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The Poor's Poor Mental Power - Vohs (2013) - Science

Few people wish to be poor. Many find it puzzling that those in poverty seem to get stuck in that state, even when there are opportunities to improve one's lot... Mani et al. provide a possible reason: Poverty-related concerns impair cognitive capacity. Simply put, being poor taps out one's mental reserves. This could explain data showing that the poor are likelier than others to behave in ways that are harmful to health and impede long-term success—in short, behaviors that can perpetuate a disadvantaged state.


The eye-opening study of Mani et al. included laboratory experiments and field studies that tested the “cognitive constraint” hypothesis... A study of farmers demonstrated that the mental acuities of the same person varied with swings in income. Farmers were given challenging cognitive tests before and after harvest. Before harvest, the farmers experienced much financial strain, whereas after harvest (and the receipt of payments), they did not. The results showed clear and demonstrable improvement in cognitive capacity after harvest. This outcome held after accounting for the stress of pre-harvest periods. The authors propose that poverty imposes a cognitive load, which impairs cognitive capacity.


The depletion of mental functioning with poverty comports with a framework called the limited-resource model of self-control. Failures of self-control are implicated in some of society's most pressing problems, including poverty. When people want to reach a goal, they use self-control to produce responses and behaviors aimed at moving themselves from the current (undesirable) standpoint to the preferred state. This powerful process, however, is not used as often as it should be. One reason is that self-control is a limited and depletable resource. When people use self-control, it is like top-flight running for a cheetah, in which a brief period of exertion results in exhaustion.


Everyone must regulate eating and spending, and wearing down self-control resources leads to detrimental behaviors for both. In one study, people made to resist the lure of delicious chocolates later showed worse performance on demanding mental tasks and at managing negative emotions. Moreover, it led to overeating unhealthy foods. In another situation, participants were given cash to spend or keep. Those who earlier had used self-control to suppress unwanted thoughts later spent more money and reported stronger desires to spend all the newfound cash. The depletion of self-control ability led to unwise spending. Both examples suggest a vicious cycle: Overcoming urges and making decisions can deplete mental resources, which in turn can lead to problematic behaviors. Because the poor must overcome more urges and make difficult decisions more often than others, they are more likely to overeat, overspend, and enact other problematic behaviors.


Self-control may be the greatest human strength because it is involved in the ability to make wise choices. Several studies have found that after using self-control (and thus reducing the resource), decision-making patterns shift toward favoring intuitive over reasoned options... These findings suggest that decisions requiring many trade-offs, which are common in poverty, render subsequent decisions prone to favoring impulsive, intuitive, and often regrettable options...


The limited-resource model of self-control points to the following state of affairs for people in poverty. Resisting urges and controlling one's behavior drains self-control resources. The poor must resist and control more than others because they have less money, food, and expendable time. Such limited supplies demand trade-offs, and hence many decisions. And, there is a snowballing, adverse effect of engaging in self-control on subsequent self-control capacity. Altogether, these processes spell a dwindling supply of self-control with few chances to recover.


Governments and organizations must recognize that the lives of the poor are filled with land mines of desire, trade-offs, and self-control dilemmas. Paring down the sheer volume of decisions that the poor must make—perhaps through defaults—and allowing others to share in the decision-making process could help... 


Perspective article, above:

Original article, below:

Poverty Impedes Cognitive Function - Mani &al (2013) - Science 


The poor often behave in less capable ways, which can further perpetuate poverty. We hypothesize that poverty directly impedes cognitive function and present two studies that test this hypothesis. First, we experimentally induced thoughts about finances and found that this reduces cognitive performance among poor but not in well-off participants. Second, we examined the cognitive function of farmers over the planting cycle. We found that the same farmer shows diminished cognitive performance before harvest, when poor, as compared with after harvest, when rich. This cannot be explained by differences in time available, nutrition, or work effort. Nor can it be explained with stress: Although farmers do show more stress before harvest, that does not account for diminished cognitive performance. Instead, it appears that poverty itself reduces cognitive capacity. We suggest that this is because poverty-related concerns consume mental resources, leaving less for other tasks. These data provide a previously unexamined perspective and help explain a spectrum of behaviors among the poor. We discuss some implications for poverty policy.


Alexander J. Stein's insight:

A very insightful article. 


This also reminded me of another recent paper in Science: "Poor individuals often engage in behaviors, such as excessive borrowing, that reinforce the conditions of poverty... We instead consider how certain behaviors stem simply from having less. We suggest that scarcity changes how people allocate attention: It leads them to engage more deeply in some problems while neglecting others. Across several experiments, we show that scarcity leads to attentional shifts that can help to explain behaviors such as overborrowing. We discuss how this mechanism might also explain other puzzles of poverty."

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Rethinking the Measurement of Undernutrition in a Broader Health Context: Should We Look at Possible Causes or Actual Effects? - Stein (2014) - Global Food Security

Rethinking the Measurement of Undernutrition in a Broader Health Context: Should We Look at Possible Causes or Actual Effects? - Stein (2014) - Global Food Security | Food Policy |

When measuring food and nutrition security, focusing on proxy indicators such as food availability, or on selected head count figures such as stunting rates, gives an incomplete picture. Outcome-based global burden of disease (GBD) studies offer an alternative for monitoring the burden of chronic and hidden hunger. Judging by this measure, the international goal of halving global hunger between 1990 and 2015 has already been achieved.


Disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) that are used as metric in GBD studies can be converted into more easily understood monetary terms. The resulting estimate of the annual cost of global hunger of up to 1.9 trillion international dollars may be better suited to illustrate the magnitude of the remaining problem...


It is pertinent to recall why we are concerned about hunger and malnutrition: because of the negative consequences it has for people’s health and well-being. Food and nutrition insecurity is usually defined in terms of what determines hunger... However, to measure hunger... the outcome of food and nutrition insecurity, i.e. the burden of disease that is caused by hunger, should be used...


One challenge when trying to measure health outcomes of undernutrition is the multitude of adverse health consequences that can be attributed to hunger, in particular to micronutrient deficiencies... Therefore the question is whether health can be measured in a consistent way across such diverse outcomes. To make the burden imposed by different health outcomes comparable... the World Bank introduced the concept of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs)...


The WHO used DALYs to quantify the global burden of disease (GBD), for which it reported results at the country level and for a range of health outcomes. Based on these readily available data, DALYs can be used to quantify the global burden of hunger... A more recent GBD study... represents an improvement since it covers more causes and risk factors of poor nutrition... per year more than 160 million DALYs are lost due to hunger, which is more than 6 percent of the total burden of disease...


While... using DALYs to measure hunger is a better approach... one challenge for the use of DALYs is their abstractness: what exactly is a “disability-adjusted life year”? ... One way of illustrating the magnitude of the burden of hunger is to express it in money... While there are obvious problems with the monetization of social costs... it offers a coherent framework that permits conducting the kind of broad analyses and comparisons that are needed to guide policy making...


Using this approach produces an estimate for the global cost of hunger of Int$1.9 trillion per year, or 2.4 percent of world income. One indication that the global cost of hunger falls indeed into the trillion-dollar range is the estimate for the worldwide cost of undernutrition of US$1.4 trillion to US$2.1 trillion that the FAO gives... using a very different approach...


The “cost” of hunger is an opportunity cost, i.e. it provides an estimate for the additional annual national income that society foregoes by not solving undernutrition... One estimate of the costs that would have to be incurred to reach more than 80 percent of the world’s undernourished children with key nutrition interventions suggests this could be as (relatively) little as $10 billion a year, i.e. only one-hundredth of the current cost of hunger...


It is interesting to compare the estimate of the number of hungry people with that of the number of DALYs lost due to hunger over time. Judging by the FAO’s indicator, the achievement of MDG 1 is not very likely. However, if the objective was indeed more generally to “reduce hunger by half”, this has already been achieved – if hunger is measured using DALYs... in 1990 the burden of hunger was 320 million DALYs lost, but by 2010 this burden had already shrunk by half to 160 million DALYs lost...


The discrepancy in the assessment of the development of global hunger if based on food availability versus actual health outcomes might be surprising, but as... discussed above, food availability is but one determinant of (or input into) hunger, whereas DALYs measure the outcome of hunger that results from all inputs combined. In this case – in the presence of other, uncorrelated inputs into hunger that change over time – an indicator that monitors only one input is bound to show a different development than an indicator that measures the final outcome...


Not least in light of the discussion of the post-2015 development agenda... it is important that agreed-upon targets can be operationalized based on indicators that allow precise monitoring of progress… Stakeholders in food and nutrition security need to be aware of the advantages of outcome-based measures like DALYs... those working on GBD studies should pay more attention to undernutrition and to related health risks, and more frequent updates of the GBD or relevant subsets could further increase the usefulness of DALYs...


Using DALYs to quantify the burden of hunger has shown that the international efforts to improve global welfare are bearing fruit and that progress in the fight against undernutrition has been more rapid than is generally believed. Still, the problem of global hunger remains unresolved, and its magnitude becomes especially apparent when approximated in more familiar monetary terms. With more detailed, country-level DALYs data becoming available, further research can determine in which countries and for which nutrition-related health outcomes the biggest reductions in the burden of hunger have been achieved – and it can help explain why...


Original article:


Audio-slides, 4 min.:


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The Long-run Effects of Agricultural Productivity on Conflict, 1400-1900 - NBER (2017) 

This paper provides evidence of the long-run effects of a permanent increase in agricultural productivity on conflict. We construct a... dataset of battles in Europe, the Near East and North Africa covering the period between 1400 and 1900 CE. 

For variation in permanent improvements in agricultural productivity, we exploit the introduction of potatoes from the Americas to the Old World after the Columbian Exchange. 

We find that the introduction of potatoes permanently reduced conflict for roughly two centuries. The results are driven by a reduction in civil conflicts.

Alexander J. Stein's insight:
Potatoes for peace.
The power of agriculture.
Aliens end conflict. 
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Approaches to reduce zinc and iron deficits in food systems - Global Food Sec (2017) 

Approaches to reduce zinc and iron deficits in food systems - Global Food Sec (2017)  | Food Policy |

There is a deficit of mineral micronutrients in global food systems, known as ‘hidden hunger’, especially in the global south. 

This review focuses on zinc (Zn) and iron (Fe), whose entry into food systems depends primarily on soil and crop factors. 

Approaches to increase dietary supplies of Zn and Fe include: (1) supplementation, (2) food fortification, (3) dietary diversification, and (4) crop biofortification, including breeding and fertilizer-based approaches. 

Supply-based estimates indicate that Zn deficiency might be more widespread than Fe deficiency in sub-Saharan Africa, although there are major knowledge gaps at an individual biomarker level... 

Analytical advances, including the use of stable isotopes of Zn and Fe... have considerable potential applications in wider food systems studies to quantify flows within the system and to increase understanding of crucial processes and mechanisms contributing to their bioavailability... 

Help to reduce the immense human cost of ‘hidden hunger’.

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Let food be thy medicine: linking local food and health systems to address the full spectrum of malnutrition in low-income and middle-income countries - BMJ Global Health (2017) 

Advancing universal health coverage and improving health system quality are among the most important issues faced by those engaged in global health today.

The critical role played by a healthy food system in disease prevention and treatment is overlooked in discussions of health system reform, especially in low-income and middle-income countries.

Forming strong links between local food and health systems may be an important point of intervention for addressing both ends of the malnutrition spectrum...

We highlight the potential for healthcare institutions to improve access to and adoption of healthy diets beyond providing nutrition counselling in order to address the full spectrum of malnutrition in low-income and middle-income countries [LMICs]... 

In many LMICs struggling to address the full spectrum of malnutrition, from undernutrition to obesity and nutrition-related non-communicable diseases, the underlying problem is not one of caloric insufficiency, but rather one of poor diet quality...

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Getting a better handle on methane emissions from livestock - ACS (2017) 

Getting a better handle on methane emissions from livestock - ACS (2017)  | Food Policy |

Cattle, swine and poultry contribute a hefty portion to the average American’s diet, but raising all this livestock comes at a cost to the environment: The industry produces a lot of methane, a potent greenhouse gas... 

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the livestock industry is the second-biggest methane emitter in the U.S. The gas comes from the microbial fermentation that occurs in the animals’ stomachs... The total amount depends on the type of animal, what the animals eat and how their manure is stored. For example, cattle that mostly consume grain-based feed release significantly less enteric methane than cattle that graze on pasture. 

But current estimates of total livestock methane emissions may rely on outdated emission factors and do not fully consider feed intake and differences in animal diets, or the facilities used to store manure. These data gaps lead to large uncertainties in methane emission figures. To better understand livestock contributions to these emissions in the U.S., Alexander Hristov and colleagues sought to fill in the missing data gaps.

The team analyzed the feed intake data for cattle, as well as manure storage practices for cattle, pigs and poultry, at the county and state levels in the contiguous U.S. Their resulting estimates for methane emissions by location varied widely... For example... the combined enteric and manure methane emissions from livestock in Texas and California were 36 percent less and 100 percent greater, respectively, than estimates by EDGAR... Results from studies that use inaccurate distribution inventories to determine emissions sources should be cautiously interpreted.

Underlying study:

Alexander J. Stein's insight:
... but what is probably safe to say is that a meat-based diet contributes more to greenhouse gas emissions than a plant-based diet. (Or that a diet rich in meat contributes more than a more moderate diet...) 
AckerbauHalle's curator insight, November 30, 11:50 PM
Stimmen die Emissionsfaktoren bei der Tierhaltung? Hier neue Werte der EPA. 
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To ensure better nutrition for children and their mothers, we need the right data - Trust (2017) 

To ensure better nutrition for children and their mothers, we need the right data - Trust (2017)  | Food Policy |

Africa is facing a classic problem in global health - when your resources are limited, what do you address first, the crisis or the incomplete data that tells you about the crisis? If our children are our future, then our future is getting short shrift... Almost one out of every three children under the age of 5 in Africa is not getting the right kinds of food and care to help them grow to their full potential.

Africa is the only region in the world where the numbers of stunted children are rising, from 50 million in 2000 to 59 million in 2016... African kids should have better odds of being healthy. Another worrisome part of this picture is that it’s largely being painted with old data. The ‘current’ nutrition data set for 19 African countries dates from 2012 or earlier. For two of these countries, the most recent national surveys were carried out before 2000. Most countries also don’t actively track the nutrition of infants, young children, and their mothers.

This brings us with to a classic problem in global health – when your resources are limited, what do you address first, the crisis or the incomplete data that tells you about the crisis?

Burkina Faso... worked with donor partners to survey its population on child nutrition nine times between 2000 and 2015. The initial results were unsettling, but the investment in detailing the problems led to additional collaborations and direct interventions... As a result, the progress could be measured: the prevalence of children under the age of 5 whose growth was stunted due to malnutrition dropped from 42 percent in 2006 to 27 percent in 2016... 

There are platforms and systems that can capture these recordings and pass them along for epidemiological surveys. For example, WHO and UNICEF have a joint reporting process to capture data on child immunization. And routine immunizations now include height and weight measurements. If the vaccines are noted, the growth data should also be added.

If this data can be captured, it can be harnessed to serve a wide range of needs... 

Capturing this data does not involve complex computer networks anymore. Today, data can be captured on tablets, smart phones, or even through text messages on flip phones. Health ministries have a variety of systems they can tap to collect and process the raw data. These systems have been used in a wide variety of settings within and beyond public health... 

WHO member states in 2012 agreed to six global nutrition targets to achieve by 2025. In agreeing to these targets, governments also agreed to report to the World Health Assembly and be held accountable... Now is the time to fortify this political will and invest in the required data systems.

If nearly one out of every three children is malnourished to the point where they are not growing properly, it really shouldn’t take complex technologies to locate them. But the right data can help ensure we implement policies that will to stop this tragedy in its tracks.

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Biofortification: A review of ex-ante models - Global Food Sec (2017) 

Biofortification: A review of ex-ante models - Global Food Sec (2017)  | Food Policy |

Biofortification is the development of food crops with higher micronutrient levels. Considerable progress has been made for biofortification over the last two decades. Biofortification typically involves using conventional breeding to select for nutrition-related traits that will increase the crop's micronutrient content. However, biofortification also includes transgenic methods, in which genes are transferred from one species to another to increase micronutrient content. The development of Golden Rice containing provitamin A (pVA) is an example. Finally, agronomic biofortification can also be achieved through foliar and soil application of micronutrient-containing fertilizers that result in increased nutrient uptake by the plant.

To date, several efficacy and impact studies have shown that biofortification can have a nutritional impact  However... determining biofortification's full impact on the prevalence of inadequate micronutrient intake and related disease burden at scale can only be estimated using ex-ante simulation models. These studies utilize a host of factors to estimate biofortification's impact, which is typically estimated as the reduction in the prevalence of inadequate micronutrient intake or the number of Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) saved. However, these studies vary in approach based on the specific focus of the analysis employed.

While all existing studies are important, understanding the results across studies can be confusing if they are not interpreted in the proper context. Therefore, this review of the existing literature on ex-ante biofortification models of nutritional impact had several objectives: 1) to categorize existing studies based on methodological approaches... and to discuss the strengths and limitations of each category; 2) to summarize the important results both within and across categories ... 3) to draw conclusions about the state of the evidence to date... and 4) to make recommendations regarding future methods and areas of examination... 

Biofortification is expected to benefit particularly poor farmers in rural areas. To date, the number of studies examining the difference in impacts and risks between these areas and income groups is limited; however, the studies that have examined these differences have generally found that biofortification is safe and will have a greater impact on reducing the prevalence of inadequate intakes among children and women in rural areas and that the benefits will be directed more toward lower income groups. However, more research is clearly needed to better understand these differences, risks and impacts among these groups.

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To address hunger effectively, first check the weather, says new study - U Vermont (2017) 

To address hunger effectively, first check the weather, says new study - U Vermont (2017)  | Food Policy |

Too little rain, or too much, is often a driver of poverty and hunger, leading to poor nutrition and food insecurity among vulnerable populations... rainfall patterns also provide clues on how to most effectively alleviate food insecurity.

The study... is the first to analyze on a large scale the relationship between food insecurity among smallholder farms in Africa and Asia, rainfall patterns and a range of interventions – from agricultural inputs to agricultural practices to financial supports – designed address the issue.

Smallholder farms are small farms with limited resources that depend on the family for labor and on the operation's crops for food or income. There are an estimated 460 to 500 million smallholder farms in the world, who grow 80 percent of the food consumed in low income countries.

The study examined the experiences of nearly 2,000 smallholder farms in 12 countries in West Africa, East Africa and Asia.

"The big picture is that one strategy is unlikely to work everywhere... Understanding the climate context is important in determining what interventions may be most effective"... 

Farms in the study were grouped into three categories: those that received less than average rainfall in a given year compared to the past, those that received average rainfall and those that received more than average.

The drier farms experienced more food insecurity... the average farms less... and the wetter farms still less... as would be expected. But all experienced significant food insecurity. "The study reaffirms what we know: that food insecurity is a widespread problem in these areas"... 

Whether various interventions were correlated with better food security was statistically linked with the amount of rain the farms had received in the previous year...  

For farms with drier than average conditions, financial supports – cash from other businesses, loans or cash gifts – were more frequently correlated with improved food security.

For wetter farms, agricultural inputs and practices – including the use of pesticides, fertilizer, veterinary medicines, and livestock – were most correlated with an increase in food security. For farms with average rainfall, both strategies appeared to be effective.

"Water is a fundamentally limiting factor... If you don't have it, then agricultural inputs likely don't matter. What you need, at least in the short term, is cash."

The availability of fertilizer was the one constant that helped farms reduce food insecurity, regardless of the amount of rain they received...  

The study is both an endorsement of the micro-financing strategies that have been put in place to help farms in Africa and Asia and a cautionary tale that they might not universally be critical for smallholder farms experiencing food insecurity.

"We don't see an effect that financial strategies in wetter than average households make a difference in the short-term... But these financial strategies seem to be especially important when drought or reduced rainfall impacts crop production and income sources."

The issue of what works and what doesn't is particularly significant because of climate change... "The majority of smallholder farms rely on rain-fed agriculture, so they are vulnerable to climate change, which is slated to likely increase rainfall variability... Absent appropriate interventions, these future conditions may worsen food insecurity"...

Underlying study:

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How Do African Farm Households Respond to Changes in Current and Past Weather Patterns? A Structural Panel Data Analysis from Malawi - AJAE (2017) 

How Do African Farm Households Respond to Changes in Current and Past Weather Patterns? A Structural Panel Data Analysis from Malawi - AJAE (2017)  | Food Policy |

We... [analyse] the response of smallholder farm households to current and past weather patterns, and the subsequent impacts on household net income. We also quantify heterogeneity among households along the wealth spectrum regarding their ability to adapt to evolving weather patterns... 

Adverse weather history prompts households to devote more time to maize cultivation on their own farms, to the detriment of other, possibly more remunerative income sources. Households also reduce application of productivity-enhancing inputs, such as fertilizer and improved maize varieties... By maintaining a more diversified income structure, wealthier households are better able to adapt to adverse weather history... 

Adverse changes in past weather may be regressive in nature, creating a “climate-induced” poverty trap that locks poor smallholder households into low-value maize cultivation from season to season... Developing more weather-resilient maize varieties and promoting smallholder livelihood diversification strategies may help mitigate the effects of adverse weather on the most vulnerable households.

Alexander J. Stein's insight:
Plant breeding, more modern inputs and diversification may help farmers cope better with climate change... 
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Crops that feed the world: Production and improvement of cassava for food, feed, and industrial uses - Food Sec (2017) 

Crops that feed the world: Production and improvement of cassava for food, feed, and industrial uses - Food Sec (2017)  | Food Policy |

Cassava is one of the oldest root and tuber crops, used by humans to produce food, feed and beverages. Currently, cassava is produced in more than 100 countries and fulfils the daily caloric demands of millions of people living in tropical America, Africa, and Asia. Its importance as a food security crop is high in Western, Central and Eastern Africa due to its ability to produce reasonable yields (~10 t/ha) in poor soils and with minimal inputs. Traditionally a famine reserve and a subsistence crop, the status of cassava is now evolving fast as a cash crop and as raw material in the production of starch (and starch based products), energy (bio-ethanol) and livestock feed in the major producing countries. Cassava leaves, which are rich in protein and beta-carotenoids, are also used as a vegetable and forage (fresh or dehydrated meal) in various parts of the world. 

In recent years, some of the problems in the production of cassava have been increasing infection with cassava mosaic disease (CMD), cassava brown streak disease (CBSD) and cassava bacterial blight (CBB). Inherent post-harvest physiological disorder (PPD) and cyanogenic glycosides (CG) are some of the most prominent challenges for scientists, producers and consumers in the post-production systems. Collaborative research in participatory plant breeding is ongoing at leading international research institutes... to improve crop resistance to virus diseases, reduce PPD and CG, and improve the overall nutritional characteristics. Further research should also focus on post-production systems by developing enhanced storage and transportation techniques, mechanisation (peeling, size reduction, drying and dewatering) and improved packaging. Moreover, a robust national policy, market development, and dissemination and extension program are required to realise the full potential of innovations and technologies in cassava production and processing.

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Opportunities and hurdles of edible insects for food and feed - Nutr Bull (2017) 

Opportunities and hurdles of edible insects for food and feed - Nutr Bull (2017)  | Food Policy |

Entomophagy, the consumption of insects, is promoted as an alternative sustainable source of protein for humans and animals. Seminal literature highlights predominantly the benefits, but with limited empirical support and evaluation. We highlight the historical significance of entomophagy by humans and key opportunities and hurdles identified by research to date, paying particular attention to research gaps. 

It is known that insects present a nutritional opportunity, being generally high in protein and key micronutrients, but it is unclear how their nutritional quality is influenced by what they are fed. Research indicates that, in ideal conditions, insects have a smaller environmental impact than more traditional Western forms of animal protein; less known is how to scale up insect production while maintaining these environmental benefits. 

Studies overall show that insects could make valuable economic and nutritional contributions to the food or feed systems, but there are no clear regulations in place to bring insects into such supply systems. Future research needs to examine how the nutritional value of insects can be managed systematically, establish clear processing and storage methodology, define rearing practices and implement regulations with regard to food and feed safety. 

Each of these aspects should be considered within the specifics of concrete supply and value chains, depending on whether insects are intended for food or for feed, to ensure insects are a sound economic, nutritional and sustainable protein alternative – not just a more expensive version of poultry for food, or soya for feed.

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WHO To Farmers: Stop Giving Your Animals So Many Antibiotics - NPR (2017) 

WHO To Farmers: Stop Giving Your Animals So Many Antibiotics - NPR (2017)  | Food Policy |

The World Health Organization, worried about an increasing epidemic of drug-resistant infections, has thrown its considerable weight behind the campaign to cut the use of antibiotics in pigs, chickens and cattle that are raised for their meat. The WHO is calling on governments to follow the example of Denmark and the Netherlands, which have banned the use of these drugs to make animals grow faster, or simply to protect healthy animals... 

The "over-use and misuse of antimicrobials" has occurred both in human medicine and on farms... But in sheer quantity, the amount of antibiotics used on farms far exceeds what's used to treat people... "It's very important that we reduce use in human medicine and in animal production"... 

The WHO has now issued... guidelines for how these drugs should be used on farms: ... antibiotics cannot be used to promote faster growth or merely to prevent disease in healthy animals. The WHO called on veterinarians to avoid the use of antibiotics that are most critical in human health. The agency also wants governments to ban the use in animals of any new antibiotics that scientists may discover... 

These guidelines are stricter than current policies in the US... it still allows veterinarians to prescribe these drugs for the purpose of disease prevention. The greatest impact of the new guidelines, however, may be felt in countries like China, home to more than half of the world's pigs, where antibiotics have been used even more heavily than in the US... 

Policies in China are changing, however. The Chinese government is starting to require that some antibiotics only be used in animals if prescribed by a veterinarian. In addition, some Western food companies are pushing their Chinese suppliers to reduce or even eliminate antibiotic use. McDonald's, for example, has promised to buy only chickens from suppliers that have stopped using drugs that are most important in human medicine... 

The effects of overusing antibiotics don't stop at national borders, because drug-resistant bacteria can spread around the globe, compromising the ability of drugs to fight infections. "Antimicrobials are a global public good, and we all should be working together to preserve them"... Public health advocates in the U.S. praised the WHO's new guidelines...

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Social Protection, Food Security, and Asset Formation - World Dev (2017) 

Social Protection, Food Security, and Asset Formation - World Dev (2017)  | Food Policy |

The last two decades have seen a rapid rise in social protection programs and studies that assess their impacts on a large number of domains. We construct a new database of studies of these programs that report impacts on food security outcomes and asset formation. 

Our meta-analysis finds that social protection programs improve both the quantity and quality of food consumed by beneficiaries. The magnitudes of these effect sizes are meaningful. The average social protection program increases the value of food consumed/expenditure by 13% and caloric acquisition by 8%. 

Food expenditure rises faster than caloric acquisition because households use transfers to improve the quality of their diet, most notably increasing their consumption of calories from animal source foods. Since the consumption of animal source foods in these populations is low, and because there are significant nutritional benefits to increasing the consumption of these, this is a positive outcome. 

Our meta-analysis also finds that social protection programs lead to increased asset holdings as measured by livestock, non-farm productive assets, farm productive assets, and savings. There is no impact on land holdings though the number of studies that assess these is small.

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Europe will need to change its diet to address climate change and health - EASAC (2017) 

Europe will need to change its diet to address climate change and health - EASAC (2017)  | Food Policy |

Scientists from national academies across Europe are calling for urgent action on food and nutrition in a new rigorous and independent report... by the European Academies' Science Advisory Council (EASAC). This thorough analysis has implications for policy-makers working on food, nutrition, health, the environment, climate change, and agriculture. 

Combating malnutrition in all its forms – undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies as well as overweight and obesity – is a problem faced by all countries. Research and innovation will be central to finding solutions to these local-global and multidisciplinary, interconnected challenges. Evidence must underpin the policies that deliver Europe's future approach to these issues. 

The report recommends being more ambitious in identifying and using scientific opportunities: how the current evidence base can shape understanding of both supply- and demand-side challenges, and how the research agenda should be defined, including basic research, to fill knowledge gaps. 

Climate change will have negative impacts on food systems, necessitating the introduction of climate-smart agriculture such as the adoption of plant breeding innovations to cope with drought. Agriculture and current diets also contribute substantially to climate change. 

Mitigating this contribution depends on climate-smart food systems such as land-sparing and agronomic management practices together with efforts to influence consumer behaviours associated with excessive agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, including the overconsumption of calories and meat. Changing dietary consumption could bring co-benefits to health and to climate change.

Top line findings by the panel of scientists include: 

Food consumption will need to change to improve consumer health:

- For both human health and the environment, food consumption patterns will need to change...  

- a decrease in the consumption of animal protein could be important for both health and the environment. 

- ... tackle the perverse price incentives to consume high-calorie diets and to introduce new incentives for affordable nutrition. 

- More clarity is needed about how to measure sustainability related to consumption of healthy diets. 

- Sources of food contamination must be characterized and tackled to reduce food safety concerns. 

- European countries must commit to collection of more robust data on the extent of waste... Novel approaches to processing food and reducing waste will be central... 

Farming and agriculture have significant impacts on human health and the environment: 

- The authors call for a revamp of the Common Agricultural Policy to focus on financing innovation rather than solely subsidies to farmers... Agricultural sciences play a key role in European competitiveness and the bioeconomy... 

- Europe is dependent on food and animal feed imports... increases Europe's footprint... There is much to be done...  

- The role of the livestock sector in greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation is a major issue... Significant adjustments may require changing the demand for livestock products. 

- Alternatives to traditional forms of animal protein... include: food from the oceans, lab-grown meat, and insects. Research is needed on how to increase consumer acceptance... 

- Meat that is cultured in vitro, may have a lower environmental impact than livestock and this potential must also be examined... 

- ... research objectives for the next generation of biofuels include examining the potential of cellulosic raw materials.

- More effort is warranted to understand the functions of soil in carbon sequestration and in biodiversity, and for the bioeconomy.

Europe should not stall on opportunities offered by genome editing, precision agriculture and the use of large data sets: 

- Breakthroughs in genome editing and other genetic research will be crucial to the future of food and agriculture... Capitalise on the scientific advances in genomics for animal health and productivity, and for crops. 

- ... it is important to protect and characterise wild gene pools and to continue sequencing and functional assessment to unveil the potential of genetic resources.

- Precision agriculture offers many opportunities to improve productivity with reduced environmental impact. Large data sets are a vital tool to support innovation...
Underpinning all of the scientists' recommendations is a clear call to integrate research and innovation into all of these topics, where many questions remain from a scientific perspective. An evidence-based food systems approach that integrates all of these issues is recommended. 

Europe must capitalise on opportunities to co-design research across disciplines to understand better the nexus food-water-other ecosystem services and to inform the better coordination of relevant policy instruments, including the Common Agricultural Policy, Water Framework Directive and the Habitats Directive...


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Could consumption of insects, cultured meat or imitation meat reduce global agricultural land use? - Global Food Sec (2017) 

Could consumption of insects, cultured meat or imitation meat reduce global agricultural land use? - Global Food Sec (2017)  | Food Policy |

Animal products, i.e. meat, milk and eggs, provide an important component in global diets, but livestock dominate agricultural land use by area and are a major source of greenhouse gases. Cultural and personal associations with animal product consumption create barriers to moderating consumption, and hence reduced environmental impacts. 

Here we review alternatives to conventional animal products, including cultured meat, imitation meat and insects (i.e. entomophagy), and explore the potential change in global agricultural land requirements associated with each alternative. Stylised transformative consumption scenarios where half of current conventional animal products are substituted to provide at least equal protein and calories are considered. The analysis also considers and compares the agricultural land area given shifts between conventional animal product consumption. 

The results suggest that imitation meat and insects have the highest land use efficiency, but the land use requirements are only slightly greater for eggs and poultry meat. The efficiency of insects and their ability to convert agricultural by-products and food waste into food, suggests further research into insect production is warranted. 

Cultured meat does not appear to offer substantial benefits over poultry meat or eggs, with similar conversion efficiency, but higher direct energy requirements. Comparison with the land use savings from reduced consumer waste, including over-consumption, suggests greater benefits could be achieved from alternative dietary transformations considered. 

We conclude that although a diet with lower rates of animal product consumption is likely to create the greatest reduction in agricultural land, a mix of smaller changes in consumer behaviour, such as replacing beef with chicken, reducing food waste and potentially introducing insects more commonly into diets, would also achieve land savings and a more sustainable food system.


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
Conclusion of the paper: Eating less meat would be best, but as people are what they are, let's try smaller steps... 

What surprises me with all these papers on meat, land-use and greenhouse gas is that they usually ignore that (too much) meat is also bad for people's health and that (especially lots of cheap) meat is bad for animal welfare. 

Quantifying these health and moral costs, which add to the environmental costs, would tilt the balance even further in favour of reduced meat consumption. (Even if people would still be what they are and not change easily.) 
AckerbauHalle's comment, December 9, 4:50 AM
It boils down to the question of a sustainable diet
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Want environmentally friendly beef? United States would have to cut cattle production in half - Science (2017) 

Want environmentally friendly beef? United States would have to cut cattle production in half - Science (2017)  | Food Policy |

Gram for gram, beef costs more to produce – in land, water, and greenhouse gas emissions – than most fruits and vegetables. That’s inspired some environmentally minded scientists to call for a drastic reduction in the number of cattle raised for milk and meat. But it wouldn’t be good to do away with them entirely – they create much of the fertilizer we use, and they consume huge quantities of plant waste, such as corn stalks and distillery grains. 

So what amount of bovines is “just right”? To find out, researchers first imagined a world in which cattle lived only off plant waste and grass – not crops planted specially for them. If the land devoted to growing food for cattle in the United States were used to grow peas, barley, and other crops for people instead, beef production would drop by 55%, from 31 million to 14 million beef cattle... 

To achieve this grass-fed utopia, Americans would need to cut their beef intake by more than half... to about 207 grams. Even at that rate, US beef intake would still be double the global average – on par with South Africa and South Korea.

Underlying study:

Article A model for ‘sustainable’ US beef production... 

In the United States, beef production is the main agricultural resource user... Here, we offer a... definition of ‘sustainable’ beef as that subsisting exclusively on grass and by-products, and quantify its expected US production as a function of pastureland use... 

All of the pastureland that US beef currently use can sustainably deliver ≈45% of current production... The ≈32 million ha of high-quality cropland that beef currently use are reallocated for plant-based food production. These plant items deliver 2- to 20-fold more calories and protein than the replaced beef and increase the delivery of protective nutrients... 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:
In many cases current consumption patterns do not provide enough iodine or fluoride or iron etc., and consumers simply eat fortified food or buy supplements. So why is vitamin B12 considered a problem when it comes to cutting back meat consumption? 

And why is animal welfare absent in these discussions? Having fewer cattle might also bring benefits in this regard – not to mention the benefits a more moderate/sensible meat consumption would bring for people's health and for the public health system... 
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National grain security assurance requirement, ways and countermeasures under concept of "big food" - J Ag Sci Tech (2017)

National grain security assurance requirement, ways and countermeasures under concept of "big food" - J Ag Sci Tech (2017) | Food Policy |

It is always a major event to ensure national grain security for running a country and bringing peace to people. Based on judgment and analysis of food consumption trend, this paper measured the substitution space about the miscellaneous grains of potatoes-cereals, animal product-grain ration, feed forage-feed grain, reasonably. 

On this basis, the paper also forecasted the grain demand in 2020. The result indicated that the requirement for rice, wheat in 2020 would reduce... compared with that in 2014, owing to... food consumption per capita falling [and] consumption of miscellaneous grains of potatoes-cereals increasing. 

Increasing the proportion of fodder grass in feed for herbivore could not only obviously improve the trophic structure, but also save.. maize [and] bean pulp... Grain output could be adjusted... in 2020 by importing soybean, maize and miscellaneous grains... Land could be saved to develop silo corn, pasture or even lie fallow. 

These conclusions could offer important decision-making basis for agricultural supply-side reform.

Alexander J. Stein's insight:
If China in future relies more on imports to ensure its food and feed supply, this has obvious consequences for the rest of the world. 
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Brazilian ethanol can replace 13.7% of world’s crude oil consumption - FAPESP (2017) 

Brazilian ethanol can replace 13.7% of world’s crude oil consumption - FAPESP (2017)  | Food Policy |

Expansion of sugarcane cultivation in Brazil for ethanol production in areas not under environmental protection or reserved for food production could potentially replace up to 13.7% of world crude oil consumption and reduce global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) by as much as 5.6% by 2045... 

The study set out to investigate how expansion of sugarcane ethanol could help limit the rise in average global temperatures to less than 2 °C by reducing CO2 emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels, as agreed by the 196 countries that signed the Paris Climate Agreement...

The researchers used software... to simulate the growth of plants such as sugarcane hour by hour based on soil composition, temperature, rainfall and drought, among other parameters. 

They used three different environmental policy scenarios to simulate sugarcane expansion in the context of climate change projected for 2040 and 2050 by the five main global circulation models.

Under Scenario 1, sugarcane expansion was limited to existing pasturelands that could be replaced with the crop... 

Under Scenario 2, sugarcane production was expanded... also to areas that will not be needed to grow food crops and animal feed, even assuming a rise in demand for food in the coming decades due to population growth.

Scenario 3 was the same except that it included natural and semi-natural vegetation that can be legally converted to cropland.

All three scenarios excluded environmentally sensitive areas such as the Amazon and Pantanal, which cannot be used for agricultural or industrial activities.

The analysis showed that sugarcane cultivation for ethanol production could expand to between 37.5 million and 116 million hectares under the three scenarios and that sugarcane ethanol could supply the equivalent of between 3.6 million and 12.8 million barrels of oil per day in 2045 given the projected climate change, while at the same time ensuring conservation of forests and areas reserved for food production.

As a result, it would be possible to reduce oil consumption by 3.8%-13.7% and net global emissions of CO2 by 1.5%-5.6% by 2045 compared with data for 2014.

“Our findings show it’s possible to reconcile the two key goals to which Brazil committed as part of the Paris accord: conservation of natural environments, especially the Amazon, and increasing use of renewable energy”... 

“The study highlights Brazil’s courage in inventing sugarcane ethanol as a biofuel and implementing it as a nationwide solution... This potential expansion of sugarcane wouldn’t work without integration between the agricultural and industrial segments, and this in turn underscores the importance of concentrating strongly on the science and technology of sugarcane in the coming years. We must complete the job we began, which means second-generation ethanol.”

The authors of the study note that sugarcane ethanol is a near-term scalable solution to the problem of reducing CO2 emissions in the global transportation sector.

Production of fuel ethanol from sugarcane in Brazil is far more efficient than corn ethanol production... Its CO2 emissions correspond to only 14% of oil’s. Moreover, emissions resulting from land-use change to sugarcane cultivation can be offset in just two to eight years.

“Rapid scalability is fundamental: this is what’s needed to accelerate society’s responses to climate change... All the evidence suggests the average global temperature rise will exceed 1.5 °C in 2030. That’s not far off. Brazilian ethanol can be a great help to the planet.”

Underlying study:

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Harvesting the Sun for Power and Produce: Agrophotovoltaics Increases the Land Use Efficiency by over 60 Percent - U Hohenheim (2017) 

Harvesting the Sun for Power and Produce: Agrophotovoltaics Increases the Land Use Efficiency by over 60 Percent - U Hohenheim (2017)  | Food Policy |

Until now, acreage was designated for either photovoltaics or photosynthesis, that is, to generate electricity or grow crops. An agrophotovoltaics (APV) pilot project... now demonstrated that both uses are compatible. Dual use of land is resource efficient, reduces competition for land and additionally opens up a new source of income for farmers. For one year, the largest APV system in Germany is being tested... solar modules for electricity production are installed directly above crops covering an area of one third hectare. Now the first solar harvest of power and produce has been collected on both levels. 

“The project results from the first year are a complete success: The agrophotovoltaic system proved suitable for the practice and costs as much as a small solar roof system. The crop production is sufficiently high and can be profitably sold on the market”... 

“Agrophotovoltaics (APV) has the potential to open up new space that is urgently needed for the PV expansion in Germany. At the same time APV can mitigate the conflicting interests between agriculture and open space PV systems”... 

Winter wheat, potatoes, celeriac and clover grass were the first crops to be tested. The south-west orientation and the extra distance between the five meter high rows of bifacial glass-glass PV modules ensured that the crops were exposed to uniform solar radiation.

The results from the first harvest were, for the most part, promising. “The crop yield of clover grass under the PV array was only 5.3 percent less than the reference plot... The yield losses for potatoes, wheat and celeriac are between 18 to 19 percent and therefore somewhat higher.”

“From the perspective of agricultural science, agrophotovoltaics is a promising solution for increasing both the land use efficiency and the share of renewable energy provided by the agricultural sector”... From an energetic stand point, the dual use principle of agrophotovoltaics is much more efficient than solely planting energy crops, accounting, after all, for 18 percent of agricultural land use in Germany... 

The power production from the experimental field matched well to the daily farm load. About 40 percent of the electricity produced on the farm was used directly to charge the electric vehicles and process the harvested crops. In summer, the load demand could be almost completely met by the photovoltaic system... The surplus PV electricity is fed into... an electric utility company based on 100% renewable energy and a partner in the project...  

The project goal is to develop APV system technology into a market-ready product....

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Rooting for food security in Sub-Saharan Africa - Env Res Letters (2017) 

Rooting for food security in Sub-Saharan Africa - Env Res Letters (2017)  | Food Policy |

There is a persistent narrative about the potential of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) to be a 'grain breadbasket' because of large gaps between current low yields and yield potential with good management, and vast land resources with adequate rainfall. However, rigorous evaluation of the extent to which soils can support high, stable yields has been limited by lack of data on rootable soil depth of sufficient quality and spatial resolution. 

Here we use location-specific climate data, a robust spatial upscaling approach, and crop simulation to assess sensitivity of rainfed maize yields to root-zone water holding capacity. We find that SSA could produce a modest maize surplus but only if rootable soil depths are comparable to that of other major breadbaskets, such as the US Corn Belt and South American Pampas, which is unlikely based on currently available information. 

Otherwise, producing surplus grain for export will depend on expansion of crop area with the challenge of directing this expansion to regions where soil depth and rainfall are supportive of high and consistent yields, and where negative impacts on biodiversity are minimal.


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Are consumers wilfully ignorant about animal welfare? - Animal Welfare (2017) 

Wilful ignorance is a documented human behaviour whereby people deliberately avoid information. Although much work has documented consumer attitudes toward farm animal welfare, few studies have questioned whether people even want to know how farm animals are raised. 

Using an internet survey of 1,000 subjects from the US state of Oklahoma, it is shown that around one-third admit to being wilfully ignorant regarding pork production. One-third also chose to look at a blank screen rather than a picture of how pregnant hogs are housed. Avoidance of guilt is shown to be a motivator for this behaviour.

Alexander J. Stein's insight:
To be empowered and able to make informed decisions, consumers cannot be ignorant (wilfully or not). Perhaps photos at the points of sale or on the packaging would help -- as it's already done for cigarettes in many countries. (Only that smoking is bad for the smokers themselves, whereas eating meat is bad for the animals that are eaten...) 
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Food Security, Malnutrition and the Incidence of poverty in India - IGC (2017) 

Food Security, Malnutrition and the Incidence of poverty in India - IGC (2017)  | Food Policy |

The National Food Security Act (NFSA) in India was passed in 2013 to remove hunger and reduce malnutrition. The Act provides 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population with a minimum entitlement of 5 kilograms of grain per person per month. 

This paper explores the likely effects of the Act on food security and malnutrition. We use data from nationally representative household surveys to examine whether the presence of malnourished children is correlated with household calorie intakes. We find rates of stunting and wasting are only weakly related to calorie consumption. Household and village amenities and parental education are more important predictors of these nutritional indicators. 

We also find that the NFSA grain entitlements are below the current consumption levels of most households and are therefore unlikely to alter consumption by much. 

A fully implemented NFSA can still benefit the poor through the income transfers implicit in food subsidies. These transfers are likely to be more progressive than under the current Public Distribution System, because the NFSA stipulates individual rather than household entitlements and poor households are larger than average.

Alexander J. Stein's insight:
Indeed, nutrition is more than grains... But if the NFSA really is successful in targeting food insecure households, it could be a promising channel to distribute fortified or biofortified cereals. (Even if these cereals will not address all nutrition problems, either, they would provide more than just calories, as they are enriched with micronutrients that are most lacking in the diets of their target populations.) 
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Food security measurement in a global context: The food insecurity experience scale - Measurement

Food security measurement in a global context: The food insecurity experience scale - Measurement | Food Policy |

The ability of households and individuals to access food (one of the key aspects of 'food security') is an important welfare dimension that poses important challenges for objective measurement. This paper describes the Rasch model-based procedures developed to define the eight-item Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) as a contribution towards the establishment of an indicator for global monitoring of food insecurity. 

Experiential food insecurity survey data, collected by FAO from nationally representative samples of the adult population, once every year in 2014, 2015 and 2016 from 153 countries or territories, are used to develop methods to estimate cross-country comparable prevalence rates of moderate and severe food insecurity... 

Validation of the estimates of prevalence of food insecurity at national level was obtained by comparing the FIES-based indicator with other established indicators of social (under) development. National prevalence rates of moderate-or-severe food insecurity obtained by FAO correlate well with the prevalence of undernourishment and with several widely used indicators of national income, health, and well-being... 

Pending broader adoption of the FIES or compatible experience-based food security scales worldwide, countries could choose to use the 2014-16 results obtained using the data collected by FAO as the baseline to monitor progress towards Target 2.1 of the recently established 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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The power of the vegetable patch: How home-grown food helps large rural households achieve economies of scale & escape poverty - Food Pol (2017) 

The power of the vegetable patch: How home-grown food helps large rural households achieve economies of scale & escape poverty - Food Pol (2017)  | Food Policy |

This paper explores how the household’s capacity to grow food impacts their ability to achieve economies of scale in food consumption and how this impacts the geographic distribution of poverty across rural and urban areas. An accurate understanding of consumption economies of scale is vital for comparing poverty levels across households of varying size... 

Such economies of scale exist and... large households tend to consume relatively more home-grown food than smaller households. The magnitude of these scale economies are... larger than those in market purchased food, but smaller than those... in housing expenditure. Consuming more home-grown food is also found to be positively correlated with per-capita calories consumed. 

Taking these effects into account in poverty estimates leads to a 15 per cent decline in the number of household who fall below the poverty line in rural regions.

Alexander J. Stein's insight:
I'm not entirely sure if in-kind consumption can be counted (fully) against the poverty line as it may not reflect the consumers' preferences to the same extent that a freely chosen food basket would. 
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Swapping Where Crops are Grown Could Feed an Extra 825 Million People - Columbia U (2017) 

Swapping Where Crops are Grown Could Feed an Extra 825 Million People - Columbia U (2017)  | Food Policy |

Redrawing the global map of crop distribution on existing farmland could help meet growing demand for food and biofuels in coming decades, while significantly reducing water stress in agricultural areas... “there are a lot of places where there are inefficiencies in water use and nutrient production”... Those inefficiencies could be fixed... by swapping in crops that have greater nutritional quality and lower environmental impact. 

Agricultural demand is forecasted to grow substantially over the next few decades due to population growth, richer diets, and biofuel use. Meanwhile, water stress is expected to worsen with climate change and as global aquifers are rapidly depleted. In an attempt to address these twin challenges, the authors looked at crop water-use models and yield maps for 14 major food crops...   

The researchers chose to focus on 14 crops that make up 72 percent of all crops harvested around the world: groundnut, maize, millet, oil palm, rapeseed, rice, roots, sorghum, soybean, sugar beet, sugarcane, sunflowers, tubers and wheat... The new crop maps... would produce 10 percent more calories and 19 percent more protein – enough to feed an additional 825 million people – while reducing consumption of rainwater by 14 percent and irrigation water by 12 percent.

Globally, such improvements would be achieved by dramatically increasing production of groundnuts, roots, soybeans, sorghum and tubers and decreasing millets, rice, sugar and wheat, which consume more water but have lower calorie and protein yields per hectare. But the specific changes vary widely by country and water use type due to differences in local climate, soil characteristics and crop yields. For instance, rain-fed sorghum, soybeans, tubers and wheat could replace millets, sugar beet and sunflower in western Russia. Irrigated maize, millet, roots and tubers supplanted rice, sorghum and wheat in northern India.

The study identified crop redistributions that would create substantial water savings – at least 20 percent of water demand for agricultural production – for 42 countries, many of which are already under significant water stress... For another 63 countries, most of which rely heavily on food imports to feed themselves, the redistributions would generate a greater than 20 percent rise in either calorie or protein production, increasing food self-sufficiency...  

In recent years, some researchers have advocated meeting rising global crop demand via technology or increasing the use of water and fertilizer. But big technology investments would be out of reach for small rural farmers, and many of the water efficiency methods... – such as increasing irrigation efficiency and planting higher-yielding crops, decreasing animal protein in diets, and minimizing food waste – face significant barriers to implementation...  

The new paper’s crop distribution model would not require massive technology investments. Nor would it result in a loss of crop diversity or soil nutrients, which might otherwise make agriculture more vulnerable to drought, pests and other shocks. Still... the findings are really just a starting point, not a final solution. The research did not take into account potential cultural or political barriers, market supply and demand, dietary preferences or consumption patterns, which would need to be examined in future research. The findings “can be used as one of several tools in making food systems more sustainable”... 

“If we think about the economic, social, and environmental aspects of food security in a particular country and work closely with local decision-makers, we can create solutions tailored to the needs and goals of that country’s people”...

Underlying study:

Alexander J. Stein's insight:
"decreasing... sugar and wheat, which consume more water but have lower calorie and protein yields... did not take into account potential cultural or political barriers, market supply and demand, dietary preferences or consumption patterns" >> When people get richer they tend to consume more rice, wheat and sugar, not less... And those who are already rich are hooked on their junk food (that's often based on sugar and wheat), so changing that might be desirable, but it's certainly not easy. 
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The environmental sustainability of insects as food and feed. A review - Agronomy Sust Dev (2017) 

The environmental sustainability of insects as food and feed. A review - Agronomy Sust Dev (2017)  | Food Policy |

With a growing world population, increasingly demanding consumers, and a limited amount of agricultural land, there is an urgent need to find alternatives to conventional meat products. Livestock production is, moreover, a leading cause of anthropogenic-induced climate change. To mediate this, more sustainable diets are needed, with reduced meat consumption or the use of alternative protein sources. 

Insects are promoted as human food and animal feed worldwide. In tropical countries, edible insects are harvested from nature, but overexploitation, habitat changes, and environmental contamination threaten this food resource. Therefore, sustainable harvesting practices need to be developed and implemented. We provide examples of (1) aquatic insects whose populations are threatened by pollution, (2) caterpillar species in Africa that are disappearing due to overexploitation and habitat change, (3) edible insects species that are considered pests in agro-ecosystems, and (4) edible insect species that can be conserved and enhanced in forest management systems. 

Insect farming can be conducted either on small-scale farms or in large-scale industrialized rearing facilities. We review the environmental sustainability of insect farming compared to livestock production. The major environmental advantages... are... (1) less land and water is required; (2) greenhouse gas emissions are lower; (3) insects have high feed conversion efficiencies; (4) insects can transform low-value organic by-products into high-quality food or feed; and (5) certain insect species can be used as animal feed... they can replace fish meal... 

However, edible insect species intended for production should be screened for risks to humans, animals, plants, and biodiversity.

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