Transforming Food and Agriculture to Achieve the SDGs – 20 Interconnected Actions to Guide Decision-Makers

New FAO tool lists concrete steps ways to speed up implementation of the Sustainable Development Agenda

Published: June 7, 2018

To help policy makers and other development actors accelerate progress towards global promises to end poverty and hunger, FAO has released a set of 20 inter-connected actions designed to show the impact sustainable agriculture can have on tackling the world’s greatest challenges.

Transforming food and agriculture to achieve the SDGs offers a practical guide for countries on how to strengthen food security, generate decent employment, spur rural development and economic growth, conserve natural resources and respond to climate change – all part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“For the first time, FAO has put together a set of interconnected tools that can help fix our broken food systems, and show that from the roots of sustainable food and agriculture come the fruits of transformation,” Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General, Natural Resources, said at an event during FAO’s annual governing Council meeting.

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Ever Wonder How Rainfall Affects Your Peanut Butter Sandwich Habit?

Climate change will impact agriculture and food supplies. That’s why this digital classroom is teaching food literacy.

Author: Angela Fichter | Published: June 5, 2018

Almost 800 million people are currently facing chronic hunger, and we waste one-third of all the food we produce. Americans are eating nearly a quarter more than they did in 1970, but we’re not just eating more than we used to—we’re eating way more than we need to. While our consumption is up, we’re misinformed and less connected to what we’re putting in our mouths.

Many people don’t know where their food comes from—where their vegetables or the grains in their bread are grown, or the farming methods used to harvest them, or how they arrive in the store from which they were purchased. According to a 2017 survey by the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy, 7 percent of American adults believe chocolate milk comes from brown cows. This reflects a broad social trend—we generally don’t learn about farm-to-fork food systems in school. But the Center for Ecoliteracy is trying to change that.

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Stop Buying ‘Fake’ Beef

Author: Dr. Joseph Mercola | Published: January 30, 2018

The average American is slated to eat about 800 burgers’ worth of beef in 2018, or about 222 pounds.1 Where you get this beef, how it’s raised and, ultimately, the way it is prepared make all the difference in how it affects your health and the environment. Source matters — greatly — and part of that includes knowing where your beef was raised. You’d probably assume that beef labeled “Product of the USA” was a product of the U.S., but this isn’t necessarily the case.

In a lawsuit filed against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, ranch groups R-CALF USA and the Cattle Producers of Washington (CPoW) allege that millions of pounds of imported beef are being labeled as “Products of the USA.” They cite the Tariff Act of 1930, which requires imported beef to be labeled with its country-of-origin, including when it reaches the consumer, “unless the beef undergoes substantial transformation” in the U.S.2

However, the USDA has argued that imported beef can be treated as U.S. beef if it comes from a country with food safety standards that are equivalent to those in the U.S. As reported by the American Grassfed Association (AGA), “Consequently, the Secretary allows multinational meatpackers to label imported beef as ‘Products of the USA’ even if the imported beef receives only minor processing, such as unwrapping and rewrapping the package.”3

Why Is Imported Meat Allowed To Be Labeled as US Meat?

While it seems like labeling meat to let consumers know where it came from would be a straightforward requirement, it’s anything but. The original Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) rule, which was approved in 2002 and took effect in 2008, required the country of origin to be listed on meat labels. In 2013, the COOL rule was improved and meat packages were supposed to be required to label where the animal that provided your meat was born, raised and slaughtered.

At the time, industrial meat producers like Tyson, Cargill and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association were among those who spoke out against the rule, calling it unnecessarily costly and “shortsighted,” while fearing it would shrink demand for imported meat. Unfortunately for U.S. consumers seeking greater transparency in their food sources, the meat giants needn’t have worried because global dictators stepped in and essentially told consumers they don’t have the right to know.

In 2015, the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled U.S. law requiring COOL labels on meat was illegal, as it discriminated against Canadian and Mexican meat companies and gave an advantage to U.S. meat producers.4 WTO even ordered more than $1 billion in trade sanctions annually against the U.S. if the COOL labels were not weakened or removed altogether. As reported by the Huffington Post:5

“[The] World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling against the country-of-origin meat labels (COOL) that Americans rely on to make informed choices about their food provides a glaring example of how trade agreements can undermine U.S. public interest policies … Mexican and Canadian livestock producers and the U.S. meat processing industry fought fiercely against the policy’s initial enactment and then turn to deregulation-by-trade-agreement as Plan B.”

Americans Want to Know Where Their Meat Comes From

As it stands there is no USDA requirement that beef or pork be labeled to let consumers know what country it came from, despite the fact that Americans overwhelmingly want to know. A Consumers Union poll found that 93 percent of those who responded said they favored country-of-origin labeling.6 And why wouldn’t they? It’s one more way for you to know where your food comes from, providing once commonplace information that has disappeared in the industrial food arena.

By removing COOL, multinational companies are allowed to pass off imported meat as U.S.-raised, while U.S. farmers suffer. AGA noted, “Evidence submitted by the groups indicate that U.S. cattle producers received higher prices for their cattle when the origins of foreign beef was distinguished in the marketplace.” AGA president Will Harris continued:7

“The American Grassfed Family Farmer suffers financially, from this intentional anonymity, more than any other segment of the meat industry. Thank you R-Calf for bringing this injustice to light. Some American Consumers make the decision to pay a premium for beef that is produced in a humane and regenerative manner.

They do this, in part, to positively impact lands, animals and farm communities in the United States. Hiding the National Origin of products from these consumers is a travesty. It should not be tolerated.”

Meanwhile, the lawsuit against the USDA alleges that it’s actually illegal for the USDA to allow meat without country-of-origin labels because it violates the Meat Inspection Act. That act requires COOL on imported steaks and chops, according to Public Justice, which is representing the ranchers’ groups behind the lawsuit.

“And if you don’t believe our suit, believe the USDA itself,” Public Justice reported. “The department had COOL requirements in place for eight years, and it did so in order to be in compliance with the Meat Inspection Act. In other words, the USDA knows its current policies don’t follow the law; it is just captured by corporate interests. It’s time for that to change.”8

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Research Center Proposes Carbon Tax on Unsustainable Food

Author: Nithin Coca | Published on: December 2, 2016

Agriculture has a huge negative impact on the environment, including being responsible for 11 percent of global carbon emissions. Could a carbon tax on food, as proposed by the International Food Policy Research Institute, help make our food system not only more green, but healthier too?

In a report published in the journal Nature, researchers from the institute argue there is immense climate mitigation potential if we just change our diets.

Right now we, as a planet, have an unsustainable food system. We take up huge swaths of the earth for intensive, chemical-laden food production. The least sustainable food, the researchers insist, is red meat. But the problem is that these very foods are, often, the cheapest choices.

This is something all of us experience every day. The true impacts of food are not included in the price we pay at the store, not at all. Go to your local grocery, and you’ll see that organic produce is far more expensive than a factory-farmed piece of red meat, despite the fact that the former has a far smaller carbon footprint. It is why a healthy sit-down, farm-to-kitchen meal is far more costly than a trip to McDonald’s.

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How “Open Source” Seed Producers From the U.S. To India Are Changing Global Food Production

Frank Morton has been breeding lettuce since the 1980s. His company offers 114 varieties, among them Outredgeous, which last year became the first plant that NASA astronauts grew and ate in space. For nearly 20 years, Morton’s work was limited only by his imagination and by how many different kinds of lettuce he could get his hands on. But in the early 2000s, he started noticing more and more lettuces were patented, meaning he would not be able to use them for breeding. The patents weren’t just for different types of lettuce, but specific traits such as resistance to a disease, a particular shade of red or green, or curliness of the leaf. Such patents have increased in the years since, and are encroaching on a growing range of crops, from corn to carrots — a trend that has plant breeders, environmentalists and food security experts concerned about the future of the food production.

A determined fellow dedicated to the millennia-old tradition of plant breeding, Morton still breeds lettuce — it just takes longer, because more restrictions make it harder for him to do his work.

“It’s just a rock in the river and I’m floating around it. That’s basically what we have to do, but it breaks the breeding tradition,” he says. “I think these lettuce patents are overreaching and if they [were to hold up in court], nobody can breed a new lettuce anymore because all the traits have been claimed.” He continues to work with what is available, breeding for traits he desires while being extra careful to avoid any material restricted by intellectual property rights. He has also joined a movement that is growing in the U.S. and around the world: “open source” breeding.

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New Report Ranks Countries on Food Waste, Nutrition, and Sustainable Agriculture

Author: Marisa Tsai | Published: December 2016

The newly released 2016 Food Sustainability Index (FSI), developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) with the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) Foundation, ranks countries on food system sustainability based off three pillars: food loss and waste, sustainable agriculture, and nutritional challenges.  The index, presented at the 7th International Forum on Food and Nutrition in Milan in December 2016, aims to encourage policy makers to place food and its production issues as high priority items in their policy agendas. According to the FSI, The world population is projected to reach 8.1 billion by 2025. The vast majority of the growth, 95 percent, will come from developing countries, many of which are dealing with the double burden of hunger and rising obesity. Meanwhile, climate change is presenting new challenges to the agriculture sector. By highlighting performance of different countries and identifying best practices, the index establishes a comparable benchmark for leaders around the world to reference and measure their progress in establishing a sustainable food system.  According to the authors, “The FSI is a tool for policymakers and experts to orient their action, for students to be educated, and for the public to conscientiously adjust their behavior for the food of our health and our planet.”

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Our Modern Food System Is Not Set up for Good Health

Author: Paul Ebeling | Published on: Nov

Cheap food is really more of a curse than a blessing.

Agriculture has undergone huge changes over the past 70+ years. Many of them were heralded as progress that would save people from hunger and despair.

But, today, we are faced with a new set of problems driven by the innovations and interventions that were meant to provide people with safety and prosperity.

Since WWII food production has been all about efficiency and lowering cost. Today, we see what this approach has brought on heightened disease statistics and a faltering ecosystem.

The success of the processed food industry has come at a tremendous price to the people who eat it. As their lives are now at stake due to diet-related diseases. Many people have also become incorrectly convinced that eating healthy is a complicated equation requiring lots of nutritional data.

They are wrong.

It is very much simpler than one might think. Eating healthy is really about eating REAL food, meaning food as close to its natural state as possible. Avoiding agricultural toxins like pesticides is also part of the answer. But sadly this is not the kind of food American farmers are currently focused on producing.

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World Soil Day Hails Symbiotic Role of Pulses to Boost Sustainable Agriculture

Author: UN Food and Agriculture Organization | Published on: December 5, 2016

New report explores how nitrogen-fixing plants enhance nutritious diets, carbon sequestration and soil fertility.

5 December 2016, ROME- Soil and pulses can make major contributions to the challenge of feeding the world’s growing population and combating climate change, especially when deployed together, according to Soils and Pulses: Symbiosis for Life, a new report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization released on World Soil Day.

“Soils and pulses embody a unique symbiosis that protects the environment, enhances productivity, contributes to adapting to climate change and provides fundamental nutrients to the soil and subsequent crops,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

Pulses are environmentally resilient crops that deliver high-nutrition foods to people and critical nutrients to biological ecosystems. Soil, a non-renewable resource, is essential for plant life and 95 percent of the global food supply.

Pulses such as lentils, dry beans and chickpeas are nitrogen-fixing plants that can benefit soil health, leading to better growing conditions for themselves and for other plants. On average, cereals grown after pulses yield 1.5 tonnes more per hectare than those not preceded by pulses, which is equal to the effect of 100 kilograms of nitrogen fertilizer.

The new book illustrates a variety of ways that pulses and soils can be “strategic allies” in forging more sustainable food and agriculture systems.

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How One Borderland Farm Is Planting the Seeds of Food Justice

Wearing hats to block the midday New Mexico sun, the summer campers crouched in the rows of the 14-acre La Semilla Community Farm would soon break for lunch. In the full kitchen at the nearby La Semilla offices, they made tortillas and cooked recipes with chia, nopales, amaranth, and other fresh vegetables grown on the farm.

“There was a day there was no nopales left,” La Semilla’s Elena Acosta said, laughing. “They ate it all up.”

At the geographic center of the 2,000-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border sits the Paso del Norte region, a tri-state area where El Paso, Texas; Ciudad Juárez, Mexico; and Las Cruces, New Mexico, meet. It’s here that La Semilla—which means “the seed”—is sowing a healthy, more equitable food system. With a recent $825,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in the coffers, hope grows in Doña Ana County, New Mexico, which La Semilla calls home and where 39 percent of children live in poverty.

Cofounded by Aaron Sharratt, Cristina Dominguez-Eshelman, and Rebecca Wiggins-Reinhard in 2010, the farm grew out of community garden work and the realization that there was a need for an organization dedicated to addressing the challenges of the local food system.

“They took on a task that seems monumental to me because people in our region are so unfamiliar with food justice issues and food systems. It takes a lot of education,” Catherine Yanez, an educator at La Semilla, told Borderzine in 2013.

“Our organization came out of a variety of different backgrounds,” Krysten Aguilar, director of programs and policy, told TakePart, from people “who are really looking at the food system holistically.” Board of directors President Lois Stanford, for example, is an associate professor of anthropology at New Mexico State University; she recently won a national award for her work with La Semilla. “It was really important to look at it through that lens of the whole system,” Aguilar said.

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Regeneration International and Open Team Announce Micro-Grant Competition in Conjunction with Launch of Online Platform to Connect Regeneration Movement Stakeholders

Regeneration International Will Award Five Micro-Grants to Innovative Regeneration Projects

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 15, 2016

Contact:
U.S.: Katherine Paul, katherine@organicconsumers.org, 207-653-3090
Mexico, Latin America: Ercilia Sahores, ercilia@regenerationinternational.org, (55) 6257 7901

MARRAKESH–Regeneration International (RI) and Open Team, in partnership with 17 organizations, today launched The Regeneration Hub (RHub) at the COP22 Climate Summit. RHub is an interactive online platform that connects project holders, individuals, funders and communities focused on regenerative agriculture and land-use projects and other related concepts that address multiple global challenges, including climate change and food security.

In conjunction with the RHub launch, RI and Open Team announced a competition for five micro-grants of US$1000 each to be awarded to five innovative regeneration projects. RI, a project of the US-based Organic Consumers Association, will fund the micro-grants.  The RI Steering Committee will evaluate the projects and announce the winners in January 2017.

“There are regenerative solutions all around us,” said Ronnie Cummins, OCA’s international director and member of the RI steering committee. “But people are working in silos. We need to map out and connect the global regeneration movement in order to accelerate the exchange of best practices and the sharing of knowledge and resources on a global scale.”

The RHub aims to accelerate adoption and development of scalable and replicable regenerative projects across the globe by inspiring and facilitating collaboration between project holders, individuals, funders and communities from the regenerative movement.

“This platform will scale the adoption of local regenerative solutions worldwide by facilitating the work of farmers and environmental entrepreneurs, in collaboration with experts, scientists, businesses, activists, educators, journalists, impact investors, policymakers and consumers, while inspiring an increasing number of individuals to join the global regenerative movement!” said Joanne Schante, co-founder of Open Team.

The RHub was conceived at the Paris Climate Summit in December 2015, where RI brought together 60 foodies, farmers, entrepreneurs, scientists and NGOs from around the world working on regeneration.

Watch this video to learn more:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyIIDYoA0jo

Sign up today: www.regenerationhub.co

Regeneration International, a project of the Organic Consumers Association, is building a global network of farmers, scientists, businesses, activists, educators, journalists, governments and consumers who will promote and put into practice regenerative agriculture and land-use practices that: provide abundant, nutritious food; revive local economies; rebuild soil fertility and biodiversity; and restore climate stability by returning carbon to the soil, through the natural process of photosynthesis.

OpenTeam manages O, a global platform that catalyzes concrete collaboration on a world scale, engaging change makers with all levels of expertise and projects to mutualize their efforts and experiences in order to develop local projects (global initiatives implemented by local stakeholders). This ScaleCamp is the first pilot of a series of forthcoming other such events which aim to continuously fuel global collaboration using O’s open source platform and ultimately shift the climate change paradigm through borderless collaboration.