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.

29 October 2019

According to this report from UK charity the Pesticide Action Network and the Soil Association, mixtures of pesticides can be more harmful to human health than the sum of the toxicity of the individual pesticides would suggest. 

29 October 2019

FCRN members Laurence Smith and Adrian Williams co-authored this paper, which finds that converting all food production in England and Wales to organic farming would reduce direct agricultural emissions in the UK, but would cause higher emissions from overseas farming due to lower yields in England and Wales.

22 October 2019

This book summarises current best practice in using life cycle assessment to quantify and improve the environmental impacts of different agricultural systems. 

22 October 2019

This paper outlines the main sustainability challenges linked to nitrogen, including inadequate access to nitrogen fertiliser in some parts of the world and excessive fertiliser application in other areas, leading to water pollution, algal blooms and risks to human health. The paper argues that solving nitrogen problems would have co-benefits for other sustainability issues such as hunger, air, soil and water quality, climate and biodiversity.

8 October 2019

This review paper finds that the number of bacterial strains that are resistant to antimicrobials is increasing in both pigs and chickens. The paper synthesises hundreds of studies from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to develop maps of antimicrobial resistance. Hotspots of antimicrobial resistance are found in India and China, with resistance also developing in Brazil and Kenya.

2 October 2019

This report from the UK charity Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) provides the latest estimates for food losses and food waste in primary production (i.e. on farms) in the UK. It finds that 3% of food harvested is wasted at the farm stage (sent to waste treatment such as composting without first being used for another purpose, or left in the field) and 4% is surplus (material intended for food uses that ends up being redistributed to people, fed to animals or used for other purposes), making a total of 7%.

18 September 2019

FCRN member David Cleveland has co-authored this book, which addresses how food gardens can be used by people to respond to climate change through both adaptation and mitigation.

18 September 2019

The book Grilled: Turning adversaries into allies to change the chicken industry describes how animal rights campaigner Leah Garcés sought to change the industry by engaging poultry producers in a dialogue instead of shaming them.

18 September 2019

This report sets out the plans of the UK’s NFU (National Farmers Union) to make emissions from agriculture in England and Wales net zero by 2040. It calls for collaboration between farmers, government and NGOs to reduce emissions through improved production efficiency, carbon capture through land management, and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

18 September 2019

This paper reviews the literature on the supply chain of phosphorus, a nutrient required in agriculture, and finds that current reporting is inadequate regarding phosphorus reserves and resources, losses along the supply chain, environmental and sociopolitical externalities, and open access to data.

22 July 2019

In this report, Rosalind Sharpe of the Food Research Collaboration documents a series of interviews with farmers in the UK, showing whether and how human health factors into their work and decision making. The report was produced in collaboration with The RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission (read the Commission's report here).

16 July 2019

This briefing from the Food Research Collaboration, the latest in its Food Brexit Briefings series, argues that the UK’s upcoming departure from the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy could allow agricultural subsidies to be redirected from large farms towards smaller farms and allotments, enabling more people to grow their own food.

16 July 2019

This International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) report examines deforestation caused by small-scale shifting cultivation, logging, cash crops, mineral extraction and charcoal production, using the province of Mai-Ndombe in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as a case study.

16 July 2019

This report from the FAO’s High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) explores how agroecology and other innovative approaches to food systems (such as organic agriculture, agroforestry, permaculture, climate-smart agriculture, nutrition-sensitive agriculture and sustainable intensification) can support sustainable agriculture and food security.

9 July 2019

This book, by Nicola Randall and Barbara Smith, provides a summary of agricultural ecosystems around the world and uses case studies to illustrate the biological issues and solutions associated with several types of farming system.

9 July 2019

This report by James O’Donovan, chair of the Cork Environmental Forum, outlines the potential environmental, social, and economic benefits of a transition to a vegan agricultural system in Ireland.

4 July 2019

A new a two-year interdisciplinary project research project, Rurban Revolution, will ask whether ruralising urban areas through greening and growing can create a healthy, sustainable and resilient food system. The project, based at Lancaster University, will be run by Jess Davies. Thanks to FCRN member Lael Walsh for bringing this project to our attention.

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