Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Primary production: Agriculture

Agricultural production sits at the heart of major societal concerns, spanning food security, nutrition and health; livelihoods and development; the environment;and animal ethics. In early history, the farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that allowed for the development of sedentary civilisation. Later, the Green Revolution of the twentieth century allowed for large groups of people, especially in developed countries, to “move off the land” and improved food supplies across much of the world. Yet while innovations in modern agronomy, plant and animal breeding, pesticides and fertilizer use have greatly increased food output, much environmental harm arising from these practices has occurred while concerns are also growing around excess calories and poor nutrition, leading to obesity and associated non communicable diseases as well as micronutrient deficiencies. Many of the 1.3 billion people worldwide who rely directly or indirectly on agriculture for their living face problems arising from imbalanced power structures, including poor working conditions, uncertain land use and tenure, and lack of access to inputs, infrastructure, capital and knowledge; these imbalances play out along the whole of the food value chain, between the genders, within country populations and across countries and regions. As to the environment, agriculture is responsible for some 20% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions of which about half arise directly from crop and livestock production and the other half from agriculturally induced land use change. It is also the main cause of deforestation and biodiversity loss, a major user and polluter of scarce water resources and responsible for the disruption of global nitrogen and phosphorus cycles.

15 October 2020

UK-based regenerative farming podcast Farmerama Radio has produced a new podcast series called “Who Feeds Us?”, dedicated to the stories of food producers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The first episode in the series, “The hungry gap”, covers localised food provision in the early stages of the pandemic.

15 October 2020

The Livestock, Climate and Environment Community of Action is a forum for discussing sustainable feed and livestock production systems. It is hosted by the Animal Production and Health Division of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and is open to all stakeholders.

15 October 2020

In this blog post, Dan Blaustein-Rejto of US think-tank the Breakthrough Institute explains that agriculture produces half of air pollution in the United States, mostly through ammonia emissions from livestock and fertilisers. He argues that reducing air pollution from farming - for example through storing manure in covered pits and applying fertiliser more efficiently - would be beneficial for both human health and climate mitigation.

15 October 2020

In this book (published 21 October 2020), farmer and social scientist Chris Smaje argues that a localised food system built around small-scale farming offers a sustainable, resilient solution to climate change and ecological crises.

15 October 2020

This book (published 25 September 2020) explores the lives of people who grow, rear, hunt or gather their own food in the United States, with a focus on Chicago. It examines the implications of these activities for society and sustainability.

15 October 2020

This paper finds that a global shift to vegan diets by 2050 could allow sequestration of 332–547 GtCO2 - equivalent to or greater than the remaining emissions budget for having a 66% of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C. Meat reductions in line with the EAT-Lancet Commission’s recommendations could also lead to significant carbon sequestration.

6 October 2020

This book (publication date 30 October 2020), presents interdisciplinary insights on the controlled release of fertilisers, including chapters from researchers in the fields of agriculture, polymer science, and nanotechnology.

6 October 2020

In this report, international non-profit Forum for the Future calls for “a just transition to a regenerative agriculture system” in the United States. The report, funded by the Walmart Foundation, identifies opportunities and barriers to scaling regenerative agriculture in the US.

6 October 2020

This report from the non-profit Good Food Institute reviews the current status of fermentation technologies in the alternative protein industry. It covers traditional fermentation (e.g. tempeh, cheese, yoghurt), biomass fermentation (where microbial biomass is used as an ingredient, e.g. the filamentous fungi in Quorn) and precision fermentation (where a specific component is extracted from the biomass, e.g. Perfect Day’s dairy proteins and Impossible Foods’ heme protein).

6 October 2020

This paper examines how localised the US food system could become by calculating theoretical minimum foodshed sizes (i.e. average distance travelled by food) for 378 urban areas under seven different dietary scenarios. It finds that (on average) foodsheds can be smaller for the low-meat diets compared to high-meat diets.

23 September 2020

An recording of the launch event for the UK’s National Food Strategy, held on 29 July 2020, is now available online. The National Food Strategy is a year-long review of the UK’s food system. Read more about the review here and read the FCRN’s summary of Part One of the review here.

23 September 2020

In this book, farmer and writer James Rebanks describes how the landscape and community that his family farm is part of has changed over the past few decades as farming methods have become more intensive.

23 September 2020

This report from the UK charity the Soil Association examines how disruption to the nitrogen cycle can damage the climate, biodiversity and human health. It proposes replacing widespread use of synthetic fertilisers with agroecological use of nitrogen-fixing legumes and manure from grass-fed livestock. 

9 September 2020

This report by UK sustainability consultancy 3Keel assesses the quantity, origin and certification status of soy in the supply chains of animal products sold by 11 European retailers (including UK supermarkets such as ALDI, Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury’s). It finds that 25% of this soy footprint was claimed to be free of deforestation - an increase over the previous year’s figure. The remaining 75% of the soy footprint is not claimed to meet any deforestation-free standard.

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

On July 16, 2020, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and Foresight4Food co-hosted the first of a series of eDialogues on the future of small-scale farming. The first session gave an overview of the challenges smallholders face and opportunities for improvement in yields and standards of living. A video recording and written summary (PDF link) of the event are now available online.

27 August 2020

This report, published by a group of African and German nonprofits, critically assesses the work of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). AGRA was founded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, and has received nearly $1 billion in funding. 

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