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The Human Health Costs of Losing Natural Systems: Quantifying Earth’s Worth to Public Health - WCS (2013)

The Human Health Costs of Losing Natural Systems: Quantifying Earth’s Worth to Public Health - WCS (2013) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

A new paper from members of the HEAL (Health & Ecosystems: Analysis of Linkages) consortium delineates a new branch of environmental health that focuses on the public health risks of human-caused changes to Earth’s natural systems.

Looking comprehensively at available research to date, the paper’s authors highlight repeated correlations between changes in natural systems and existing and potential human health outcomes, including:

 

* Forest fires used to clear land in Indonesia generate airborne particulates that are linked to cardiopulmonary disease in downwind population centers like Singapore. 

 

* Risk of human exposure to Chagas disease in Panama and the Brazilian Amazon, and to Lyme disease in the United States, is positively correlated with reduced mammalian diversity. 

 

* When households in rural Madagascar are unable to harvest wild meat for consumption, their children can experience a 30% higher risk of iron deficiency anemia—a condition that increases the risk for sickness and death from infectious disease, and reduces IQ and the lifelong capacity for physical activity.

 

* In Belize, nutrient enrichment from agricultural runoff hundreds of miles upstream causes a change in the vegetation pattern of lowland wetlands that favors more efficient malaria vectors, leading to increased malaria exposure among coastal populations. 

 

* Human health impacts of anthropogenic climate change include exposure to heat stress, air pollution, infectious disease, respiratory allergens, and natural hazards as well as increased water scarcity, food insecurity and population displacement.

 

“Human activity is affecting nearly all of Earth’s natural systems—altering the planet’s land cover, rivers and oceans, climate, and the full range of complex ecological relationships and biogeochemical cycles that have long sustained life on Earth,” said Dr. Samuel Myers of the Harvard School of Public Health and the study’s lead author. “Defining a new epoch, the Anthropocene, these changes and their effects put in question the ability of the planet to provide for a human population now exceeding 7 billion with an exponentially growing demand for goods and services.”

In their paper, the authors demonstrate the far reaching effects of this little explored and increasingly critical focus on ecological change and public health by illustrating what is known, identifying gaps for and limitations of future research efforts, addressing the scale of the global burden of disease associated with changes to natural systems, and proposing a research framework that strengthens the scientific underpinnings of both public health and environmental conservation. Such efforts should lead to a more robust understanding of the human health impacts of accelerating environmental change and inform decision-making in the land-use planning, conservation, and public health policy realms. They also point out the equity and inter-generational justice issues related to this field, as most of the burdens associated with increased degradation of natural systems will be experienced by the poor and by future generations.

Dr. Steven Osofsky... said, “Not all governments prioritize environmental stewardship, and many lack adequate resources to support public health. If we can combine forces and utilize sound science to build inter-sectoral bridges where conservation and public health interests are demonstrated to coincide, it's a win-win. On the other hand, if we don’t work together to understand the global burden of disease that’s associated with alterations in the structure and function of natural systems, we may find ourselves testing planetary boundaries in ways that are frightening and difficult to reverse.”

http://www.wcs.org/press/press-releases/human-health-cost.aspx

Original article:   http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1218656110

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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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Globalisation of agrifood systems and sustainable nutrition - Qaim (2017) - Proc Nutr Soc

The globalisation of agrifood systems is a mega-trend with potentially profound nutritional implications. This paper describes various facets of this globalisation process and reviews studies on nutritional effects with a particular focus on developing countries... 


Global trade and technological change in agriculture have substantially improved food security in recent decades, although intensified production systems have also contributed to environmental problems in some regions. 


New agricultural technologies and policies need to place more emphasis on promoting dietary diversity and reducing environmental externalities. Globalising agrifood systems also involve changing supply-chain structures, with a rapid rise of modern retailing, new food safety and food quality standards, and higher levels of vertical integration... 


Emerging high-value supply chains can contribute to income growth in the small farm sector and improved access to food for rural and urban populations. However, there is also evidence that the retail revolution in developing countries, with its growing role of supermarkets and processed foods, can contribute to overweight and obesity among consumers. 


The multi-faceted linkages between changing agrifood systems and nutrition are a new field of... research, combining agricultural, nutritional, economics and social sciences perspectives. The number of studies... is still limited, so the evidence is not yet conclusive. A review at this early stage can help to better understand important relationships and encourage follow-up work. 


https://doi.org/10.1017/S0029665116000598


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Linking Agriculture and Nutrition: An Ex-ante Analysis of Zinc Biofortification of Rice in India - Nirmala &al (2016) - AERR

Biofortification has been recognized as a promising option to combat the micronutrient deficiencies, including zinc deficiency. Rice is the staple food crop in India, but, the daily zinc requirement cannot be achieved through typical rice-based vegetarian diet. 


ICAR-IIRR has developed the high zinc-content rice variety... with overall mean zinc content of 24 ppm in polished rice. This study has measured the potential impact of zinc-biofortified rice using disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) saved based on the counterfactual approach, estimating the impact as the difference in the number of DALYs attributable to zinc deficiency before and after the introduction of the zinc-biofortified rice. 


The current zinc-content of the popular rice varieties is about 13 ppm and the potential zinc content of the biofortified rice is 23-24 ppm with a potential increase of 80 per cent. The calculated annual burden of zinc deficiency in India in 2011 is 1.3 million DALYs lost and with biofortified rice this burden could be lowered up to 35 per cent... 


The cost of saving one healthy life year through zinc biofortification of rice costs US$ 20 under pessimistic scenario and US$ 3 under optimistic scenario, proving the cost-effectiveness of the intervention. 


http://purl.umn.edu/253175


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China to deepen reform in agricultural sector - Xinhua (2017) 

China will deepen supply-side structural reform in agriculture to develop the sector, according to a policy document... The major problems facing China's agricultural sector are structural ones, mainly on the supply side... The document calls for improving structures in the industry, promoting "green" production, extending the sector's industrial and value chain, boosting innovation, consolidating shared rural development and enhancing rural reforms. This is the 14th year in a row that the "No. 1 central document" has been devoted to agriculture, farmers and rural areas. 


The "No. 1 central document" is the name traditionally given to the first policy statement released by the central authorities in the year and is seen as an indicator of policy priorities. When carrying forward supply-side structural reform for the sector, national grain security must be guaranteed... It also said that supply-side structural reform in the agricultural sector would be a long and challenging process, demanding the relationship between government and market be well handled and in the interests of all stakeholders.

The gist of supply-side reform in China's agriculture sector is to increase the output of high-quality products based on green and innovative production. The country will maintain its zero increase in the usage of pesticides and fertilizers and vigorously control water usage in the sector. For better farm produce, a group of innovation centers and alliances will be created, and outstanding research will be enhanced. 


The reform also aims to refine the quality supervision and standard system for farm produce, control soil pollution and encourage agricultural businesses to gain international certifications. China will promote the export of competitive farm produce, cross-border operation of agricultural enterprises and the establishment of global leaders in the sector. 


China will encourage migrant workers to return to rural areas and start businesses, while stepping up training for professional farmers, including professional agricultural managers. Authorities will offer favorable taxation policies for business start-ups in rural areas in addition to support with financing, land use and social insurance. Local governments are encouraged to start business parks and incubators for the returnees. The nation will also encourage college graduates, entrepreneurs and returned students from overseas to start businesses and bring technological and managerial expertise to rural areas... 


http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-02/05/c_136033355.htm


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Global Goals on poverty and hunger require $265 billion annually - UN News (2017) 

Global Goals on poverty and hunger require $265 billion annually - UN News (2017)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The world must take urgent action to mobilise the estimated $265 billion a year needed to achieve the first two Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty and hunger by 2030... 

“The need is urgent,” Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development said... “Despite decades of commitments and considerable effort to end poverty and hunger, nearly 800 million children, women and men still go hungry every day, and an almost equal number live in extreme poverty,” he added, stressing the need to be more creative in using public resources and mobilise financing.

He also emphasized the need to make it easier for the private sector and philanthropists to invest in rural areas, where rates of poverty and hunger are highest. Speakers agreed it cannot be left up to governments alone. In 2015, Official Development Assistance was approximately $192 billion and only $9 billion of that was earmarked for agriculture.

The conference comes at a critical time with political changes and humanitarian crises – such as war, migration and natural disasters – reshaping global priorities and potentially diverting money away from development.

The majority of these poor and hungry people live in rural areas of developing countries. Investments need to be targeted to transform rural areas into vibrant places that offer all people the opportunity to have decent jobs and lead dignified lives free of poverty and hunger... 

The financing needs for development are enormous, but so are the opportunities. “Agri-food is already a $5 trillion sector, and it is growing... It holds tremendous promise for the private sector and for producers in developing countries.”

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56044


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China Creates Agriculture Giant With Grain, Cotton Merger - Ag Web (2017) 

China Creates Agriculture Giant With Grain, Cotton Merger - Ag Web (2017)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

China’s merger of state cotton and grain reserves companies will create the country’s biggest agriculture product group... The State Council approved China National Cotton Reserves Corp.’s merger with China Grain Reserves Corp., known as Sinograin... The new company will have combined assets of $213 billion... 

China has pledged to overhaul its state-owned enterprises as part of its supply-side reforms and is seeking to speed up sales of its crop reserves. It holds about half of the world’s corn and cotton inventories and has large reserves of wheat, rice and edible oils after state support systems encouraged farmers to boost production and some mills shifted to cheap imports. 


The government last year ended its corn stockpile policy and has said it is improving its minimum purchase price policy for wheat and rice to boost efficiency... 


http://www.agweb.com/article/china-creates-agriculture-giant-with-grain-cotton-merger-blmg/



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Integrating fisheries and agricultural programs for food security - Fisher &al (2017) - Ag Food Sec

Despite the connections between terrestrial and marine/freshwater livelihood strategies that we see in coastal regions across the world, the contribution of wild fisheries and fish farming is seldom considered in analyses of the global food system and is consequently underrepresented in major food security and nutrition policy initiatives. Understanding the degree to which farmers also consume fish, and how fishers also grow crops, would help to inform more resilient food security interventions. 


By compiling a dataset for 123,730 households... in 12 highly food-insecure countries, we find that between 10 and 45% of the population relies on fish for a core part of their diet... We also find that in all but two countries, fish-reliant households depend on land for farming just as much as do households not reliant on fish.

These results highlight the need for food security interventions that combine terrestrial and marine/freshwater programming if we are going to be successful in building a more resilient food system for the world’s most vulnerable people. 


http://doi.org/10.1186/s40066-016-0078-0


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Grasslands hold potential for increased food production - AA Univ Klagenfurt (2017) 

Grasslands hold potential for increased food production - AA Univ Klagenfurt (2017)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Managing grazing on grasslands in a more efficient way could significantly increase global milk and meat production or free up land for other uses. 


About 40% of natural grasslands worldwide have potential to support increased livestock grazing... This translates to a potential increase of 5% in milk production and 4% in meat production compared to the year 2000 or allow for  2.8 million square kilometers of grassland area to be released from production.

In order to feed the world’s growing population, global food production will need to increase – but at the same time food production systems have impacts on the environment and climate. Livestock products... are a major food source for millions of people, and demand for these products is increasing. However, livestock and conversion of land for increased livestock production can lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions or soil erosion through overgrazing... 

“To meet future food demand... in a sustainable manner, our study suggests that we should focus on making more efficient use of currently available land resources, instead of converting land from other uses.”

How much livestock grasslands can support depends on a number of variables including climatic, biological, and socio-economic factors such as management, storage systems, and biomass conservation... The researchers explored the impact of seasonal patterns of biomass supply on the potential dynamics of grass-based livestock systems, at a global scale... 


The authors also discuss numerous socioeconomic and ecological constraints related to unlocking this potential, such as a lack of infrastructure, market access, knowledge, finance, and labor constraints or the impacts of droughts, and potential negative trade-offs  such as loss of biodiversity or soil degradation.

“Grassland productivity and intensification potential are some of the most uncertain parameters in global land-use assessments and are often used to estimate ambitious GHG mitigation targets. Making estimates of potential maximum grazing intensity more realistic by considering seasonal constraints reveals a certain potential to increase grazing intensity in some places, yet shows that the actual grassland area available for other purposes remains limited”... 


https://www.aau.at/en/blog/effizientere-nutzung-der-wiesen-kann-zu-erhoehter-nahrungsmittelproduktion-beitragen/


Underlying article: http://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.13591


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Reducing Postharvest Losses during Storage of Grain Crops to Strengthen Food Security in Developing Countries - Kumar & Kalita (2017) - Foods

Reducing Postharvest Losses during Storage of Grain Crops to Strengthen Food Security in Developing Countries - Kumar & Kalita (2017) - Foods | Food Policy | Scoop.it

While fulfilling the food demand of an increasing population remains a major global concern, more than one-third of food is lost or wasted in postharvest operations. Reducing the postharvest losses, especially in developing countries, could be a sustainable solution to increase food availability, reduce pressure on natural resources, eliminate hunger and improve farmers’ livelihoods. 


Cereal grains are the basis of staple food in most of the developing nations, and account for the maximum postharvest losses on a calorific basis among all agricultural commodities. As much as 50-60% cereal grains can be lost during the storage stage due only to... technical inefficiency. Use of scientific storage methods can reduce these losses to as low as 1-2%. 


This paper provides a comprehensive literature review of the grain postharvest losses in developing countries, the status and causes of storage losses and discusses the technological interventions to reduce these losses. The basics of hermetic storage, various technology options, and their effectiveness on several crops in different localities are discussed in detail...


Postharvest loss is a complex problem and its scale varies for different crops, practices, climatic conditions, and country economics. Storage losses account for the maximum fraction of all postharvest losses for cereals in developing countries, and negatively affect the farmers’ livelihoods. 


Most of the harvested grains are stored in the traditional storage structures, which are inadequate to avoid the insect infestation and mold growth during storage and lead to a high amount of losses. Technology interventions and improved storage structures can play a critical role in reducing postharvest losses and increasing farmers’ revenues. 


Hermetic storage creates an automatic modified atmosphere of high carbon dioxide concentration using the sealed waterproof bags or structures, and significantly reduces insect infestation losses. Use of properly sealed hermetic storage structures has resulted in up to a 98% reduction in storage losses, maintained seed viability, and its quality for long storage times. 


Using better agricultural practices and adequate storage technologies can significantly reduce the losses and help in strengthening food security, and poverty alleviation, increasing returns of smallholder farmers.


http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/foods6010008


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Food Prices and Poverty - Headey (2016) - World Bank Econ Rev

Do higher food prices help or hinder poverty reduction? Despite much debate, existing research has almost solely relied on simulation models to address this question. 


In this article World Bank poverty estimates are used to systematically test the relationship between changes in poverty and exogenous changes in real domestic food prices. We uncover indicative evidence that increases in food prices are associated with reductions in poverty, not increases. 


We empirically explain this result in terms of relatively strong agricultural supply and wage responses to food price increases, and the fact that the majority of the world’s poor still heavily rely on agriculture or agriculture-related activities to earn a living. 


https://doi.org/10.1093/wber/lhw064


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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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Agricultural Trade and Food Security - Martin (2017) - ADB

Agricultural Trade and Food Security - Martin (2017) - ADB | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Reducing protection in agricultural trade can reduce poverty and improve nutrition.

Agricultural trade is vitally important for achieving the goal of ending hunger by 2030, as enshrined in the second Sustainable Development Goal. While trade is frequently seen as posing threats to this vitally important goal, it can in fact play a major role in achieving it. 


Trade helps in a number of ways, by allowing countries to take advantage of their radically different factor endowments, with land-abundant countries providing exports and land-poor countries taking advantage of much more efficiently-produced imports. 


Trade liberalization can also help by raising production efficiency in agriculture, allowing improvements in dietary diversity and increasing access to food. Allowing trade substantially reduces the volatility of food prices by diversifying sources of supply. By contrast, beggar-thy-neighbor policies of price insulation such as the imposition of export bans in periods of high prices redistribute, rather than reduce, volatility. 


However, the tendency of other countries to use price-insulating policies creates a serious collective action problem in world markets. Proposals for Special Safeguards would exacerbate these problems by adding massive duties – and creating even larger declines in world prices – during periods of already-depressed prices.


https://www.adb.org/publications/agricultural-trade-and-food-security


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Improving the sustainability of global meat and milk production - Salter (2017) - Proc Nutr Soc

Global demand for meat and dairy products has increased dramatically in recent decades and, through a combination of global population growth, increased lifespan and improved economic prosperity in the developing world will inevitably continue to increase. The predicted increases in livestock production will put a potentially unsustainable burden on global resources, including land for production of crops required for animal feed and fresh water. Furthermore, animal production itself is associated with greenhouse gas production, which may speed up global warming and thereby impact on our ability to produce food. There is, therefore, an urgent need to find methods to improve the sustainability of livestock production. 


This review will consider various options for improving the sustainability of livestock production with particular emphasis on finding ways to replace conventional crops as sources of animal feeds. Alternatives, such as currently underutilised crops (grown on a marginal land) and insects, reared on substrates not suitable for direct consumption by farm animals, represent possible solutions. Coupled with a moderation of excessive meat consumption in wealthier countries, such strategies may secure the long-term sustainability of meat and milk production and mitigate against the adverse health effects of excessive intake. 


https://doi.org/10.1017/S0029665116000276


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Agricultural systems research and global food security in the 21st century: An overview and roadmap for future opportunities - Stephens &al (2017) - Ag Systems 

With the release of the Sustainable Development Goals in late 2015, the United Nations has continued to put food security front and center in its vocalization of the great challenges facing humankind. Replacing Millennium Development Goal Target 1C (‘Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger’), the latest iteration emphasizes not just hunger, but also sustainability and nutrition: (Sustainable Development Goal 2: end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture). The explicit inclusion of the agricultural sector in the goal's design represents a growing recognition and concern that stresses on the world's agricultural systems from climate change, environmental degradation and population growth will increasingly threaten our collective fundamental right to food security. This comes despite dramatic increases in global food production during the 20th century and concurrent impressive declines in worldwide undernourishment and hunger over the last quarter century, with near-universal global attainment of Millennium Development Goal 1C. 

Despite hundreds of variations and contextualizations, a frequently used definition of food security emanated from the 1996 FAO World Food Summit: “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, [social] and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. Implicit in this definition are four key dimensions of food security that have driven the research agenda in recent decades: 1) Food availability… “The amount of food that is present in a country or area”… 2) Food access… “A household's ability to acquire an adequate amount of food regularly”… 3) Food utilization… “Safe and nutritious food which meets dietary needs”... 4) Stability of dimensions 1, 2 and 3… over time… 

The role of agricultural systems in ensuring these critical dimensions of food security varies widely across economic, geographic and sociocultural contexts and is also evolving over time… Many factors that may be linked to, but not entirely determined by the agricultural system, are sure to influence the food security status of households and individuals… The influence of such external factors and internal decision-making and agency may be even more conspicuous… Despite long historical acknowledgement within both the agricultural and food security stakeholder communities of the importance of these many interlinkages… the research agendas in both fields have not typically reflected these relationships or attempted to bridge the interfaces. Starting with the identification in the 1970s of widespread food insecurity and food shortages, the main response and contribution of the agricultural research community to these food security issues was to focus on improving yields and food productivity to reduce shortages and increase the supply of total food calories… The most obvious manifestations of this ‘food shortage paradigm’ era of agricultural research were the Green Revolution innovations in high yield varieties of staple grains with accompanying fertilizer and pesticide programs. After the great success of these initiatives… further attempts to use agricultural research to improve food quality and food security, as a follow on to increased food quantity and aggregate supply, did not emerge. 

However the experience of the global food price crisis in 2007-08 refocused and reenergized the conversation between agriculture and food security, with renewed calls in many quarters to examine the future of our food systems in the context of shifting trends in commodity price volatility, climate change and population growth. Within this, reassessment of many aspects of food security relating to quality, such as malnutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and obesity, are being incorporated into more systems approaches to understanding food security to improve analysis and make headway in solving critical issues within these complex systems… 

The works highlighted in this special issue show several innovations in the use of agricultural systems research to look at food security questions and may provide some guidance for the future. Of immediate note is the incorporation of a host of food security metrics beyond crop yields into agricultural systems models in many of the papers. These include dietary diversity, micronutrient availability and child anthropometric status. These metrics provide important insights into understudied relationships between yields and food security and seem increasingly feasible with better data collection within agricultural systems research projects. There is increasing demand from the food security stakeholder community for this information and seems a natural contribution that can be made from agricultural systems research. Similarly, the basic framing of the research questions contained in this special issue recognizes the distinction between yields and food security. This simple identification is an important shift and the contributing authors have all made some headway at calibrating the size and scope of the potential divergences between agricultural and food security systems…  


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Famine doesn't just 'happen' – and those who cause it must be held to account - The Conversation (2017) 

Famine doesn't just 'happen' – and those who cause it must be held to account - The Conversation (2017)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The relationship between food insecurity and conflict is almost so logical that it appears to state the obvious: conditions of food insecurity contribute to the outbreak of social, political and military conflict, which in turn produces further food insecurity. 


Many studies concerned with making sense of food insecurity and conflict focus on these causal linkages blaming one on the other in an attempt to identify ways of breaking through the vicious cycle. But it’s more helpful to view the creation of conditions of food insecurity (or food security) as a broader social and political process, by which food and agriculture are controlled by a powerful group...  

In this way, food has long been used as an instrument of power – and a quick glance at the historical record shows that the ability to control food production, distribution and consumption constitutes a form of power that lets populations live or die... So creating or exploiting different kinds of what we now describe as “food insecurity” have long been an integral part of conflict.

The case of north-eastern Nigeria is a harrowing present-day example that clearly shows how food security is implicated in longer-standing social and political conflict... Since 2012... the conflict between government forces and the jihadist organisation Boko Haram has escalated into widespread violence. Agriculture has often been a direct target in the infliction of violence and Boko Haram has attacked farmers and farm resources, including land and livestock... 


The resulting shortfall in food production has not only contributed to scarcity in the north-eastern region, but is also linked to price rises for food in southern Nigeria and neighbouring countries Niger and Cameroon. In January 2017, the United Nations... reported that: “More than 4.8m people are in urgent need of food assistance and 5.1m are predicted to be food insecure if not supported by the humanitarian community”...   

In spite of the clear indications that it’s almost always a combination of social, political and environmental factors that leads to situations of widespread hunger, many news outlets continue to represent famine through language that uses natural metaphors. The Huffington Post... speaks of a “perfect storm” of contributing factors while other publications outline how drought and war “spark” famine or contribute to its “outbreak”.

The consistent use of such language suggests that the onset of famine is rapid and calamitous, like a fire or infectious disease. But the reality is very different. As the cases of both Nigeria and South Sudan make clear, the development of famine is a dynamic social and political process with a long build-up.

The continued representation of famines as disastrous events largely sprung upon populations by the forces of nature, prevents us from understanding famine – and food insecurity – as a socio-political process, even though doing so is especially important for realising its future prevention.

South Sudan is in a similar situation to north-eastern Nigeria... Leslie Lefkow, deputy director at the Africa division of Human Rights Watch, has written that creating some mechanism of accountability is one of the only hopes of resolving the conflict there... 

There is no offence of ‘creating a famine’ under international law but in a conflict... ‘objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population’ may not be attacked. They have a protected status as civilian objects and because their protection goes hand in hand with the prohibition on using starvation of the civilian population as a weapon of war. Put this way, willingly contributing to the increased food insecurity of populations can be linked to war crimes... Recognising that famine... results from socio-political processes is a prerequisite for developing such legal accountability.

Once we do this, we’ll be in a better position to acknowledge the power embedded within the ability to organise and control food production as well as the multiple ways in which food products circulate the planet. And this is as true during times of war as it is in times of peace. 


https://theconversation.com/famine-doesnt-just-happen-and-those-who-cause-it-must-be-held-to-account-71519


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Combating Food Waste: an opportunity for the EU to improve the resource-efficiency of the food supply chain - ECA (2017) 

Combating Food Waste: an opportunity for the EU to improve the resource-efficiency of the food supply chain - ECA (2017)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Food waste is a global problem that has moved up the public and political agenda in recent years. Food is a precious commodity and its production can be very resource intensive. Estimates show that up to one third of food is wasted or lost and therefore huge environmental and economic costs are at stake... 

Although a number of EU policies have the potential to combat food waste, their potential is not being exploited... Action to date remains fragmented and intermittent, while coordination at European Commission level is lacking. The latest EU proposal for dealing with food waste, the creation of a platform, does not fully address the problems... 


Progress to date has been hampered by the lack of a common definition of “food waste”, and the lack of an agreed baseline from which to target reductions. This is despite repeated calls from the European Parliament, the Council, the Committee of the Regions, the G20 and others for the EU to help reduce food waste. 


“Our report to the Commission identified a number of missed opportunities and potential improvements which would not require new legislative initiatives or more public money... But by focusing its efforts on establishing a platform, the Commission again misses an opportunity to deal effectively with the problem. What we need now is better alignment of existing policies, better coordination, and a clear policy objective to reduce food waste.” 


The auditors’ report examined how current policies could be used more effectively, recommending that the Commission should: 


• strengthen the EU strategy to combat food waste and coordinate it better, with an action plan for the years ahead and a clear definition of food waste; 


• consider food waste in future impact assessments, and better align the different policies which can combat food waste; 


• identify and resolve legal obstacles to food donation, encourage the further use of existing donation possibilities and consider how to encourage donation in other policy areas... 


Food waste is a problem along the entire food supply chain... and action should be targeted all along the chain. The emphasis should be put on prevention, as the benefits of avoiding waste outweigh the cost of dealing with it later. The auditors found that there had been a notable lack of assessment of the impact of EU policies on the fight against food waste. Major policy areas such as agriculture, fisheries and food safety all have a role to play and could be used to combat food waste better... 


http://www.eca.europa.eu/en/Pages/DocItem.aspx?did=40302


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Livestock: On our plates or eating at our table? A new analysis of the feed/food debate - Mottet &al (2017) - Global Food Sec

Livestock: On our plates or eating at our table? A new analysis of the feed/food debate - Mottet &al (2017) - Global Food Sec | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Livestock contribute to food security by supplying essential macro- and micro-nutrients, providing manure and draught power, and generating income. But they also consume food edible by humans and graze on pastures that could be used for crop production. Livestock, especially ruminants, are often seen as poor converters of feed into food products. 


This paper analyses global livestock feed rations and feed conversion ratios, with specific insight on the diversity in production systems and feed materials. Results estimate that livestock consume 6 billion tonnes of feed (dry matter) annually – including one third of global cereal production – of which 86% is made of materials that are currently not eaten by humans. In addition, soybean cakes, which production can be considered as main driver or land-use, represent 4% of the global livestock feed intake. 


Producing 1 kg of boneless meat requires an average of 2.8 kg human-edible feed in ruminant systems and 3.2 kg in monogastric systems. While livestock is estimated to use 2.5 billion ha of land, modest improvements in feed use efficiency can reduce further expansion. 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2017.01.001


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Trading with Conditions: The Effect of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures on the Agricultural Exports from Low‐income Countries - Murina & Nicita (2017) - World Econ

Trading with Conditions: The Effect of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures on the Agricultural Exports from Low‐income Countries - Murina & Nicita (2017) - World Econ | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Market access for agricultural products is increasingly determined by capability to comply with a wide array of regulatory measures. From a trade perspective, one of the most important aspects of such regulatory measures is their potential distortionary effect, as their cost of compliance is often asymmetrical across countries. 


This paper investigates the effect of the EU's sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures on the exports from low income countries... SPS measures result in relatively higher burden for low income countries but... membership in deep trade agreements seems to reduce the difficulties related to compliance with SPS measures... 


While many middle and high income countries have the internal capacity to comply with SPS measures, most low income countries do not. 


http://doi.org/10.1111/twec.12368


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Poverty, Hunger, and US Agricultural Policy: Do Farm Programs Affect the Nutrition of Poor Americans? - AEI (2017) 

Farm subsidy programs have little impact on food consumption, food security, or nutrition in the United States, despite occasional claims to the contrary... 


Farm subsidies and related land retirements, market regulations, and trade policies have an array of small and offsetting impacts on farm commodity prices. When filtered through the supply chain, their impacts on retail prices and food consumption are surely tiny.

We conclude that farm programs do not affect food prices in a direction that protects the poor, and the people whose incomes are most improved by farm policies are not the same people who are at risk of poverty and hunger. 


https://www.aei.org/publication/poverty-hunger-and-us-agricultural-policy-do-farm-programs-affect-the-nutrition-of-poor-americans/


Underlying report: https://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Effects-of-Farm-Policy-on-Food-Consumption.pdf


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What is this thing called organic? – How organic farming is codified in regulations - Seufert &al (2017) - Food Pol

What is this thing called organic? – How organic farming is codified in regulations - Seufert &al (2017) - Food Pol | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Organic farming is one of the fastest growing sectors of world agriculture. Although it represents only 1% of world agricultural area, organic is one of the most recognized food labels and most people in developed countries consume some amount of organic food today. 


There is a wide range of interpretations of what organic means by different actors in the sector. Here we examine eight different organic regulations from across the world to understand how they have codified the large diversity of ideas inherent in organic agriculture... 


Organic practices and regulations do not differ substantially between countries – across the board organic regulations define organic mainly in terms of "natural" vs. "artificial" substances that are allowed (or not) as inputs. This interpretation of organic as “chemical-free” farming, largely void of broader environmental principles, does not fully incorporate the original ideas of organic theoreticians who conceived it as a holistic farming system aimed primarily at improving soil health, thereby leading to improved animal, human, and societal health. 


This narrow focus of organic regulations can be explained by the interest of organic consumers who predominantly buy organic because they believe it is healthier and more nutritious due to the absence of harmful substances. Organic regulations need to place more emphasis on environmental best practices in order to ensure that organic agriculture can contribute to sustainability objectives. 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2016.12.009


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
"Organic practices... void of broader environmental principles... This narrow focus of organic regulations can be explained by the interest of organic consumers who predominantly buy organic because they believe..." >> It's marketing (and the related profit margins), not environmental sustainability (or health or nutrition or taste or social concerns) that makes organic farming "one of the fastest growing sectors of world agriculture". 
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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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