Knowledge for better food systems

Fodder: The FCRN food sustainability newsletter

The FCRN’s weekly newsletter on food sustainability, Fodder, rounds up the latest journal papers, reports, books, jobs, events and more. Sign up to receive it here.

Network updates

From the FCRN: 19 February 2020

In Fodder this week

Human uses of the ocean are growing rapidly and interacting with each other; guidance from WRAP on when to use compostable plastic packaging; Oxford’s Livestock, Environment and People project has published a new series of blog posts exploring controversies in the food system; and Veg Power estimates that its “Eat them to defeat them” advertising campaign persuaded 650,000 children to eat more vegetables.

Featured FCRN publication

This 2014 FCRN report provides a detailed and integrative analysis of the dramatic changes in China’s food system over the last 35 years, and explores the emerging linkages among the environmental, health, economic and cultural trends.

The major changes include:

  • Rapid growth in the livestock, aquaculture, horticulture and food processing sectors
  • Changes in supply chains, including a gradual scaling up of production operations and various forms of horizontal and vertical integration in some supply chains
  • Growth of new forms of food retailing, including the emergence of supermarkets, convenience and fast food catering sectors    
  • Growing imports (notably soy for livestock feed) and horticultural and aquaculture exports, as well as inward investment by overseas manufacturers and retailers and outward investment in food production and processing overseas
  • Driven by rising incomes and urbanisation, diets are becoming more diverse, consumption of animal products and processed foods has risen substantially, and there has been a growth in eating out of the home.

Read the full report here. See also the Foodsource building block What is the nutrition transition?

The FCRN has also summarised the report’s findings in nine China Briefing papers:

Research library

Image: Uwe Kils, Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba), Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

This review paper examines how people are increasingly using the ocean - even previously inaccessible areas - for seafood, animal feed, nutraceuticals (such as omega-3 fatty acids), fuels and minerals, shipping, waste disposal and many other purposes. It argues that the view of the ocean as being too big to be affected by humans is now outdated, and that effective governance is required to manage the ocean’s ecological health while allowing sustainable use of its resources.

Image: PommeGrenade, Cow Grazing, Pixabay, Pixabay Licence

FCRN member ffinlo Costain has published a response to the paper Climate change: ‘no get out of jail free card’ (summarised on the FCRN website here). Costain argues that biological methane emissions - such as those from grazing livestock - can be “warming neutral” as long as they fall by 10% by 2050. Citing Oxford climate scientist Myles Allen, Costain argues that sharply cutting ruminant numbers would only deliver a warming reduction of 0.1ºC at most, which would be outweighed within a few years by continuing carbon dioxide emissions.

UK waste charity WRAP has published guidance on compostable plastic packaging, aimed at retailers and manufacturers. The guidance covers what compostable plastics are, how they might contaminate conventional plastic recycling processes, how to label them appropriately to help people dispose of them, and six applications where compostable plastic packaging is likely to be beneficial within the UK’s current waste management infrastructure.

This report assesses the impact of the UK non-profit Veg Power’s “Eat them to defeat them” advertising campaign, which aimed to persuade children to eat more vegetables. Children who had seen the advertising campaign were more likely to agree with statements such as “Eating vegetables is fun”, “I like vegetables” and “Vegetables can be really tasty” than those who did not see the adverts. An estimated 650,000 children ate more vegetables as a result of the campaign.

This report from Sustainable Diets for All (a programme by Hivos and the International Institute for Environment and Development) documents a food diaries project in East Java that aimed to address the triple burden of malnutrition: co-existing undernutrition, overweight and micronutrient deficiencies.

This textbook uses case studies and models to present an interdisciplinary perspective on the interactions between food, energy and water.

This book explores the many factors influencing how land use decisions are made, including culture, values, ethics, trade, governance and pressure on farmland.

The University of Oxford’s Livestock, Environment and People project has published a new series of blog posts exploring controversies in the food system. The series aims to explore and clarify areas where evidence is unclear.

The UK government’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has published a set of resources on “enabling a natural capital approach” (ENCA) to guide policymakers and decisionmakers. 

This blog post by Shefali Sharma of the Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy says that agriculture and the people whose livelihoods depend on it must be core considerations in international climate negotiations. Sharma argues that proposed solutions such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and carbon credits simply allow existing industries to continue increasing their emissions.

Image: Rika, Iced Gems, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

This article in the Guardian, by food writer Bee Wilson, author of The Way We Eat Now, describes the debate around so-called ultra-processed foods. Wilson describes the classification system for processed foods developed by researcher Carlos Monteiro and the research being done on the health impacts of ultra-processed foods.


The Oxford Martin School Post-Carbon Transition Project is running a competition to identify “Sensitive Intervention Points” - small actions by individuals or groups that can, through reinforcing feedback loops, rapidly lead to social change. Interventions should be able to accelerate action on climate change.

The winner will be awarded a cash prize and the opportunity to present the idea to the project’s advisory board.

Read more here. The deadline is 1 March 2020.

The Future Food Beacon at the University of Nottingham is seeking to hire a postdoctoral research fellow to perform a critical review of oil crop sustainability. Candidates should have a relevant PhD, extensive programming experience in R, Python or Perl, and excellent written communication skills.

Read more here. The deadline is 9 March 2020.

UK NGO Sustain is offering a paid internship on its ‘Food Power’ programme, which addresses food poverty. Part of the internship will be spent with UK food waste campaign group Feedback.

Applicants must be aged 18 to 24 and not currently be enrolled in a university degree. Applicants should be eager to develop skills such as campaigning, organising events, project management and communication.

Read more and apply here. A CV is not required. The deadline is 28 Feb 2020.

The Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security of the University of Edinburgh is offering a PhD position on the competing socio-cultural and environmental narratives around livestock. The project will investigate how an “optimal” livestock future could be defined, and how a transition to this future could be governed and regulated.

Candidates should have a relevant degree, preferably with a social science component, and an interest in food systems and sustainability.

Read more here. The deadline is 20 March 2020.

UK food waste NGO WRAP is offering grants of between £25,000 and £100,000 for projects that help people waste less food. The scheme is open to small or medium size enterprises or not-for-profit and public funded organisations (such as local authorities) in England. 

Read more here. The deadline is 25 March 2020.

UK food waste NGO WRAP is offering grants of between £20,000 and £100,000 for projects that demonstrate the commercial potential of biochemical processing options for high-volume challenging / hard-to-tackle streams of wasted food.

The scheme is open to projects based in England. Projects must be a collaboration between industry and a research organisation such as a university or research institute.

Read more here. The deadline is 26 March 2020.

Two PhD scholarships within a project examining rare breed livestock and poultry farming are available within the Anthropology and Sociology discipline group at the University of Western Australia. Using ethnographic methods, one scholarship will support research into rare breed poultry farming in Australia, while the other will focus on rare and heritage breed beef and dairy cattle.

Read more here. The deadline is 31 March 2020.


This event on 3 March 2020 will explore gender-specific obstacles in the food and farming industries, and how the industries can treat all genders more equally. 

Speakers will include:

Read more here.

This Venture Creation Weekend on 20 to 22 March 2020 at Cambridge Judge Business School will give participants the chance to create, test and validate their venture ideas with industry experts.

The focus of the weekend is on food security, including the following areas:

  • Food biotechnology
  • Big data and artificial intelligence applications
  • Crop management
  • Genetic improvement in livestock
  • Agrigenomics applications (i.e. food safety and conservation)
  • Nutrition
  • Food waste

Read more here.