Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Primary production: Agriculture

Agricultural production sits at the heart of major societal concerns, spanning food security, nutrition and health; livelihoods and development; the environment;and animal ethics. In early history, the farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that allowed for the development of sedentary civilisation. Later, the Green Revolution of the twentieth century allowed for large groups of people, especially in developed countries, to “move off the land” and improved food supplies across much of the world. Yet while innovations in modern agronomy, plant and animal breeding, pesticides and fertilizer use have greatly increased food output, much environmental harm arising from these practices has occurred while concerns are also growing around excess calories and poor nutrition, leading to obesity and associated non communicable diseases as well as micronutrient deficiencies. Many of the 1.3 billion people worldwide who rely directly or indirectly on agriculture for their living face problems arising from imbalanced power structures, including poor working conditions, uncertain land use and tenure, and lack of access to inputs, infrastructure, capital and knowledge; these imbalances play out along the whole of the food value chain, between the genders, within country populations and across countries and regions. As to the environment, agriculture is responsible for some 20% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions of which about half arise directly from crop and livestock production and the other half from agriculturally induced land use change. It is also the main cause of deforestation and biodiversity loss, a major user and polluter of scarce water resources and responsible for the disruption of global nitrogen and phosphorus cycles.

Photo: Marco Verch, Tofu-Würfel mit Soße, Reis und Brechbohnen, Flickr, CC by 2.0
12 December 2017

This piece by the international NGO Futures Centre highlights the emergence of some innovative solutions that could help the transition to a sustainable protein consumption and production system.

Photo: Linda N., New crops, Flickr, CC by 2.0
12 December 2017

Targetting the food-energy-water nexus, this review by FCRN members Eugene Mohareb and Martin Heller and colleagues summarises the energy implications of various types of urban agriculture. The goal of their research is to identify resource efficiency opportunities while increasing urban food production.

12 December 2017

This Research Handbook, edited by Mary Jane Angelo, Fredric G. Levin and Anél Du Plessis, brings together scholars from across disciplines and across the globe (including FCRN member Jonathan Verschuuren) to untangle the climate-food web and critically explore the nexus between climate change, agriculture and law, upon which food security and climate resilient development depends. It is a useful introduction to the research which is being undertaken in the area of climate change and agricultural law.

12 December 2017

This new book, edited by Michel. P. Pimbert, Director at the Center for Agroecology, Water and Resilience in the U.K., critically examines the kinds of knowledge and ways of knowing needed for food sovereignty, agroecology and biocultural diversity.

12 December 2017

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

12 December 2017

The planetary boundaries concept provides a theoretical upper limit on human activity which the planet is able to sustain without major perturbation to the current ‘Earth system’. Previously, nine planetary boundaries (PBs) have been proposed and recently Steffen et al. (2015) have updated these boundary definitions and assessed the current state of the position of human activity with respect to each boundary. In this article, researchers from a number of food, climate change, agricultural and environmental research institutions around the world build on this work by assessing the impact of agriculture on each PB status, based on a detailed literature review of the available research.

Photo: IIP Campaigns and Initiatives, Vertical Farm, flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0
28 November 2017

In this viewpoint piece, researchers from research institutions in Germany and Switzerland assess the validity of arguments used in debates regarding the best approach to sustainable farming. They focus in particular on the relevance of arguments concerning “naturalness” in determining the sustainability of the main proposed approaches.

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Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 20130712-AMS-LSC-0415, Flickr, CC by 2.0
13 November 2017

This paper presents the findings of a food systems model that considers how specific agronomic characteristics of organic agriculture could be harnessed so as to enable it to play a greater role in sustainable food systems.

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