Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: North America

North America is the northern subcontinent of the Americas covering about 16.5% of the Earth's land area. This large continent has a range of climates spanning Greenland’s permanent ice sheet and the dry deserts of Arizona. Both Canada and the USA are major food producers and some of the largest food exporters in the world. Industrial farms are the norm in North America, with high yields relative to other regions and only 2% of the population involved in agriculture.

10 February 2020

This blog post, by Caroline Grunewald and Dan Blaustein-Rejto of the Breakthrough Institute (a US think tank), argues that the large scale of much American farming does not mean it is necessarily unsustainable - rather, when looking at the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions, land use and water use per unit of output, dramatic improvements have been seen since 1961.

10 February 2020

This book uses a range of case studies to explore how food and immigration influence each other in North America, focusing on borders (e.g. geopolitical or cultural), labour and identities (including changing diets).

Image: Ruben Holthuijsen, CornField, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
3 February 2020

This paper used satellites to observe the effect on yield of conservation tillage practices, such as reducing soil disturbance and leaving crop residues in the field, in the United States Corn Belt. The researchers found that long-term conservation tillage (i.e. from 2008 to 2017) was associated with a 3.3% increase in maize yields and a 0.74% yield increase for soybeans.

Image: gailhampshire, Symphytum officinale blue-flowered Common Comfrey, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
28 January 2020

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.

20 January 2020

This article by Caroline Grunewald and Dan Blaustein-Rejto, both of of the US Breakthrough Institute think-tank, argues that the environmental movement fails to appreciate the environmental benefits that can result from free trade, by enabling producer countries with lower environmental impacts per unit of food to displace products from countries with higher environmental impacts.

20 January 2020

This report from Canada’s National Farmers Union examines how climate change is likely to affect agriculture in Canada, and sets out a strategy for the food system to contribute to mitigating the climate crisis. It argues that low-input, low-emission styles of agriculture should be incentivised.

Image: Angie Six, Quorn Chick-n Nuggets, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic
20 January 2020

This paper reviews the ingredients and nutrient contents of several plant-based meat alternatives (made from soy, other legumes, mycoprotein and cereals) and compares them to traditional meat products. It finds that no broad conclusions can be drawn about whether meat analogues or traditional meat products are healthier, with their composition varying between products.

13 January 2020

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).

Image: Adam Clark, Baked doughnuts, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
13 January 2020

This review paper argues that obesity and mortality in the United States could be reduced by limiting consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and processed foods and meats, because of the tendency of processed foods to encourage people to eat more food (based on trials in people), and the inflammatory effect of emulsifiers such as carboxymethylcellulose and polysorbate-80 (based on mouse and in vitro studies, not studies in people).

7 January 2020

This report from the US nonprofit Centre for Biological Diversity quantifies the environmental impacts (climate, habitat loss and water use) of caterers or events planners switching from a “conventional American dining menu” (including dairy, beef and other meats) to a mostly plant-based alternative menu. 

9 December 2019

The US think tank Breakthrough Institute has created an interactive series of graphs to visualise how the environmental impact of farming in the United States has changed over time, covering land use, nitrogen loss, water, herbicides, soil erosion, greenhouse gas emissions and spending on research and development.

9 December 2019

This book describes the experiences of a growing minority of Latino/a immigrant farm owners in the United States. According to the book, many of these people use farming practices from their home countries, such as growing several crops at the same time or using integrated pest management.

9 December 2019

This report from Dalhousie University and the University of Guelph tracks changes in food prices in Canada. It finds that prices in some food categories were impacted by environmental events, including an unexpected 5% increase in fish prices due to warming oceans. It also predicts that consumers will put strong pressure on food producers to avoid single-use plastic packaging, and that the Canadian food system is likely to be stressed by climate change, such as through  droughts, forest fires and heavy precipitation.

2 December 2019

According to this article by the New Food Economy, the United States has experienced five E. coli outbreaks in the leafy green supply chain in two years. The latest outbreak, affecting romaine lettuce, originated in Salinas, California. A task force found that a 2018 outbreak was possibly linked to the presence of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) near lettuce farms.

Image: Rebecca Kahn, Broad Bean Seedlings, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
19 November 2019

This commentary argues that there is scientific consensus on the need to build soil organic carbon because of benefits such as resistance to soil erosion, higher fertility and resilience to drought. The authors note that these benefits of building soil carbon are being obscured by high-profile disagreements on the separate question of whether or not building soil carbon may help to mitigate climate change.

11 November 2019

According to this article from Civil Eats, several large food companies, including General Mills, Danone, Kellogg’s and Nestlé, plan to help farmers apply regenerative agricultural techniques to build organic matter in soils. The article questions whether the initiative will help to tackle climate change or only help the companies to sell more products.

Image: kin kate, Pizza, Public Domain Pictures, Public domain
11 November 2019

This paper sets out a definition of so-called hyper-palatable foods (HPF), i.e. foods designed to contain combinations of fat, sugar, carbohydrates, and/or sodium at levels that make it likely that people will continue eating these foods for longer (compared to other foods where they stop eating sooner through the mechanism of sensory‐specific satiety).

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