Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Global

While some of the food system challenges facing humanity are local, in an interconnected world, adopting a global perspective is essential. Many environmental issues, such as climate change, need supranational commitments and action to be addressed effectively. Due to ever increasing global trade flows, prices of commodities are connected through space; a drought in Romania may thus increase the price of wheat in Zimbabwe.

31 July 2018

This book, by Ramesh Ray and S Ramachandran, presents technological interventions in ethanol production from food crops, addresses food security issues arising from bioethanol production and identifies development bottlenecks.

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.

Image: Arkansas Highways, I-530 mirage, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic
31 July 2018

Researchers from the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute (of which the FCRN is part) have created a new tool - the “temperature of equivalence” - to map the impacts of varying degrees of climate change in different areas. They find that people living in low-income countries will, on average, experience heat extremes at 1.5°C of (global average) warming that people living high-income countries will not encounter until 3°C. This result is based on combining a map of predicted heat extremes with information on where people actually live within these areas. The paper also finds that, on average, people in high-income countries would experience the same increase in extreme rainfall after 1.0°C of warming that people in low-income countries would experience at 1.5°C of warming.

Image: CIAT, NP Nicaragua75_lo, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
31 July 2018

A group of researchers from the University of Michigan’s Sustainable Food Systems Initiative has called for a new approach to solving food system problems, based on the intersection of four key areas: the ecology of agroecosystems, equity on a global and local scale, cultural dimensions of food and agriculture, and human health.

Image: Ian Sherlock, Fishing boat leaving, Canary Islands, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
31 July 2018

A new paper finds that the global marine fishing fleet produces greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 4% of the total emissions from global food production. The types of fisheries with the highest emissions intensity per unit of catch are those using motorised craft (vs. non-motorised), those harvesting for human consumption (vs. catches used for meal, oil or non-food uses), fishing for crustaceans (vs. other species types) and fisheries in China (vs. those in other regions).

Image: sarahemcc, 2 piglets at JEEP, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
31 July 2018

A new paper in Science reviews trends in meat consumption and the associated health and environmental implications. The paper also discusses potential means of influencing meat consumption levels.

24 July 2018

This book, by Ray A. Goldberg, provides the perspectives of people involved in shaping the global food system, including leaders in academia, nonprofits, public health, and the private and public sectors.

24 July 2018

This book, by Jules Pretty and Zareen Pervez Bharucha, explores the current state of knowledge of sustainable agricultural intensification in a variety of settings, including smallholder farms and industrialised countries.

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.

Image: Balaram Mahalder, Maize, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
24 July 2018

As global mean temperature rises due to climate change, the chance of multiple shocks in maize production occurring at the same time rises, due to greater variability in yields. The top four maize-producing countries are United States, China, Brazil, and Argentina. The chance of all four suffering a yield loss of more than 10% in the same year is presently almost zero, but rises to 6% for 2°C of warming and 87% for 4°C of warming. The study does not account for changing variability in temperature (only the increase in mean temperature), nor any gains from breeding heat-tolerant maize varieties.

Image: Bicanski, Organic apple fruits on tree, Pixnio, CC0 Public domain
24 July 2018

This review paper reports that organic agriculture has lower yields than conventional agriculture, by 19-25% on average across all crops, according to three meta-analyses. Lower yields may be due to the lack of use of synthetic fertilisers - organic systems are often limited by low levels of nitrogen or phosphorus - and higher susceptibility to pest outbreaks. Widespread uptake of organic farming (to produce the same amounts of output as today) would probably require some conversion of natural habitats to farmland, because of this lower land-use efficiency compared to conventional agriculture - an important consideration, as the area of certified organic production has increased from 15 million ha in 2000 to 51 million ha in 2015 (although this is only 1% of agricultural land).

Image: Richard W.M. Jones~commonswiki, Broad beans, shelled and steamed, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain
24 July 2018

Current crop production levels could feed a population of 9.7 billion people in 2050, according to a recent paper, but only in a future in which there are socio-economic changes, significant shifts in diets towards plant-based foods, and limited biofuel production. Without dietary changes, crop production would have to increase by 119% by 2050.

17 July 2018

The Centre for Ecoliteracy, a Californian non-profit, has produced a free interactive guide to understanding food and climate change, covering both how climate change affects the food system and how the food system contributes to climate change.

17 July 2018

This book, by Klaus Lorenz and Rattan Lal, discusses the present state of knowledge on soil carbon dynamics in different types of agricultural systems, including croplands, grasslands, wetlands and agroforestry systems. It also discusses bioenergy and biochar.

Image: CIAT, A bunch of avocados grown by a smallholder farmer near Palmira, southwestern Colombia, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
17 July 2018

Smallholders with farms under two hectares produce 28–31% of all crops and 30–34% of all food supply on 24% of the world’s agricultural land, according to a new paper. This contrasts with common claims that smallholders produce 70–80% of the world’s food. The paper also finds that, relative to larger farms, farms under two hectares have greater crop species diversity, allocate less of their crop outputs towards feed and processing and are important suppliers of fruit, pulses, roots and tubers.

Image: Claude Covo-Farchi, Mussels at Trouville fish market, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
17 July 2018

Our thanks go to FCRN member Emma Garnett for bringing to our attention a recent paper that investigates how land use could change if consumption were to shift away from meat and towards seafood from aquaculture. Aquaculture systems frequently use feed that is made from land-based crops. The paper studied two aquaculture-heavy scenarios (one using only marine aquaculture, and one using the current ratio of marine to freshwater aquaculture) where all additional meat consumption in 2050 (compared to today) is replaced by aquaculture products. Compared to a business-as-usual scenario for 2050, the aquaculture scenarios use around one-fifth less land to produce feed crops, because of the relative efficiency of aquatic organisms (compared to land-based animals) in converting feed into food that can be eaten by humans.

Image: Lamiot, Coppice short rotation willow, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported
10 July 2018

In a guest post for Carbon Brief, Professor Pete Smith of the University of Aberdeen discusses recent research on how climate mitigation through negative emissions could affect biodiversity, through changes in land use. He argues that bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) should be implemented sooner rather than later, because of the risk of not meeting climate mitigation targets if BECCS is left until later in the century and because a study estimated that natural land loss could be lower if BECCS is deployed earlier in the century.

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