New Building Block: What is environmental efficiency? And is it sustainable? Last week, we published a new Building Block, which introduces the concept of efficiency and explores its relation to food system sustainability. The concept of efficiency and its relation to food sustainability is defined and valued in different ways. Among those who argue that improved efficiency will lead to greater sustainability, there are different interpretations of what improved efficiency actually means. Others still view the quest for efficiency itself to be problematic and its relationship with sustainability potentially oxymoronic.
In Fodder this week: A randomised controlled trial finds that people eat more and gain weight when they are offered diets heavy in ultra-processed foods, compared to diets based on unprocessed foods. Note that the FCRN will shortly publish a new Building Block on ultra-processed foods.
Meanwhile, the Soil Association calls for state schools in the UK to introduce one meat-free day a week in their canteens, while another paper documents difficulties encountered when the Norwegian Armed Forces attempted to introduce Meatless Mondays, and Eating Better calls for sandwich retailers to offer more vegetarian options and improve the labelling of meat-based sandwiches.
In Fodder this week: Photobioreactors powered by geothermal energy could produce algae for use as animal feed with only a fraction of the land and water use of soybean cultivation - climate mitigation policies must be carefully designed to avoid putting more people at risk of hunger - the UK’s IIED has produced two papers on fisheries, discussing regulation and subsidies - and autonomous weed-removing robotscould reduce the need for herbicides.
In Fodder this week: Agriculture is among the top drivers of accelerating species loss, according to the IPBES report on biodiversity and ecosystems services, which calls for a reformation of the global economy “away from the current limited paradigm of economic growth”. Meanwhile, a paper finds that Coca-Cola reserves the right to prevent publication of the studies it funds if the results are not favourable; and New Zealand introduces a net zero carbon bill with separate targets for reducing agricultural methane emissions.
In Fodder this week: The UK’s Committee on Climate Change has set out a plan for the UK to reach net zero emissions by 2050, arguing that if the plan were replicated across the world we would have a greater than 50% chance of limiting climate change to 1.5°C. The plan would see reductions in both food waste and consumption of beef, lamb and dairy, which would allow one fifth of UK farmland to be converted to tree planting, energy crops and peatland restoration.
In other news, the UK’s parliament has declared a climate and environment emergency, although the motion is not legally binding - tackling the global crisis of antimicrobial resistance requires urgent action across many sectors - the socioeconomic impacts of palm oil plantations in Indonesia vary highly depending on context - and one in five adults in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland experienced some level of food insecurity in 2016.
In Fodder this week: Over 600 scientists, together with Brazilian Indigenous organisations, call for the European Union to integrate environmental and social protections into its trade negotiations with Brazil - a paper reviews the possibility of using cultured insect cells as a food source - consumption of red meat and alcohol is linked to a higher risk of colorectal cancer - illegal dumping of European electronic wasteleads to unsafe levels of toxic chemicals in some free-range eggs in Ghana - and a study argues it is unlikely that global resource use can decline while economic growth continues.
In Fodder this week: Feeding shrimp with plants instead of fishmeal could reduce pressure on marine resources, but the trade-off is greater consumption of freshwater, land and fertiliser - new European Union food labelling regulations could ban vegetarian foods from being described as burgers or steaks - a report calls for the right to food to be integrated into Scottish law - and researchers call for policymakers to support both organic agriculture and improvements in conventional agriculture.
In Fodder this week: A review paper assesses the impacts on productivity and biodiversity of intensification of land use in different types of production systems - reducing meat consumption, shifting to diets rich in offal and reducing waste could all lower the emissions of the German meat supply chain - reforesting pasture land in the UK could contribute to climate mitigation - and a new collaboration on sustainable edible fats and oils is launched.
In Fodder this week: International trade in agricultural commodities drives a significant proportion of emissions from tropical deforestation - the US-China trade war could lead to increased deforestation as other suppliers take on the role of supplying soybeans to China - voluntary agreements between food supply chain actors can be an effective way of reducing food waste - and former FCRN volunteer Milorad Plavsic provides information about funding available through the Global Challenges Research Fund.
In Fodder this week: FCRN members Christian Reynolds, Sarah Bridle and Ximena Schmidt are among the guest editors of a special issue of the journal Sustainability on the topic “Healthy sustainable diets”. View the call for abstracts here.
In other news:
Few UK supermarket chains pay their workers a Living Wage
Strawberries, spinach and kale are sold with particularly high pesticide residue levels in the US
A new paper provides a life cycle assessment of protein products made from black soldier fly larvae
“Traffic light” labelling can encourage consumers to choose meals with lower carbon emissions and lower calorie content.