Knowledge for better food systems

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19 May 2020

This blog post John Lynch of Oxford’s Livestock, Environment and People programme asks whether we can keep farming cows and sheep without dangerously warming the planet. He points out that it is possible to maintain stable temperatures without eliminating methane emissions entirely (in contrast to CO2 where emissions have to fall to net zero to tackle climate change). However, ruminant methane emissions are currently increasing. Furthermore, ruminants use a lot of land, some of which could be used for other purposes that might sequester more carbon.

12 May 2020

This piece from nonprofit food media outlet The Counter explains why some farmers in the US have been dumping surplus food during the COVID-19 pandemic, at the same time that food banks are struggling to source enough food.

12 May 2020

This blog post by Caroline Grunewald of US think tank The Breakthrough Institute argues that a global food system offers greater resilience against local production failures than a local food system, contrary to narratives that the COVID-19 pandemic illustrates the fragile nature of the global food system and that local food systems are more resilient.

5 May 2020

The UK’s Food Ethics Council has published a write-up of its event “#FoodTalks: From emergency to recovery”, which was held on 28 April 2020. The event discussed how the UK’s food system can move towards resilience and fairness during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

5 May 2020

This opinion piece by Liz Specht of the US Good Food Institute argues that taking animals out of the global food system - for example by replacing animal products with plant-based or cultivated meat products - can reduce the risk of future pandemics. Specht notes that zoonotic diseases usually pass to humans during the hunting or slaughter of wild animals or livestock.

29 April 2020

This podcast by the Green Alliance (a UK charity) is an interview with Professor Tim Lang about his new book Feeding Britain. The book was written before the coronavirus crisis, but the interview explores how the crisis is affecting the UK’s food system. The podcast also discusses food rationing, inequality and the links between food policy and the economy, defence, risk, nature and biodiversity.

29 April 2020

This blog post from University of Oslo’s Centre for Development and the Environment argues that the spread of zoonotic diseases cannot be halted simply by closing wet markets (often portrayed in the Western media as the source of viruses). Rather, it argues, deeper changes in the food system are required, since zoonotic diseases have also been linked to deforestation and industrial meat production.

29 April 2020

According to this article in Quartz Africa, a new wave of desert locust swarms is forming in East Africa (including Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia). Wet conditions mean that the locusts are likely to continue to breed. It is feared that many farmers could lose their newly planted crops. Efforts to control the swarms through aerial spraying have been slowed by the coronavirus crisis.

7 April 2020

This blog piece, by anthropologist Sarah Duignan of McMaster University, argues that a risk of cellular agriculture (i.e. lab-grown meat) is that some people may not benefit from the technology (despite its potential environmental benefits). For example, beef farmers may find themselves in similar difficulties to dairy farmers, who are struggling already because of decreased demand. 

7 April 2020

This blog post by John Lynch of the Oxford Livestock, Environment and People programme explains how GWP* can be used to describe the warming effect of both short- and long-lived greenhouse gases, particularly when applied to livestock.

31 March 2020

This blog post from the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition sets out the impacts that COVID-19 is likely to have on the food system in both low- and high-income contexts, including impacts on health, livelihoods and the cost of food transport. It also suggests how the food system can be strengthened to mitigate these challenges. See this table (PDF link) for a summary.

31 March 2020

This blog post from the UK’s Food Ethics Council explores some of the ethical complexities in the food system’s response to COVID-19. It notes that many people are displaying compassion and supporting neighbours during the pandemic. It also argues that other ongoing crises, including climate, nature loss, health and the UK’s post-Brexit trade deal negotiations, must not be neglected.

31 March 2020

This article in the Guardian explores the links between food production and COVID-19. It points out that, while the virus is likely to have been transmitted to humans via a pangolin at a “wet” market in Wuhan, China, the virus may have come to pangolins from wild bats. Some smallholder farmers, the article suggests, began to rear “wild” animals (such as pangolins) for income when their previous livestock farming was undercut economically by industrial farming methods, and may also have been pushed onto marginal land (nearer to forests, bats and the viruses hosted by bats) by industrial agriculture’s expansion.

31 March 2020

According to the Freedom of Information request made by the UK non-profit Sustainable Soils Alliance (SSA), the UK government spent only £283,780 on monitoring soil health in England in the year 2017/18, compared to £60.5 million on monitoring freshwater and £7.7 million on monitoring air.

24 March 2020

This piece in the UK’s Independent newspaper, by several researchers from the University of Oxford, sets out five questions that (they argue) should be considered by any policymaker or business setting a “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions target.

24 March 2020

This podcast by the research programme Praxis: Arts and Humanities for Global Challenges discusses interdisciplinary research, balancing priorities of preserving local food varieties with feeding the population and the future food research agenda.

24 March 2020

UK food waste NGO Feedback has curated a list of recommended reading on how the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis is linked to food systems, including the origins of the pandemic and the effects it is having on food supply chains. 

24 March 2020

In this piece in The Conversation, Tim Lang (Professor of Food Policy at City, University of London) argues that the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis exposes the fragility of the UK’s food supply chain, with limited storage, a just-in-time supply model, and nearly half of the UK’s food being imported. Lang calls for a food rationing system to be introduced to ensure everyone has access to food (read Lang’s letter to the UK Prime Minister here).

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