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Getting seed to smallholders needs a business approach - SciDev (2013)

Getting seed to smallholders needs a business approach - SciDev (2013) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Smallholder farmers in Africa — mostly women — wage silent battles against the elements and other forces beyond their control to feed their families, their villages, their countries... They face a host of natural, climatic, and man-made threats to their lives and livelihoods. Often, their only defence seems to be more work, more suffering, and reduced expectations for the future. 

Most of the world was once caught up in this same struggle.  A few vocal anti-technology activists would have us believe otherwise, but the extent to which historically-agrarian societies have emerged from poverty and hunger largely depends on their adoption of modern farming technologies.

Principal among these has been seed of improved, higher-yielding crop varieties. While mechanisation, fertilisers, improved storage, and other technologies are all important in making farming more efficient, better seed is the catalyst for change — the ‘software’ that powers the crop and lets farmers profitably integrate other technologies. 

Without good seed, few other attempts to increase farmers’ yields succeed or prove sustainable. Yet in spite of much ink spilled, international conferences organised, and money spent, Sub-Saharan Africa’s smallholder farmers still have very limited access to seed of high-yielding, locally-adapted varieties of their staple food crops.


As it turns out, establishing dependable systems for supplying seed of improved varieties is probably the most difficult part of agricultural development. Seed is a living technology, notoriously picky about its environment and hugely unforgiving of neglect, late delivery, or being planted in the wrong place. Moreover, Africa’s highly diverse cropping landscape creates micro-climates that require myriad location-specific varieties...


Africa's farmers have continued planting whatever seed they have on-hand, all the while suffering the indignity of being thought resistant to change and uninterested in new technologies. It is time to get things right for Africa's farmers. By its very nature, supplying improved seed, much like furniture-making or hotel management, is mostly a business proposition — a complex and rather unglamorous business, perhaps, but a business nonetheless. 


A group of us at the Rockefeller Foundation came to this conclusion in the early 2000s. We needed businesspeople who understood that their potential customers tended to be very poor, lived in remote locations, and were mostly unaware of the value of new seeds. We needed people who could understand which seeds smallholder farmers would purchase, how much they would pay for them, and in what quantities they were needed. 

We turned to local business people and started lots of conversations, often in small dusty rooms, about whether they thought they could make a viable business out of seed. They assured us they could, if they were given proper business and policy support to sell the right seed, at the right prices, the right way... 

A few key principles began to emerge. New seed had to be affordable as well as desirable. It had to be available in small packages of 2 kilograms or less. It needed to be readily available at local shops when it was needed. And farmers needed to be made aware of the new seed in convincing ways — the best being small demonstration plots on their own land...


This model for supplying Africa's smallholder farmers with improved seed diverges significantly from the mainstream. Once established, it does not rely on funding from governments, NGOs, or donors operating from distant lands. And it contrasts sharply with the image of large, multi-national seed companies dominating the hybrid maize sector while largely neglecting other crops.

It begins with consultations between farmers and breeders to establish the optimal combination of crop traits. It continues with farmer-participation in breeding and selecting improved varieties, a process that can take several years. Once a new variety is released, breeders teach local companies how to produce the seed at scale. Seed companies integrate production, processing, and marketing activities and ‘live or die’ based on their ability to supply quality seed to local farmers at affordable prices...

Things just may be looking better for Africa’s long-suffering farmers. Official crop yield data from countries as diverse as Ethiopia, Mali, Tanzania and Uganda show significant increases in recent years.

 

http://www.scidev.net/global/food-security/opinion/getting-seed-to-smallholders-needs-a-business-approach.html

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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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Reducing Food Loss and Waste to Enhance Food Security and Environmental Sustainability - Shafiee-Jood & Cai (2016) - Env Sci Technol

While food shortage remains a big concern in many regions around the world, almost one third of the total food production is discarded as food loss and waste (FLW). This is associated with about one quarter of land, water, and fertilizer used for crop production… FLW reduction represents a potential opportunity to enhance both food security and environmental sustainability and therefore has received considerable attention recently. By reviewing… the literature, this paper highlights the importance of FLW prevention as a complementary solution to address the Grand Challenge of global food security and environmental sustainability… 


To reduce FLW, it is crucial to raise awareness among consumers, especially those in developed countries, among farmers and producers in developing countries who need to adopt more efficient postharvest technologies and among policy makers. Raising awareness only however is not enough to realize expected FLW reduction unless and the barriers impeding the implementation of FLW reduction technologies and policies are recognized and properly eliminated. Scientific communities need to address the underlying causes of FLW, and fill the knowledge gaps… 


We identify the knowledge gaps and opportunities for research by synthesizing the strategies of FLW reduction and the barriers, including 1) filling the data gaps, 2) quantifying the socioeconomic and environmental impacts of FLW reduction strategies, 3) understanding the scale effects, and 4) exploring the impacts of global transitions. It is urgent to take more aggressive yet scientifically-based actions to reduce FLW, which require everyone’s involvement along the food supply chain, including policy makers, food producers and suppliers, and food consumers… 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.6b01993


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U.S. land capacity for feeding people could expand with dietary changes - Tufts U (2016)

U.S. land capacity for feeding people could expand with dietary changes - Tufts U (2016) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

New model suggests that vegetarian diet with dairy products could feed the greatest number of people when compared to other diets. 


A new “food-print” model that measures the per-person land requirements of different diets suggests that, with dietary changes, the U.S. could feed significantly more people from existing agricultural land. Using ten different scenarios ranging from the average American diet to a purely vegan one… scientists… estimated that agricultural land in the contiguous U.S. could have the capacity to feed up to 800 million people – twice what can be supported based on current average diets. The researchers found that a vegetarian diet that includes dairy products could feed the most people from the area of land available… 


“Dietary choices can influence the ability of agriculture to meet our need for food… Our approach challenges the 20th century emphasis on increasing yield and production. Improving crop yields remains vitally important, but it is not the only way to increase the number of people fed per acre. Our aim is to identify potential agricultural-sustainability strategies by addressing both food consumption and production”… 


Researchers… chose ten dietary scenarios that were comparable nutritionally, but varied by the sources of protein. Eight of the diets complied with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. A baseline diet represented the country’s current food consumption – higher in meats, grains, fats and sweeteners than the other dietary scenarios. In this baseline diet, roughly 80 percent of available cropland was used to grow crops for animal feed, such as hay, while the other 20 percent was devoted to fruits, vegetables and grains for human consumption. 


The remaining dietary scenarios ranged from 100 percent of the population eating a healthy omnivorous diet (a balance of meat and plant-based foods), to 100 percent of the population eating a vegan diet (which excludes meat and all other animal by-products such as milk, eggs and honey). Intermediate scenarios included varying proportions of omnivores and vegetarians, and the accompanying cropland usage varied accordingly. 


The research team found that: A lacto-vegetarian diet (a vegetarian diet that includes dairy products) had the highest carrying capacity, meaning that it could feed the most people from the area of land available… The baseline diet had the lowest carrying capacity and required eight times more land than a vegan diet. As the amount of meat in the diet was reduced between scenarios, the amount of land necessary for crops to feed livestock was also reduced… U.S. agricultural land has the capacity to meet the needs of a population 1.3 to 2.6 times larger than the U.S. population in 2010… 


The model accounts for factors such as the suitability of cropland for cultivation, the interdependencies of dairy and meat production, and the use of coproducts of food production to feed livestock… “The estimates of carrying capacity for each diet are sensitive to assumptions about the area available for cultivated cropping. Furthermore, since most diet scenarios were consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, differences in carrying capacity should represent the trade-offs for food preferences rather than nutritional quality”… 


“We know that, in many ways, land use can have severe ecological impacts, for example, biodiversity loss; an extreme and inequitable competition for land, water and energy; and carbon emissions, an adverse impact of converting corn to biofuels. Before we go about converting land to other uses, to develop sound agricultural policy, we have to understand the impact of dietary patterns on land use. We don’t want to short-change the equitable distribution of nutritious, life-sustaining foods to the whole population”…  


http://now.tufts.edu/news-releases/us-land-capacity-feeding-people-could-expand-dietary-changes


Underlying article: http://dx.doi.org/10.12952/journal.elementa.000116


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
"A baseline diet represented the country’s current food consumption – higher in meats... In this baseline diet, roughly 80 percent of available cropland was used to grow crops for animal feed..."
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Improving the sustainability of global meat and milk production - Salter (2016) - PNS

Improving the sustainability of global meat and milk production - Salter (2016) - PNS | Food Policy | Scoop.it

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... with particular emphasis on finding ways to replace conventional crops as sources of animal feeds... 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.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0029665116000276


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UK food prices set to rise after Brexit vote - Guardian (2016) 

UK food prices set to rise after Brexit vote - Guardian (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Plunging pound and Britain’s reliance on imports will mean higher prices… Food prices are likely to go up… according to the president of the National Farmers Union [NFU] … the EU referendum result had been a “political car crash” and that UK farmers who receive up to £3bn in subsidies from the EU each year were headed into “uncharted waters”… 


“We only produce 60% of the food we consume… so we are very dependent on imported food… a weaker pound will mean higher imported food value... Government … could easily be held to ransom by other parts of the world if there is a climatic disaster or if currency is weak”… The other big concern was trade negotiations, and the prospect of British exports to the EU such as lamb and cheese being hit by import tariffs. “We export 38% of the lamb we produce in the UK into the EU, that’s a huge quantity. We are very dependent and there is huge demand in Europe for it. We exported in excess of 3m tonnes of wheat and barley into Europe. We do export a fair bit of beef and a fair bit of added-value cheese and dairy product”… 


The other big unknown is whether the UK government will match the £2.4-£3bn – the figure varies on exchange rates – currently paid in subsidies by Europe to farmers each year through the common agricultural policy (CAP). “The average income of a farmer was just over £20,000 in 2014, and 55% of that was EU money, so that’s how important that money is”… Brexiters had promised during the referendum campaign that a UK government would match the subsidies… But… there had been no detail on what such a subsidy scheme might look like… 


One silver lining for the NFU will be that a UK out of the EU will no longer be covered by a moratorium on widely-used insecticides that was brought in by the EU to protect bees and other pollinators. The farmers’ union has repeatedly applied for exemptions to the ban on neonicotinoids. “A lot of decision-making on this has been done on emotion rather than science. No farmer wants to be using a product that he believes will cause issues in the environment”… he did not believe such ‘neonics’ were responsible for bee population declines. While scientists say there is not enough data to directly link neonics to bee population declines, there is an increasing consensus that exposure to the insecticides does harm bees… 


Meurig insisted that a British agricultural policy would not be stripped of the protections for nature that are built as a condition into subsidies received through the CAP. “When farmers are profitable, they will invest back into their farm, and the environment around”… The Soil Association, which represents organic farmers and producers of organic products, said nature was less likely be protected outside of the EU… 


https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jun/26/uk-food-prices-set-to-rise-after-brexit-vote-farmers-union


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Consumption of meat and dairy products in China: a review - He &al (2013) - PNS

Consumption of meat and dairy products in China: a review - He &al (2013) - PNS | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The average intake of meat, especially pork, has continued to increase in China. Pork intake increased from 37 g/d in 1992 to 64 g/d in 2012. There was a much higher margin in rural regions; pork intake of rural residents increased from 25 g/d in 1992 to 60 g/d in 2012, which resulted in a narrowed gap between urban and rural areas...  


The finding of this review sheds light on some problems with food consumption patterns in China. Effective strategies need to be adopted in order to change the consumption patterns. The consumption of milk and replacing pork with poultry or fish or other health foods should be encouraged.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0029665116000641


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Reducing agricultural loss and food waste: how will nature fare? - Gordon &al (2016) - Animal Conservation

Reducing agricultural loss and food waste: how will nature fare? - Gordon &al (2016) - Animal Conservation | Food Policy | Scoop.it
With the global population currently over seven billion, and expected to increase to over nine billion in the next 30 years, the race is on to find ways to feed, water and clothe the citizens of the planet. Food security is high on both national and international agendas, with a push to increase the production of food by up to 70% in the next 30 years, and estimates of another one billion ha of land being converted to agriculture, mainly in the tropics. The food security agenda may have obvious effects on wildlife species; however, some species may be affected by perverse outcomes that have not yet been assessed… 

One means to meet the growing demand for food is to reduce waste… There would be significant benefits to nature conservation if the ‘waste less’ rather than ‘grow more’ advocates were to be in the ascendancy in the drive for food security. If less food is wasted, then, effectively, agricultural production will be higher per unit area of land and per person fed resulting in less pressure to expand the area of agricultural land to meet growing food demand. This will help maintain biodiversity that would have been lost as a result of land conversion and/or agricultural intensification. However, as food waste is part of the food web, a reduction in waste may have significantly broader consequences for biodiversity and nature conservation. 

A number of species utilize the crops and animals we farm, for example in the fields, the by-products of harvesting food, for example bycatch from fisheries, or when food waste is sent to landfill. The ecology, evolution and life histories of these species have been shaped by this human generated food subsidy. A question that animal conservation scientists should be asking is – will a reduction in food waste, to meet the increasing demands for food, have a positive or negative impact on biodiversity and which species will be winners and losers? 

Here, we highlight the issue and suggest a research agenda for conservation scientists to provide a systems level, evidence base to support policy decisions. While our focus is on how food waste impacts animal biology and conservation, this is not to take away from the significant benefits that may accrue to ecosystems from reductions in food waste, through, for example, reductions in the use of land for agriculture and the polluting effects (on soil, water, air) of the waste itself… 

So which species are likely to be negatively affected by a reduction in food waste? There are those species which will be directly affected by the reduction in waste across the agricultural/food supply chain. First, agricultural pests are likely to be the main species to feel the brunt of the move to reduce losses before crops and livestock are harvested. There are over 70 000 pest species around the world, including a diverse range of taxa from gastropods to insects to vertebrate species, such as birds, that have a significant economic impact through consumption of harvestable products. Campaigns to reduce waste are already implemented through directly targeting control methods for the pest populations themselves… with significant effects on bird populations…

A second obvious set of candidate species for direct effects are those that rely on potential human food that is lost or discarded during the harvesting process, for example discards in marine fisheries or the residue that is left after harvesting crops. A number of species of birds use the grain spilled in the harvest during stopovers along their migration routes. These species are likely to be directly affected by reductions in crop losses due to, for example, more efficient harvesting machinery. Scavengers are included within this group, many of which use dead livestock as significant food sources… 

A third group of species are likely to be impacted through a reduction in the amount of food waste sent to landfill. Landfills constitute important food sources for a large number of bird species worldwide, particularly for opportunistic and scavenging species. An increase in landfill sites has been implicated in the growth of a number of gull populations… A reduction in food from landfill may cause a dietary change in affected species with potential impacts on other more vulnerable species in the ecosystem. However, reliance on refuse can have negative effects on life histories of individuals in certain species and removal of waste could benefit these populations in the long run.  

Fourth, a number of species will be indirectly affected by measures to control pests… Farmers across the globe use pesticides that affect non-target species… While banned in many developed countries, DDT is still heavily used in the tropics to control pests with knock-on effects on both bird species and other non-target populations. Similarly, the common use of neonicotinoid insecticides in Europe is associated with declines in insectivorous bird populations, possibly as a consequence of reductions in native invertebrate numbers.

Despite the cases mentioned above, the likelihood is that the waste reduction approach to food security will benefit many more species than it harms. It is predicted that meeting the food needs of nine billion people will require over 120 M ha of land being converted to cropland in developing countries; reducing waste by even 10% would significantly reduce the pressure for land conversion. Apart from species benefiting from less land being converted to agriculture, other species are likely to benefit directly and indirectly through, for example, a reduction in negative trophic interactions (e.g. predation and competition)… 

There are moves afoot in developed countries to reduce waste… and even to use food waste for energy production, that is anaerobic digestion and biomass. The consequences of this will be far reaching for both animal populations and the ecosystems in which they exist. To meet the future needs and support better conservation outcomes, scientists working on the biology of animal species… would do well to make predictions, and test hypotheses, about how the food waste agenda is likely to impact the biodiversity of the planet. Fundamental food web studies would be a good place to start… 

Ecosystem-level food web models will allow predictions to be made as to how species and ecosystems will respond to the removal of waste across the agricultural/food supply chain. Waste has been ignored for too long. The food security agenda will bring it to the front of mind, and conservation scientists need to respond quickly if we are not to be left feeding from the scraps under the table.

Alexander J. Stein's insight:
But how natural is an ecosystem, a species, or an animal population that (have come to) depend on humans and their (agri-) culture? 
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The 2016 Global Food Security Index - Economist (2016) 

The 2016 Global Food Security Index - Economist (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Global food security continues to improve.... the number of undernourished people has fallen by 176m over the past ten years. But almost 800m people... still remain hungry, and food security continues to be one of the major global challenges for the future... 


Global Food Security Index (GFSI) provides a common framework for understanding the root causes of food insecurity by looking at the dynamics of food systems around the world. It seeks to answer the central question: How food-secure is a country? 


Food security is a complex, multifaceted issue influenced by culture, environment and geographic location. The index cannot capture intra-country nuances, but by distilling major food-security themes down to their core elements it provides a useful approach to understanding the risks to food security in countries, regions and around the world. 


By creating a common framework against which to benchmark a country’s food security, the GFSI has created a unique country-level food-security measurement tool that addresses the issues of affordability, availability and utilisation in 113 countries around the world...


Over the past five years, the GFSI has shown improvements in food security. Overall global economic growth has led to improvements in the structural areas that are essential to improving people’s access to a wide range of affordable, nutritious foods, including more extensive food safety-net programmes, expanded food transport infrastructure and greater dietary diversity. 


This is particularly evident in middle-income and emerging-market countries, which have reached the economic and development threshold necessary to enable them to focus on improving government programmes to enhance food security, expand avenues of financing for farmers and promote infrastructure development, and where a burgeoning middle class is increasingly demanding access to a more diverse range of foods. 


Low-income countries have not yet reached this threshold. They often lack basic infrastructure, and smaller incomes inhibit access to and affordability of nutritious food. Political risk and corruption frequently compound structural difficulties in these countries. These issues are exacerbated by the risk of future climate change. The developing nations at the bottom of the GFSI are the countries that are most affected by weather-related loss events... 


Focusing on advancements in these countries must be a priority. How can low-income, developing countries move ahead despite the obstacles they face? Investment in infrastructure and food systems is the key to pushing these countries forward and narrowing the gap between the low-income and middle-income countries and their food-security systems. Governments will need to invest in the development and implementation of new technologies to make countries more resilient to changing weather patterns. Private investment must also be encouraged. 


http://foodsecurityindex.eiu.com/


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Food Security and Policy - Carolan (2016) - Elsevier

According to the United Nations, global agricultural production will need to be at least 60% higher in 2050 than 2007 levels. This is a smaller increase than the agriculture sector has achieved over the past half century. But before we let out a collective sigh of relief it is questionable whether these increases can be achieved, let alone achieved sustainably. 


A 2013 study examined yields of four key staple crops – maize, rice, wheat, and soybeans. The findings are not encouraging, as it notes that yields are increasing by only about 0.9-1.6% a year. That would lead to an overall yield increase of somewhere between 38% and 67% by 2050. This means there may be enough food to eat in 2050 if (1) the lower end of the aforementioned United Nation’s estimate ends up being true, (2) the higher end of this study’s projected maximum yield increase turns out to be the case, (3) we do not become even more enamored with biofuels and red meat, and (4) climate change does not do something to throw a wrench into all of this. 


Let us assume we are not that lucky… yield increases fall closer to the low end... To make up for the yield shortfall we are going to need anywhere between 200 million and 750 million additional hectares of land by 2050. A variety of studies have settled on the figure of 1.5 billion as the number of additional hectares available to be brought under cultivation. Much needs to be accomplished, however, before land can be brought into production – land rights have to be settled, credit must be available, and infrastructure and markets must be in place. These constrains explain why arable land worldwide has grown by a net average of 5 million hectares per year over the last two decades. It also means it will be decades until a sizable amount of arable land is prepared for agriculture. More problematic still is the projected slowdown in the annual growth of arable land, as potential arable land becomes increasingly marginal (the land easiest to convert has already been brought into production). The annual growth of arable land will slow from 0.30% between 1961 and 2005 to 0.10% between 2005 and 2050. This calculates out to an average annual net increase of arable area of 2.75 million hectares per year between 2005 and 2050. That is 120 million additional hectares, which is well below the most optimistic estimates that claim only 200 million hectares will be needed by mid-century to satisfy global food demand… 


Keeping up with current rates of demand – there is a sociologically interesting phrase. Just what exactly does it mean? We talk as if we need to keep up with these rates. Do we? I am often asked, “How much food do we need to feed future world populations?” The question is not an easy one to answer. Before anyone can answer it we need to define certain things, like “food,” “we,” “feed,” and “future world populations.” Too often and to my great frustration, people try answering the question without any thought to the assumptions underlying it. For instance, depending upon whether we are expecting future generations to eat largely grain-based diets, versus, say, diets centered on red meat will greatly alter one’s answer to the question. Similarly, are we assuming, when talking about feeding future “populations,” that cars (biofuels) are part of the equation? This chapter… explores what it means to feed the world – does that assume, for example, feeding people healthily and sustainably? This inevitably gets us into issues of food security. But more specifically… What do we mean when envisioning sustainable protein food futures? … 


If everyone in the world were to consume meat at levels comparable to that found in Luxembourg and the United States – around 125-136 kg (276-300 lb) per person per year – there would only be enough grain remaining to support a global population of about 2.6 billion people (or 38% of the existing population)… 


Looking ahead, the future of sustainable protein seems bright… The current protein regimen is simply not sustainable. The numbers just do not add up. Not even close. The wise move would therefore be to plan for this future, rather than ignore it until we have no choice but to confront it – being proactive, in other words, rather than reactive… Our eating preferences are dictated by more than just how something tastes and how much it costs. Culture, norms, meal structure expectations, knowledge, and skills all go into shaping why we eat the proteins that we do. Steps can be taken to shape consumer preferences so they ultimately choose alternative proteins. By waiting too long to have this conversation we risk finding ourselves in a situation where consumers are eating alternative protein not because they want to but because they have no choice. That is not a future we want to find ourselves in. 


When we think about sustainable protein sources, therefore, we need to approach the term in the same spirit as we would anything with that adjective attached to it. Sustainability, real sustainability, ought to presuppose what is colloquially referred to as the triple bottom line, which is to say it should rest on principles that promote social, ecological, and economic sustainability. I mention this as a reminder that certain food policy scenarios, no matter how well intentioned, ecologically sound, or premised on seemingly just ethical postulates, will very likely fail if they appear too heavy-handed. I mention this to remind readers of the dangers of policies that are unmindful of the social and cultural realities that lie behind peoples’ diets. This is not a call for cultural relativism – to let people eat whatever they want simply because “that’s how they’ve always eaten.” It is a call to be mindful of how, for certain populations, cultural and/or ethnic identities are wrapped up in the regular consumption of red meat. And then: find ways to work from that perspective to transition those diets in ways that fit with those pre-existing cultural practices. 


Whether those transitions involve meat-like substitutes or new foods altogether will depend on a host of conditions… The most sustainable transitions must not be perceived as being imposed. For example, top-down directives from the government – such as the banning of certain meats – risk pushing foods into an informal (“black-market”) economy. For a change in diet to be longlasting, the core principle of sustainability, it must feel self-directed. It must feel, in other words, as something eaters actually want, versus something they have to do…


https://www.researchgate.net/publication/303647558_Food_Security_and_Policy


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'Pristine' landscapes haven’t existed for thousands of years - University of Oxford (2016) 

'Pristine' landscapes haven’t existed for thousands of years - University of Oxford (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it


'Pristine' landscapes simply do not exist anywhere in the world today and, in most cases, have not existed for at least several thousand years... An exhaustive review of archaeological data from the last 30 years details how the world’s landscapes have been shaped by repeated human activity over many thousands of years. It reveals a pattern of significant, long-term, human influence on the distribution of species across all of the earth’s major occupied continents and islands... Archaeological evidence has been missing from current debates about conservation priorities. To say that societies before the Industrial Revolution had little effect on the environment or diversity of species is mistaken... 

Many living species of plants, trees and animals that thrive today are those that were favoured by our ancestors; and that large-scale extinctions started thousands of years ago due to overhunting or change of land use by humans... in light of this and other evidence of long-term anthropogenic change, we need to be more pragmatic in our conservation efforts rather than aiming for impossible ‘natural’ states... 

'Archaeological evidence is critical to identifying and understanding the deep history of human effects. If we want to improve our understanding of how we manage our environment and conserve species today, maybe we have to shift our perspective, by thinking more about how we safeguard clean air and fresh water for future generations and rather less about returning planet Earth to its original condition'... importance of the study to current debates about a human role in climate warming: 'Cumulative archaeological data clearly demonstrates that humans are more than capable of reshaping and dramatically transforming ecosystems. Now the question is what kind of ecosystems we will create for the future. Will they support the well-being of our own and other species or will they provide a context for further large-scale extinctions and irreversible climate change?' ... 

http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2016-06-07-pristine-landscapes-haven’t-existed-thousands-years

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Measurement of the dimensions of food insecurity in developed countries: a systematic literature review - Ashby &al (2016) - Public Health Nutr

Measurement of the dimensions of food insecurity in developed countries: a systematic literature review - Ashby &al (2016) - Public Health Nutr | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Food insecurity is a salient health issue comprised of four dimensions – food access, availability, utilization and stability over time. The aim of the present study was... to identify all multi-item tools that measure food insecurity and explore which of the dimensions they assess... in developed countries... All of the tools assessed the ‘food access’ dimension and two partially assessed the dimensions ‘food utilization’ and ‘stability over time’, respectively. ‘Food availability’ was not assessed by existing tools. 


Current tools available for measuring food insecurity are subjective, limited in scope, with a majority assessing only one dimension of food insecurity (access). To more accurately assess the true burden of food insecurity... There is a need for a valid and reliable instrument to measure all four dimensions of food insecurity at both the household and individual level, as well as to consider accurate measurements of community food insecurity.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1368980016001166


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Weedkiller decision adds to Brexit momentum for UK farmers - Politico (2016) 

Weedkiller decision adds to Brexit momentum for UK farmers - Politico (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it
British farmers are fed up with the meddling from their European neighbors over the best way to grow food – and it’s enough to drive some of them to want to ditch the European Union. The latest battle is over Brussels’ impending ban on the weedkiller glyphosate, the U.K.’s most widely used pesticide, largely due to political pressure from green groups on the Continent already skeptical of pesticides and certain other new technologies in agriculture. But pulling glyphosate, better known as Roundup, from the market, would be devastating to British farmers who rely on the herbicide to treat weeds. 

Many British farmers already are tired of what they say is decreasing financial support but increasing mandates from Brussels on how to run their operations. It’s turned some former supporters of the EU and the access it provides to a market of 500 million customers into poster children of the Leave campaign. “Distance from government in the end breeds contempt or distrust,” said... spokesman for the pro-Leave group Farmers for Britain. “We feel very, very remote from Brussels.” 

Brits cast their votes in the U.K. referendum on June 23, just seven days before EU’s approval of glyphosate is set to expire. The herbicide, the most widely used in the world, has long been approved for use in the EU to clear field of weeds before planting... While the European Commission will try again next week to get sign-off from member countries before the deadline, governments seem unlikely to change their positions. 

More than 2 million hectares of land were treated with glyphosate in England and Wales in 2014. Without it, winter wheat and barley production would likely decline by about 12 percent and cut cultivation of oilseed rape – used for oil and animal feed – by about 10 percent... “Arable farmers have said that for many of them it will be a swaying factor. They really can’t conceive how they would run a farm without” glyphosate... 

Support for the U.K. to stay in the EU has been loud. Prime Minister David Cameron and most of his government, backed by businesses and celebrities, have argued that the uncertainty of what Britain will be like outside of the EU is too much to risk. Even U.S. President Barack Obama has put his clout behind the campaign to remain, writing... that “now is a time for friends and allies to stick together”... should the U.K. choose to leave the EU, it would move to the “back of the queue” on a trade deals... 


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While there is no good reason for an effective and (relatively) benign herbicide to be banned (only to be replaced by who-knows-what), it is nevertheless a bit worrying that farmers can’t conceive how they would run a farm without glyphosate and say that it’s a crucial part of their farming. Over-reliance on any one weed control option will eventually breed resistant weeds, i.e. farmers should probably not build their operation to such an extent on glyphosate...
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Exploring the Relationship between Corruption and Food Security Status on a Global Scale - Helal &al (2016) - FASEB 

Food insecurity is a global problem that has yet to be properly addressed... There are currently no studies exploring corruption and food security, on a global scale, with internationally validated tools...  

Food security status... was assessed using the FAO’s Food Insecurity Experience Scale. Corruption... was measured using the GWP Corruption Index... Regression were conducted to evaluate the relationship between socio-demographic characteristics and corruption on food security...  

An absence of perceived corruption was significantly higher in food secure population... Women had higher rates of food insecurity.. Higher level of education, higher income and full-time employment were found among food secure population. All of these results were significant...  

These findings suggest that... an absence of corruption has a positive impact on food security. The results... promote governmental accountability... and will contribute to emerging research in the field of food security governance. 


http://www.fasebj.org/content/30/1_Supplement/1149.9.short


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Economic Recovery Needed To Enhance Food Security – Sundaram (2016) – IPS

Economic Recovery Needed To Enhance Food Security – Sundaram (2016) – IPS | Food Policy | Scoop.it
Food prices rose sharply from the middle of the last decade, but have been declining since 2012, and especially since last year, triggering concerns of declining investments by farmers. Earlier predictions of permanently high food prices have thus become less credible… Prices had become increasingly volatile… Some food price volatility had its origins in climate change-related extreme weather events in key exporting countries. ‘Financialization’, including linking commodity derivatives with other financial asset markets, also worsened price volatility… 

With three food price spikes over five years, food insecurity was widely seen as a major challenge… Official development assistance for agriculture has fallen for decades despite the expressed desire by many developing countries to raise such investments. Meanwhile, rich countries have continued to subsidize and protect their farmers, undermining food production in developing countries, and transforming Africa from a net food exporter in the 1980s into a net food importer in the new century. 

Meanwhile, economic recovery efforts are needed… A global counter-cyclical recovery strategy in response to the crisis should contain three main elements. First, stimulus packages in both developed and developing countries to catalyze and ‘green’ national economies. Second, international policy coordination to ensure that developed countries’ stimulus packages not only ensure recovery in the North but also have strong developmental impacts on developing countries… Third, greater financial support to developing countries for their sustainable development efforts, not only aid but also to more effectively mobilize domestic economic resources. 

We need more investments that will help put the world on a more sustainable path… is still urgent to prioritize economic recovery measures, but also other needed initiatives. Preferably, recovery strategies should help lay the foundations for sustainable development. Given the large unmet needs for infrastructure, more appropriate investments can contribute to sustainable growth. Such investments should improve the lot of poor and vulnerable groups and regions… investments should lead to… growth that is both ecologically sustainable and socially inclusive. 

Enhancing food security and agricultural productivity should be an important feature of stimulus packages in developing countries dependent on agriculture. Re-invigorating agricultural research, development and extension is typically key to this effort. The Green Revolution… increased crop yields and food production. However, the efforts for wheat, maize, and rice were not extended to other crops, such as other major indigenous food crops and those associated with arid land agriculture… 

Projects could improve water storage and drainage, and contribute to agricultural productivity or climate adaptation. For example, in many developing countries, simple storage dams, wells, and basic flood barriers/levees could be constructed, and existing drainage and canal networks rehabilitated. Public works programs could prioritize basic sanitation or regeneration of wetland ecosystems that serve as “filters” for watercourses… 

Many complementary interventions will be needed. Food security cannot be achieved without better social protection. This will be critical for the protection of billions of people in developing countries directly affected by high underemployment and unemployment, to reduce their vulnerability to poverty and undernutrition. But sustainable social protection requires major improvements in public finances. While more revenue generation requires greater national incomes, tax collection can also be greatly enhanced through improved international cooperation on tax and other related financial matters… 

Such an agenda requires not only bold new national developmental initiatives but also far better and more equitable international cooperation offered by a strong revival of the inclusive multilateral United Nations system.  


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​Why Americans waste so much food - Ohio State U (2016) 

​Why Americans waste so much food - Ohio State U (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Most people feel guilty about discarding food, but say it would be hard to stop. 


Even though American consumers throw away about 80 billion pounds of food a year, only about half are aware that food waste is a problem. Even more… most people perceive benefits to throwing food away, some of which have limited basis in fact. The results provide the data required to develop targeted efforts to reduce the amount of food that U.S. consumers toss into the garbage each year… 


The researchers developed a national survey to identify Americans’ awareness and attitudes regarding food waste… 53 percent of respondents said they were aware that food waste is a problem… “But it’s still amazingly low… If we can increase awareness of the problem, consumers are more likely to increase purposeful action to reduce food waste. You don’t change your behavior if you don’t realize there’s a problem in the first place.” 


Among other findings, the study identified general patterns that play a role in people’s attitudes regarding household food waste. “Generally, we found that people consider three things regarding food waste… They perceive there are practical benefits, such as a reduced risk of foodborne illness, but at the same time they feel guilty about wasting food. They also know that their behaviors and how they manage their household influences how much food they waste”… 


Perceived benefits: 68 percent of respondents believe that throwing away food after the package date has passed reduces the chance of foodborne illness, and 59 percent believe some food waste is necessary to be sure meals are fresh and flavorful. Feelings of guilt: 77 percent feel a general sense of guilt when throwing away food. At the same time, only 58 percent indicated they understand that throwing away food is bad for the environment, and only 42 percent believe wasted food is a major source of wasted money. Control: 51 percent said they believe it would be difficult to reduce household food waste and 42 percent say they don’t have enough time to worry about it… 


The researchers see several areas in which to focus educational and policy efforts. “First, we can do things to chip away at the perceived benefits of wasting food… many of those benefits are not real.” For example, removing “Sell by” and “Use by” dates from food packages could significantly reduce the amount of good food that is trashed, the researchers said. “Only in rare circumstances is that date about food safety, but people are confused about the array of dates on food packages”… Recent efforts to create uniform national standards for such labels have received bipartisan support. 


In addition, the researchers see an opportunity to help consumers understand the negative environmental impacts of food waste. Food waste is the largest source of municipal solid waste in the U.S. and the most destructive type of household waste in terms of greenhouse gas emissions… “Helping people become more aware of that wouldn’t be a silver bullet… but it could sway 5 to 10 percent of people who are generally willing to change their behaviors to improve the environment but who have never put two and two together about the damaging impacts of food waste”… 


Better data on measuring household waste could lead to improvements. “Basically, right now everybody thinks they are doing as good as or better than everybody else… It’s somebody else that’s creating food waste.” To combat that problem… research group are developing a smart phone app to better measure household food waste… 


https://news.osu.edu/news/2016/07/21/food-waste/


Underlying article: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0159250


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Measuring Food and Nutrition Security: An Independent Technical Assessment and User's Guide for Existing Indicators - Lele &al (2016) - FSIN

Measuring Food and Nutrition Security: An Independent Technical Assessment and User's Guide for Existing Indicators - Lele &al (2016) - FSIN | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The purpose of this document is to assist policy and program planners and implementers, designers and managers, evaluators and analysts to target interventions and measure progress in food security and nutrition. 


Indicators for concepts such as stunting and wasting, diet diversity and nutrient adequacy or food insecurity have proliferated in recent years, leading to widespread confusion about the best indicators for any given situation. Relatively few of the many available measures of food security and nutrition have been mainstreamed by governments and international organizations with a broad country coverage, on a sustainable basis. 


This technical assessment and user’s guide aims to help readers choose among available indicators, and apply the results in their work to improve agriculture, food security, nutrition and health. 


http://www.fsincop.net/news-events/detail/en/c/418497/


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... but of course one could also consider using disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) as metric that actually captures the  health effects of food insecurity:  http://www.scoop.it/t/publications-of-a-j-stein/p/4030363107/

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Brexit impact minimal on global agriculture, economist says - Capital Press (2016)

Brexit impact minimal on global agriculture, economist says - Capital Press (2016) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

While Britain’s decision to exit the European Union is expected to create difficulties for farmers, agricultural trade and investments in the region, it isn’t expected to have a significant impact on the global food system... “there will be a ripple (but) it will barely make a dent in the global food system, ”said Mike Dwyer, chief economist for the U.S. Feed and Grains Council... “I’m not saying there won’t be some fallout in Europe. I’m saying when you diffuse that across a huge global food system, I don’t think this – in and of itself – will be a big deal”... His forecast, however, comes with one major caveat – that other EU countries don’t follow suit, he said. 


The main impact is the long-term effect Brexit has on currency... All the chaos seen in equity, bond, commodity and foreign exchange markets following the surprising Brexit vote was a repricing of assets for an unexpected outcome.. Deutsche Bank changed its forecast for 2.1 percent economic growth in Britain to 0.9 percent after the vote and its forecast for economic growth in the EU to drop from 1.5 percent to 1.1 percent. European growth was anemic to start with... adding that it’s a little more anemic now but not falling off the cliff. In the bigger picture, the expected 3.6 percent economic growth rate in the global GDP was only decreased slightly to 3.4 percent... “This is not enough to cause anything like what happened in 2008-2009 when the global economy tanked in a very rapid fashion”... The effect would get more pronounced if it isn’t isolated to Britain. If what happens in Europe starts morphing through emerging markets, affecting trade linkages, it could become a global problem... “I just don’t see that happening... What happens in a place like China will absolutely affect the global food system. So that should keep you awake at night, not what happened in Europe”... 


If Brexit accelerates the growth rate of the U.S. dollar even further than expected, that will be a problem for the U.S. in some markets. But in terms of currency realignment verses economic growth impact, it is the demand side that is far more important than the realignment of currency... This event, as bad as it is and as scary as it is for the Europeans themselves, poses no real risks in my opinion for the global food system”... But there are other factors of the divorce that could have a wider effect on agricultural trade. The European Union drives legislation, policy and trade negotiations with other countries. While Britain will remain a full EU member until after the withdrawal process is complete, there are already signs the UK is losing influence... Traditionally, the UK votes in favor for free markets, for new technology, for science-based decision-making... The UK voice will be lost entirely once the process is complete. That could have an impact on EU market access issues, such as new biotech approvals for import, authorization of crop protection products and import tolerances... 


http://www.capitalpress.com/Business/20160718/brexit-impact-minimal-on-global-agriculture-economist-says


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EU Failing FAO Challenge to Improve Global Food Security - Smyth &al (2016) – Trends Biotechnol

EU Failing FAO Challenge to Improve Global Food Security - Smyth &al (2016) – Trends Biotechnol | Food Policy | Scoop.it
Click here tThe EU has chosen to ignore the food security challenge issued to the world by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)… that agricultural biotechnology has a central role in meeting the food security challenge… The FAO identified necessary agricultural production increases of 70% globally to meet the requirements of a projected 9.6 billion people… Developing countries struggle to feed their current populations, with millions unable to secure sufficient food quantities to provide daily nutritional needs. The FAO and others assert that agricultural biotechnology will be important to meet global nutritional needs in 2050. Many countries have responded to this challenge, allowing agricultural biotechnology innovations to be commercialized as part of their strategic response to the FAO challenge. While Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, and the USA have all approved the production of GM crops, few developing countries have followed suit. 

In addition to agricultural production needing to rise by 70% globally… in most developing countries, production would need to rise by 100%. The FAO reports that annual increases in crop yields of 2% are needed to sustain the existing global population. Current yield increases are below 2% and have slowed considerably. Crop yield increases for the three key staple crops of wheat, maize, and rice have been trending downward since the 1990s, and this decline is most significant for wheat and rice, where annual global increases are less than 1%. Of particular concern is the rate of wheat yield increases in developed countries, which has become negative. With rice being a staple crop for many developing countries, recent rice yield increases of 1% highlights the inefficient application of crop breeding innovations. Innovative agricultural biotechnologies are required to aid the development of new varieties of all three staple crops to assist in raising annual yield increases to meet increasing global demand. Without the ability to adopt agricultural biotechnology, hundreds of millions will remain nutritionally insecure on a daily basis. 

The EU has repeatedly failed to respond to the FAO challenge. While two MS plant small amounts of GM crops… for the most part, GM crops are not welcomed by governments or consumers in the EU. The European Commission agreement in December 2014 allowing MS to domestically ban the production of GM crops once again affirms an unwillingness to credibly respond to global food security through the adoption of advanced technologies. Current EU environmental policy appears to be dictated by objectives that contribute to global food insecurity. This new EU policy is flawed for three reasons: (i) it ignores conventional scientific findings; (ii) it has politicized and mischaracterized risk; and (iii) it deters developing countries from adopting GM crops. 

EU Parliamentarians and politicians routinely ignore the proven safety and environmental benefits of GM crops. GM crops have undergone risk assessments by federal regulatory agencies in over 30 different countries since their first commercialization in Canada and the USA in 1995, and, in 2010, the European Commission produced a review of 130 EU-funded biotechnology research projects that showed that GM-bred crops are as safe as conventionally bred crops. EU politicians appear happy to ignore their own and others’ peer-reviewed science that demonstrates the safety and efficacy of a range of new crops that are widely accepted across world markets. 

The evidence in adopting countries is growing and compelling. A recent meta-analysis of 147 publications detailing GM crop impacts found that chemical pesticide use dropped by 37%, crop yields increased by 22%, and farmer profits increased by 68%. The main impacts are in cotton, maize, soybeans, and canola… Meanwhile, reductions in chemical use have been quantified in both developing and developed countries. Pesticide use on cotton in India dropped by 41%... In Canada, the environmental impact of GM canola resulted in a reduction of 53%... of herbicide… There are also measurable health benefits to smallholder farmers and farm laborers due to reductions in pesticide applications from GM crop adoption. GM cotton in India has lowered the number of reported pesticide poisoning by between 2.4 and 9 million cases annually… 

The risk assessment process in the EU has become politicized and often ignores the results of its science-based risk assessment in its deliberations. The EU has a zero-tolerance threshold for EU-unapproved GM traits that have been approved in other countries, including major trading partners, such as Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and the USA. These GM traits have had risk assessments cumulatively undertaken by over 200 national regulators. Presently, the EU has higher acceptable levels in food products for contaminants such as insect fragments, sticks, and manure, than it does for EU-unapproved GM crops. 

The decision by the EU to allow MS to individually regulate approvals for cultivation of GM crops that have already received EU-wide approval will have wide-ranging effects that, ultimately, will make it more difficult for the most food-insecure countries in the world to achieve their food security goals… This decision to allow individual MS to intervene and make local decisions considerably increases the risks associated with investing in agricultural biotechnology in the EU and beyond… 

First, some are of the opinion that this will allow MS opposed to GM crops to ban them domestically and no longer vote to block them at the EU level, thus returning GM crop approvals to science-based processes. Removing some of the politics of GM crop approvals would theoretically allow those MS supporting the technology to approve and produce GM crops. However, this is not assured because there are no legal obligations within the opt-out for MS to cease blocking GM crops at the EU level. 

Second, science-based regulation seems to have taken a back seat in the EU. Those blocking GM crops approvals are not compelled by science; rather, decisions are based on political calculations. This has stalled most research and investment in the EU, discouraging research and commercialization of new GM traits in other MS due to the difficulty of meeting the increasing array of market access hurdles. Moreover, given that the EU is the single largest food-importing region, this change will undoubtedly discourage developing countries exporting commodities to the EU from adopting GM crops; the cost and uncertainty of having shipments rejected by MS will offset many of the benefits of GM adoption. 

Investment decisions of individual firms are determined, in part, by the size of the potential market for the products of the new technology and the cost of securing entry in those markets. When countries ban new technologies or their products or make their approvals sufficiently risky or uncertain, the size of the potential market shrinks. This reduces the likelihood of a positive investment decision. Meeting the goals of improved global food security will require a range of efforts; most policy-makers see improving agricultural productivity through new breeding techniques as central to achieving the goals. Agricultural biotechnology can greatly contribute to advances in agricultural productivity. Any major increases in the riskiness of investments in research and development will work to reduce investment and the rate at which agricultural productivity increases. 

The effects on food insecure countries… are direct and immediate. The EU prohibits imports of all unapproved GM events. Shipments can be refused when minute traces of GM material are detected, either comingling of GM with non-GM varieties of the same crop or a different crop. Hence, if African countries exporting to the EU adopt productivity-enhancing GM crops, they risk losing their markets in the EU. Given that absolute segregation of GM and non-GM crops is both difficult and expensive to achieve on a commercial basis, African countries eschew the adoption of GM crops, thus forgoing improvements in their agricultural productivity (even developed countries are stressed: the EU closed the border to Canadian exports of flax and American exports of corn, rice, and soybeans recently after detecting trace amounts of traits not approved in the EU). The failure to adopt GM crops in the EU also feeds back into global investment decisions: one result is lower investment into the adaptation of GM crops suited to agronomic conditions in developing countries, especially tropical crops. 

This latest move away from science-based regulation in the EU will have wide-ranging effects beyond the EU itself, effects that will complicate international efforts to achieve global food security. While numerous GM-adopting nations have positively responded to the challenge of the FAO, the EU continues to ignore the impact of their domestic choices on this crucial global issue. The EU has secure food supplies and is ignoring the cost its politically motivated technology choice has on food insecure consumers and countries. The EU has failed in its responsibility to its own citizens and to those in developing countries by ignoring science and evidence… 

A host of new plant breeding techniques and technologies are poised to enter the crop variety development sector. They offer an exciting opportunity to reverse the trend to weaker yield growth. While many of these new technologies and techniques do not involve cross-species manipulations, there is a movement afoot in the EU… to outright reject these technologies. This knee-jerk reaction to a real opportunity to accelerate crop productivity, lower the ecological footprint of food production, and improve the lot of many food-insecure farmers and families around the world is a shame. The burden of increasing global food security cannot be in the hands of the few GM crop-adopting countries, led by Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada and the USA… The commercialization of new, higher yielding crops needs all leading food producers to engage. The EU cannot abrogate its duty to use its wealth and resources on behalf of humanity. 


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Globalisation of agrifood systems and sustainable nutrition - Qaim (2016) - PNS

Globalisation of agrifood systems and sustainable nutrition - Qaim (2016) - PNS | Food Policy | Scoop.it

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. 


Results show that 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 interdisciplinary research... the evidence is not yet conclusive. A review at this early stage can help to better understand important relationships and encourage follow-up work.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0029665116000598


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Nanotech extends shelf life of fresh fruit - IDRC (2016) 

Nanotech extends shelf life of fresh fruit - IDRC (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

An international research team is developing nanotechnology-based applications of hexanal, a natural plant extract that extends the storage life of harvested fruit.

Bananas, mangoes and papayas... are in high demand in export markets and an important livelihood source for producers. But freshness is key because these fruits spoil quickly and damage easily. The challenge is especially daunting where refrigeration is lacking. Estimates suggest that up to 40% of produce in tropical countries is lost in post-harvest handling... 

Research... points to a promising innovation: nanotech applications of a natural plant extract called hexanal can be used to delay fruit ripening. Hexanal inhibits a plant enzyme that is responsible for breaking cell membranes during a fruit’s ripening process.
 
In initial research in India and Sri Lanka, scientists used a hexanal-impregnated formula to test the product on mangoes. Spraying orchards with a low concentration of the compound slowed fruit ripening by three weeks. The team is also developing “smart packaging” systems, made from materials such as banana fibre, that slowly release hexanal to extend storage life after fruit is harvested.

These applications can boost farmers’ incomes. “Let’s say a mango farmer sprays half or one third of the orchard... He gets that same mango production but spread out over a three- to four-week window instead of just one week, which causes a major rush and a glut in the market, leading to low prices.”
 
In field trials, farmers were able to earn up to 15% more for their crop. Once harvested, the sprayed mangoes remained fresh for up to 26 days in cold storage and 17 days at room temperature... 

Biosafety testing shows promise. Already approved as a food additive in the United States, hexanal leaves no harmful residues... “if you spray or dip the fruit with it, within 48 hours it’s all gone”...  

A range of new materials is being developed, including wraps containing electro-spun or sprayed nanoparticles infused with hexanal for slow release of hexanal vapours. While exploring ways to delay ripening and improve shelf life, scientists are looking for opportunities to commercialise these technologies so they can be scaled up. The aim is to ensure the technology has a global reach and benefits low-income farmers... 


https://www.idrc.ca/en/article/nanotech-extends-shelf-life-fresh-fruit


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UN announces first-ever global standard to measure food loss and waste - UN (2016) 

UN announces first-ever global standard to measure food loss and waste - UN (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

A partnership of leading international organizations, including the United Nations, has announced the launch of a first-ever global standard to measure food loss and waste... The Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard (FLW Standard) is a set of global definitions and reporting requirements for companies, countries and others to consistently and credibly measure, report on and manage food loss and waste. The standard comes as a growing number of governments, companies and other entities are making commitments to reduce food loss and waste...  

“Having this new standard by which to measure food loss and waste will not only help us understand just how much food is not making it to our mouths, but will help set a baseline for action”... UNEP calls on countries and companies to use it to start measuring and reporting food loss and waste, in parallel to taking action to deliver on SDG Target 12.3: Halve food waste by 2030.

According to the UN, an estimated one-third of all food is lost or wasted worldwide as it moves from where it is produced to where it is eaten, even as more than 800 million people are undernourished. In addition, food loss and waste globally costs up to $940 billion per year. Meanwhile, food loss and waste generates about 8 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Estimates indicate that if it were a country, food loss and waste would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter behind China and the United States...  

UNEP highlighted that international momentum to curb food loss and waste is growing with governments and businesses making commitments to address this issue. However, most do not know how much food is lost or wasted or where it occurs within their borders, operations or supply chains. Moreover, the definition of food loss and waste varies widely and without a consistent accounting and reporting framework it has been difficult to compare data and develop effective strategies...  

The FLW Standard will also help reduce food loss and waste within the private sector. In 2015... 400 of the world's largest retailers and manufacturers from 70 countries, adopted a resolution for its members to reduce food waste from their operations by 50 per cent by 2025, with baselines and progress to be measured using the FLW Standard. 


http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsId=54154


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'Foreign' crops dominate national food consumption and farming practices worldwide - Eurekalert (2016) 

The origins of over two-thirds of the grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and other agricultural crops countries grow and consume can be traced to ancient breadbaskets in distant parts of the world, according to an exhaustive peer-reviewed report... 

The study... marks the first time scientists have quantified the level of interconnectedness of national diets and agricultural economies in terms of non-native plants, providing a novel take on the global crop diaspora, and a deeper understanding of how globalization continues to affect what we eat. The findings also have important implications for efforts to make the global food supply more resilient to challenges such as climate change.

"It's fascinating to see the extent to which so many plants have become synonymous with traditional diets in countries many thousands of miles from where those plants first appeared... If you're eating tomatoes in Italy or chillies in Thailand, you're consuming foods that originated far away, and that have reached those places relatively recently"... 


They analyzed a range of crops central to food supplies (measured in calories, protein, fat, and food weight) and national agricultural production (measured in production quantity, harvested area, and production value) in countries covering 98% of the world's population.

Each crop was traced back to the world's 23 "primary regions of diversity". These are geographic zones where a distinct range of edible plants were domesticated and developed by early farmers thousands of years ago, to become the food crops we know and love today. In recent centuries, migration, colonialism, and trade have resulted in many of these crops being produced and consumed far from their primary regions of diversity, a trend that continues today... the proportion of non-native food crops in diets and agricultural systems has been steadily increasing over the past 50 years. This is a result of changing dietary preferences, economic development, urbanization, and other factors... 

A better understanding of our continued connection to the primary regions of crop diversity will help change the way we think about food and farming... "Traditional crop varieties and their wild relatives found in one small part of the world could potentially be of use all over the world. That means we need to steward them in their natural habitats, and also collect them, conserve them in genebanks, and share widely to help make our food system more resilient"...  


http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-06/b-cd060316.php


Underlying article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2016.0792


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Researchers have identified critical factors that determine drought vulnerability of wheat, maize - IUPUI (2016) 

Researchers… identified critical information about the environmental variables and agronomic factors that determine the vulnerability of maize and wheat production to drought… "Our food source depends heavily on cereals, yet their agricultural production is greatly affected by drought… Ultimately, this information can be used to guide agricultural planning and minimize crop loss due to drought." 


Together, maize and wheat contributed more than 50 percent of global cereal production… These numbers need to be increased by 60 percent to 110 percent by 2050 to meet the increasing needs of humans and meat- and dairy-producing animals, as well as the biofuel industry… But with droughts projected to intensify in most parts of Asia and beyond, it is more important than ever to fully understand how drought affects the vulnerability of maize and wheat production, in combination with other factors such as the life cycle of the cereals and soil texture… 


The researchers collected data from peer-reviewed publications dated between 1980 and 2015 that examined maize and wheat yield responses to drought. Based on the meta-analysis… results show that maize and wheat have a significantly different yield response to drought. "Overall, we found that maize tended to experience greater yield loss due to drought, partly because maize originated from a wetter region"… wheat has a lower yield reduction, 20.6 percent, compared to 39.3 percent for maize at approximately 40 percent water reduction… 


The higher yield reduction in response to drought in maize is surprising, given that plants with C4 photosynthetic pathways (e.g., maize) usually have higher water-use efficiency than C3 plants (e.g., wheat) and therefore are considered less sensitive to drought due to their ability to efficiently make use of carbon dioxide and water. Higher sensitivity during the reproductive phase for maize could contribute to these unexpected results… Maize is equally sensitive to drought in dryland and non-dryland regions… Wheat cultivation in dryland regions is more prone to yield loss than in the non-dryland regions. 


The study's results may be used as the basis to model the interactions between agronomic inputs, to quantify productivity gains and production costs for maize and wheat, and to determine optimum irrigation scheduling during critical growth periods.. 


http://news.iupui.edu/releases/2016/05/wheat-maize-drought.shtml ;


Underlying article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0156362


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Hunger and the Incidence of Child Stunting in Tanzania - Acharya (2016) - AAEA

Impact of food insecurity on child stunting using household survey data from Tanzania... The results show that while programs like income support and human capital formation through education can be effective in enhancing food security, more targeted programs to increase mother’s education and promote health, nutrition, and sanitary practices are likely to be effective in reducing the incidence of stunting... 


http://purl.umn.edu/236080


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Farmers’ risk preferences and pesticide use decisions: evidence from field experiments in China - Gong &al (2016) - Ag Econ 

Farmers’ risk preferences and pesticide use decisions: evidence from field experiments in China - Gong &al (2016) - Ag Econ  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

China faces health and environmental problems associated with... pesticides. While previous studies have found that risk aversion affects pesticide use... they have focused primarily on commercial cotton farmers... We consider the case of smaller, semisubsistence and subsistence farmers... to specifically ask whether risk aversion affects pesticide use, and whether this effect differs for subsistence farmers... versus semisubsistence farmers who produce both for home and the market... 


Risk aversion significantly increases pesticide use, particularly for subsistence farmers and for market plots by semisubsistence farmers. Further, this effect of risk aversion significantly decreases with farm size for subsistence farmers, but not for semisubsistence farmers, implying that pesticide use may be used to ensure sufficient food supply for home consumption... 


Risk-mitigation strategies, such as crop insurance, may not target food security concerns of subsistence farmers. Given these different motivations for pesticide use, policymakers may wish to consider effective tools to support rural food security for farmers in the poorer regions of China in order to decrease pesticide use.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/agec.12240


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Humans Are 'Meathooked' But Not Designed For Meat-Eating - NPR (2016) 

Humans Are 'Meathooked' But Not Designed For Meat-Eating - NPR (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

I encounter claims that humans were designed to eat meat – that it's in our genes, that we have teeth made for eating meat, that we need meat to get all the right nutrients – all the time in casual conversation and in media… Science writer Marta Zaraska does a great job of exposing these claims as myths. Vegetarian animals ranging from gorillas to water deer… have bigger, sharper canines than we do; our canines aren't specially meant for processing meat. What we lack dentally is more important… carnassial teeth… all carnivores have them… We don't. 


All the high-quality amino acid proteins we require are readily available in plants… When people switch from meat-eating to plant-eating, their intake of vitamins and other nutrients improves… Meat isn't necessary to keep us healthy… Why humans across the world crave meat: Factors of biology, including certain genetic predispositions and culture, ranging from family habits and cultural traditions to the sexual politics of meat… all play a role… 


Zaraska… recommends that we all eat vegetables, legumes, fruits and grains rather than meat from animals. But a set of statistics laid out right at the start of the book frames her entire discussion in a grim way… "In 2011 we ate an average of sixty-one pounds more of meat than we did in 1951… despite all the accumulating warnings about cancer, diabetes, and heart disease… Across the world, the appetite for animal protein is on the rise… By 2020 the demand for meat… will increase… in Asia by a whopping 56 percent. In China, meat consumption has quadrupled since 1980." 


How are [those] cutting down on meat for reasons of individual health, global health and animal suffering supposed to feel any hope for the world? … The Good Food Institute (GFI)… "uses markets and food technology to transform global diets away from animal-based meat, dairy, and eggs, and toward plant-based and 'clean,' cultured alternatives… in 25 years, more than half of all meat will either be plant-based or clean… So while it is true that demand for meat is going up… as food technologies do a better job of replicating animal-based meat with plants, you'll see a huge shift away from animal meat and toward plant meat, which is far more efficient, healthier, and causes a tiny fraction of the climate change created by animal-based meat"… 


A cross-cultural perspective (including an understanding of food and poverty) is going to be important here. Yet any worries that we're universally stuck with a meat-laden future may well be just another myth. Polls show that as people start dropping foods from their diets, they tend to continue: " ... first goes red meat, then chicken, then fish, then milk and eggs"… The full linear progression won't happen for everyone… but the trend offers another reason for optimism. "Giving more kudos" to folks who take any steps to consume less meat… may be the best way to go… 


"What would Thanksgiving look like without a turkey or a summer grill without a burger?" … "We come together to share our love for each other, and in that spirit animals would be guests at the table, not on our plates. While this notion may seem absurd in a society where eating meat is perceived… even a status symbol, we need only shift our point of view as… in [t]his poem… to elicit our inherent empathy for all beings: "Thanksgiving dinner's sad and thankless / Christmas dinner's dark and blue / When you stop and try to see it / From the turkey's point of view"… We can eat well – maintaining our health and enjoying delicious flavor – without meat.  


http://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2016/05/19/478645426/humans-are-meathooked-but-not-designed-for-meat-eating


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
The argument whether we humans were "designed" to eat meat (or rather evolved that way) is pretty inconsequential. (To polarise one could also argue that it's in men's nature to spread their genes and, given that men are also often times stronger than women, deduct that men were designed to rape women...) 

What differentiates us from other animals is our greater capacity to reason and act upon what we determine to be right, not to act in a certain way simply because we can. Thus the important questions are: Is eating more meat healthier than eating less? Is it better for the environment and more sustainable? Is it ethical and compassionate with fellow beings? 

And there the answers are pretty clear: (i) A meat-heavy diet is not healthy. (ii) Unless the meat and other animal products come from animals that were raised extensively on marginal land that cannot be used to cultivate crops and that has only negligible added value in ecological terms if it was returned to a natural state, a meat-containing diet is neither environmentally friendly nor sustainable. (iii) Unless the meat and other animal products were obtained without inflicting more than the slightest or shortest suffering on the animal or its kin, a meat-containing diet is neither ethical nor compassionate, either. 
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