Knowledge for better food systems

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23 September 2020

US retailer Walmart, the world’s largest company by revenue, has announced a goal to become a “regenerative company”. Specific targets include protecting, managing or restoring at least 50 million acres of land (which is equivalent to around 2% of the United States’ land area) and one million square miles of ocean (<1% of the global ocean area) by 2030, and achieving net zero emissions by 2040. The net zero target appears to cover only Walmart’s direct emissions, not food and product supply chain emissions.

9 September 2020

The UK government has proposed a new law that would require large businesses to prove that their supply chains for commodities (including beef, cocoa, palm oil and soya) do not contain products that have been produced on illegally deforested land. The proposals would cover commodities embedded within other products, such as animals fed on soy or palm oil used as an ingredient.

27 August 2020

According to this article from POLITICO, dairy farmers in West Africa are being undercut by exports of “fat-filled milk powder” from the European Union. This product is a blend of dairy whey left over from processes such as butter manufacture and vegetable fats such as palm oil. 

27 August 2020

UK cultured meat startup Higher Steaks has created one of the world’s first lab-grown pork products (Mission Barns claims to have created, but not publicised, a lab-grown bacon prototype in May 2020). The Higher Steaks pork belly is made of 50% cultivated cells, and the bacon product contains 70% cultivated cells, with the remaining material being plant-based.

27 August 2020

Professor Corinna Hawkes, Director of the Centre for Food Policy at City, University of London, has launched a new blog called The Better Food Journey. In this blog post, Hawkes discusses the complexities of regulating the marketing of unhealthy food, noting that without advertising, food companies may instead try to compete by cutting prices or adding sugar. The blog post is topical since in July 2020 the UK government announced new restrictions on the advertising of foods high in fat, sugar and salt.

21 July 2020

FCRN member Allison Gacad has written this article on how epigenetic modification of plants could enhance food security by enabling crops to activate or deactivate certain genes depending on environmental conditions.

14 July 2020

This article by FoodPrint discusses the tension between the purported environmental benefits of kelp farming and consumers’ lack of familiarity with kelp as a food, and describes “regenerative” kelp farming systems that also produce oysters, clams and mussels. It sets out several ways in which kelp can be used, including in foods such as pesto or lasagne, as well as other uses such as bioplastics, fertiliser, biofuel and animal feed.

14 July 2020

This episode of the Nordic Talks podcast series (produced by the Nordic Council of Ministers) discusses how imperfect vegetables are handled in the food industry and asks why the market for "ugly" vegetables is suddenly taking off in Norway and China.

8 July 2020

This BBC story looks at a new initiative to heat greenhouses in East Anglia using waste heat from nearby water treatment plants. According to the story, the technology could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from heating greenhouses as well as reduce reliance on imported produce.

8 July 2020

This piece, part of the Oxford Livestock, Environment and People (LEAP) programme’s Controversies series, explores the arguments and evidence around the environmental impacts of intensive feedlot systems versus extensive grazing systems.

23 June 2020

This podcast by The Institute for Government, a UK think tank, explores how expert advice shapes decisions in government. It uses the COVID-19 pandemic as an example and also refers to other topics such as climate change.

 
17 June 2020

The UK’s Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) reports that its members have distributed 175% more emergency food parcels during April 2020 than during April 2019. The data covers 112 organisations operating 213 independent food banks across the UK. The number of people supported by or referred to these food banks was 132% greater when comparing across the same time periods. 

9 June 2020

This blog post from US think tank The Breakthrough Institute examines uncertainties around the environmental impacts of cultured meat. It points out that estimates of the carbon footprint of cultured meat are highly variable, and that the impacts of switching to cultured meat depend on what it is replacing in the diet (e.g. beef, poultry, plant-based meats or tofu).

9 June 2020

The Global Alliance for the Future of Food held the Salzburg Process on the Climate Emergency and the Future of Food in May 2020. In this blog post, Ruth Richardson (Executive Director of the Global Alliance) reflects on lessons learned from holding the event virtually because of COVID-19, rather than physically as originally planned.

26 May 2020

This opinion piece on The Poultry Site by FCRN member Laura Higham of FAI Farms considers the nature and food systems dimensions of the COVID-19 pandemic and the steps we must take to redefine our relationship with animals and the natural world.

26 May 2020

In this episode of the Futuremakers podcast, Dr Monika Zurek and Dr Jim Woodhill of the Food Systems Group at the University of Oxford's Environmental Change Institute discuss the future of food in the light of population growth, dietary choices and technologies such as lab-grown meat.

26 May 2020

Local authorities in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the COVID-19 virus is thought to have originally started spreading to humans, have announced a ban on eating wild animals along with a ban on hunting wild animals except for scientific research or population regulation. The city will also buy out wild animal breeders. 

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