Food Policy
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Food Policy
Scoops relating to international food policy (not necessarily endorsements). CLICK on the titles to get to the full, original, and possibly hyperlinked versions!
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Scooped by Alexander J. Stein!

The Evolving Institutional Structure of Public and Private Agricultural Research - Fuglie & Toole (2014) - AJAE

Over the past several decades, the private sector has assumed a larger role in developing improved technology for food and agriculture. Private companies fund nearly all food processing research and development (R&D) and perform a growing share of production-oriented R&D for agriculture. In addition, institutional partnerships for public–private research collaboration are growing in the United States and other countries.


This article outlines the major forces driving these changes and offers an interpretive framework to explore some of the implications for the volume and nature of research performed by the public and private sectors. One of the critical issues is whether public agricultural research complements and thereby stimulates additional private agricultural R&D investments. Another important issue concerns the role and contribution of alternative public–private partnership arrangements.


To date, changes in the institutional structure of public and private agricultural research have outpaced systematic investigation, and new theoretical and empirical research is needed to help guide policy and address key societal challenges, such as climate change, clean energy, water scarcity, food safety, and health.


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Consumers’ attitudes, trust and willingness to pay for food information - Nocella &al (2014) - Int J Consumer Stud

Consumers’ attitudes, trust and willingness to pay for food information - Nocella &al (2014) - Int J Consumer Stud | Food Policy |

Market failure can be corrected using different regulatory approaches ranging from high to low intervention. Recently, classic regulations have been criticized as costly and economically irrational, and thus, policy makers are giving more consideration to soft regulatory techniques such as information remedies.


However, despite the plethora of food information conveyed by different media there appears to be a lack of studies exploring how consumers evaluate this information and how trust towards publishers influence their choices for food information. In order to fill such a gap, this study investigates questions related to topics that are more relevant to consumers, who should disseminate trustful food information, and how communication should be conveyed and segmented... 


Information related to health risks caused by nutritional disorders and food safety issues caused by bacteria and chemical substances is the most important for about 90% of respondents. Food information related to regulations and traditions is also considered important for more than two-thirds of respondents, whereas information about food production and processing techniques, lifestyle and food fads are considered less important by the majority of respondents.


Trust towards food information disseminated by public bodies is higher than that observed for private bodies. This behaviour directly affects WTP [willingness-to-pay] for food information provided by public and private publishers when markets are shocked by a food safety incident. WTP for consumer association (€1.80) and the European Food Safety Authority (€1.30) are higher than WTP for the independent and food industry publishers that cluster around zero euro... 


These findings invite policy makers to reflect on the possibility of using information remedies conveyed using trusted sources of information to specific segments of consumers as an interesting soft alternative to the classic way of regulating modern food markets... 


Food information is often characterized by sensationalism,
over-amplifying both food safety incidents and controversial
issues such as public acceptance of genetically modified food... 

Consumer response to food scares is misled by food information released by the media, which in turn affects their purchasing behaviour and welfare... 


The main policy implication from this study is that, given the preference heterogeneity towards food information, food communication campaigns should use different sources to reach different segments of the population...

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Google Earth enables remote tracking of fish catches - SciDev.Net (2013)

Google Earth enables remote tracking of fish catches - SciDev.Net (2013) | Food Policy |

Persian Gulf governments could use Google’s free global satellite imaging program to better monitor and control fishing in their waters, say experts. Their comments follow a study that used Google Earth to uncover huge discrepancies between reported and observed fish catches in the region. The study, which tracked fishing from space, found that actual catches taken from Persian Gulf fisheries could be six times greater than the official numbers the Gulf states reported to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)... 

The study... highlights the unreliability of some countries’ official reports to the FAO. It found 1,900 weirs were operational in the countries surveyed in 2005 and estimated their combined production that year at approximately 31,000 tonnes of fish — more than six times the combined total of 5,000 tonnes the six countries reported to the FAO that year...

“Countries report their catches voluntarily to the FAO, and the quality of a country’s data is based on its national capacity to collect that data,” Al-Abdulrazzak tells SciDev.Net. A whole host of issues can affect the quality of these data, including resource limitations and political interference...

Original article:

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

To the extent that FAO data is used to determine countries' food security, the underreporting of a valuable food source could mean that food security is better than thought. (On the other hand, it can also mean that the sustainability of the fisheries, and thus future food security, is worse than thought...) Better and more reliable data is certainly welcome. 

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World food prices and poverty in Indonesia - Warr &al (2013) - Austral J Ag Res Econ

World food prices and poverty in Indonesia - Warr &al (2013) - Austral J Ag Res Econ | Food Policy |

Spikes in international food prices in 2007–2008 worsened poverty incidence in Indonesia, both rural and urban, but only by small amounts. The paper reaches this conclusion using a multisectoral and multihousehold general equilibrium model of the Indonesian economy.


The negative effect on poor consumers, operating through their living costs, outweighed the positive effect on poor farmers, operating through their incomes. Indonesia's post-2004 rice import restrictions shielded its internal rice market from the temporary world price increases, muting the increase in poverty. But it did this only by imposing large and permanent increases in both domestic rice prices and poverty incidence.


Poverty incidence increased more among rural than urban people, even though higher agricultural prices mean higher incomes for many of the rural poor. Gains to poor farmers were outweighed by the losses incurred by the large number of rural poor who are net buyers of food, and the fact that food represents a large share of their total budgets, even larger on average than for the urban poor.


The main beneficiaries of higher food prices are not the rural poor, but the owners of agricultural land and capital, many of whom are urban based.

Alexander J. Stein's curator insight, January 13, 2014 6:27 PM

... the big question if lower food prices are good or bad for the poor - with increasing urbanisation lower food prices are probably mostly good for the poor (at least the urban ones). However, long-term implications are still not addressed: If prices are too low for too long, this might reduce the incentives to invest in and engage in agriculture, thus reducing the food supply in the long run (and driving up prices). 

Phonehtet Aung's curator insight, January 18, 2014 4:34 AM

food prices affects poverty as increasing food prices in Indonesia affected people. increasing prices of food would affect mostly the poor, as their gains would be outweighted by the high prices of food they need to buy as food is a large part of their budgets although farmers might gain profits by selling what they grow at higer prices .Farmers are not the main beneficiaries but they might have a higher income than the poor of other occupations beacuse of the high food prices

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Africa Fails to Increase Agriculture Budgets - VOA (2013)

Africa Fails to Increase Agriculture Budgets - VOA (2013) | Food Policy |

Most African countries continue to face growing threats of hunger because they have not fulfilled their 2003 pledge to increase support for small-holder farmers, especially for women who do much of the farming on the continent... unless they provide more money for agriculture and make sure it goes to smallholder farmers, hunger will continue to increase across the continent...

Failure of African countries in keeping their promise made ten years ago, under the 2003 Maputo Declaration, to devote ten percent of their national budgets to agriculture... Ten years down the line, it is amazing to see that not more than about nine countries have been able to meet that declaration in terms of implementing those targets that were set, because the governments in Maputo said they would invest ten percent and anticipate that there would be six percent annual growth within the agricultural sector...

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Policymaking ‘under the radar’: a case study of pesticide regulation to prevent intentional poisoning in Sri Lanka - Pearson &al (2013) - Health Policy & Planning

Policymaking ‘under the radar’: a case study of pesticide regulation to prevent intentional poisoning in Sri Lanka - Pearson &al (2013) - Health Policy & Planning | Food Policy |

Suicide in Sri Lanka is a major public health problem and in 1995 the country had one of the highest rates of suicide worldwide. Since then reductions in overall suicide rates have been largely attributed to efforts to regulate a range of pesticides. The evolution, context, events and implementation of the key policy decisions around regulation are examined... 


A timeline and chronology of policy actions and influence were derived from interview and document data. Fourteen key informants were interviewed and four distinct policy phases were identified. The early stages of pesticide regulation were dominated by political and economic considerations and strongly influenced by external factors. The second phase was marked by a period of local institution building, the engagement of local stakeholders, and expanded links between health and agriculture. During the third phase the problem of self-poisoning dominated the policy agenda and closer links between stakeholders, evidence and policymaking developed. The fourth and most recent phase was characterized by strong local capacity for policymaking, informed by evidence, developed in collaboration with a powerful network of stakeholders, including international researchers.

The policy response to extremely high rates of suicide from intentional poisoning with pesticides shows a unique and successful example of policymaking to prevent suicide. It also highlights policy action taking place ‘under the radar’, thus avoiding policy inertia often associated with reforms in lower and middle income countries.

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

Suicide in South Asia is more complex than blaming it on GMOs, as activists happily do with farmer suicides in India -- at least in Sri Lanka no GMOs are cultivated yet... 

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Availability of food increases as countries' dependence on food trade grows - Aalto Univ (2013)

Sufficient food is available for increasing numbers of people, but at the same time, the dependence of countries on international trade in foodstuffs has increased considerably in 40 years. Sufficient food is available for increasing numbers of people, but at the same time, the dependence of countries on international trade in foodstuffs has increased considerably in 40 years.

The proportion of the population who get enough food (more than 2 500 calories a day) has nearly doubled to 61 per cent. Those living on a critically low food supply (less than 2 000 calories a day) have shrunk from 51 to three per cent. The figures come out in a study made at Aalto University in Finland examining developments in food availability and food self-sufficiency in 1965-2005... 


Although food availability has increased on the global level, food self-sufficiency has remained relatively low. – In the 1960s and 1970s, insufficient food production in a country amounted to food shortage, but nowadays the production deficit is increasingly balanced through food imports... The proportion of people living in countries that are significant net importers of food has more than tripled during the period under examination... 

The study also examined dietary changes that have taken place in different countries. The proportion of people consuming large amounts (more than 15 per cent of energy intake) of animal-based nutrition has increased from 33 per cent to more than 50 per cent. This together with over consumption of calories in many countries is putting an increased pressure on the planet’s limited natural resources. At the same time, however, over a third of the world’s population is still living with insufficient food supply...

Original article:

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

I don't understand the negative assessment of food trade ("dependence") that shines through in this piece: Before – i.e. without a lot of trade – food availability in some countries was low and people had insufficient calorie intakes. Now, with trade, food availability in these countries is greater and people have more sufficient calorie intakes. Obviously trade improved food security. 


If trade "dependency" is bad, then why stop at the country level? What about cities? Or about individuals – such as those researchers? None of them produces their own food, I dare say, but they buy it from others, just as some countries do not produce all their own food but buy it from others. And in return both the researchers and the countries give something away, such as their time to do research or those resources they have in relative abundance... 

The tailor depends on the baker for bread and the baker depends on the tailor for clothes, and both depend on the butcher for meat, who in turn depends on them for bread and clothes... Yet, this way they are all better off than if all of them separately would have to make their own bread, their own clothes and their own slaughtering. The challenge is not to (not) depend on others for food, but to be able to produce something that others are willing to buy and/or exchange for food. 

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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 |

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Many strides in food security - Swaminathan (2013) - The Hindu

Many strides in food security - Swaminathan (2013) - The Hindu | Food Policy |

This is one of the most significant years in India’s agricultural and national history. At Independence in 1947, we were suffering from acute food shortages that led to the introduction of food rationing. Later, we started depending on imported food, largely under the PL480 programme of the United States, although the country’s population then was only a little over 300 million. In 1966, the year Indira Gandhi became Prime Minister, India had to import nearly 10 million tonnes of foodgrains to ward off a famine. 


In the latter half of 1966... Indira Gandhi... turned to me and asked: “How soon can we build a foodgrain reserve of 10 million tonnes?” It was clear she was worried about dependence on imported food to feed our population, a majority of them farmers and farm labourers. Also, it became clear to me later, that Indira Gandhi was convinced an independent foreign policy could be built only on a foundation of food security based on home-grown food. This led to her determination to achieve food self-sufficiency as soon as possible, and to always maintain substantial grain reserves.


The relationship between food self-reliance and national sovereignty became evident when several important decisions became possible only because we had built up sufficient foodgrain reserves. Thus, India’s assistance to Bangladesh in its liberation struggle, help to Vietnam to avoid famine following the unification of the country in 1975, and its ability to conduct nuclear implosion tests at Pokhran, were all possible only because it had become food self-reliant in the early 1970s...


The foundation laid by Indira Gandhi in the 1960s has now made it possible to make access to food a legal right. The transition from the ship-to-mouth existence of the 1960s to the Right to Food with home-grown food commitment, as enshrined in the National Food Security Act of 2013, is a historic one.


There is, however, no time to relax. The monsoon and the market are two major determinants of the fate of farmers, and we should do everything possible to insulate them from the adverse impact of both climate change and price volatility. The pathway to achieve these twin goals has been laid out in the reports of the National Commission on Farmers, submitted during 2004-06.


Agriculture is a powerful instrument for national integration. Wheat and rice produced by Punjab farmers help feed many parts of India. Farmers everywhere have a common need, namely, opportunity for assured and remunerative marketing. They are willing to share their knowledge and expertise freely without thought of intellectual property rights. Striking progress in improving the yield of crops in the early 1960s came from a shift in plant breeding strategy involving attention to the performance of populations rather than of individual plants. This emphasis on population performance led to a quantum jump in the yield of crops. Similarly, we need to assess our progress by using population performance as a yardstick to measure excellence. National integration is our heritage.


In mid-1968, Paul and Anne Ehrlich wrote in their book The Population Bomb: “Sometime between 1970 and 1985 the world will undergo vast famines — hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death. That is, they will starve to death unless plague, thermonuclear war, or some other agent kills them first. The United States should announce that it will no longer ship food to countries such as India, where dispassionate analysis indicates that the unbalance between food and population is hopeless.”


Almost at the same time, in July 1968, Indira Gandhi released a special stamp titled the Wheat Revolution, thereby announcing that India had embarked upon the path of self-reliance in foodgrains through a revolutionary change in agricultural technology and policy... India has become the first nation in the world to make access to food a legal right. The right to information can be implemented with the help of files, but the right to food can be implemented only with the help of farmers.

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

"Striking progress in improving the yield of crops in the early 1960s came from a shift in plant breeding strategy... In mid-1968, Paul and Anne Ehrlich wrote in their book The Population Bomb: “Sometime between 1970 and 1985 the world will undergo vast famines — hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death... The United States should announce that it will no longer ship food to countries such as India, where dispassionate analysis indicates that the unbalance between food and population is hopeless.” Almost at the same time... Indira Gandhi released a special stamp titled the Wheat Revolution, thereby announcing that India had embarked upon the path of self-reliance in foodgrains through a revolutionary change in agricultural technology and policy... India has become the first nation in the world to make access to food a legal right." >> Suitable innovation and openness to technological progress in agriculture – coupled with an inclusive legal framework – not only ensures food security, it saves lives. (Whereas "dispassionate" Malthusianism and technophobia would have condemned millions of people to die.) 

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Report Finds 400 Million Children Living in Extreme Poverty - World Bank (2013)

The number of people living in extreme poverty around the world has sharply declined over the past three decades, but in 2010 it still included roughly 400 million children, or one -third of those living in such abysmal conditions... The analysis found that more than three quarters, or 78 percent, of those living in extreme poverty lived in rural areas, with nearly two thirds of the extreme poor deriving their livelihoods from agriculture.


The extreme poor also continue to lag significantly behind in access to basic services, the analysis found. Only 26 percent of the poor had access to clean water in 2010, compared to 56 percent among those living above the $1.25 poverty line. Meanwhile, fewer than half... of the extreme poor had access to electricity, compared to 87 percent of the non-poor. And while 61 percent of those above the $1.25 poverty line had access to basic sanitation, just 20 percent of the extreme poor had access to similar services, the report showed.


“We need to act urgently, and with a sharpened focus, to implement effective policies in places where poverty remains entrenched, particularly rural areas,” said Jaime Saavedra, World Bank Acting Vice President of Poverty Reduction and Economic Management. “Children living in complete deprivation today are unlikely to benefit much from growth in the future, unless they secure access to adequate nutrition, education, and health services.  Accelerating the pace of poverty reduction in low income countries represents a moral imperative. There is no time for complacency.”

Zemus Koh's curator insight, January 27, 2014 9:47 AM

I scooped this article as I found it rather pleasing to see that the number of people living in extreme poverty is declining as compared to the number of people living in extreme poverty 3 decades ago. However, most ups has its downs as well. It is really saddening to hear that only just above 1 quarter of the poor have access to clean water, 30% below those above the $1.25 poverty line. In my opinion, I feel that it is very pleasing to know that these less fortunate people are not forgotten as the Vice President of Poverty Reduction and Economic Management are lending them a helping hand by implementing effective policies in places where poverty remains entrenched, rural areas in particular.

All in all, it pains me to see us, more fortunate people, taking this privilege for granted while out there, people are suffering and not having proper drinking water, food and a proper living enviroment.

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Think differently: humanitarian impacts of the economic crisis in Europe - IFRC (2013)

Think differently: humanitarian impacts of the economic crisis in Europe - IFRC (2013) | Food Policy |

Creating a sense of predictability and security has traditionally been attributed to what a society offers to its citizens. Today, as the economic crisis has planted its roots, millions of Europeans live with insecurity, uncertain about what the future holds.

This is one of the worst psychological states of mind for human beings and we now see a quiet desperation spreading among Europeans, resulting in depression, resignation and loss of hope for their future.


We are also seeing signs of this quiet desperation turning more vocal through demonstrations and violence. We fear that increased xenophobia and the lack of confidence in society being able to provide jobs and security may lead to more extreme views and actions, with social unrest as a consequence... 


Compared to 2009, millions more findthemselves queuing for food, unable to buy medicines nor access health care. Millions are without a job and many of those who still have work face difficulties to sustain their families due to insufficient wages and skyrocketing prices. Many from the middle class have spiralled down to poverty. The amount of people depending on Red Cross food distributions in 22 of the surveyed countries has increased by 75 per cent between 2009 and 2012... 


There are now more than 18 million people receiving EU-funded food aid, 43 million who do not get enough to eat each day and 120 million at risk of poverty in the countries covered by Eurostat. And while we still hope the crisis will end soon, for many it has just begun. Or is just about to begin... 


Children in poorhouseholds are especially vulnerable... children in poverty are missing out on holidays, school trips, warm winter coats, new shoes or clothes when grown out of old ones, and even on spending time with friends. As many as 12 per cent of parents involved in these studies said that their children regularly have to go without one of the daily meals. One in four parents admitted that they themselves skip meals or are making portions smaller to stretch food further. Poverty can hurt children. They may even blame themselves and feel guilt if they sense that their parents are giving up something for their sake...

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Historic trends predict future global reforestation unlikely - Science Daily (2013)

Historic trends predict future global reforestation unlikely - Science Daily (2013) | Food Policy |

Feeding a growing global population while also slowing or reversing global deforestation may only be possible if agricultural yields rise and/or per capita food consumption declines over the next century, according to historic global food consumption and land use trends... this research underscores the long-term challenge of feeding everyone while still conserving natural habitat...


The scientists used... their mathematical model designed to capture how land use transitions, including deforestation and reforestation, are driven by three key factors: agricultural yield, per capita food consumption, and world population change over time.


Based on historic trends that show growing food consumption outpacing rising agricultural yields, global forest cover is predicted to decline about 10% further, stabilizing at roughly 22% forest cover over the next century. Unless new technological advances increase yields, or strategies to decrease food consumption are introduced, a switch to global reforestation remains unlikely... 


The results suggest that equal effort should be directed toward finding ways to boost agricultural yield, disseminate those technologies to developing countries, and decrease per capita consumption, thus reducing land use pressures...


Original article:

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New Report Finds International Trade Integral to Global Food Security - PRWeb (2014)

New Report Finds International Trade Integral to Global Food Security - PRWeb (2014) | Food Policy |

A new report released today by the Global Harvest Initiative highlights the need for more effective, holistic trade policies in order to meet the food demand of a global population projected to exceed 9.7 billion by 2050 while becoming increasingly urban and affluent. 


“GHI’s latest report underscores the critical need to reduce barriers to moving agricultural products, equipment, and information technology from producers to consumers,” said Dr. Margaret Zeigler, Global Harvest Initiative executive director. “What is now required is great political will, an open dialogue with public, private and NGO stakeholders, and the recognition that we can only move forward by enabling effective global trade, transparent enabling environments for business, and outward looking trade policies.” ... 


“Trade policy vehicles, such as the WTO, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the U.S.-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and the U.S.-East African Community Trade and Investment Partnership, along with the legal and regulatory reform they encourage, present practical, holistic approaches to improving trade and facilitating agricultural sector development,” said Katrin Kuhlmann, president of the New Markets Lab and TransFarm Africa. “Open national, regional and international markets could make a critical difference in improving food security, economic opportunities, and livelihoods worldwide.” ... 

The report also details priorities for trade negotiations and continuing discussions at the WTO, including: (i) Reduction of export restrictions, high tariffs, restrictive tariff-rate quotas, and trade-limiting non-tariff measures on agricultural products, equipment, and modern technology that could improve agricultural productivity, particularly in less development countries. (ii) Establishment of consistent, transparent, and science-based frameworks for regulating food safety. (iii) Increased dialogue around adequate and effective intellectual rights protection and enforcement... (iv) Market-driven development assistance and capacity building programs in which the private sector is engaged from the beginning.

Mike Barry's curator insight, January 29, 2014 7:39 AM

This one will run and run. Is global food security best served by the localisation of food production or by the further opening up of global trade.


We can speculate but we don't really know because our understanding of 'what is a truly sustainable food system' is so poor. We know that we cannot carry on as we are in the face of growing consumption, more extreme weather, loss of soil and water resources, malnutrition and inequality. But what do we replace it with? There's an awful lot of science to be done and assessed to inform the development of a new system. But ultimately (to borrow from Churchill) we need 'science to be on tap not on top' and human value judgements on what matters most in a sustainable food system will have to be made.


Globally we're not set up to make these values x science decisions and yet we'll have to work at how. Failure will lead to us clinging too long to what we have today, fearful of the lack of an 'obvious' alternative and at the mercy of more troubling trends like food 'imperialism' as strategic control and advantage is sought by nation states. 


Individual countries, cities and corporations may be able to create their own food 'oasis' in the medium term but longer term a web of co-operation and sharing will be needed



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Better eating habits, not bad economy, stabilized obesity rates - UNC (2014)

Better eating habits, not bad economy, stabilized obesity rates - UNC (2014) | Food Policy |

A new, extensive study from The University of North Carolina... says that it wasn't the Great Recession or any economic downturn that created a leveling of U.S. obesity rates (with some declines in certain subpopulations), as other scholars have suggested. Rather, the leveling and decline started well before that in good economic times and has continued. The reason is not economics as much as it is likely a result of more information and efforts aimed at producing healthier food choices and eating habits...  


"We found U.S. consumers changed their eating and food purchasing habits significantly beginning in 2003, when the economy was robust, and continued these habits to the present," said Shu Wen Ng, assistant professor of nutrition at UNC... "These changes in food habits persist independent of economic conditions linked with the Great Recession or food prices" ... 


This dramatic turn in dietary behavior is more likely the outcome of sustained and persistent public health efforts aimed at raising awareness about the importance of healthy eating, providing better information about food choices, and discouraging unhealthy dietary choices.


The researchers used both nationally representative dietary intake data along with longitudinal data on daily food purchases from hundreds of thousands of Americans... The data show that calories declined more among children than adults and that the proportional decline in calories was greatest among calories from beverages... 


"This analysis is significant as we found the largest declines were among households with children. However these declines did not occur uniformly... This suggests that certain subpopulations are still unable or unwilling to make these dietary changes."


While Popkin noted that the specific contributors for these changes in behavior are not quantifiable, he suggested that greater attention by the public health community and journalists to obesity overall, particularly to soft drinks and other high-calorie sugary beverages and the changes made by food companies or retailers may have produced significant rises in the awareness among consumers about the role of food, particularly when it comes to caloric beverages in affecting obesity and health.

Original article:

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Europe will suffer from more severe and persistent droughts - JRC (2014)

Europe will suffer from more severe and persistent droughts - JRC (2014) | Food Policy |

Droughts in Europe are expected to be more frequent and intense by the end of this century... 

Many river basins, especially in southern parts of Europe, are likely to become more prone to periods of reduced water supply due to climate change. Minimum flow levels of streams and rivers may be reduced by up to 40%, and periods of water deficiency may increase by up to 80% in the Iberian Peninsula, the south of France, Italy and the Balkans. In addition, population growth will lead to increased demands for water and more intensive use of water for irrigation and industry, which will result in even bigger reductions in river flow levels. The study showed that intensive water use will further aggravate drought conditions by 10 to 30% in the south, west and centre of Europe, and in some parts of the UK... 


Drought is a major natural disaster that can have considerable impacts on society, the environment and the economy. In Europe, the cost of drought events over the past three decades amounted to over 100 billion euros. The results of this study emphasise the urgent need for sustainable water resource management in order to adapt to these potential changes in the hydrological system and to minimise their negative socio-economic and environmental impacts.

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Cotton Prices Seen Declining as China Poised to End Stockpiling - Bloomberg (2013)

Cotton Prices Seen Declining as China Poised to End Stockpiling - Bloomberg (2013) | Food Policy |

Cotton, the third-best performing commodity this year, may drop as China, the world’s biggest consumer, is poised to end a policy of stockpiling domestic crops, according to Chinese researchers.


The government will start a trial next year subsidizing growers of cotton and soybeans and changing previous policies that support prices by stockpiling domestic harvest, the official Xinhua News Agency reported on Dec. 27, citing Finance Minister Lou Jiwei.


The policy change by China, estimated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to hold more than half the global cotton inventory, may weigh on futures in New York that climbed 12 percent this year... The nation began buying domestic cotton in 2011 as flagging prices made it difficult for local farmers to sell crops... 


The new policy “won’t affect soybeans much” as the domestic crop is small relative to imports, Shanghai JC’s Li said. Imports may total 69 million tons in the 2013-14, compared with a domestic crop of 12.2 million tons, USDA data show... 


Possible changes to Chinese farm subsidy programs may “substantially” reduce state stockpiling and “weigh on global agricultural prices over the next two to three years,” Capital Economics Ltd. said this month...

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China says no change to farmland, food security goals - Reuters (2013)

 China will stick with policies to maintain food self-sufficiency and protect farmland from urban encroachment, dampening speculation that new reforms would give the market a bigger say in food supply and rural development. 


A meeting of the ruling Communist Party attended by President Xi Jinping said Chinawould continue to ensure that at least 1.8 billion mu (120 million hectares) of rural land would be reserved for agricultural use, a policy known as the "red line" ... 


Prominent researchers and economists have called on the government to abandon the "red line", and have also said it should relax its long-standing 95-percent self-sufficiency target and make better use of global markets... 


Beijing has identified food security as one of its biggest challenges over the next decade, with its population still rising and vast tracts of its farmland already swallowed up as a result of rapid urban and industrial growth... 

China will also seek to create a better-paid "professional" farming sector and improve services and infrastructure in the countryside...

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Heartwarming causes are nice, but let’s give to charity with our heads - Washington Post (2013)

Heartwarming causes are nice, but let’s give to charity with our heads - Washington Post (2013) | Food Policy |

You’d have to be a real spoilsport not to feel good about Batkid. If the sight of 20,000 people joining in last month to help the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the city of San Francisco fulfill the superhero fantasies of a 5-year-old — and not just any 5-year-old, but one who has been battling a life-threatening disease — doesn’t warm your heart, you must be numb to basic human emotions.


Yet we can still ask if these emotions are the best guide to what we ought to do. According to Make-A-Wish, the average cost of realizing the wish of a child with a life-threatening illness is $7,500. That sum, if donated to the Against Malaria Foundation and used to provide bed nets to families in malaria-prone regions, could save the lives of at least two or three children (and that’s a conservative estimate). If donated to the Fistula Foundation, it could pay for surgeries for approximately 17 young mothers who, without that assistance, will be unable to prevent their bodily wastes from leaking through their vaginas and hence are likely to be outcasts for the rest of their lives. If donated to the Seva Foundation to treat trachoma and other common causes of blindness in developing countries, it could protect 100 children from losing their sight as they grow older. 


It’s obvious, isn’t it, that saving a child’s life is better than fulfilling a child’s wish to be Batkid? If Miles’s parents had been offered that choice — Batkid for a day or a cure for their son’s leukemia — they surely would have chosen the cure... The unknown and unknowable children who will be infected with malaria without bed nets just don’t grab our emotions like the kid with leukemia we can watch on TV. That is a flaw in our emotional make-up, one that developed over millions of years when we could help only people we could see in front of us. It is not justification for ignoring the needs of distant strangers...

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Special wildlife scheme beats organic at boosting birds - U Southampton (2013)

Special wildlife scheme beats organic at boosting birds - U Southampton (2013) | Food Policy |

Threatened farmland birds are likely to survive the winter better on conventional farms with specially designed wildlife habitats than on organic farms without...


Winter farmland bird populations compared across three different wildlife schemes showed the ‘Conservation Grade' approach, that aims to grow crops efficiently while requiring farmers to establish and manage specific habitats for wildlife, produced higher survival rates than the organic sites...


The greatest numbers of chaffinches, skylarks, yellowhammers and lapwings were recorded on Conservation Grade farms.  "A strong link was found between the number of specially-designed habitats created and the richness of bird species found... This indicates that the deciding factor is not the method of farming, as organic farms don't provide significant benefits to overwintering birds. Instead, farm-scale management specifically designed to be beneficial to wildlife can have positive farm-scale effects." 


Brin Hughes of Conservation Grade says it's important for farmers have clear biodiversity aims before they start.  "Organic production doesn't specifically focus on achieving results in terms of biodiversity improvement... We've designed Conservation Grade to deliver biodiversity ‘yields' in the same way that farmers aim to optimise the yields of any crop.

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

Original article:

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The hidden consequences of helping rural communities in Africa - Bristol U (2013)

The hidden consequences of helping rural communities in Africa - Bristol U (2013) | Food Policy |

Improving water supplies in rural African villages may have negative knock-on effects and contribute to increased poverty... Rural development initiatives across the developing world are designed to improve community wellbeing and livelihoods but... that this can lead to unforeseen consequences caused by an increase in the birth rate in the absence of family planning... Resulting population pressures encourage young adults to move to urban areas. Such urbanisation in less developed countries concentrates poverty in cities which already have stretched public services... 

Academics argue that the results of this study highlight the need for policy-makers to take into account this link between development projects and changes in demography, especially as over 90 per cent of urbanisation is taking place in the developing world.


By looking at longitudinal survey data collected from 1,280 households before and after the installation of water taps in five Ethiopian villages, researchers were able to show that family size increased due to the reduced time and energy women spent carrying water on their backs and a dramatic reduction in child mortality. This increase has placed greater pressure on the household’s resources, namely food and land, leading to higher rates of childhood malnutrition and inequalities in access to education. 

Feeling pressurised by this increased competition, the study concluded that those aged 15 to 30 with access to taps were three times more likely to migrate to a larger city or town than those without ready access to water... “These population pressures have encouraged young adults to migrate to urban areas, which actually contributes rather than relieves population pressure. The demographic consequences of rural intervention initiatives are rarely considered, but it is imperative that they should be. One of the key challenges of the 21st Century relates to population pressures, and this work highlights the need to develop a better understanding of the relationship between demography and development.”


Press release:  

Original article:  

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

I would assume that improving nutrition (but not family planning) can have a similar effect... Obviously, this is no reason not to improve water or food security (or safety). Rather, it is a reason to bundle such interventions with family planning efforts. 

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

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

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

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

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Why Agriculture Is Nigeria's New Oil - Forbes (2013)

Why Agriculture Is Nigeria's New Oil - Forbes (2013) | Food Policy |

As Nigeria’s Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina is championing agricultural investments in one of Africa’s fastest growing economies through bold policy reforms.


Much is said about a rising Africa on the global economic stage. To be sure, there is a new energy and dynamism across the continent. It can be seen in an emerging middle class, improved governance, and a heightened interest by foreign investors. But amidst this excitement, there remains a disturbing paradox. Africa is a continent with enormous potential for agricultural growth, yet one where food insecurity and malnutrition are widespread and persistent.


Agriculture is fundamental to every country’s prosperity, security and sovereignty. In the United States, farmers, processors, researchers and policy-makers at all levels work together to promote and ensure a vibrant agricultural economy. The result is that Americans enjoy not only an abundant food supply, but also nutritional choices and affordability. Africa is now beginning to understand the critical link between agriculture and prosperity. In Nigeria, we’re making agriculture the new oil.


Nigeria was largely self-sufficient in food in the 1960s. Then, we discovered oil and became too dependent on this resource as the economic driver of growth, export income and development. We abandoned our farmers. Yields stagnated. Investments in infrastructure were redirected. Rural communities slid into poverty. We became a food-importing country, spending an average $11 billion a year on wheat, rice, sugar and fish imports alone.


And yet we have an abundance of resources – 84 million hectares of arable land, two of Africa’s largest rivers, and a large and young workforce to support agricultural intensification. Plus we have 167 million consumers to support increased food production and processing. 

But potential alone is not enough; we had to find a way to unlock it. We needed a major transformation of our agricultural sector. The change had to be across the entire value chain – from field to mill to table. So in 2011, we launched the Agricultural Transformation Agenda, with the goal of adding 20 million metric tons of food to the domestic supply by 2015. And in the process, create 3.5 million new jobs in agriculture and food-related industries.


Our first decision was to stop looking at agriculture as a government-run, charitable development program across rural Nigeria. We now treat agriculture as a business. Government’s role is simple: to create the enabling environment, policies and incentives for a private sector-led transformation to flourish... 

We would also create value-added foodstuffs from our staple crops through an aggressive import-substitution program and policies that would encourage new investment in food production and promote agriculture sustainability and resilience. We needed to begin to think of, and instill in others, the concept of agriculture as a business. We ended four decades of corruption in the fertilizer and seed sectors. We took government out of a distribution system that benefited an elite group of farmers at the expense of Nigeria’s smallholder farmers. 

We also launched a Growth Enhancement Scheme to provide subsidized inputs to farmers. And we developed an Electronic Wallet System which has allowed 5 million smallholder farmers to receive subsidized electronic vouchers for seeds and fertilizers on their mobile phones. Nigeria is the first country in Africa to develop and use mobile phones to reach farmers with subsidized farm inputs.


Today seed and fertilizer companies are selling directly to farmers, not to the government. Supply chains are being developed to reach farmers in rural areas. Banks are loaning money to companies and agro dealers. We have set a target to become self-sufficient in rice by 2015 by providing quality seeds, fertilizers and other support to our rice farmers. In just one year Nigeria unleashed a rice revolution and produced more than 50 per cent of all its rice needs. Private sector responded with 14 new industrial-scale rice mills, making high-quality local rice available on the market. 


We are reducing our yearly $4 billion wheat import cost through a cassava flour substitution policy to replace imported wheat flour with high-quality, home-grown cassava flour in producing bread. The government is supporting private sector investment in large-scale cassava processing plants. We are also developing the cassava value chain by producing starch that can be utilized in sweeteners to reduce sugar imports... 


The UN recently recognized Nigeria for meeting the Millennium Development Goal #1, reducing the population of hungry people by half, three years ahead of schedule. We did this by growing more food, raising farm incomes and creating jobs in farming and food processing – not simply by managing poverty. This is a new dawn. Agriculture was Nigeria’s past; and in agriculture – as a business – lies Nigeria’s greater future.

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

Overall an interesting article, but "to replace imported wheat flour with high-quality, home-grown cassava flour in producing bread" may be less of a good idea to the extent that wheat flour contains more micronutrients than cassava flour – unless the bread flour is fortified. 

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Amazon ecology: Footprints in the forest - Nature (2013)

Amazon ecology: Footprints in the forest - Nature (2013) | Food Policy |

Researchers are tracking just how much impact ancient peoples had on the Amazon. 

Crystal McMichael first led a crew into the Amazon jungle in 2007, looking for signs of ancient human disturbances. Armed with machetes, they hacked their way through thick vegetation while fending off spiders, mosquitoes and bees. They were exploring around Ecuador's Lake Ayauchi, which McMichael knew held the earliest record of maize (corn) cultivation in the Amazon from around 6,000 years ago. But the jungle hid its secrets well. “If you looked at the forest you wouldn't realize there was any ancient disturbance... You have to dig.”


Scientists have struggled for decades to uncover humanity's historical footprint in the forest and determine what kind of an impact people had centuries to millennia ago. Their goal is to understand the evolution of the rainforest and just how much of the landscape we see today is 'natural' versus how much has been shaped by human hands. 


Studies dating back to the 1950s suggested that small indigenous tribes merely scratched out a living in primitive villages before the arrival of Europeans. But more recently, researchers have proposed that the Amazon hosted complex societies that turned swathes of the forest into farms and orchards. Some estimates place the prehistoric population of the Amazon as high as 10 million — a huge number considering that the current population is around 30 million.


The debate is heated. When McMichael and her colleagues reported last year that indigenous occupations might have been rare in the most-remote parts of the jungle, their paper outraged archaeologists. The topic evokes strong emotions in part because it touches on the sensitive issue of indigenous land claims and goes to the heart of conservation philosophy.

If prehistoric human populations were limited and today's Amazon is relatively pristine, then one might assume that this otherwise stable and natural ecosystem would be altered by any human disturbance — let alone the clearance of vast tracts of forest for agriculture (in Brazil alone, an area greater than Germany has been cleared over the past 25 years). By contrast, if the primeval Amazon was filled with people who managed the landscape, then the forest might be capable of absorbing further human impacts. Encouraging indigenous practices, even on a large scale, might allow people to live in balance with the rainforest.


“The people who refuse to accept the human role are never going to understand how the environment that we appreciate today came to be,” says anthropologist Clark Erickson of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, who believes that people were widespread throughout the Amazon. “And if you don't understand that, you will never know how to manage it.” ...

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

Again the question what is natural? ... 

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