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: 14 January 2020

In Fodder this week

FCRN member Francesca Harris reviews the water use of dietary patterns around the world; a study assesses synergies and tradeoffs between human nutrition, environmental impact and animal welfare when switching from current diets to nationally recommended diets; replacing some rice production with sorghum and millet could improve nutrient supplies, reduce environmental impacts and improve climate resilience in India; the FCRN’s Tara Garnett was interviewed by ffinlo Costain of Farmwel on the Farm Gate podcast; and George Monbiot argues in a controversial documentary that much of today’s farming will be replaced by fermentation of microbes

Featured FCRN publication

This 2012 report, produced jointly by the FCRN and the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, is based on a two-day workshop that brought together key thinkers from the academic and policy community, and from diverse disciplines, to consider the meanings, issues and challenges around sustainable intensification in general, and particularly in relation to three areas of concern: environmental sustainability, animal welfare and human wellbeing, specifically nutrition.

The role of this report is not to present the ‘last word’ on sustainable intensification but, rather, it maps out some of the conceptual territory that needs to be explored in more detail; seeks to stimulate discussion; and attempts to identify areas where further work is needed.

It is aimed at policy-makers working in areas relevant to food security. While clearly ‘food security’ is about far more than agricultural policy alone, the purpose of this report is to take a small part of the food security puzzle – agricultural policy – and to consider how it intersects with environmental, animal welfare and health policies. Its argument is that agricultural policy, if it is to help rather than hinder the ultimate goal of food security, needs to operate in an integrated manner with these other policy areas. Ultimately, this report argues the case for a more ‘systems’ oriented approach to decision making.

Read the full report here. See also the paper Food security and sustainable intensification by Charles Godfray and Tara Garnett, the paper Sustainable Intensification in Agriculture: Premises and Policies (co-authored by Tara Garnett) and the Foodsource building block What is sustainable intensification?

Research library

Image: Aqua Mechanical, Crop irrigation, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

FCRN member Francesca Harris has co-authored this paper, which systematically reviews the water footprint of different types of diets around the world. The paper distinguishes between the use of blue water (ground and surface) and green water (rain).

This paper assesses how nationally recommended diets across the world compare to average diets in the categories of human nutrition, environmental impacts and animal welfare. It finds that, in most countries, the recommended diets largely out-perform current diets in all three categories because of lower animal product consumption.

Image: Yuvraj Shingate, Dagadi Jowar, Aatpadi (Sorghum bicolor), Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

This paper finds that replacing some rice cultivation in India with other cereals such as sorghum and millet could improve nutrient supply, decrease carbon emissions and water use, and increase the resilience of India’s food system to extreme weather events. 

Image: Adam Clark, Baked doughnuts, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

This review paper argues that obesity and mortality in the United States could be reduced by limiting consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and processed foods and meats, because of the tendency of processed foods to encourage people to eat more food (based on trials in people), and the inflammatory effect of emulsifiers such as carboxymethylcellulose and polysorbate-80 (based on mouse and in vitro studies, not studies in people).

This report from international consultancy SYSTEMIQ sets out how farmers in different regions across Europe can transition profitably to regenerative agricultural practices. It estimates that soil degradation currently costs the European Union €97 billion per year, mostly in damage to human health. 

In this report, the UK’s Sustain alliance describes progress made by six London boroughs in developing Good Food Retail projects (supported by Sustain). Projects included helping convenience stores to offer a greater range of healthy foods, and improving public awareness of and uptake of Healthy Start vouchers.

This report from the UK’s Internet of Food Things Network Plus discusses how digital technologies can help food system actors to collaborate on addressing food system challenges such as traceability, food safety, efficiency, sustainability, health and waste.

This report from FoodPrint, part of the GRACE Communications Foundation, describes the problems associated with plastic, metal and paper/fibre food packaging. It also sets out potential solutions, including reusable food containers, plastics that can be more easily recycled, compostable packaging materials, and bans on certain types of packaging (e.g. plastic straws).

This book explores how people can work with natural landscapes and harvest resources sustainably. Examples in the book include cocoa farming in Ghana, orchards in Kent, palm oil production in Borneo and monocrop cultivation in the UK.

Farmwel chief executive ffinlo Costain has launched a new podcast, Farm Gate, which focuses on practical solutions for climate and food security. The topics covered are relevant for everyone who eats food, but particularly intended for farmers, food chain professionals, and policy-makers. The FCRN’s Tara Garnett was interviewed in the episode Is 'vegan' a dirty word?

In the documentary Apocalypse Cow, environmentalist and writer George Monbiot argues that much of the current farming system (except for fruit and vegetable production) will be replaced by food from microbes, freeing up large areas of land for rewilding and carbon sequestration. He also calls for fruit and vegetable farming to be reformed, e.g. by using deep-rooted cover crops to build soil fertility.


Dutch cultured meat startup Mosa Meat is hiring a technician or junior-level scientist to help select, purify and characterise stem cells from muscle and adipose tissue, to use as starting material for cultured meat production.

Candidates should have a Bachelors or Masters degree in a biological or biomedical subject, including prior laboratory experience, experience with mammalian cell culture and aseptic technique, and be passionate about Mosa Meat’s mission.

Read more here. The deadline is 24 January 2020.

The University of Gloucestershire’s Countryside and Community Research Institute is offering a funded PhD studentship on a project that aims to examine how livestock producers are responding to climate change narratives about meat/emissions, including solutions that the livestock industry have already adopted. The student will be located within DEFRA’s Agri-Food and Farming Evidence team and the research will inform DEFRA’s research and policy programme linked to climate change. 

Candidates should have a background in social sciences, such as rural studies, human geography, sociology, anthropology and environmental management.  

Read more here. The deadline is 7 February 2020.

UK food waste campaign group Feedback is hiring a paid intern to work on local food production at Sutton Community Farm. Candidates should be interested in organic sustainable agriculture and be happy working outdoors.

Feedback particularly invites applications from candidates from under-represented backgrounds, such as people of colour, people from low-income backgrounds, LGTBQIA people or those who are passionate about environmental issues but have not had the chance to study a relevant subject.

Read more here. The deadline is 25 February 2020.

EIT Food has produced the online course “Trust in Our Food: Understanding Food Supply Systems”, which describes the global food system, outlines factors that influence consumer trust, and uses case studies to explore food safety, nutrition, quality, sustainability and ethical production.

Read more here. The course runs from 3 Feb 2020 and will be available for 16 weeks.


At this talk on 22 January 2020, part of the Centre for Food Policy’s Food Thinkers series, Professor Lisa Jack of Portsmouth Business School will discuss practices and attitudes in modern food supply chains, and ask what it would take to fundamentally transform a food system.

Read more here


RMIT University will run a half-day seminar on 24 February 2020 to explore and discuss cost-effective solutions inspired by nature to address societal and environmental challenges. Examples from projects on green infrastructure, food production and housing will be examined at the seminar.

Read more here

At this talk at University Centre Reaseheath on 9 March 2020, Lucy Antal of Feedback Global will argue that the food system needs to be better not bigger, and this can be achieved via circular food economies that revalue food, reduce waste and surplus production and reuse as much as possible. 

Read more here