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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.
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.
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).
This piece from Foodservice Footprint draws together the information available so far (as of mid-March 2020) about how the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is affecting the UK's foodservice sector. The information covers impacts on restaurant staffing and operations, the food supply chain (one distributor told Footprint that "Everyone seems to be being relatively sensible at the moment"), new hygiene standards, and issues in supporting people at risk of hunger.
Our World in Data has published this piece, which breaks down the extent to which the differences in carbon footprints of food categories can be attributed to methane, a short-lived greenhouse gas which has attracted controversy over how its climate impact is measured.
This article from Civil Eats examines how the rise of both plant-based diets and regenerative agriculture practices have encouraged more farmers in the United States to grow pulses such as lentils, peas and chickpeas. As pulses become more popular with US consumers, a smaller fraction of the US pulse harvest is exported to other countries.
This article in the San Francisco Chronicle discusses three synthetic (or “molecular”) alcoholic drinks produced by US startup Endless West: wine, whiskey and sake. The drinks are produced by mixing plain alcohol (from corn) with natural flavourings (e.g. from plants or yeasts) rather than traditional distillation methods (e.g. fermenting grapes to make wine).
In this podcast, FCRN member ffinlo Costain interviews Jenny Packwood (Director of Responsibility & Reputation for KFC UK & Ireland) and Annie Rayner and Kelly Watson (experts in broiler systems and behaviour, working at FAI Farms) to find out how the European Chicken Commitment is changing the welfare of chickens and to discuss the practical implications of delivering the requirements of the commitment.
This report by Hong Kong media platform Green Queen gives an overview of alternative protein startups in Asia, in the categories of cultivated protein (e.g. laboratory-grown meat), modern processed plant-based products, and whole-food alternatives (such as jackfruit or lion’s mane mushrooms, which are sometimes used to mimic the texture of meat despite not having the same protein content). The authors argue that Asia’s alternative protein industry is likely to overtake US and European brands because of demand from Asia’s growing middle class, relatively low production costs and products that are tailored to local tastes.
This article in the Guardian, by food writer Bee Wilson, author of The Way We Eat Now, describes the debate around so-called ultra-processed foods. Wilson describes the classification system for processed foods developed by researcher Carlos Monteiro and the research being done on the health impacts of ultra-processed foods.
This podcast from global food community Food Matters Live discusses the effect that veganism has recently had on the food industry, how plant-based food and drink is likely to develop throughout 2020, and how the media and food companies talk about plant-based foods.
The European Commission has set out a European Green Deal, a plan to transform the European economy to net-zero emissions by 2050, and to decouple economic growth from resource use. The Green Deal will include a new “Farm to Fork” strategy (to be set out in full in the spring of 2020) to reward food producers for services such as storing carbon in the soil, improving water quality and reducing the use of pesticides, fertilisers and antibiotics.
The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity has released a draft plan to protect biodiversity, ahead of a summit in China in October. The plan sets out 20 actions which could, by 2030, “put biodiversity on a path to recovery for the benefit of planet and people”.
This Guardian article discusses farms that are growing crops organically without using animal manure or blood and bone meal, in contrast to most organic farms. This approach is not yet widespread, with only around 50 such farms in the United States. Relevant organisations include the Biocyclic Vegan Standard and the Vegan Organic Network.
Online conferences have the advantage of reducing carbon emissions from travel, particularly air travel, but they can be less convenient when it comes to networking and developing personal connections. The November meeting of the European Biological Rhythms Society tried to fix this by inviting psychologists to develop remote ways of encouraging networking.
A new agriculture bill has been brought to the UK parliament, setting out food and farming policies for after the UK leaves the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy. It includes support to help farmers preserve soil, a plan to regularly review food security in the UK, and paying farmers for purposes such as flood protection, climate mitigation or public access to the countryside.
In the documentary Apocalypse Cow, environmentalist and writer George Monbiot argues that much of the current farming system (except for fruit and vegetable production) will be replaced by food from microbes, freeing up large areas of land for rewilding and carbon sequestration. He also calls for fruit and vegetable farming to be reformed, e.g. by using deep-rooted cover crops to build soil fertility.
This report from FoodPrint, part of the GRACE Communications Foundation, describes the problems associated with plastic, metal and paper/fibre food packaging. It also sets out potential solutions, including reusable food containers, plastics that can be more easily recycled, compostable packaging materials, and bans on certain types of packaging (e.g. plastic straws).