Food Policy
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Scoops relating to international food policy and development issues (not necessarily endorsements). CLICK on the titles to get to the full, original, and possibly hyperlinked versions!
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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?' ... 


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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... 


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
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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Assessing U.S. food wastage and opportunities for reduction - Dou &al (2016) - Global Food Sec

Assessing U.S. food wastage and opportunities for reduction - Dou &al (2016) - Global Food Sec | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Reducing food wastage is one of the key strategies to combat hunger and sustainably feed the world… The U.S. loses at least 150 million metric tonnes (MMT) of food between farm and fork annually, of which about 70 MMT is edible food loss. Currently, <2% of the edible food loss is recovered for human consumption. A reasonably-attainable goal of food waste reduction at the source by 20% would save more food than the annual increase in total food production and would feed millions of people. This is an opportunity of significant magnitude, offering food security and resource and environmental benefits with few negatives. Seizing this opportunity requires technological innovation, policy intervention, and public outreach. This U.S.-based analysis is pertinent to other mid- to high-income countries. 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2016.02.001


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A Region’s Eyes Turn to Healthy Nutrition - IPS (2016) 

A Region’s Eyes Turn to Healthy Nutrition - IPS (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

After its remarkable success in reducing hunger, Europe must now rise to the challenge of making sure food assures more than survival and furnishes healthy lives. As head of a global hunger-fighting organization, nothing gives me more satisfaction than to see a vast region of the world achieving food security for its people… Our data show that in almost every country, this region has succeeded in driving down food insecurity to below 5 percent of the population. The absolute number of hungry in the region has fallen by at least 40 percent since 1990. Unfortunately, the story does not end here. 


Malnutrition – as distinct from undernourishment (caloric insufficiency) – is a concern that cuts across the entire region. It takes many forms: micronutrient deficiencies, stunting, wasting, overweight and obesity. In fact, most countries in the region have alarming rates of obesity – more than 20 percent in adults. Malnutrition has health, social and economic costs that no society can afford to bear. Why is this happening? Because just as countries emerge from the age-old problem of hunger, people’s diets and lifestyles are being influenced in negative ways by globalization, nutrition transition, and other changes. 


Economic and social transformations – including higher incomes in many poor and middle-income nations, and the easy availability of over-processed foods at relatively cheap prices – are leading to changes in eating patterns that are driving up obesity rates. Other lifestyle changes, such as reduced physical activity, have made the situation even worse… For Europe and Central Asia, the challenge now is to pass through this unhealthy interim stage as quickly as possible, into diets and eating habits that are diverse, nutritious, safe, and sustainable. 


We took a firm step in the right direction… when countries adopted the Rome Declaration on Nutrition… Countries committed to enhancing sustainable food systems by developing coherent policies from production to consumption and across all relevant sectors to provide year-round access to food that meets nutrition needs, and to promote safe and diversified healthy diets… Countries will need to put the right policies in place to reform the food system, reduce food losses and waste, make it easier for consumers to make healthy food choices, empower people with nutrition education, provide accurate food labelling, promote cultivation of crops like pulses… 


Next week, the countries of Europe and Central Asia will tackle the issue of unhealthy diets and other food- and agriculture-related issues when they convene… for the 30th FAO Regional Conference for Europe. Ministers and other delegates and representatives of civil society and the private sector will discuss both problems and solutions and set priorities for FAO’s work across the region… The societies of Europe and Central Asia today have the opportunity to choose a healthy future, and FAO is ready to support them in that choice. 


http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/a-regions-eyes-turn-to-healthy-nutrition/


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Rising Carbon Dioxide Levels Will Help and Hurt Crops - NASA (2016) 

Rising Carbon Dioxide Levels Will Help and Hurt Crops - NASA (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Elevated carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere may increase water-use efficiency in crops and considerably mitigate yield losses due to climate change… some compensation for the adverse impacts of temperature extremes and water scarcity caused by increasing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases… 


Higher concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide affect crops in two important ways: they boost crop yields by increasing the rate of photosynthesis, which spurs growth, and they reduce the amount of water crops lose through transpiration. Plants transpire through their leaves, which contain tiny pores called stomata that open and collect carbon dioxide molecules for photosynthesis. During that process they release water vapor. As carbon dioxide concentrations increase, the pores don’t open as wide, resulting in lower levels of transpiration by plants and thus increased water-use efficiency. 


Global climate impact assessments for crops have focused primarily on the impacts of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide on yields… “There has been very little impact assessment analysis that looked at the dual effect on yield and water use and how they play out in different regions of the world, which is critical to anticipating future agricultural water demands”… To study those effects, for wheat, maize, soybean and rice crops, Deryng and her co-authors simulated changes in crop yield and evapotranspiration (the combined transfer of water vapor to the atmosphere due to evaporation and transpiration) to estimate crop water productivity. Specifically, they looked at the amount of yield produced per unit of water, which is a common measurement for assessing crop water-use efficiency. 


The results were synthesized from… models under a "business-as-usual" greenhouse gases emissions scenario, whereby concentrations of carbon dioxide double by the year 2080 compared with 2000. Two sets of crop experiments were conducted: one which considered the effects of both atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and their associated climatic changes, and one in which only the associated climatic conditions were taken into account, which meant keeping carbon dioxide concentrations at 2000 levels… 


Yields for all four crops grown at levels of carbon dioxide remaining at 2000 levels would experience severe declines in yield due to higher temperatures and drier conditions. But when grown at doubled carbon dioxide levels, all four crops fare better due to increased photosynthesis and crop water productivity, partially offsetting the impacts from those adverse climate changes. For wheat and soybean crops, in terms of yield the median negative impacts are fully compensated, and rice crops recoup up to 90 percent and maize up to 60 percent of their losses… 


The impact of doubled carbon dioxide concentrations on crop water productivity and yield varies regionally… Maize suffers yield losses with doubled carbon dioxide levels, due in large part to the plant’s already greater efficiency at using carbon dioxide for photosynthesis compared with the other crops. Maize yields fall by 15 percent in areas that use irrigation and by 8 percent in areas that rely on rain… The larger spread for gains and losses in rainfed maize is attributed mainly to the drier growing conditions. “The impact on crop water productivity and yield is strongest in regions like southern Africa where water is a limiting factor… Maize in these regions experience the most relief from better water-use efficiency”… 


Rainfed wheat grown at higher latitudes such as those of the United States, Canada and Europe, which have more moderate temperatures and longer growing seasons, experience an overall increase in yield of almost 10 percent, while their consumption of water goes down by a corresponding amount. For rainfed wheat grown in more arid climates, such as southern Africa and India, results show that doubled carbon dioxide levels, and their associated climate change impacts, increase yield by 8 percent, an increase that’s driven by improved crop water productivity of up to 50 percent… 


While these rainfed crops comprise only a small amount of the total wheat grown worldwide… they are often grown in developing countries that are more vulnerable to swings in production… “People in these regions depend more on local crop production for sustenance, so yield fluctuations tend to be more critical for food security.” The study offers some hope for crops grown in arid, often economically challenged areas… “For example, farmers may switch to crops where their improved photosynthesis and more efficient water use more than offsets losses due to the high temperatures that climate change will bring.” 


But... more field experiments are needed. “The uncertainty of carbon dioxide effects are greater in arid regions because experiments have been carried out mostly in temperate regions of the northern hemisphere… We need field observations… to validate and further improve our models.” There is also a need for research that explores the impact of elevated carbon dioxide levels on crop nutrition… “Crops also need nitrogen to grow, for example, and in many parts of Africa there’s not enough fertilizer… Imbalances between nitrogen and carbon in the crop tissues could lead to fewer nutrients like iron, zinc, along with a reduction in the protein content.” 


The researchers say their findings cast a light on agriculture globally and highlight the importance of studying arid and semi-arid cropping systems. “For farmers, water is essential… Building on this research will help them and other stakeholders prepare for production in a hotter, drier planet.” 


http://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2016/nasa-study-rising-carbon-dioxide-levels-will-help-and-hurt-crops


Article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2995


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The hunger metrics mirage: There’s been less progress on hunger reduction than it appears - Pingali (2016) - PNAS

The hunger metrics mirage: There’s been less progress on hunger reduction than it appears - Pingali (2016) - PNAS | Food Policy | Scoop.it
As the timeframe for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) came to an end in 2015, the United Nations lauded great progress… that poverty has decreased by half and hunger has fallen dramatically. Sixty countries are said to have achieved the hunger-reduction target since 1990. Among the achievers are a strikingly large number of the so-called “least developed countries,” and many of them are the poorest countries of sub-Saharan Africa. There is no doubt that much of the developing world made significant progress in enhancing food supplies and reducing hunger over the past 25 years. However, tracking progress by country and across countries has been marred by the ambiguity of the metrics that have been used. 

The MDGs are internationally agreed goals that… nation states pledged “to halve, by the year 2015… the proportion of people who suffer from hunger”, which later became the first (MDG 1) of eight total MDGs. To monitor progress toward each goal, a set of specific targets and indicators were adopted… the hunger target (MDG 1c) of halving the prevalence of undernourished, or the proportion of people below the minimum level of dietary consumption, between 1990 and 2015. A reduction in prevalence is an important metric… But it could also overstate the relative achievement of individual countries with high fertility rates. 

The year 2015 also marked the end of the monitoring period for the World Food Summit (WFS) goal, which preceded the MDGs… “to eradicate hunger in all countries, with an immediate view to reducing the absolute number of undernourished people to half their present level no later than 2015”… However, there’s one important distinction between the WFS goal and MDG 1c. The WFS calls for halving the “absolute number” of undernourished as opposed to the “prevalence” of undernourished by 2015. Although this may seem like a subtle detail, it has a considerable effect on the way progress toward hunger reduction is tracked… 

It is essential to understand how a reduction in prevalence differs from an absolute reduction in number. Prevalence of hunger is a fraction of the number of undernourished people to the total population… A reduction in prevalence can only be achieved through a decrease in the numerator or an increase in the denominator… As the denominator increases through population growth, the size of the reduction in the numerator needed to achieve MDG 1c decreases… Countries that have made small progress in reducing their absolute number of undernourished people may still come close to or even reach MDG 1c if they experienced a large enough population increase… 

Hence the “hunger metrics mirage,” in which countries with rapid population growth are deemed to have made more progress in hunger reduction… Higher population growth shows progress on the prevalence metrics, when in fact rampant growth only exacerbates the problem of hunger. A prevalence-based hunger score card can mislead policymakers into thinking they are on track toward hunger reduction and lead to complacency or reduced priority for hunger-alleviation policies… 

Although there has been progress in improving domestic food supplies, external food assistance continues to play an important part in reducing hunger prevalence for countries that have chronic food deficits… 8 of the 31 countries that came close to or achieved MDG 1c by 2015 were major food aid recipients… Some countries have made significant progress in weaning off of food aid (such as Bangladesh and Malawi), but several others continue to have high dependence… Bangladesh and Malawi… witnessed rapid staple crop productivity growth and became close to self-sufficient during the MDG reference period… Explicitly identifying a country’s reliance on food aid could help point to the need for prioritizing food-crop productivity growth in its development strategy. 

In September 2015… the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) “which seek to build on the work of the MDGs and complete what they did not achieve”… The emphasis on tackling hunger continues in the post-2015 agenda with the SDG’s call for ending hunger and achieving food security and improved nutrition (Goal 2)… In this context, it is essential to critically reflect on methods and metrics used for measuring progress… Potential improvements could include the formulation of indicators that focus on absolute progress as opposed to the reduction in prevalence. There is also a need to identify a suite of indicators that track progress toward broader nutrition outcomes, such as reduced micronutrient malnutrition, rather than just the current focus on calorie adequacy… It is important that the chosen indicators can track change at multiple scales, from the community to the national and global levels. 

Finally, it is imperative to conduct an independent expert assessment of the reliability and suitability of the currently available hunger statistics for monitoring progress toward the SDGs. The hunger prevalence estimates depend exclusively on the data made available through the FAO… The data… come from self-reporting of production and food supply statistics… by individual countries. There are questions about the consistency and quality of reporting, especially for the least-developed countries that often do not have the statistics capacity to regularly monitor the state of their food supply. The resulting data gaps are often filled by extrapolating from neighboring regions and countries… 

Eliminating hunger is a global and a national imperative… Essential for success are investments for enhancing food supply in the least-developed countries… Our quest will also require improved hunger and nutrition statistics and meaningful and reliable metrics for tracking progress toward the “zero hunger” goal. 


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
The article puts perhaps too much emphasis on population growth, even if it also mentions that it was crop productivity growth that helped countries make progress in becoming more food secure. Because as long as the food supply grows faster than the population (and it is also accessible to those who suffer from hunger), hunger should fall. For decision-makers what matters then is to know if it is easier (and faster) to reduce population growth or to increase food availability. 

However, the articles is certainly right that there is "a need to identify a suite of indicators that track progress toward broader nutrition outcomes, such as reduced micronutrient malnutrition, rather than just... calorie adequacy… It is important that the chosen indicators can track change at multiple scales, from the community to the national and global levels." 

Yet, there is no need for an entire "suite" of indicators -- as I suggested in an earlier paper, measuring the burden of disease that is caused by hunger in all its forms (incl. micronutrient malnutrition) does only require one indicator (disability-adjusted life years, or DALYs) that moreover can be disaggregated to track change at multiple scales: http://www.scoop.it/t/publications-of-a-j-stein/p/4030363107/2014/10/23/ >> http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2014.09.003


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pdf: Estimates of European food waste levels - Stenmarck &al (2016) - EU

Food waste is an issue of importance to global food security and good environmental governance, directly linked with environmental, economic and social impacts. Different studies show that between 1/3 and 1/2 of the world food production is not consumed, leading to negative impacts throughout the food supply chain including households. There is a pressing need to prevent and reduce food waste to make the transition to a resource efficient Europe… 

The collection and analysis of data from across Europe for this study generated an estimate of food waste in the EU-28 of 88 million tonnes.This estimate is for 2012 and includes both edible food and inedible parts associated with food. This equates to 173 kilograms of food waste per person in the EU-28. The total amounts of food produced in EU for 2011 were around 865 kg / person, this would mean that in total we are wasting 20% of the total food produced. 

The sectors contributing the most to food waste are households (47 million tonnes ± 4 million tonnes) and processing (17 million tonnes ± 13 million tonnes). These two sectors account for 72 percent of EU food waste, although there is considerable uncertainty around the estimate for the processing sector compared to all the other sectors. This is due to only four MS providing information of sufficiently high quality. In addition the differences in the normalized food waste amounts between the countries were great. Of the remaining 28 percent of food waste 11 million tonnes (12%) comes from food service, 9 million tonnes (10%) comes from primary production and 5 million tonnes (5%) comes from wholesale and retail… 

The costs associated with food waste for EU-28 in 2012 are estimated at around 143 billion euros. Two-thirds of the costs are associated with food waste from households (around 98 billion euros). This is due to households a) having more edible food waste than any other sector and b) the costs associated with a tonne of food accumulating along the supply chain (e.g. processing, packaging, retailing costs)… A key recommendation from this exercise for accurately quantifying food waste in Europe is to increase the number of EU MS that measure food waste robustly. This will be necessary if there is an EU food waste target that requires monitoring… 


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Feeding the world without further deforestation is possible - ScienceDaily (2016

Feeding the world without further deforestation is possible - ScienceDaily (2016 | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Deforestation is necessary to feed the growing global population – this is a common believe that has now been disproved by researchers… they present results that reveal that it is possible to produce sufficient food for the world in 2050 and at the same time maintain the current forests of the world. "The preservation of the world's remaining forest areas represents a central goal of climate and biodiversity protection… but deforestation is frequently justified by the need for more agricultural land"… 


"According to our analysis, human nutritional behaviour is the most important component. If the world's population followed a vegan diet, all combinations of parameters, even those with lowest yield levels and low cropland expansion, would be feasible. With a vegetarian diet, 94 per cent of all of our calculated scenarios would be feasible." While a full change towards such diets of the entire world population is of course not realistic, it illustrates the massive impacts diets have on the future options space for development. 


The results clearly indicate that the preservation of forests becomes more difficult, the more animal products are consumed. In the case of a diet that involves a high percentage of meat, only 15 per cent of the 500 original options would permit the preservation of the forest areas. And these scenarios are based on intensive levels of agricultural management as well as massive expansion of cropland into areas now used for grazing… 


"The aim to provide sufficient food for the entire global population – an aim that has yet to be achieved – leads to an important trade-off: this either means that land use will have to be ramped up and extended to areas such as natural grasslands – areas that are currently used, e.g. for subsistence agriculture, and host a considerable fraction of the global biodiversity. Alternatively, this might result in a massive rise in global food trade flows… in a world where global production would be sufficient on the average"… 


https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160419120147.htm


PDF: https://www.aau.at/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Press-release-feeding-the-global-population-K_ERB_bs_3.pdf


Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/NCOMMS11382


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Improving efficiency in meat production - Brameld & Parr (2016) - PNS 

Improving efficiency in meat production - Brameld & Parr (2016) - PNS  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Selective breeding and improved nutritional management... has resulted in dramatic improvements in growth efficiency for pigs and poultry... However, this has been achieved using high-quality feed ingredients, such as wheat and soya that are also used for human consumption... Ruminants on the other hand are less efficient, but are normally fed poorer quality ingredients that cannot be digested by human subjects, such as grass or silage. 


The challenges therefore are to: (i) maintain the current efficiency of growth of pigs and poultry, but using more ingredients not needed to feed the increasing human population... (ii) improve the efficiency of growth in ruminants; (iii) at the same time produce... meat, milk and eggs of equal or improved quality. 


This review will describe the use of: (a) enzyme additives for animal feeds, to improve feed digestibility; (b) known growth promoting agents, such as growth hormone, β-agonists and anabolic steroids, currently banned in the European Union but used in other parts of the world; (c) recent transcriptomic studies into molecular mechanisms for improved growth efficiency via low residual feed intake... the use of genetic manipulation in animals will also be discussed. 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0029665116000161


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
It seems the obvious solution (but probably also the biggest challenge) did not occur to the authors -- namely to reduce meat consumption and, instead, use the "high-quality feed ingredients, such as wheat and soya that are also used for human consumption" for exactly that, human consumption... 
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People Still Don't Get the Link between Meat Consumption and Climate Change - SciAm (2016) 

People Still Don't Get the Link between Meat Consumption and Climate Change - SciAm (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The media have slowly but steadily fed the public information about the staggering impact of our meat-eating habits on the environment, and on climate change in particular. For instance, one recent study found that a global transition toward low-meat diets could reduce the costs of climate change mitigation by as much as 50 percent by 2050. From scientific reports and articles in magazines, to viral Facebook videos… the news about the exorbitant contribution of a carnivorous to the greenhouse problem is clearly spreading. 


However… most people are still not aware of the full extent of meat’s climate impacts. We examined how citizens in America and the Netherlands assess various food and energy-related options for tackling climate change. We presented representative groups of more than 500 people in both countries with three food-related options (eat less meat; eat local and seasonal produce; and eat organic produce) and three energy-related options (drive less; save energy at home; and install solar panels). We asked them whether they were willing to make these changes in their own lives, and whether they already did these things. While a majority of the surveyed people recognized meat reduction as an effective option for addressing climate change, the outstanding effectiveness of this option… was only clear to 6% of the US population, and only 12% of the Dutch population… 


In terms of communication efforts… the outstanding effectiveness of reducing meat consumption could be a game-changer: knowing that it makes such a big difference may motivate people to change… research results also show a direct relationship between this knowledge and people’s willingness to consume less meat as well as their actual meat consumption. So knowledge does seem to be power, in this case. However… this may not be a causal relationship. People who already eat less meat may be more open to hear and retain information on the climate impacts of meat, while people who eat lots of meat may be more inclined to deny or downplay it… Behaviors may inform knowledge as much as knowledge informs behavior… Changing behaviors as intimate and culturally engrained as people’s daily dietary habits therefore demands a careful consideration of the psychological and cultural dynamics at play. 


Currently, most communications around meat and climate change are in the category of ‘the pointing finger’, thereby creating guilt, shame, and stigmatization among committed carnivores, and activating psychological mechanisms of denial and downplay… For people who already identify as environmentalists, this strategy can be very effective. They tend to embrace this message, especially if the finger is pointed at an external other they are suspicious of (e.g., ‘the capitalist system’, ‘the meat-industry’)… However, if these communications are hoping to convince the rest of the population, we urgently need to move beyond finger pointing tactics. This counts particularly for people with more traditional and modern worldviews, who generally don’t identify as environmentalists… Perhaps this is the reason environmental organizations have been remarkably silent on the issue of meat consumption, and why the topic is still often lacking in discussions on climate change. Since we haven’t quite figured out how to communicate it in a non-paternalistic… way, most institutions stay away from meddling in affairs as personal as what is on one’s plate. 


We seem to be in dire need of an inspiring and empowering narrative… The good thing is, the situation around meat is empowering, as it puts the power back in our own hands (and mouths)… It is that the most effective way by far for individuals to do their part tends to also lead to better health, weight control, creativity in the kitchen, and animal welfare. While environmental behaviors often involve sacrifices, the meat-reduction option offers a range of personal benefits… People in industrialized countries consume on average around twice as much meat as experts deem healthy. In the US the multiple is nearly three times. Adoption of a healthy diet would therefore generate over a quarter of the emission reductions needed by 2050! The invitation for people is thus not to give up their delicious steak and become vegetarian (something they may consider ‘extreme’), but rather to do something that serves themselves: eat a little less meat and get healthier… For a world that is also struggling with obesity and many other health problems… address two massive problems for the efforts of one… 


http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/people-still-don-t-get-the-link-between-meat-consumption-and-climate-change/


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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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Debunking the ‘new normal’: Why world food prices are expected to resume their long run downward trend - Baldos & Hertel (2016) - Global Food Sec

Debunking the ‘new normal’: Why world food prices are expected to resume their long run downward trend - Baldos & Hertel (2016) - Global Food Sec | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Contrary to the opinions expressed by many commentators, the recent episode of higher prices for agricultural commodities is likely a transitory phenomenon. When compared to the last half-century, population growth is expected to be much slower in the coming decades, with nearly all of the growth occurring in lower income countries, where added population places less pressure on global markets. The impact of the recent surge in growth rates in the developing world, and the associated dietary upgrading, will be insufficient to overcome the population effect. Further, earlier projections of biofuels growth are proving overly enthusiastic in the wake of lower oil prices and environmental concerns... 


Our projections... suggest that... food prices are expected to be slightly lower at mid-century than they were prior to the food price crisis (2006). However, this... depend critically on the rate of productivity growth in agriculture. Our projections involve expected global productivity growth over the 2006-2050 period which is only 60% as fast as over... 1961-2006. If total factor productivity growth slows more than this, perhaps due to adverse climate impacts or reduced investment in R&D, then prices could rise in the coming decades. Also, we cannot rule out the possibility of a steeper price decline in the wake of recent signs of robust productivity growth in the developing world.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2016.03.002


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Genetically Modified Crops and Agricultural Development - Qaim (2016) - Springer

Genetically Modified Crops and Agricultural Development - Qaim (2016) - Springer | Food Policy | Scoop.it
Introduction: 
What are the goals and priorities of agricultural development? Answers to this question can be diverse. Depending on who is being asked, the list of priorities may include food security, poverty reduction, supply of biofuels, soil conservation, biodiversity preservation, climate protection, animal welfare, attractive rural landscapes for recreation, and many other things. People in Western Europe will likely answer differently from people in South Asia or sub-Saharan Africa because of different living standards, cultural backgrounds, and attitudes. Also within regions, priorities may differ between rich and poor, urban and rural, young and old, men and women, and so on. Moreover, responses to the question about goals and priorities today would probably be quite different from responses 20 or 50 years ago. However, in spite of the many nuances and changes in priorities and preferences over time, there are a few overarching goals of agricultural development that persist and that constitute the foundation for this book. I… analyze how far genetically modified (GM) crops can contribute to achieving these goals. 

Plant Breeding and Agricultural Development: 
Striving for sufficient food has always been at the heart of human existence… Humankind has evolved from scavenging to hunting and gathering and finally to producing food in a systematic manner. Plants have been at the center of this process as they, directly and indirectly, provide virtually all of our food. While initially almost all humans were inevitably involved in the sourcing of food, the start of agriculture made it possible for people to pursue other occupations, marking the beginning of civilization. Given the subsequent explosion of the world population, it has always been the prime objective of agriculture to increase the supply of food… Fundamental advances in agricultural technology… have made sufficient food production growth possible in the past, also discussing related economic, social, and environmental implications. 

Potentials and Risks of GM Crops: 
A genetically modified (GM) crop is a plant used for agricultural purposes into which genes coding for desirable traits have been inserted through genetic engineering. The term genetic modification is somewhat misleading, as it implies that plants had not been genetically modified before techniques of genetic engineering were developed… Humans have modified the genetic makeup of plants since the beginnings of agriculture. Without the initial cultivation of plants, our cereals would still be seed-shedding wild grasses and our potatoes small, toxic lumps. Without systematic selection, our maize would be unrecognizable, and sugarbeets would not exist in their known form. Without scientific plant breeding, our crops would be relatively inefficient nutrient converters and susceptible to countless diseases and pests. All of these developments represent genetic modifications of crops, which would not have occurred naturally without human intervention. And without these interventions by breeders, agricultural yields would only be a fraction of what they are today. It is thus not the genetic modification of plants that is new, but some of the methods involved in achieving this modification. 

Adoption and Impacts of GM Crops: 
GM crops have already been used commercially for 20 years, a large number of impact studies exist, looking at GM crop effects on farmers’ yields, pesticide use, income, poverty, and wider implications for sustainable development. I will first provide an overview of the adoption of GM crops in different parts of the world, before reviewing the evidence about impacts. Impacts can be analyzed ex post, based on actual observations, or ex ante, based on expert assumptions and simulations of likely future scenarios. In this chapter, I review ex post impact studies of already commercialized GM crops… 

New and Future GM Crop Applications: 
The cultivation of GM crops has increased rapidly during the last 20 years with sizeable areas in North and South America, Asia, and to a lesser extent in Africa. However, of the 182 million hectares under GM crops in 2014, 99 percent were grown with only four different crop species (soybean, maize, cotton, and canola) and two modified traits (herbicide tolerance and insect resistance). Almost all of the GM crops available so far were developed and commercialized by the private sector. 

GM Crop Regulation: 
GMOs are more heavily regulated than any other agricultural technology. The regulation focuses primarily on the assessment and management of biosafety and food safety risks. Other important areas of regulation include labeling requirements for GM foods, as observed in some countries, and, related to labeling, rules of coexistence to facilitate segregation of supply chains for GM, conventional, and organic crops. Another area of regulation with immediate relevance for GM crops are intellectual property rights (IPRs) for biological materials and technologies… I review regulatory approaches and discuss the wider implications for GMO research, commercialization, international agricultural trade, and market structure in the biotech industry. 

The Complex Public Debate: 
Public attitudes toward GM crops are predominantly negative. This is especially true in Europe, but European perceptions have also spread to other parts of the world. Many people do not only believe but are strongly convinced that GMOs do not bring any benefits for farmers and consumers. Instead, GMOs are seen as a technology that is dangerous for human health and the environment and that contributes to monopolies and corporate control of the food chain, thus causing new dependencies and other social problems. The empirical evidence… clearly shows that this notion is wrong. Commercialized GM crops have already produced significant benefits for farmers, consumers, and the environment, and they have an unblemished safety record. Thirty years of risk research also suggest that GM crops are not inherently more risky than conventionally bred crops. If used inappropriately, GM crops can create certain problems, but the same holds true for any other technology. How comes then that public perceptions differ so vastly from the scientific evidence and that this rift has actually further increased over time? The answer is that a huge protest industry against GMOs has emerged since the 1990s. This protest industry strongly influences public opinions and policymaking. 

Conclusions: 
In spite of notable progress in global hunger and poverty reduction over the last few decades, way too many people in developing countries are still not able to satisfy their basic needs. Close to eight hundred million people are undernourished and do not have sufficient access to calories, most of them living in Asia and Africa. Urbanization tendencies notwithstanding, around 75 percent of the undernourished people reside in rural areas where they directly depend on agriculture as a source of income and employment. In addition to insufficient calorie intakes, micronutrient malnutrition is a serious issue. Around two billion people suffer from deficiencies in specific minerals and vitamins. These forms of malnutrition are a humanitarian disaster. They contribute to numerous infectious diseases, involve physical and mental retardation, and are the leading causes of child mortality in developing countries. Undernutrition and micronutrient malnutrition also cause huge economic costs, obstructing growth and development. Addressing these problems needs to be on top of the global development agenda. 


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Estimating the Enduring Effects of Fertiliser Subsidies on Commercial Fertiliser Demand and Maize Production: Panel Data Evidence from Malawi - Ricker & Jayne (2016) - JAE 

Estimating the Enduring Effects of Fertiliser Subsidies on Commercial Fertiliser Demand and Maize Production: Panel Data Evidence from Malawi - Ricker & Jayne (2016) - JAE  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

This article estimates the potential longer-run or enduring effects of fertiliser subsidy programmes on smallholder farm households' demand for commercial fertiliser and maize production over time... in Malawi... between 2003/2004 and 2010/2011. Panel estimation methods are used to control for potential endogeneity of subsidised fertiliser acquisition... 


Farmers acquiring subsidised fertiliser in three consecutive prior years are found to purchase slightly more commercial fertiliser in the next year. This suggests a small amount of crowding in of commercial fertiliser from the receipt of subsidised fertiliser... In addition, acquiring subsidised fertiliser in a given year has a modest positive impact on increasing maize output in that same year... 


Acquiring subsidised fertiliser in multiple prior years generates no statistically significant effect on maize output in the current year... potential enduring effects of the Malawi fertiliser subsidy programme on maize production are limited... Interventions that increase soil fertility can make using inorganic fertiliser more profitable and sustainable for smallholders... thereby increase the cost-effectiveness of input subsidy programmes.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1477-9552.12161


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Reducing food waste could help mitigate climate change - PIK Research Portal (2016) 

Reducing food waste could help mitigate climate change - PIK Research Portal (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

About a tenth of overall global greenhouse-gas emissions from agriculture could be traced back to food waste by mid-century… Currently, one third of global food production never finds its way onto our plates. This share will increase drastically, if emerging countries like China and India adopt Western nutrition lifestyles… 


Reducing food waste would offer the chance to ensure food security, which is well known. Yet at the same time it could help mitigate dangerous climate change. “Reducing food waste can contribute to fighting hunger, but to some extent also prevent climate impacts like more intense weather extremes and sea-level rise”… Even though food availability on a global average has been higher than required in theory, some developing countries still have to fight undernourishment or hunger. “At the same time, agriculture is a major driver of climate change, accounting for more than 20 Percent of overall global greenhouse-gas emissions in 2010. Avoiding food loss and waste would therefore avoid unnecessary greenhouse-gas emissions and help mitigate climate change”… 


The researchers analyzed body types and food requirements for the past and different future scenarios, accounting for demographic changes as well as food demand and availability and associated emissions… While the global average food demand per person remains almost constant, in the last five decades already food availability has rapidly increased. “More importantly, food availability and requirement ratio show a linear relationship with human development, indicating that richer countries consume more food than is healthy or simply waste it”… Consequently, greenhouse-gas emissions associated with food waste could increase tremendously from today 0.5 to 1.9-2.5 Gigatons of CO2 equivalents per year by 2050... 


Due to an unbridled demographic growth and lifestyle changes, emissions from agriculture alone are expected to rise by up to 18 Gigatons of CO2 equivalents by 2050… “Thus, emissions related to discarded food are just the tip of the iceberg… However, it is quite astounding that up to 14 percent of overall agricultural emissions in 2050 could easily be avoided by a better management of food utilisation and distribution. Changing individual behavior could be one key towards mitigating the climate crisis.“ 


“Currently, 1.3 billion tons of food per year are discarded”… While food losses occur mostly in developing countries due to less efficient agricultural infrastructures, food waste in contrast is common in rich countries. “As many emerging economies like China or India are projected to rapidly increase their food waste as a consequence of changing lifestyle, increasing welfare and dietary habits towards a larger share of animal-based products, this could over proportionally increase greenhouse-gas emissions associated with food waste – at the same time undermining efforts for an ambitious climate protection.” 


How can the food supply chain be made smarter and more efficient, and are consumers to be convinced to reduce food waste? … The study sheds light on the complex interplay of food security and climate change that will become even more important in a future that will have to feed around 10 billion people. “Avoiding food loss could pose a leverage to various challenges at once, reducing environmental impacts of agriculture, saving resources used in food production, and enhance local, regional, and global food security”… 


https://www.pik-potsdam.de/news/press-releases/reducing-food-waste-could-help-mitigate-climate-change


Article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.5b05088


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Managing global malnutrition: researchers map micronutrients in white rice - Eurekalert (2016) 

Managing global malnutrition: researchers map micronutrients in white rice - Eurekalert (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Efforts to address chronic malnutrition in billions of people have taken a step forward with… researchers defining processing conditions that boost the nutritional value of white rice – the staple food of more than a third of the world's population. While it is known parboiling grains before milling helps retain essential micronutrients, researchers… compare parboiling techniques, showing… that longer parboiling processes at higher temperatures cause more micronutrients to migrate from the outer bran layer into the starchy core of the grain… 


'Of the approaches in our experiments, soaking in water at 90?C followed by steaming proved to be the most effective for retaining nutrients.' White rice – prepared by drying and milling rice kernels, a process that strips the outer bran containing most of the nutrients, including iron, manganese, potassium and zinc – provides up to 80 per cent of the total caloric intake for people in some regions of the world, such as South-East Asia. Over two billion people, or 30 per cent of the world's population, suffer from iron deficiency with symptoms ranging from poor mental development in children to depressed immune function and anaemia… 


'Improving rice processing is one of two approaches we're working on to combat widespread malnutrition; the second involves fine-tuning rice species to express more iron and other important nutritional minerals in the grain core during growth and during soaking, which can also reduce the glycaemic index (GI) of white rice… 


Changing global rice processing and eating habits is an enormous task, as there are deeply entrenched expectations across various cultures around consistency and flavour, and different approaches to parboiling ranging from those in small home farms to large industrial plants… 'If we can combine the higher micronutrient content of brown and coloured rice varieties with the light and fluffy texture of white rice, we could reach the holy grail: a rice version… that people, everywhere, really want to eat.' 


http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-04/ru-mgm042616.php


Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.lwt.2016.03.034


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
Parboiling rice is good, but especially if this has to be done according to strict specifications, it can only happen in larger, centralised facilities that are fully integrated in the food supply chain -- most likely smallholder households in remote areas and households of semi-subsistance farmers will not benefit from such improved techniques. Therefore the second approach mentioned in the press release, "fine-tuning rice species to express more iron and other important nutritional minerals in the grain" is the more important. Unfortunately so far breeding efforts using conventional approaches have failed to make much headway -- the use of modern breeding approaches is needed. 
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The Global Determinants of Food Insecurity: Analyzing Individual Experiential Measures - Smith & Coleman (2016) - APPAM

The Global Determinants of Food Insecurity: Analyzing Individual Experiential Measures - Smith & Coleman (2016) - APPAM | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Defining a common metric that can measure the prevalence and severity of food insecurity across all places, languages, and cultures around the world has been lacking. Until now. This is made possible with FAO’s Voices of the Hungry (VoH) project which has developed an experiential measure of food insecurity – the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES). The FIES is the first survey protocol to measure people’s direct experience of food insecurity on a global scale. 


More food is produced today than ever before. Yet providing all people access to enough food for an active and healthy life is a problem we have yet to solve as a global society. The significance of this problem is highlighted by the United Nations making ending hunger and achieving global food security the second of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This means the need for an internationally comparable measure of food insecurity has never been more important. 


This paper identifies common determinants of food insecurity in 147 countries around the world… The FIES data were collected in 2014 in nationally representative surveys of individuals 15 years of age and older… To find the common determinants of food insecurity I run… models… using information on demographic and socioeconomic characteristics… I find that being female, young, unmarried, having low levels of education, more children, and being unemployed lead to higher probabilities of experiencing… food insecurity… 


Countries need information on the characteristics, circumstances, and location of the food insecure to build political will, design effective policies, and target scarce resources. The FIES represents an important complement to existing model-based measures of food security and other initiatives that quantify the magnitude of food insecurity within countries…. This research extends the field by developing a greater understanding of the food access dimension of global food insecurity among different populations with a respondent-level survey-based measure. 


https://appam.confex.com/appam/int16/webprogram/Paper15804.html


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The Effects of Kenya's ‘Smarter’ Input Subsidy Programme on Smallholder Behaviour and Incomes: Do Different Quasi-experimental Approaches Lead to the Same Conclusions? - Mason &al (2016) - JAE 

The Effects of Kenya's ‘Smarter’ Input Subsidy Programme on Smallholder Behaviour and Incomes: Do Different Quasi-experimental Approaches Lead to the Same Conclusions? - Mason &al (2016) - JAE  | Food Policy | Scoop.it
Kenya joined the ranks of sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries implementing targeted input subsidy programmes (ISPs) for inorganic fertiliser and improved seed in 2007 with the establishment of the National Accelerated Agricultural Inputs Access Programme (NAAIAP). Although several features of NAAIAP were ‘smarter’ than other ISPs in the region, some aspects were less ‘smart’. However, the efficacy of the programme, and the relationship between its design and effectiveness, have been little studied. This article uses nationwide survey data to estimate the effects of NAAIAP participation on Kenyan smallholders’ cropping patterns, incomes, and poverty status… 

The article… compares these estimated effects across estimators and to the effects of other ISPs in SSA, and discusses the likely links between differences in programme designs and impacts. The results… suggest that, despite substantial crowding out of commercial fertiliser demand, NAAIAP had sizeable impacts on maize production and poverty severity. NAAIAP's success in targeting resource-poor farmers and implementation through vouchers redeemable at private agro-dealer shops likely contributed to its more favorable impacts than those of ISPs in Malawi and Zambia. 


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