet farmers who contract with big companies may not even know when they are giving antibiotics, because they are provided with pretreated feed… 


It makes sense that animals on crowded industrial farms need antibiotics; the conditions of their lives leave them vulnerable to disease. “Density makes it more difficult to eliminate pathogens, and the risk of infection is greater”… The pigs I saw were crawling and lying on one another; some were snoozing in or nosing around in feces. U.S. livestock farms have been exploding in size in recent decades: in 1992 only 30 percent of farms raised more than 2,000 hogs at a time, but by 2009 farms this large accounted for 86 percent of the country's hog industry… There is a lot of economic pressure on these farmers. Hog prices have dropped. Companies that contract with poultry farmers insist the farms regularly upgrade their already expensive equipment and bear the cost… With this setup, “farmers basically have to have perfect management and perfect environments… to keep disease out. Otherwise, they lose their flocks”… 


When livestock are slaughtered, their meat can get splashed with bacteria from their intestines… FDA scientists analyzed raw retail meats sold around the country and found that 84 percent of chicken breasts, 82 percent of ground turkey, 69 percent of ground beef and 44 percent of pork chops were contaminated with intestinal E. coli. More than half of the bacteria in the ground turkey were resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics. These microbes can cause food poisoning if meat is not cooked properly before it is eaten or if a person handling the raw meat does not wash his or her hands properly afterward. But new research suggests that foodborne pathogens can make us sick in other ways, too… Strains of E. coli… most likely get inside people via food but do not, at first, cause illness; they simply colonize the gut, joining the billions of other “good” bacteria there. Later, they can infect other parts of the body, such as the urinary tract, and cause serious illness… 


In recent years the CDC has successfully identified the source of contamination in large foodborne disease outbreaks only about half the time. But the origins of slow-brewing infections are far more challenging to pinpoint. Even if the sausage I ate that morning was contaminated… I would never know it. If I got a serious infection months later, I could never prove that it came from this breakfast. I would probably never even think about this breakfast. This is the crux of the problem: it is difficult, if not impossible, to trace resistant infections back in time to their microbial ground zeros… A hamburger can be made of meat from 100 different cows, so it is hard to pinpoint the one contributor that was contaminated. And scientists not only need to do that but also need to find out whether the way the animals were raised – whether or not they received antibiotics, for how long, at what dose and for what purpose – affected their bacteria in ways that could have spurred or worsened the outbreak… 


“There are very limited data collected at the farm level”… The FDA, the USDA and the CDC held a meeting in which they devised a plan to start collecting more on-farm data, but they did not receive the funding they requested to actually start doing it… Academic scientists are desperate to go on farms and study farm animals, too, but they are rarely granted access unless they have connections… It is not that livestock farmers are antiscience; it is that their employers, the meat companies, instruct them to keep outsiders away. A whopping 90 to 95 percent of U.S. poultry farmers and 48 percent of hog farmers… are contract growers – they sign contracts to raise animals for large companies like Tyson Foods, Smithfield Foods or Perdue Farms. Farmers are beholden to these companies because they undertake a huge amount of debt to start their business… yet they do not earn any money without a company contract; often farmers have only one choice of employer because a single company operates in their area. 


Yet these company contracts… contain clauses… instructing farmers to “limit the movement of non-essential people, vehicles and equipment” around the farms… When… poultry grower Mike Weaver invited a journalist onto his farm… and his employer found out, “I was… delayed receiving a new flock an extra two weeks, which amounts to a loss of revenue of around $5,000”… Price, as a scientist, convinced a handful of farmers to grant him farm access years ago, but then… they “lost their contracts”… The lack of data has made it easier for industry to fight regulations. In 1977… the FDA announced that it was considering banning several antibiotics from animal feed over safety concerns. In the 39 years since, the industry has fought hard against these plans by arguing there was no definitive proof of harm… In fact, antibiotic sales to farms have increased each year since the draft guidances were announced… A 2014 Reuters news investigation reported that half of all the veterinarians who advised the FDA on antibiotic use in food animals in recent years had received money from drug companies. “There are a lot of veterinarians who are attached to industry, who have a conflict of interest and who are beholden to the large producers”… 


Some industrial farms are making changes, thanks in large part to consumer demand…. Perdue Farms announced that two thirds of its chickens would be raised without medically important antibiotics; Tyson Foods has pledged to stop using human antibiotics to raise its U.S. chickens… Perdue Farms… has an arm called Coleman Natural Foods. Coleman raises pigs on a vegetarian, antibiotic-free diet. “The demand is out there. Our consumers are smarter than ever, more informed than ever, asking more questions than ever”… Products from Coleman, as well those from niche farms such as Seven Sons and Niman Ranch, are out of the financial reach of many Americans today. But the more that consumers demand antibiotic-free meat, the more supply there will be and – if basic economics holds true – the less it will cost. 


Scientists still have many, many questions about antibiotic resistance – questions that may never get answered if food companies continue to ban outsiders from their farms. Even so, the weight of the evidence points strongly toward reducing antibiotic use on farms, relying instead on novel infection-control regimens or age-old strategies such as providing animals with ample space. Until some of those changes occur, researchers and the rest of us will continue to worry about the growing strength of foodborne bacteria and the increasing weakness of our medicine against them. 


https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-drug-resistant-bacteria-travel-from-the-farm-to-your-table/


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Climate model predictions are telling a consistent story - Aarhus Univ (2016) 

Climate model predictions are telling a consistent story - Aarhus Univ (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Global wheat production will decrease by more than five percent with each 1°C increase in the global temperature. This rather bleak forecast has been confirmed in a comparison of three independent methods of modelling on how climate change will impact yield... When global temperature increases, wheat yield will decline... 


The comparison of the three very different climate models allowed the scientists... to put more accurate figures on the relation between global warming and declining yields. The models unanimously demonstrate that for each 1° C that the global temperature increases, the global wheat production is projected to decline by an average of 5.7 percent. 

The world population continues to grow and the standard of living continues improving. These two factors result in an increasing demand for food production. However, due to global warming we run the risk that food production decreases. Wheat is one of the world’s most important food crops and we face an important problem if yields fall concurrently with an increasing demand. 

When talking about global food security it is important to understand how climate change will impact crop production at a global level in order for us to develop fact-based mitigation and adaptation strategies... 


The scientists compared three very different crop model types... Depending on the model in question, the expected wheat yield will decline between 4.1 and 6.4 percent with each 1°C global temperature increase. Warmer regions are most likely to experience the greatest decline in wheat yield. 

This projected impact was similar for major wheat-producing countries such as China, India, USA and France but less so for Russia due to the generally cooler conditions of Russia’s wheat-producing areas. 

By combining several models we were able to improve the confidence of the estimates in relation to climate change impact on global food security... 


http://dca.au.dk/en/current-news/news/show/artikel/klimamodellernes-forudsigelser-bekraeftet/


Underlying article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nclimate3115


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Returns to fertiliser use: Does it pay enough? Some new evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa - Koussoubé & Nauges (2016) - ERAE

Returns to fertiliser use: Does it pay enough? Some new evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa - Koussoubé & Nauges (2016) - ERAE | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The low level of modern inputs adoption by African farmers is considered to be a major impediment to food security and poverty reduction... The government of Burkina Faso, following the example of a number of other countries in the region, launched a subsidy programme in 2008 to encourage farmers’ uptake of chemical fertilisers and foster cereal production. 


This article explores the importance of fertiliser profitability in explaining the relative, apparent low use of chemical fertilisers by farmers in Burkina Faso... 


We estimate maize yield response to nitrogen to be 19 kg/ha on average and to vary with soil characteristics. Profitability... is estimated at 1.4 on those plots which received fertilisers, with significant variations... For those plots on which fertilisers were not applied, we predict that fertilisers should have been profitable in most cases under the current level of subsidised fertiliser prices. 


These findings suggest that the low uptake of chemical fertilisers might have been driven by factors other than profitability, including insufficient supply of subsidised fertilisers to farmers in need. Our results also call for increasing the availability of credit to farmers in order to encourage adoption of chemical fertilisers...


http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/erae/jbw018


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How your diet can influence your environmental impact - Frontiers Blog (2016) 

How your diet can influence your environmental impact - Frontiers Blog (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The impact of our dietary choices on the global phosphorus footprint shouldn’t be neglected... A shift towards a plant-based diet may be an undervalued solution toward decreasing our environmental impact and attaining phosphorus sustainability.

Phosphorus is an element essential for all living beings and is thus critical in food production. Mined phosphate rock is a non-renewable global resource that is... becoming increasingly scarce, which poses a severe problem to the farming industry: it needs phosphorus in the form of fertilizers to sustain crop productivity.

Crops have two entries into the human food chain: direct consumption or indirect consumption by rearing animals which can be converted to human food. Different food types therefore require different amounts of phosphorus... One kg of phosphorus can for example be used to either produce 3333 kg of... potatoes or 16 kg of beef.

The loss of phosphorus to waterways, whether from agricultural fields through runoff or urban sewage through human excreta, can cause severe water quality degradation. This leads to eutrophication, harmful algal blooms, and impairment of our drinking water, recreational areas, and fisheries.

As the human population increases, our long-term food security and water quality are therefore threatened by the increased demand for phosphorus fertilizers... A change in human diet could be a potential important intervention method...  

Calculating the phosphorus footprint... the amount of phosphorus mined to support one’s diet... they calculated the citizens’ total consumption of different food groups and their associated average phosphorus fertilizer required to produce these foods. To estimate the effect of a switch to a plant-based diet, they converted the meat, dairy, eggs, and seafood food groups to pulses...

A shift towards a plant-based diet would lead to a small increase of 8% in phosphorus excreted by the city residents. A big effect, on the other hand, was found when looking at the change in the residents’ phosphorus footprint: a decrease of 72%...  

Changing towards a plant-based diet is of significant effect for reducing mined phosphorus, and of relative insignificance for changing the phosphorus content of excreta. Diet choices are thus important in how much impact humans have on their environment... 


https://blog.frontiersin.org/2016/10/31/how-your-diet-can-influence-your-environmental-impact/


Underlying article: http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2016.00035


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