Knowledge for better food systems

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31 July 2018

Environmental campaigning organisation Feedback have released a new report in which, having examined environmental, economic and safety factors, it lays out the case for lifting the ban on feeding surplus food to pigs in the UK. The report finds that up to 2.5 million tonnes of food waste from the UK manufacturing, retail and catering sectors could be fed safely to pigs, if legalised. The report draws on the work of an expert panel convened by EU REFRESH, who concluded that food waste can be safely fed to pigs if it is heat-treated and processed properly, and conducted in a limited number of well-regulated off-farm processing facilities. The report was featured on BBC1’s Countryfile and in the Times.

31 July 2018

The FAO has released a report on the current state of knowledge on how climate change will affect fisheries and aquaculture, including mitigation and adaptation options. The report finds that “climate change will lead to significant changes in the availability and trade of fish products”. Marine catches could decrease by 2050 in the tropics and rise in some high latitude regions, with a global decrease in Exclusive Economic Zones of 3% to 12%. Inland fisheries in Pakistan, Iraq, Morocco and Spain may come under greater stress, while those in Myanmar, Cambodia, the Congo, the Central African Republic and Colombia may remain under low stress in the future.

31 July 2018

A report by the Food Research Collaboration argues that the sustainability and security of Britain’s food supply would be put at risk by a hard Brexit or a no-deal Brexit, where the UK reverts to trading according to World Trade Organisation rules. The report points out that the UK imports 30% of its food from the EU, plus another 11% via trade deals negotiated between the EU and other countries. The report claims that the government may suspend food regulations if a no-deal Brexit happens, to minimise barriers to importing food. Furthermore, it criticises the UK government for neglecting the importance of retail and food service in the UK food system.

24 July 2018

The FAO has released its 2018 report on world fishery and aquaculture statistics. Key findings include that fisheries output peaked in 2016, having remained approximately static since the late 1980s, while aquaculture production is rising, as shown in the figure below. In 2015, fish accounted for around 17% of global animal protein consumption. One third of fish stocks are currently overfished, although progress has been made in the United States and Australia in increasing the proportion of fish stocks that are sustainably fished.

24 July 2018

A new report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP, a US non-profit research and advocacy organisation) and Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN, a non-profit headquartered in Spain) finds that the five largest meat and dairy companies together account for more greenhouse gas emissions than ExxonMobil, Shell or BP. The top 20 meat and dairy companies have greater emissions than some nations, including the UK and Australia. The report argues that by 2050, the meat and dairy industry could account for 80% of the planet’s greenhouse gas budget if the industry grows as projected.

17 July 2018

The UK’s Committee on Climate Change has released its 2018 Progress Report to Parliament on Reducing UK Emissions. Chapter 6 focuses on agriculture and land use, land-use change and forestry. The report finds the UK agricultural emissions were unchanged between 2008 and 2016. In 2017, half of farmers did not think it was important to consider emissions when making decisions about farming practices. The forestry sector’s ability to sequester carbon has levelled off due to the average age of trees increasing relative to the past. Chapter 6 makes only passing reference to demand-side measures for agricultural emissions reductions (see Figure 6.9).

17 July 2018

The UK’s Food Research Collaboration initiative has released a briefing paper on the differences in animal welfare standards between the UK and its likely post-Brexit trading partners, such as the fact that antibiotic use in cattle is nine to sixteen times higher in the US than the UK, by weight of cattle. The report points out that welfare standards risk being weakened to help obtain trade deals, and recommends several measures to protect animal welfare after Brexit, including farmer subsidies for higher welfare standards, mandatory labelling to help consumers choose better welfare standards, and using public procurement policies to promote higher welfare.

17 July 2018

The UK’s Eating Better alliance has published a survey of ready meals in the main UK supermarkets. The briefing reports that only 3% of the 1350 ready meals surveyed were entirely plant-based; vegetarian, plant-based and meat substitute meals altogether made up 14% of the meals surveyed; 77% of the meals contained meat; and 10% contained fish or seafood. Some retailers sell vegan and vegetarian ready meals at a higher price than other meals, most notably Tesco’s Wicked Kitchen vegan range, which is 67% more expensive than Tesco’s regular range. Nearly one third of meat-based meals did not specify the country of origin of the meat, while only three retailers included the meat in their own-brand ready meals under their farm animal welfare policies.

Image: Trase Media Pack, Soy farm truck - Brazil
10 July 2018

Trase - a partnership between the Stockholm Environment Institute and Global Canopy - has released the Trase Yearbook 2018, which presents the latest insights on the sustainability of global agricultural commodity supply chains associated with tropical deforestation: the focus this year is on soy. The Trase Yearbook highlights how just six companies account for 57% of Brazilian soy exports. Taken together, the supply chains of these six traders are associated with two-thirds of the total deforestation risk directly linked to soy expansion, the majority of it in the Cerrado, one of the world’s most biodiverse savannahs.

10 July 2018

The Better Buying Lab at the World Resources Institute has published a summary of two workshops. The workshops, which brought together over 50 people from the academic community and the food industry, identified research questions on how to increase consumption of plant-based foods by changing the language used to describe it.

Image: Tony Atkin, Path Through Miscanthus, Geograph, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
26 June 2018

The Hoffmann Centre at UK think tank Chatham House has produced a summary of a workshop held in January 2018 on policy implications of widespread deployment of negative emissions technologies. The workshop concluded that bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) cannot be used at the scale assumed in emissions pathways compliant with the Paris agreement, because it would cause large land use change in regions of high biodiversity and compete with food production for land. Nevertheless, some BECCS may be needed. Direct air capture would use less land than BECCS, but there are economic and technical barriers.​

26 June 2018

The Nordic Food Policy Lab has produced a report outlining 24 policies from the Nordic region that aim to change food consumption and tackle the social and environmental challenges caused by the current food system. Policies are organised into five themes - nutrition, culture, meals, waste and sustainability - and include salt labelling, building regional food identity, improving hospital meals and developing networks to reduce food waste. The authors include Marie Persson, former staff member of the FCRN.

11 June 2018

TEEBAgriFood, part of the UN Environment initiative The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, has released a report on the environmental, health and social costs and benefits of the agriculture and food system. It finds that the food system does not keep everyone healthy or protect the environment. It calls for a reform in how we measure food system performance, because relying on yield per hectare and market prices neglects other costs such as food-borne disease and environmental degradation.

11 June 2018

Sixty suppliers of meat and fish have been ranked according to their management of nine sustainability categories, in an index prepared by Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR), a London-based investor initiative focused on the environmental, social and ethical issues of factory farming. 60% of the companies assessed are deemed “high-risk” on their overall sustainability strategy (or lack of it). Antibiotics are the most poorly managed risk, while waste and pollution are the best-managed risks.

4 June 2018

The FCRN was a collaborator in the workshop “Supporting Healthy and Sustainable Diets: how do we get there?”, held in September 2017 as part of Land Economy for Sustainability Strategic Dialogue Series hosted by the Hoffmann Centre for Sustainable Resource Economy at Chatham House and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation. This summary of the workshop outlines the actions that governments, businesses and civil society can take to make diets more sustainable and healthy.

4 June 2018

FCRN member Seth Cook of the International Institute for Environment and Development has written a discussion paper on the importance of agricultural biodiversity. The report notes that crop diversity is declining: today, just 30 crops supply 95% of food calories, with maize, rice, wheat and potatoes providing over 60%. For comparison, humans have domesticated or collected around 7000 species of food plants.

26 May 2018

A report by Friends of the Earth Europe finds that plastic food packaging is not a solution to growing levels of food waste in Europe, contrary to some claims that packaging can reduce food waste by extending the shelf life of foods. For example, using packaging to group food together in larger packs could encourage customers to buy more food than necessary. Another example is that green beans are often cut to fit into the packaging, causing losses of 30 to 40%.

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