Knowledge for better food systems

Fodder: The FCRN Newsletter

We send out a weekly newsletter which provides an essential round-up of food sustainability-relevant publications, articles, jobs and events. Sign up to receive it here.

Network updates

Help to build our video library: General overview of food systems challenges

As announced last week, we would appreciate your suggestions for high-quality, evidence-based videos on food sustainability to help build our Foodsource video library.

See which topics we are looking for here and let us know what you think of the proposed topic list. Are the topics too narrow or too broad? Could they be clustered differently?

This week we are particularly interested in videos that give a general overview of food systems challenges. To send video suggestions or simply offer your comments, email Despoina here.

Reminder: Animation of Grazed and Confused?

Speaking of videos, don’t forget to watch our animated summary of our Grazed and Confused? report about the relationship between ruminants and soil carbon sequestration. Our animation is available under a Creative Commons licence for re-use, so do feel free to use it in your presentations, lectures, etc.

Recent blog posts

We’ve released several blog posts in the past few weeks. Here’s a reminder of them:

You can discuss these blog posts in the FCRN’s Google Group - all are welcome to join.

Reminder: The FCRN is hiring a part-time websites manager for our FCRN and Foodsource sites

View the job details here. The deadline for applications is 25 July 2018.

Research library

Image: TeroVesalainen, Grocery store supermarket, Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons

This paper reports on a systematic review of grocery store interventions undertaken to evaluate their effectiveness in changing food purchasing behaviours, and to examine whether this effectiveness varied with intervention components, setting, or socioeconomic status. This is the first paper to synthesise evidence from randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in grocery stores across a wide range of intervention types.

Image: Charles Haynes, Dosa (rice pancake) with a cup of ghee (clarified butter) at Mavalli Tiffin Room in Bangalore, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

FCRN member Dr Rosemary Green of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine has published a paper that calculates the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and water use associated with five dietary patterns in India. As shown below, GHG emissions per capita are highest for the “rice and meat” dietary pattern (at 1.2 tonnes CO2 eq. per year) and lowest for the “wheat, rice and oils” pattern (at 0.8 tonnes CO2 eq. per year). For comparison, per capita dietary GHG emissions in the UK have been estimated at 2.6 tonnes CO2 eq. per year for high meat eaters and 1.1 tonnes CO2 eq. per year for vegans (Scarborough et al., 2014). Water use is highest for the “wheat, rice and oils” pattern and lowest for the “rice and low diversity” pattern.

Image: Claude Covo-Farchi, Mussels at Trouville fish market, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

Our thanks go to FCRN member Emma Garnett for bringing to our attention a recent paper that investigates how land use could change if consumption were to shift away from meat and towards seafood from aquaculture. Aquaculture systems frequently use feed that is made from land-based crops. The paper studied two aquaculture-heavy scenarios (one using only marine aquaculture, and one using the current ratio of marine to freshwater aquaculture) where all additional meat consumption in 2050 (compared to today) is replaced by aquaculture products. Compared to a business-as-usual scenario for 2050, the aquaculture scenarios use around one-fifth less land to produce feed crops, because of the relative efficiency of aquatic organisms (compared to land-based animals) in converting feed into food that can be eaten by humans.

Image: CIAT, A bunch of avocados grown by a smallholder farmer near Palmira, southwestern Colombia, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

Smallholders with farms under two hectares produce 28–31% of all crops and 30–34% of all food supply on 24% of the world’s agricultural land, according to a new paper. This contrasts with common claims that smallholders produce 70–80% of the world’s food. The paper also finds that, relative to larger farms, farms under two hectares have greater crop species diversity, allocate less of their crop outputs towards feed and processing and are important suppliers of fruit, pulses, roots and tubers.

Image: sarangib, Oil Palm Tree, Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons

A recent paper assesses the carbon implications of converting Indonesian rainforests to oil palm monocultures, rubber monocultures or rubber agroforestry systems (known as “jungle rubber”). It finds that carbon losses are greatest from oil palm plantations and lowest from jungle rubber systems, in all cases being mainly from loss of aboveground carbon stocks. The paper points out that, “Thorough assessments of land-use impacts on resources such as biodiversity, nutrients, and water must complement this synthesis on C but are still not available.”

The UK’s Eating Better alliance has published a survey of ready meals in the main UK supermarkets. The briefing reports that only 3% of the 1350 ready meals surveyed were entirely plant-based; vegetarian, plant-based and meat substitute meals altogether made up 14% of the meals surveyed; 77% of the meals contained meat; and 10% contained fish or seafood. Some retailers sell vegan and vegetarian ready meals at a higher price than other meals, most notably Tesco’s Wicked Kitchen vegan range, which is 67% more expensive than Tesco’s regular range. Nearly one third of meat-based meals did not specify the country of origin of the meat, while only three retailers included the meat in their own-brand ready meals under their farm animal welfare policies.

The UK’s Food Research Collaboration initiative has released a briefing paper on the differences in animal welfare standards between the UK and its likely post-Brexit trading partners, such as the fact that antibiotic use in cattle is nine to sixteen times higher in the US than the UK, by weight of cattle. The report points out that welfare standards risk being weakened to help obtain trade deals, and recommends several measures to protect animal welfare after Brexit, including farmer subsidies for higher welfare standards, mandatory labelling to help consumers choose better welfare standards, and using public procurement policies to promote higher welfare.

The UK’s Committee on Climate Change has released its 2018 Progress Report to Parliament on Reducing UK Emissions. Chapter 6 focuses on agriculture and land use, land-use change and forestry. The report finds the UK agricultural emissions were unchanged between 2008 and 2016. In 2017, half of farmers did not think it was important to consider emissions when making decisions about farming practices. The forestry sector’s ability to sequester carbon has levelled off due to the average age of trees increasing relative to the past. Chapter 6 makes only passing reference to demand-side measures for agricultural emissions reductions (see Figure 6.9).

This book, by Klaus Lorenz and Rattan Lal, discusses the present state of knowledge on soil carbon dynamics in different types of agricultural systems, including croplands, grasslands, wetlands and agroforestry systems. It also discusses bioenergy and biochar.

The US divisions of Danone, Mars, Nestle and Unilever have established the new Sustainable Food Policy Alliance, hoping to influence policymakers and regulators in five key areas: product transparency, nutrition, the environment, food safety and a positive workplace for food and agriculture workers. According to the Washington Post, the new alliance supports the reduction of salt in packaged foods and the introduction of “nutrition facts panels” to highlight sugar and calorie information (read more here).

The Centre for Ecoliteracy, a Californian non-profit, has produced a free interactive guide to understanding food and climate change, covering both how climate change affects the food system and how the food system contributes to climate change.

Irish social enterprise foodture has produced a podcast about food citizenship, featuring Anna Cura of the Food Ethics Council. Anna describes the concept of food citizenship as being a mindset where people to think about themselves as engaged citizens, not just consumers, when making food purchase choices.


Figure 1: Photo Credit: Franchise Opportunities, a pet's food and water bowl, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0

In a paper in PLOS One, researcher Gregory Okin suggests that the diets of carnivorous pets, like cats and dogs, have a significant impact on climate change. He estimates that in the U.S. alone, cats and dogs are responsible for 25-30 percent of the environmental impact of meat consumption in the country. In the U.S. there are 163 million cats and dogs, which together eat as much food as all the people in France. Okin found that to feed these animals the US releases 64 million tons of CO2.


The Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition has a vacancy for a policy research officer to collate, analyse and help to synthesise research on the links between agriculture, nutrition and health. Candidates should have a postgraduate degree or equivalent experience in nutrition or food systems, experience of literature searches and research synthesis, and skills in writing, proofreading and fact-checking.

View more details here. The deadline is 27 July 2018.

Startups focused on the “triple bottom line” of people, profit and planet are invited to pitch to an audience of investors, industry leaders, media and entrepreneurs at the FoodBytes! event in New York on 18 October 2018. Startups will have the chance to win awards in several categories and receive one-to-one access to industry experts during a mentor and rehearsal day.

For more details, see here. The application deadline is 12 August 2018.

Roots Education Review, a biannual magazine for botanic garden and museum educators produced by the UK’s Botanic Gardens Conservation International, is inviting contributions on food security. Articles can be case studies, educational resources or profiles of volunteers.

Contributions are particularly welcome from educators and other staff from botanic garden, museums and related organisations about how these institutions are engaging the public with food, where it comes from and how to ensure global access to a sufficient, nutritious and sustainable supply now and in the future.

For more details, see here. The deadline for abstract submission is 15 August 2018.

Green Lab - a London-based workspace for individuals and organisations that are designing sustainable solutions to complex urban food, water and waste challenges - has opened applications for a 12-week research residency for early initiatives and startups. Green Lab is offering workspace, an events space, access to workshops with tools such as 3D printers, and a mentor and investor network.

For more details, see here. The application deadline is 15 August 2018.

The Atkinson Centre for a Sustainable Future at Cornell University has postdoctoral fellowships available for four researchers, to work with an external organisation within the theme of building resilient rural-urban systems. Topics can include increasing food security, reducing climate risks, accelerating energy transitions and achieving both human health and planetary health.

Candidates should have a PhD and propose a project that has the potential to implement sustainable solutions to world needs.

For more details, see here and here (PDF link). Letters of intent are due by 20 August 2018.

The Centre for Regional Studies at Karlstad University, Sweden, has a vacancy for a postdoctoral researcher in regional studies to work with other researchers on several projects around the theme of forest-based bioeconomy (more details on the projects are available here). Job responsibilities will include performing a comparative study of three to four European regions, developing international contacts, writing funding applications and preparing publications.

Candidates should have a PhD and research experience in at least one of the following areas: regional innovation systems, smart specialisation, transition processes and sustainable development, bioeconomy and/or circular economy.

For more details, see here. The application deadline is 31 August 2018.

The UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council has announced a call for funding for interdisciplinary research proposals to address the challenges spanning the agriculture-nutrition-health interfaces relating to food and nutrition research for health in the developing world. The call is funded by the UK government’s Global Challenges Research Fund.

For more details, see here. The application deadline is 11 September 2018.

The UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council has announced a a call for funding for collaborative proposals to address research challenges relating to the sustainable intensification of agricultural systems in developing countries.

The call is funded by the UK government’s Global Challenges Research Fund. Proposals must be led by a UK-based principal investigator, in partnership with co-investigators from a Development Assistance Committee listed country (see the list here).

For more details, see here. The application deadline is 19 September 2018.

The US-based Food for Thought campaign is offering grants of up to $1,000 to support organisations in holding vegan events. $25,000 is available in total.

For more details, see here. No deadline is specified.


Two sessions on “Sustainable food in public catering” will be held on 29 August 2018 at the Royal Geographical Society Annual International Conference, organised by Mark Stein of the University of Salford. Will Nicholson of the FCRN’s Plating up Progress? project will speak during the first session.

For details of speakers and topics, see here for the first session and here for the second session. To attend the sessions, register at the conference as a day delegate or for the full three-day conference. See here for registration details.

The Future Food-Tech summit on 18 and 19 October 2018 in London will bring together global food-tech brands, investors and entrepreneurs who are addressing critical issues facing the food industry. This year’s programme will include events on plant-based and cultured proteins, personalised nutrition, ingredient innovation, gene-editing for health and sustainability, and food waste reduction.

For more details, see here. Early bird registration close on 17 August 2018.

The Our Future Water event on 7 November 2018 in Berlin, Germany, will bring together current and future leaders to discuss the future of water security and water management.

For more details, see here. Early bird ticket sales close on 31 August 2018.