Knowledge for better food systems

Fodder: The FCRN Newsletter

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Network updates

In Fodder this week

Most industrial fishing is done by vessels registered with mid-to-high income countries, even in the national waters of lower-income countries; a paper quantifies six types of environmental impact for three different recommended healthy eating patterns; bees develop a taste for pesticide-laced food over time; and the UK’s Agriculture Bill could see farmers rewarded for managing their land for the benefit of the environment.

Research library

Image: skagman, Modern trawler, Skagen harbour, Denmark, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

The vast majority of industrial fishing (defined as fishing vessels of over 24 metres) is done by vessels that are registered to relatively wealthy countries, according to a recent paper. Vessels registered to high income and upper middle income countries (according to World Bank classifications) accounted for 97% of industrial fishing effort in international waters and 78% of industrial fishing effort in the national waters of poorer countries. China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and Spain together account for most of the fishing effort.

Image: Max Pixel, Cow eating farm, CC0 Public Domain

If the US were to shift to entirely grass-finished beef (vs. grain-finished), then the US cattle population would have to increase by 30% relative to today, because grass-fed cattle gain weight more slowly than those fattened in feedlots. Furthermore, existing pastures would have to become 40%-370% more productive to avoid converting more natural habitat to farmland or competition with human food supply. Methane emissions from the cattle’s digestive systems might increase by 43%, again because of slower growth rates.

Image: Foto-Rabe, Vegetables Mediterranean Herbs, Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons

FCRN member Nicole Tichenor Blackstone of Tufts University has recently authored a paper that compares the environmental impacts of three healthy eating patterns recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The vegetarian eating pattern had lower impacts than the US-style and Mediterranean-style eating patterns in all six impact categories considered.

Image: skeeze, Honeybee flying insect, Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons

When given a choice between food with or without an added neonicotinoid pesticide (thought to be harmful to bees), bees initially show no preference for the pesticide, but over time choose to feed on the pesticide-laced food. This means that pesticide-treated crops may become disproportionately attractive to bees, increasing the bees’ exposure to harmful compounds. The study did not identify the mechanism by which bees develop a preference for the pesticide.

In a write-up of a meeting of its Business Forum, the Food Ethics Council asks whether the concept of “ethical consumerism” is adequate for addressing food system sustainability issues. The report points out that “ethical” can have many different meanings, that businesses can lack a cohesive sustainability strategy if they are too responsive to current trends on consumer concern, that focusing on consumers can neglect systemic problem, and that not all people can afford to prioritise ethical concerns when buying food. The report also offers some recommendations to businesses.

In the latest of its Food Brexit Briefings, the Food Research Collaboration examines how UK food standards may be affected by post-Brexit trade deals - specifically, the case of hormone-treated beef, which is currently permitted in the United States but not in the European Union. The report points out that at least one of the hormones routinely used in US beef production is a cancer risk, and that there is not enough evidence to show that five other hormones are safe to use.

This upcoming book, edited by Atanu Sarkar, Suman Ranjan Sensharma and Gary W. vanLoon, brings together examples of technological solutions and governance frameworks for sustainable food security.

The book “Food Safety Economics - Incentives for a Safer Food Supply”, edited by Tanya Roberts, explores how regulations have affected the economic incentives influencing food safety.

The University of East Anglia’s Global Environmental Justice Group is running a five-week online course on “Environmental Justice”, hosted on the Future Learn website. Several food-relevant topics will be covered, including water justice, forest governance, biodiversity conservation, and climate justice.

The UK government has published its Agriculture Bill, which reforms how farmers will receive subsidies. Under the current system - the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy - the amount of money that farmers receive is linked to the amount of land that they farm. Under the new system, payments will be linked to producing “public goods” such as protecting habitats, reducing flood risk and improving water quality.

Opportunities

Seafish, a UK-based non-departmental public body that aims to improve efficiency and raise standards across the seafood industry, is seeking members for its new Seafish Expert Panel. The aim of the panel is to assist Seafish in commissioning and carrying out research, assist with communicating relevant research findings to the seafood sector, help the industry determine what information it needs, and provide evidence-based advice to inform policy development and decision-making.

Candidates should ideally have expertise in marine science, behavioural science, social responsibility, manufacturing and technology, policy and regulation, business strategy or marketing.

Panel members will receive £250 per day (or £300 for the panel chair) and travel and accommodation costs will be covered.

See here for further details. The deadline is 28 September 2018.

London-based food waste campaign group Feedback is recruiting a finance coordinator to manage accounting systems, timesheets, online banking and budgets. The vacancy is for three days a week with the possibility of overtime in busy periods.

Candidates should have bookkeeping or financial administration experience, intermediate to advanced Excel skills and experience of using Xero.

For more details, see here. The deadline is 5 October 2018.

The Chipotle Aluminaries Project is a business accelerator that aims to help growing food businesses expand further. Successful applicants will take part in a five-day bootcamp in California and receive access to at least six months of mentoring.

The accelerator accepts applications from both for-profit and non-profit startups in the areas of “alternative farming and growing systems, farming and agriculture technology, food waste and recovery, and plant and alternative products”.

For more details, see here. Applications close on 10 October 2018.

Food and beverage entrepreneurs are invited to apply for the North American edition of the Nutrition Greenhouse business accelerator. Successful applicants will receive a $20,000 grant and a six-month programme to grow their businesses.

The programme is particularly interested in applications from “brands that are at the forefront of transformative trends” and focus on consumer health.

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

The UK’s Department for International Development is offering funding for projects that “increase the pace of development and scale of uptake of agricultural and food systems innovation by farmers and food systems actors” in Africa.

Projects must include both a UK partner and a partner from an eligible African country. Different budgets are available to projects at different stages.

For full details, see here. Registration closes on 21 November 2018.

Events

Food writer, journalist and historian Bee Wilson will give a talk on how food likes and dislikes are formed and how they can change, as part of the Centre for Food Policy’s Food Thinkers series. The talk will cover Wilson’s experience with the charity Flavour School, which works with children to help them develop more varied food tastes, particularly for fruit and vegetables.

For full details, see here. Tickets are free, but attendees should register in advance. The seminar is on 26 September 2018 in London.

The vertical farm institute will host the Skyberries Academy on 28 and 29 September 2018. This summer school will provide an overview of the latest developments in vertical farming, covering the topics of food, technology, business and society. The summer school is aimed at professionals in the urban/vertical food production sector.

For more details and to book a ticket, see here.