Food & Economics
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Scoops on socio-economics of agriculture, food, health & technology worldwide (not necessarily endorsements). CLICK on the titles to get to the full, original, and possibly hyperlinked versions! | UPDATE: Scoop.it introduced a subscription model and limited postings. Check instead: http://twitter.com/AJStein_de
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Trait Valuation in Genetically Modified Crops: An ex-ante Analysis of GM Cassava against Cassava Mosaic Disease

Cassava is a widely distributed crop known for food security and industrial applications. Nonetheless, it is highly prone to attacks of pests and diseases. Cassava mosaic disease (CMD) is an important cause of loss across the globe. In this context, research is focused on developing cassava mosaic disease resistant varieties through transgenic and conventional approaches. 


In this paper, the trait of CMD resistance is valued ex-ante using partial budget approach and economic surplus model. The trait value of CMD resistance at farm level varies from $600 per hectare in drip-irrigated production system to $240 per hectare in rainfed production system. At the macro level, the value of the improved trait is worth $72 million. The results clearly indicate attractive rate of returns on investment in research for CMD resistance in cassava. 


http://doi.org/10.5958/0974-0279.2017.00044.1


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Quantifying the cost and benefits of ending hunger and undernutrition: Examining the differences among alternative approaches - IFPRI (2018) 

Quantifying the cost and benefits of ending hunger and undernutrition: Examining the differences among alternative approaches - IFPRI (2018)  | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

Estimates produced by several recent model simulations and frameworks... focus on the cost of ending hunger... estimates... range from US$7 billion to US$265 billion per year. The differences among these estimates are largely attributable to the different targeted objectives and policy questions of each modeling exercise, different investment strategies considered, and varying assumptions about the role of different sectors in reducing hunger. 


http://doi.org/10.2499/9780896292994


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
Interesting in the context of this brief that looks at the costs of ending hunger (up to $265 billion), the benefit could be much higher (up to $1,900 billion) [1], meaning that each $1 spent on ending hunger could return (roughly) up to $7. This is a very good investment, even should these estimates be off by half... 
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The Netherlands has become much richer since 1970, but wider prosperity has grown less rapidly - TU Eindhoven (2018) 

The Netherlands has become much richer since 1970, but wider prosperity has grown less rapidly - TU Eindhoven (2018)  | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

For decades, there was a single main indicator of how countries were faring: Gross Domestic Product, and its growth. But what we earn does not say much about how healthy we are or about how we deplete minerals... A new measuring instrument... gives policymakers a better understanding of what society is about. This shows, among other things, that Dutch wealth from the 1970s onwards started to run out of step with... 'wider prosperity'...  

The insight that economic growth as a compass for government policy is disastrous in the long run is becoming increasingly widespread. "There is a growing dissatisfaction in society. Society wants something else"... Jan-Pieter Smits... together with a large team... developed a new model, which has now been approved by the statistics offices of 65 countries...

We are dealing with a 'prosperity paradox': we are getting richer, but not more satisfied... Wealth and prosperity went more or less hand in hand until 1950... then economic growth accelerated solidly, while wide prosperity lagged behind.

The model that Smits developed with his colleagues has about a hundred indicators to measure how we are now, whether we leave enough for the next generation, and whether we do not make excessive demands on sources in other countries – often the third world. 


An example of an indicator is the percentage of people with obesity, as a measure of nutritional quality. Life expectancy, as a measure of health. The level of education, as a measure for 'the human capital' of a country.... how wealth is divided between society... how much do incomes vary, do women receive as much education as men, and do they have a seat in parliament just as often?

An important precondition for the choice of indicators is that they are universal... "You often still see that sustainability policy is a political toy, which is always adjusted when a new government takes office. We therefore want a model that is robust, a model that is above politics". Moreover, the indicators do not have to depend on country or culture, so that they 'measure what matters' everywhere...  

Although there is already a detailed model, there are still many questions... One of them is the question of how you measure the value of nature and animals, without looking only at economic value. There is also a great need for an indicator that warns about bubbles in the financial sector, because they repeatedly cause recessions.


https://www.tue.nl/en/university/news-and-press/news/26-01-2018-the-netherlands-has-become-much-richer-since-1970-but-wider-prosperity-has-grown-less-rapidly/


Background: http://www.unece.org/publications/ces_sust_development.html


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
"For decades, there was a single main indicator of how countries were faring: Gross Domestic Product, and its growth." 
– Really?! What about e.g. "Gross National Happiness"[1] or other broad measures of economic progress[2], incl. the Human Development Index?! 

And using "the percentage of people with obesity, as a measure of nutritional quality"?! So nutrition in Bangladesh with 4% obesity must be much better than in France with 22% ... (No matter that in Bangladesh 26% are estimated to suffer from undernourishment and 36% of children are stunted.) 

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gross_National_Happiness  ;
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Absolute Poverty: When Necessity Displaces Desire - Am Econ Rev (2017) 

A new basis for an international poverty measurement is proposed based on linear programming for specifying the least cost diet and explicit budgeting for nonfood spending. 


This approach is superior to the World Bank's $1-a-day line because it is (i) clearly related to survival and well being; (ii) comparable across time and space since the same nutritional requirements are used everywhere while nonfood spending is tailored to climate; (iii) adjusts consumption patterns to local prices; (iv) presents no index number problems since solutions are always in local prices; and (v) requires only readily available information. 


The new approach implies much more poverty than the World Bank's, especially in Asia.


http://doi.org/10.1257/aer.20161080


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Societal Costs of Micronutrient Deficiencies in 6- to 59-month-old Children in Pakistan - Wieser &al (2017) - Food Nutr Bull

In Pakistan, nearly half of children younger than 5 years are stunted and 1 in 3 is underweight. Micronutrient deficiencies, a less visible form of undernutrition, are also endemic. They may lead to increased morbidity and mortality as well as to impaired cognitive and physical development.

To estimate the lifetime costs of micronutrient deficiencies in Pakistani children aged between 6 and 59 months. We develop a health economic model of the lifetime health and cost consequences of iodine, iron, vitamin A, and zinc deficiencies. We assess medical costs, production losses in terms of future incomes lost, and disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs)... 


Total societal costs amount to US$46 million in medical costs, US$3,222 million in production losses, and 3.4 million DALYs. Costs are dominated by the impaired cognitive development induced by iron deficiency anemia... and the mortality caused by vitamin A deficiency. Costs are substantially higher in poorer households.

Societal costs amounted to 1.44% of gross domestic product and 4.45% of DALYs in Pakistan in 2013. These costs hinder the country’s development. They could be eliminated by improved nutrition of... children and public health measures. Our results may contribute to the design of cost-effective interventions aiming to reduce micronutrient deficiencies in early childhood and their lifetime consequences. 


https://doi.org/10.1177/0379572117720012


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More Bang for Your Buck: Saving Lives by Investing in the Poorest - IPS (2017) 

Investing in the health of the poorest communities saves almost twice as many lives... the UN’s Children Agency (UNICEF) found that increased access to health among poor communities saves more lives and is more cost-effective than in non-poor communities.

“It is critical to focus on the poorer populations, especially in terms of health and nutrition”... Impoverished children are nearly twice as likely to die before reaching their fifth birthday than children growing up in better circumstances. A majority of these deaths are preventable, but lack of access to critical health services make them all too common.

However... health gaps between poor and non-poor communities have narrowed in over 50 countries and... improved access to health interventions among poor communities have helped decrease child mortality three times faster than among non-poor groups.

Since birth rates are higher among the poor, the reduction in the under-five mortality rate translates into 4.2 more lives saved for every million people. In fact, over one million people, a majority of whom lived in poverty, were saved during the final year of the 51 countries studied.

Such live-saving health interventions include increased provision of basic medication, skilled birth attendance, full immunisation programmes, and even free health services... 

Though it is more expensive to reach marginalised populations due to barriers such as distance and lack of roads or infrastructure, the benefits outweigh the costs... For every one million dollars invested, the number of deaths averted is 1.8 times higher among the poor than the non-poor.

“It is more costly, we accept that, but it is so much more effective because of the higher burden of diseases and higher risk for the health of poor children and women that it saves many more lives”... He advised governments to utilise an equity approach to identify populations and causes of death in order to design targeted interventions to reach and include the most vulnerable.

“That will be the most efficient way to use their resources – not just the most equitable”... this is the only way for governments to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)... whose motto is to ‘leave no one behind’... Unless progress on reducing child mortality accelerates, which can only be achieved with focus and additional investment in the poor, almost 70 million children will die from preventable causes by 2030.

“With so much at stake – and so many lives hanging in the balance – we cannot afford to ignore this new evidence” UNICEF’s study draws on data from 2003 to 2016 in 51 countries where around 80 percent of all newborn and under-five deaths occur.


http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/bang-buck-saving-lives-investing-poorest/


Underlying report: http://weshare.unicef.org/Folder/2AMZIFLBV3PQ


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The economic burden of inadequate consumption of vegetables and fruit in Canada - Ekwaru &al (2017) - Public Health Nutr

Public health decision makers not only consider health benefits but also economic implications when articulating and issuing lifestyle recommendations. Whereas various estimates exist for the economic burden of physical inactivity, excess body weight and smoking, estimates of the economic burden associated with our diet are rare. In the present study, we estimated the economic burden attributable to the inadequate consumption of vegetables and fruit in Canada. 


We accessed the Canadian Community Health Survey to assess the inadequacy in the consumption of vegetables and fruit and published meta-analyses to assemble risk estimates for chronic diseases. Based on these inadequacy and risk estimates, we calculated the population-attributable fraction and avoidable direct and indirect costs to society. Direct costs include those for hospital care, physician services and drugs in 2015.

About 80% of women and 90% of men consume inadequate amounts of vegetables and fruit. We estimated this to result in an economic burden of $CAN 3 billion per year, of which 30% is direct health-care costs and 70% is indirect costs due to productivity losses. A modest 1 percentage point annual reduction in the prevalence of inadequate vegetables and fruit consumption over the next 20 years would avoid approximately $CAN 11 billion, and an increase of one serving of vegetables and fruit per day would avoid approximately $CAN 9 billion.

Further investments in the promotion of vegetables and fruit will prevent chronic disease and substantially reduce direct and indirect health-care costs. 


https://doi.org/10.1017/S1368980016002846


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Sweet Bite's curator insight, February 6, 2017 4:13 PM

<blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned data-instgrm-version="7" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"><div style="padding:8px;"> <div style=" background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:35.03727369542066% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;"> <div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAABGdBTUEAALGPC/xhBQAAAAFzUkdCAK7OHOkAAAAMUExURczMzPf399fX1+bm5mzY9AMAAADiSURBVDjLvZXbEsMgCES5/P8/t9FuRVCRmU73JWlzosgSIIZURCjo/ad+EQJJB4Hv8BFt+IDpQoCx1wjOSBFhh2XssxEIYn3ulI/6MNReE07UIWJEv8UEOWDS88LY97kqyTliJKKtuYBbruAyVh5wOHiXmpi5we58Ek028czwyuQdLKPG1Bkb4NnM+VeAnfHqn1k4+GPT6uGQcvu2h2OVuIf/gWUFyy8OWEpdyZSa3aVCqpVoVvzZZ2VTnn2wU8qzVjDDetO90GSy9mVLqtgYSy231MxrY6I2gGqjrTY0L8fxCxfCBbhWrsYYAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;"></div></div> <p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"> <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BQJGG-VlzI0/" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_blank">@instagram @insta6arab @instatroll_futbol #kuwait #kuwaitcity #kuwaityiat</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A photo posted by SweetBite (@sweet_bitekw) on <time style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;" datetime="2017-02-05T19:45:06+00:00">Feb 5, 2017 at 11:45am PST</time></p></div></blockquote>
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Support for democracy linked to income inequality - MSU (2016) 

Support for democracy linked to income inequality - MSU (2016)  | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

Voter satisfaction with democracy may have... to do with income inequality, or the gap between rich and poor... Political scientists... found that rising income inequality widens the gap in satisfaction with democracy between electoral winners and losers... “The degree of income inequality is the real driver behind electoral winners and losers’ satisfaction with democracy... Elections matter much more for both the rich and poor when income inequality is high.”

Past research found that voters who support winning parties are more satisfied with democracy than those who vote for the losers. In this winner-loser gap theory, the difference in satisfaction levels is smaller in consensus democracies where the losing party can still affect policy outcomes, suggesting an institutional effect. 


But... the effects of economic inequality are more critical to satisfaction with democracy than the institutional effects of political systems. That’s because... As the disparity between rich and poor grows, the poor intensify their demand for the redistribution of wealth. The rich, meanwhile, become more anxious about the possibility of losing income.

“Our findings suggest that rising income inequality pits political winners and losers against each other... And this conflict over economic interests can undermine citizens’ satisfaction with democracy and lead to instability.” 


http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2016/support-for-democracy-linked-to-income-inequality/


Underlying study: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.electstud.2016.08.006


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The impact of high-end climate change on agricultural welfare - Stevanović &al (2016) - Sci Advances

The impact of high-end climate change on agricultural welfare - Stevanović &al (2016) - Sci Advances | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

Climate change threatens agricultural productivity worldwide, resulting in higher food prices. Associated economic gains and losses differ not only by region but also between producers and consumers and are affected by market dynamics. On the basis of an impact modeling chain, starting with 19 different climate projections that drive plant biophysical process simulations and ending with agro-economic decisions, this analysis focuses on distributional effects of high-end climate change impacts across geographic regions and across economic agents. 


By estimating the changes in surpluses of consumers and producers, we find that climate change can have detrimental impacts on global agricultural welfare, especially after 2050, because losses in consumer surplus generally outweigh gains in producer surplus. Damage in agriculture may reach the annual loss of 0.3% of future total gross domestic product at the end of the century globally, assuming further opening of trade in agricultural products, which typically leads to interregional production shifts to higher latitudes. 


Those estimated global losses could increase substantially if international trade is more restricted. If beneficial effects of atmospheric carbon dioxide fertilization can be realized in agricultural production, much of the damage could be avoided. Although trade policy reforms toward further liberalization help alleviate climate change impacts, additional compensation mechanisms for associated environmental and development concerns have to be considered. 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.1501452


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Measuring global hunger: The importance of variances - CEPR (2016) 

Measuring global hunger: The importance of variances - CEPR (2016)  | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

Different survey methodologies are typically employed to produce estimates of global hunger… Short reference periods for each household lead to overstated variances and the confounding of chronic and transient welfare components… A new approach to measuring chronic hunger… tackles this sampling problem by employing an intra-year panel. 


The first two Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are to end poverty and hunger. Both goals relate to the proportion of the population living below acceptable thresholds – poverty lines in one case, and dietary energy standards in the other. These goals involve the lower tail of distributions so statistics on living standards have to reliably measure not just means and totals but also variances. Debates about hunger measurement highlight the difficulty of achieving this and the inadequacy of current survey practice. 


The global agency that measures hunger is the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The FAO use country averages of annual dietary energy per person, from aggregate Food Balance Sheets, and they distribute these across the population by using adjusted estimates of the inter-household variance in calories from surveys. Specifically, FAO dampen variances because the short reference periods for surveys give just a snapshot of the household’s diet for a week, fortnight or month, which causes excess variability. 


Proponents of other approaches argue for directly measuring hunger from household surveys which are deemed by the World Bank to be reliable enough for counting the poor. However, the advocates of the direct survey approach do not emphasise that these diet snapshots will overstate variance and exaggerate the rate living below dietary thresholds. 


The ideal… survey to match what FAO attempt to measure – chronic hunger on an annual basis – would observe the same households over the course of a year. Such a design would show that many short-term shocks tend to cancel out over time. In contrast, a snapshot from a short reference period… will have a higher variance than the true annual variance because some of the shocks, but not their reversal, occur in that short reference period. This snapshot will overstate the chronic hunger rate… 


Thus it should not surprise if surveys report more hunger than FAO estimates. For example, 59% of the population in 12 African countries are undernourished according to surveys, while FAO estimate just a 39% hunger rate for the same countries. Yet what is poorly understood is that these gaps are inherent features of the two approaches. Moreover, any consideration of the intra-year fluctuations causing these gaps is based on misleading narratives about ‘seasonality’… 


A new way to measure chronic hunger from surveys, which accounts for excess variability from just observing a snapshot of diets… also can identify the transient component of hunger… The proposed method needs surveys to see the same households in at least two, non-adjacent periods in the year. This survey design is rare… Seeing the same household repeatedly for, say, two weeks to implement a diary is less informative than seeing it for a week, and then again for another week, six months later. Seeing the same household at two or more times of the year reveals more about outcomes with low auto-correlation since a snapshot of these mis-measures their long-run average… 


To illustrate the method of measuring chronic hunger from diet snapshots, I use survey data from Myanmar, where households were visited twice – six months apart… The correlation between per capita calories in these two times of the year is just 0.45. This low correlation suggests that shocks to calories are partially reversed over the rest of the year. However, if data from a snapshot survey are used to represent the long-run situation, shocks are wrongly locked in as if they occur in every month of the year… 


Short reference period surveys will identify some unknown mix of chronic and transient hunger. Since the appropriate interventions differ – smoothing in one case and raising the mean in the other – distinguishing these two types of hunger should be important to policymakers. These low correlations have little to do with seasonality… households cannot easily smooth their calories over time, due to shocks that may have demographic, health, income, or food price and food availability origins. Thus, surveys that stagger fieldwork over the months of the year to deal with seasonality, but see each household in just one period of the year, cannot capture these shocks and their (partial) reversal… 


Different survey designs, such as intra-year panels, are needed to accurately measure variances and the lower tail of distributions… 


http://voxeu.org/article/measuring-global-hunger-importance-variances


Underlying Working Paper: https://ideas.repec.org/p/wai/econwp/16-07.html


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
There are certainly issues with measuring global hunger, and – as discussed here – survey methodologies and the importance of variances are one of them. However, a bigger question is if looking at calorie availability – as also done here – is really the right measure of "hunger". 

As also pointed out here, there can be shocks that cause transient hunger but that can subsequently be reversed, at least partially. Of course also transient hunger should be eliminated, but generally it’s the consequences of chronic hunger (such as adverse health outcomes, lower educational achievements or productivity losses) that policy makers want to tackle most urgently. 

Why then not look directly at metrics that capture exactly those health losses? (… which also lead to poor school performance and lower productivity…) Measuring the burden of hunger this way would e.g. “automatically” smoothen the impact of transient hunger if it’s reversed in time, it would solve the issue of how much food is acquired vs how much is actually consumed (after storage and other leakages), as well as the issue of food that’s consumed outside of the home, etc. 

Therefore, as I see it, what’s necessary is “Rethinking the Measurement of Undernutrition in a Broader Health Context” http://www.scoop.it/t/publications-of-a-j-stein/p/4030363107/

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Which is the greenest, happiest country in the world? - WE Forum (2016) 

Which is the greenest, happiest country in the world? - WE Forum (2016)  | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

Is life on this planet getting better? When it comes to the progress of nations, how do you measure what matters most? There’s wealth, there’s health, there’s basic human freedoms. These criteria, and others, make regular appearances in a variety of international rankings… 


But a new study takes a different approach. The Happy Planet Index… measures health and happiness not in isolation but against a crucial new gold standard for success: sustainability. 


The formula goes something like this: take the well-being and longevity of a population, measure how equally both are distributed, then set the result against each country's ecological footprint. In this calculation, the most successful countries are those where people live long and happy lives at little cost to the environment. 


So which countries are they? They're not the wealthy Western countries you’d expect to see, or even the progressive Nordic ones that normally bag the lifestyle laurels. Instead… when it comes to people’s ability to live good lives within sustainable limits, Latin American and Asia Pacific countries are ahead of the crowd. 


There’s one country that stands out: Costa Rica, which tops the ranking for the third time. It is the happiest and most sustainable country on Earth… So, what is it doing right? … the highest level of well-being in the world… the longest-lived people… using a mere quarter of the resources that are typically used in the Western world. 


How does it do that? Chiefly through a strong commitment to the environment: 99% of the country’s electricity supply is said to come from renewable sources, and the government has pledged to make the country carbon neutral by 2021. Other factors include robust investing in social programmes such as health and education, with public money that has been all the more plentiful since the abolition of the national army in 1949. 


Wealthier Western countries tend to score highly when it comes to life expectancy and well-being, but the high environmental cost of their way of life sees their ratings plummet. The US, for instance, has one of the largest ecological footprints in the world…  


https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/07/greenest-happiest-country-in-the-world/


Underlying report: http://happyplanetindex.org/about/


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An empirical analysis of risk in conventional and organic arable farming in The Netherlands - Berentsen &al (2016) - Eur J Agronomy

An empirical analysis of risk in conventional and organic arable farming in The Netherlands - Berentsen &al (2016) - Eur J Agronomy | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

This paper assesses and compares risk in conventional and organic arable farming in The Netherlands with respect to family farm income and underlying price and production variables... Price risk variables are input and output prices, while yield volatility of different crops is the main production risk variable... 


Results indicate that the risk at the level of family farm income is higher in organic farming. The underlying variables show higher risk for organic farms in crop yields, crop prices and variable input costs per crop. 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.eja.2016.06.002


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Phosphorus recycling and food security in the long run: a conceptual modelling approach - Weikard (2016) - Food Sec

Phosphorus recycling and food security in the long run: a conceptual modelling approach - Weikard (2016) - Food Sec | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

Food security for all is a global political goal and an outstanding moral concern. The common response to this concern is agricultural intensification, which includes among other things increasing inputs of fertilisers... Phosphorus (P) is essential for agricultural production but large and increasing amounts of P fertilisers stem from depletable mines. This raises sustainability concerns and the possibility of long-term food insecurity. The paper analyses three scenarios for global phosphorus extraction and recycling under discounted utilitarianism.


First, for a benchmark scenario without recycling, food security will inevitably be violated in the long run. Second, if we introduce P recycling, food security can be maintained but food production falls over time... Third, a sustainable (i.e. non-declining) path of food production is feasible... requires greater recycling efforts. Recycling efforts are increasing over time... sustainable food production seems feasible even if it depends on depletable phosphate mines.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12571-016-0551-4

 

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How much difference does Fairtrade make – and how can we measure it?

How much difference does Fairtrade make – and how can we measure it? | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

The central concern of most of the evaluations and assessments [of Fairtrade certification] is [its] contribution to household income, wellbeing and resilience. Many of the mechanisms of Fairtrade – such as the Fairtrade Minimum Price, the Fairtrade Premium, quality and yield improvements, standards on decent work – contribute to this.

Examples of positive impacts on household income were... in their study of the differential effects of Fairtrade, organic and UTZ certification... Income benefits of certification were significant and driven by Fairtrade certification. “Looking at the first comparison between certified and non-certified farmers, we find that certification increases consumption expenditure... per capita per day [by] PPP $0.5-$0.6. This effect is significant and implies an increase in living standard by 12-15%”... 


Disaggregating by certification scheme, we find that the positive impact on household expenditure is entirely driven by Fairtrade certification. Participation in Fairtrade increases per capita expenditure by 27-33%, while the effects of UTZ and organic are both insignificant.

“Likewise we find significant poverty-reducing effects for Fairtrade, but not for UTZ and Organic. Participation in Fairtrade reduces the poverty headcount index by 0.13 to 0.15, implying a 50% reduction of the poverty rate observed among non-certified households”... 


https://www.thenews.coop/126002/topic/fairtrade/much-difference-fairtrade-make-can-measure/


Underlying report: https://www.odi.org/publications/10891-impact-fairtrade-review-research-evidence-2009-2015


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
... and also here "organic" may be good marketing to sell products at a premium, but it does not what many buyers arguably think it does... 
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Comparing the Profitability of a Greenhouse to a Vertical Farm in Quebec - Can J Ag Econ (2018) 

Comparing the Profitability of a Greenhouse to a Vertical Farm in Quebec - Can J Ag Econ (2018)  | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

Rapidly growing demand for year-round fresh food, regardless of the weather or climate, is driving demand for controlled environment agriculture systems. Sales from greenhouses (GHs) are growing at 8.8%, while sales from vertical farms (VFs) are growing at 30%. 


It is commonly believed in industry circles that a VF cannot economically compete with a GH, due to the high cost of powering artificial lighting. Nonetheless, researchers have yet to analyze the economics underlying a VF, let alone compare the profitability of a VF to that of a GH... 


We report the results of a detailed simulation of the profitability of growing lettuce in a VF and in a GH located near Quebec City. Surprisingly, we find that the costs to both equip and run the two facilities are very similar, while the gross profit is slightly higher for the VF.


http://doi.org/10.1111/cjag.12161


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How Could Agronomic Biofortification of Rice Be an Alternative Strategy With Higher Cost-Effectiveness for Human Iron and Zinc Deficiency in China? Food Nutr Bull (2017) 

Iron and zinc deficiencies affect human health globally, especially in developing countries. Agronomic biofortification, as a strategy for alleviating these issues, has been focused on small-scale field studies, and not widely applied while lacking of cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA). We conducted the CEA of agronomic biofortification, expressed as USD per disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) saved...  


 The DALYs were applied to quantify the health burden due to Fe and/or Zn deficiency and health cost of agronomic biofortification via a single, dual, or triple foliar spray of Fe, Zn, and/or pesticide in 4 major Chinese rice-based regions. The current health burden by Fe or Zn malnutrition was 0.45 to 1.45 or 0.14 to 0.84 million DALYs... 


Compared to traditional rice diets, the daily Fe and/or Zn intake from Fe and/or Zn-biofortified rice increased, and the health burden of Fe and/or Zn deficiency decreased by 28% and 48%, respectively. The cost of saving 1 DALYs ranged from US$376 to US$4989, US$194 to US$2730, and US$37.6 to US$530 for the single, dual, and triple foliar Fe, Zn, and/or pesticide application, respectively, due to a substantial decrease in labor costs by the latter 2 applications. 


Agronomic biofortification of rice with the triple foliar spray of Fe, Zn, and pesticide is a rapidly effective and cost-effectiveness pathway to alleviate Fe and Zn deficiency for rice-based dietary populations. 


http://doi.org/10.1177/0379572117745661


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Food counts. Measuring food consumption and expenditures in household consumption and expenditure surveys (HCES) - Zezza &al (2017) - Food Pol

This introductory paper presents the results of an international multi-disciplinary research project on the measurement of food consumption in national household surveys. 


Food consumption data from household surveys are possibly the single most important source of information on poverty, food security, and nutrition outcomes at national, sub-national and household level, and contribute building blocks to global efforts to monitor progress towards the major international development goals.


http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306919217306802


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
Food consumption data may be an important source of info on poverty and perhaps also on food security, but to inform about nutrition, the utilisation of the consumed food needs to be known (which can e.g. be affected by the bioavailability of the nutrients or the parasite load of the consumers). And what affects people's lives in the end are the actual health outcomes of food and nutrition insecurity that affect them -- which can e.g. be measured using DALYs, as I discussed elsewhere: http://www.scoop.it/t/publications-of-a-j-stein/p/4030363107/

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Does It Work? Is It Worth It? Evaluating the Costs and Benefits of Nutritional Interventions - Wieser & Tzogiou (2017) - Springer

Does It Work? Is It Worth It? Evaluating the Costs and Benefits of Nutritional Interventions - Wieser & Tzogiou (2017) - Springer | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

This chapter attempts to demonstrate how economic evaluation can help maximize the cost-effectiveness of nutritional interventions. The main types of economic evaluation are outlined and the input parameters necessary to carry them out are described. 


The cost-effectiveness plane presented is a way to synthesize all the information and to decide whether an intervention is worth the money spent on it. The importance and strength of this approach are discussed, along with its limitations. 


The process of economic evaluation can contribute substantially to the design and identification of cost-effective interventions and thus help achieve the maximum reduction of malnutrition with the limited funds available. 


The cost-effectiveness framework developed in health economics is a useful tool for the design and evaluation of nutritional interventions. It forces the evaluators to explore the various aspects influencing the effectiveness of the intervention in a real-world situation. It also takes account of the different cost dimensions affecting the health and wellbeing of the individual as well as overall economic development. 


https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-55942-1_27


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On food security and the economic valuation of food - Chavas (2017) - Food Pol

On food security and the economic valuation of food - Chavas (2017) - Food Pol | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

The paper presents an economic evaluation of food and the cost of food insecurity. Building on behavioral regularities of consumer behavior, the analysis estimates the benefit of food at the individual level and at the world level. It finds an inverted-U relationship between food benefit and income. 


At the individual level, the “food benefit/income” ratio starts at 0 under extreme poverty, increases with income to reach a maximum of 4.4 when income per capita is around $13,000, and then declines slowly as income rises. The paper shows very large aggregate net benefit of food... 


The paper has evaluated the value of food and the cost of food insecurity. This is relevant for food policy to the extent that reducing food insecurity... is seen as an important policy goal. Achieving this goal can be done in several ways: by increasing world food supply, by improving access to food, and by increasing consumer food purchasing power. Currently, there is enough food to feed the world population. This has focused the food policy debate on access to food and on the linkages between food security and the distribution of food purchasing power. 


Increasing individual access to food can be done through markets, through income redistribution policies and/or through food policies. And redistributing food purchasing power can involve reducing the cost of food for the poor (e.g., through food stamps), increasing income of poor households (through economic development and/or through income transfers policies), and redistributing food toward food-insecure individuals (e.g., through food aid)... 


This paper has taken a step toward addressing these challenges by exploring the economics and welfare evaluation of food and food security...The analysis... establishes linkages between food demand and the value of food, with implications for the aggregate value of food in the world. It finds that the aggregate net benefit of food is very large, with an estimated value $88 trillion. 


The analysis also evaluates the cost of food insecurity. The properties of food demand indicate that aversion to food insecurity is a prevalent characteristic of human behavior, with a coefficient of relative risk aversion equal to 2.7. This implies that the cost of food insecurity can be large, especially in situations of exposure to significant downside risk... 


http://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2017.03.008


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
The authors estimate that the benefit of food has a value of $88 trillion. They also estimate that a 20% shock on the food consumption of the world population of 7 billion people (with an asymmetric downside risk) represents a cost of food insecurity of about $1-2 trillion. In terms of ballpark figures, that's about as big as the global cost of hunger that has been estimated by various authors to be also in the range of $1-2 trillion: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2014.09.003
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Opinion: the effects of technology adoption on food security: linking methods, concepts and data - Sumberg (2016) - Food Sec

Opinion: the effects of technology adoption on food security: linking methods, concepts and data - Sumberg (2016) - Food Sec | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

In a recent article... Magrini and Vigani (2016) address the critically important question of the effects of agricultural technology adoption by African smallholder farmers on household food security. Specifically they... test hypotheses concerning the effects of technologies... (the use of improved maize varieties and use of inorganic fertilizer on maize) on four pillars of food security – availability, access, utilization and stability. Causal effects were investigated... [but] a commensurate level of critical attention was not given to the treatment variable, technology adoption.

To bring technology adoption into their analysis the authors used responses to two questions... “What type of seed did you purchase?” and “Did you use any inorganic fertilizer?”... In relation to the first question, if at least one plot was sown with improved seed the household was considered to have adopted the technology improved maize varieties; similarly, if inorganic fertilizer was reported to have been used on at least one plot then the household was considered to have adopted fertilizer technology. 


To be clear: adoption is being treated as a simple binary variable so for each surveyed household there is either adoption or no adoption. Further, adoption is always, in effect, rounded up – for example, the application of any type or quantity of inorganic fertilizer on only one of the three maize plots associated with household A makes this household a fertilizer adopter, even if the other two plots received none.

In treating adoption in this way Magrini and Vigani have followed others... who have previously used matching techniques to investigate the effects of smallholder technology adoption. By-and-large this body of literature treats adoption as conceptually and empirically unproblematic... There are at least two reasons why it is unsatisfactory, and likely leads to erroneous conclusions. 


First, a binary conception of adoption does not reflect the realities of technological change... processes of technological change amongst smallholder farmers are seldom simple, linear or binary. Rather they are characterised by trying, adaptation, learning, partial or temporary adoption, dis-adoption and incorporation into existing technology repertoires. 


Further, the binary treatment of adoption ignores the potentially important effects of how a particular technology is actually used – e.g. the rate, timing and method of fertilizer application. If an improved maize variety is planted late, at too wide a spacing and without adequate soil preparation, in what sense has the technology been adopted? What is the rationale for placing a case like this in the same treatment group as one where the same improved maize variety is planted in a more timely fashion, at a more appropriate spacing, and into better prepared and fertilized soil?

Second, the widely accepted approach of considering any level of use of a technology as sufficient to indicate adoption – and to classify a household as an adopter – calls into question the robustness of the treatment group classification, and runs the risk of systematically overestimating the importance of adoption, while underestimating the impacts of the new technology. Why should a household that has used fertilizer on only a quarter of its maize plots be considered in the same treatment group as one that fertilized every maize plot? Other things being equal, would the expected food security (or other) impacts not be significantly greater for the latter than the former?

The question... is clearly very important. However, the ability to derive meaningful conclusions from these studies is severely constrained by the limitations of the concept of adoption, the requirements of the analytical method for two unambiguous treatment groups (adoption / non-adoption), and the limitations of the available data (primarily household surveys that were not designed to investigate complex processes of technological change)... 


This literature... suggests a largely methods-based and thus misguided response to the call for more rigorous impact evaluation. No matter how sophisticated the matching protocol, if it is not informed by an equally sophisticated – and rigorous – conception of technological change, the analysis will yield little insight. Finally, a much needed re-boot of research in this area will depend on new investments in data collection that is sensitive to the non-binary, non-linear, socially-embedded processes and dynamics of technological change. 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12571-016-0626-2


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Nutritional impacts of rising food prices in African countries: a review - Yu & Shimokawa (2016) - Food Sec

Nutritional impacts of rising food prices in African countries: a review - Yu & Shimokawa (2016) - Food Sec | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

This paper investigates the influences of food price spikes on nutritional outcomes in six African countries: DR Congo, Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda. Drawing on the estimates of food demand elasticity with respect to food prices in previous studies, we constructed the elasticity of calorie and protein consumption with respect to food prices... 


Increasing cereal prices has the largest negative influences on both calorie and protein consumption... the magnitude of the influences may differ by regions and the country’s dietary patterns. The negative influences are particularly large in rural areas and in the countries whose diets highly depend on a single staple cereal... 


Our findings highlight the importance of stabilizing cereal prices to reduce calorie deficiency while it may not be enough to improve protein deficiency.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12571-016-0605-7


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Structural approaches to modeling the impact of climate change and adaptation technologies on crop yields and food security - Islam &al (2016) - Global Food Sec

Structural approaches to modeling the impact of climate change and adaptation technologies on crop yields and food security - Islam &al (2016) - Global Food Sec | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

Achieving and maintaining global food security is challenged by changes in population, income, and climate, among other drivers. Assessing these threats and weighing possible solutions requires a robust multidisciplinary approach. 


One such approach integrates biophysical modeling with economic modeling to explore the combined effects of climate stresses and future socioeconomic trends, thus providing a more accurate picture of how agriculture and the food system may be affected in the coming decades. 


We review and analyze the literature... and present a case study that follows this methodology explicitly modeling drought and heat tolerant crop varieties. We show that yield gains from adoption of these varieties differ... but are generally comparable in scale to (and thus able to offset) adverse effects of climate change. 


However, yield increases over the projection period are dominated by the effects of growth in population, income, and general productivity, highlighting the importance of joint assessment of biophysical and socioeconomic drivers to better understand climate impacts and responses. 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2016.08.003


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We need to measure natural capital wealth, not income alone - UNEP (2016) 

We need to measure natural capital wealth, not income alone - UNEP (2016)  | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

With the endorsement of a resolution on “Sustainable Management of Natural Capital for Sustainable Development and Poverty Reduction” during the recently held United Nations Environment Assembly… a new era of correcting the compass to measure sustainable human well-being has begun. Conventional income (the market value of output) has been treated as a proxy for human well-being for too long. The limitations of the system of national accounts – where pollution abatement activities show up as income and biodiversity loss goes unnoticed – are becoming better understood. 


From an environmental sustainability perspective, traditional income measurement is defective because it only partially treats natural capital stock in its coverage. While wealth (and natural capital) is a stock, income is a flow (a return on wealth). Understanding this difference is critical. Conventional GDP is adept at measuring flow, but it can only partially measure wealth. GDP can capture net financial assets, physical assets, partial human capital… It has great difficulty in capturing and measuring the physical aspects of natural capital like ecosystem services, let alone their economic value. 


Most existing valuation in accounting processes relies heavily on exchange/transaction values, where there is no measure in place to capture what economists and ecologists call ”environmental externalities” (the depletion and degradation of natural capital)… Today, we, the global population, are each emitting about five tons of carbon per annum into the atmosphere; a quarter of global land has been degraded since the beginning of the 21st century; and biodiversity is declining at an alarming rate. Tropical forests are continuing to be cleared for crops, and overfishing continues to damage marine ecosystems causing a collapse in fish stocks. 


Economists have been warning about these types of anomalies for a long time. More recent thinking… highlights the need to look for better measurements of changes in human prosperity. The error of equating income with well-being can be rectified if the accounting profession pays attention to wealth (stock) measurement in an inclusive/comprehensive manner… Multilateral institutions consider the wealth of a nation, not its income, before extending any financial help, and don’t accept poor quality balance sheets. 


UNEP, with others, has been working on this. The Inclusive Wealth (IWR) Report 2014 emphasizes the need to measure man-made, human and natural capital. The methodology and data can easily be extended to social and cultural capital… The forthcoming 2016 report aims to do this for over 170 countries… IWR 2014 suggests that produced capital, as measured by GDP, represents only about 18 percent of the total wealth of nations. 


While there have been increases in GDP and the Human Development Index, natural capital actually declined in 127 out of 140 countries between 1990 and 2010… Worldwide, while GDP rose by 50 percent from 1992 to 2010, IWI [the Independent Wealth Index] rose by only 6 percent. This is because in the wider ambit of sustainable development GDP fails to account for sources of wealth such as nature and human progress…  


Countries cognisant of their stock of natural capital… can invest in the protection and restoration of natural capital. IWI is a macroeconomic tool that enables policymakers to understand the trade-offs of different scenarios and policies. For example, Brazil, which has 56 per cent of its land under forest cover, experienced a decline in its forest wealth from 1990 to 2000. However, it was able to reverse this trend between 2000 and 2010 due to its conservation policies, the strict enforcement of forest laws, and by discouraging agricultural expansion in forest lands… 


IWI complements GDP as a multi-purpose indicator. It is capable of tracking stocks of wealth in human, natural and produced capital. IWI lends itself to monitoring and reviewing progress towards the SDGs… Target 8.1 which is currently measured by GDP growth with a target of 7 per cent per year (a measure of growth in the level of transactions). IWI complements this by emphasizing the growth of wealth…  


http://unep.org/stories/Ecosystems/Natural-Capital-Wealth.asp


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Cost of agronomic biofortification of wheat with zinc in China - Wang &al (2016) - Agron Sust Develop

Cost of agronomic biofortification of wheat with zinc in China - Wang &al (2016) - Agron Sust Develop | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

Biofortification is a strategy for overcoming human zinc (Zn) deficiency, especially in rural areas of developing countries... Biofortification by foliar Zn application has been demonstrated at small scale, but not at large scale due to the absence of economic analysis... We conducted the first cost-effectiveness analysis using the method of “disability-adjusted life year” [DALY] measuring the health burden. 


We... quantified the cost of agronomic biofortification of wheat with Zn in three major wheat-growing regions of China. Our results show that the current annual health burden due to human Zn deficiency, defined as numbers of disability-adjusted life years lost, is [1.4 million DALYs for the three regions]. 


Comparing with traditional wheat diets... the consumption of agronomically Zn-biofortified wheat... could increase the daily Zn intakes... These... reduce the health burden due to human Zn deficiency in these regions by up to 57%. 


According to cost-effectiveness analysis, the cost for saving one disability-adjusted life year in these regions ranges from US$ 226 to US$ 594 for foliar Zn application alone... [and] from US$ 41 to US$ 108 when foliar Zn and pesticide applications are combined to reduce labor costs. This cost of US$ 41-108... is lower than the World Bank’s [benchmark for cost-effective interventions]...  


The combined foliar application of Zn plus pesticide to wheat is highly cost-effective. But it is less cost-effective than the genetic biofortification because the cost for saving one “disabilityadjusted life year” by the genetic biofortification could be less than US$ 20 due to long-term effects. 


Even so, the cost of the agronomic biofortification for overcoming human Zn deficiency in China is competitive with the cost of medical supplementation (US$ 399), food fortification (US$ 153), and dietary diversification (US$ 103). 


Moreover, the foliar application of Zn alone or plus with pesticide has simultaneously increased the wheat yield by a range of 3- 7 % in seven countries including China... 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s13593-016-0382-x


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
The authors focus only on the “three major wheat cropping systems in central and northern China”. Given that these three regions account for 95% of total wheat production in China, this is perfectly fine when it comes to projecting the application of Zn fertilisers (costs of application and increase in Zn content in the wheat). However, the authors then (unnecessarily) limit their analysis of the *impact* of Zn-rich wheat consumption to these regions, and, furthermore, point out that “foliar application of Zn… increased the wheat yield by a range of 3-7% in seven countries including China”.

This means the authors might underestimate the benefits of the fertilisation approach: To the extent that the wheat produced in these three regions is not only consumed locally but also exported to the rest of China (even if rice may dominate diets elsewhere), there will be a positive health impact in these other regions. (For instance, De Steur et al. 2012, whom the authors also refer to, calculated the total burden of ZnD in China to be 2.6 million DALYs lost, whereas the authors only consider that the Zn-rich wheat can have an impact on the 1.4 million DALYs that are lost in the three regions of their analysis). Hence, the number of DALYs saved is probably higher than what the authors calculated. 

Because the costs for the Zn fertilisation of wheat in the three target regions don’t change, this means that the cost-effectiveness of Zn fertilisation is better than what the authors report. (While not discussed in the text, given that China exports less than 1% of its wheat production and only imports 2-3%, trade impacts can probably be ignored.) Moreover, had the authors taken into account the profits that would be generated by the reported yield gains – which could be used to directly offset some of the fertiliser costs – the net monetary costs that entered their cost-effectiveness analysis could have been lower, improving their results even further… 

As the authors acknowledge, though, in the longer term breeding crops for higher zinc levels (or minerals in general) is more cost-effective still, not least because then the recurrent costs for the zinc fertiliser are avoided. (Unless the soil is zinc deficient.) 
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Global and regional health effects of future food production under climate change: a modelling study - Springmann &al (2016) - Lancet 

Global and regional health effects of future food production under climate change: a modelling study - Springmann &al (2016) - Lancet  | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

One of the most important consequences of climate change could be its effects on agriculture. Although much research has focused on questions of food security, less has been devoted to assessing the wider health impacts of future changes in agricultural production. In this modelling study, we estimate excess mortality attributable to agriculturally mediated changes in dietary and weight-related risk factors by cause of death for 155 world regions in the year 2050... 

We linked a detailed agricultural modelling framework, the International Model for Policy Analysis of Agricultural Commodities and Trade (IMPACT), to a comparative risk assessment of changes in fruit and vegetable consumption, red meat consumption, and bodyweight for deaths from coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer, and an aggregate of other causes. 


We calculated the change in the number of deaths attributable to climate-related changes in weight and diets for the combination of four emissions pathways... and three socio-economic pathways... which each included six scenarios with variable climatic inputs.

The model projects that by 2050, climate change will lead to per-person reductions of 3·2% in global food availability, 4·0% in fruit and vegetable consumption, and 0·7% in red meat consumption. These changes will be associated with 529 000 climate-related deaths worldwide, representing a 28% reduction in the number of deaths that would be avoided because of changes in dietary and weight-related risk factors between 2010 and 2050. 


Twice as many climate-related deaths were associated with reductions in fruit and vegetable consumption than with climate-related increases in the prevalence of underweight, and most climate-related deaths were projected to occur in south and east Asia. Adoption of climate-stabilisation pathways would reduce the number of climate-related deaths by 29-71%, depending on their stringency.

The health effects of climate change from changes in dietary and weight-related risk factors could be substantial, and exceed other climate-related health impacts that have been estimated. Climate change mitigation could prevent many climate-related deaths. Strengthening of public health programmes aimed at preventing and treating diet and weight-related risk factors could be a suitable climate change adaptation strategy. 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(15)01156-3


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