Posts

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.”

KEEP READING ON FOOD TANK

Bill Mollison: The Birth of a Global Movement

Author: Bill Mollison | Published on: January 28, 2016

In 1981, Bill Mollison, the co-founder of permaculture, won the Right Livelihood Award. This is his acceptance speech. It explains his motivations, how he began the global permaculture movement from nothing and his determination to find solutions amid ecological collapse.

I grew up in a small village in Tasmania. I was born in 1928, but my village might have existed in the 11th century. We didn’t have any cars; everything that we needed we made. We made our own boots, our own metal works, we caught fish, grew food, made bread. I didn’t know anybody who lived there who had one job, or anything that you could define as a job. Everybody had several jobs.

As a child I lived in a sort of a dream and I didn’t really awake until I was about 28. I spent most of my working life in the bush or on the sea. I fished, I hunted for my living. It wasn’t until the 1950s that large parts of the system in which I lived were disappearing. First, fish stocks became extinct. Then I noticed the seaweed around the shorelines had gone. Large patches of forest began to die. I hadn’t realised until those things were gone that I’d become very fond of them, that I was in love with my country. This is about the last place I want to be; I would like to be sitting in the bush watching wallabies. However, if I don’t stand here there will be no bush and no wallabies to watch. The Japanese have come to take away most of our forest. They are using it for newsprint. I notice that you are putting it in your waste‑paper basket. That’s what has happened to the life systems I grew up in.

It’s always a mark of danger to me when large biological systems start to collapse, when we lose whole stocks of fish, as we’ve lost whole stocks of herring, and many stocks of sardines, when we lose huge areas of the sea bottom which were productive in scallops and oysters. When we enquire why this happens, it comes back to one thing: the use of energy sources not derived from the biological system.

KEEP READING ON PERMACULTURE

Pulses: Nutritious Seeds for a Sustainable Future

The aim of raising global awareness on the multitude of benefits of pulses was integral to the International Year of Pulses. This coffee table book is part guide and part cookbook— informative without being technical. The book begins by giving an overview of pulses, and explains why they are an important food for the future. It also has more than 30 recipes prepared by some of the most prestigious chefs in the world and is peppered with infographics.

Part I gives an overview of pulses and gives a brief guide to the main varieties in the world.

Part II explains step-by-step how to cook them, what to keep in mind and what condiments and instruments to use.

KEEP READING ON FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION  OF THE UNITED NATIONS

Changing The Menu: How Top Chefs Can Inject New Life Into The Development Agenda

Author: Karen Newman | Published on: August 4, 2016

When you think about celebrity chefs, sustainable development may not be the first concept that pops to mind. And for the preponderance of foodies everywhere, the notion that three of the world’s most renowned chefs would want to use their star power, not to open a chain of restaurants or promote another cooking show, but to collaborate with the United Nations may seem puzzling. But that’s precisely what the Roca brothers, famed chefs from what has been consistently designated as among the World’s Best restaurants are set to do. As Goodwill Ambassadors for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and for the Sustainable Development Goals Fund (SDG-F), the Roca brothers will use their expertise in the culinary world to enhance the link between waste reduction, sustainability and food security issues.

And the timing couldn’t be better, especially during this pivotal year, with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) now providing a global framework designed to address poverty in all forms for the next 15 years. Considered the 2030 Agenda, the designated 17 goals aim to eliminate poverty, inequality, hunger and under-nutrition —and at the same time tackle the impact of climate change and adaptation. A key component of the SDGs is Goal #2, which aims to end all forms of hunger and malnutrition and ensure sustainable food systems by 2030. This means ensuring all people – especially children and the more vulnerable have access to sufficient and nutritious food all year round. It goes without saying that we need greater awareness on the issues and why the hungriest people are often farmers and their families.

UN Member states and other public and private stakeholders have made the connection between food security, nutrition and agriculture, especially around the complex issue of poverty alleviation. Initiatives like Scaling Up Nutrition and Zero Hunger Challenge launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have inspired action and increased awareness on these interrelated issues. But despite these promising efforts, an estimated 795 million people in the world still suffer from hunger according to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

More profoundly, if current trends remain constant, agricultural production will have to increase by at least 60 percent in order to meet the projected demands of the world’s growing population, anticipated to reach 9 billion people by 2050. And all this—while it is estimated that the world loses about one-third of the food it does produce to waste and loss. A recent report by UNEP and the World Resources Institute (WRI), indicates that about one-third of all food produced worldwide, worth around US$1 trillion, gets lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems. More troubling is that when converted to calories, this means that about 1 in 4 calories intended for consumption is never actually eaten.

KEEP READING ON THE WORLD POST

Meat Is Magnificent: Water, Carbon, Methane & Nutrition

Author: Diana Rodgers, RD

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” – John Muir

There was a recent article in The Washington Post entitled “Meat is Horrible”, once again vilifying meat, that was full of inaccurate statements about the harm cattle impose on the land, how bad it is for our health, and how it should be taxed. Stories like this are all too common and we’ve absolutely got to change our thinking on what’s causing greenhouse gas emissions and our global health crisis.

Hint: it’s not grass-fed steak

In the few days since the story originally came out, I’ve been brewing up some different angle to write. I’ve written here, and here about the benefits of red meat, and how Tofurky isn’t the answer to healing the environment or our health. I keep saying the same thing over and over. Recently, I posted this as a response to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s new claims that a plant-based diet is optimal. I also wrote about Philadelphia’s sugar tax here, and I don’t think a meat tax is any better of an idea, especially when the government is subsidizing the feed. I’m feeling quite frustrated.

This morning, I went back to see the post and noticed that the story has been “significantly revised to address several inaccurate and incomplete statements about meat production’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.” Most of the original points, references and charts are missing. However there are still some important pieces of information that I feel the author missed. The main one being that meat itself isn’t evil, it’s the method by which we farm it (feed lots and CAFOs-Confined Animal Feeding Operations) and how we prepare it (breaded and deep fried), and what we eat alongside it (fries, and a large soda).

KEEP READING ON SUSTAINABLE DISH

Beyond Vegetarian: One Man’s Journey from Tofu to Tallow in Search of the Moral Meal [Interview]

Author: Dustin

I met Daniel Zetah this past summer, while interning on a small-scale vegetable farm in northern Minnesota. He arrived one Thursday in a white, well-worn isuzu pickup, together with his fiancée, Stephanie. They brought with them two coolers full of meat (which they raised and butchered themselves), a few baskets of vegetables, a live turkey and her poults, two dogs, some camping equipment, and an old friend from their eco-village days who they had fortuitously seen hitchhiking along the side of the road. Daniel had interned on the farm years ago, and he was now returning to be married.

I learned over the course of their visit that Daniel had spent years living in Tasmania, where he had been a “freegan” (someone that scavenges for free food to reduce their consumption of resources), and full-time environmental activist, then a permaculture student, and then a natural builder. I learned Daniel had spent nine months on The Sea Shepherd—an anti-whaling ship vessel that uses direct-action tactics to confront illegal whaling ships—and played a very active role in Occupy Wallstreet.

I learned, too, that after ten years of vegetarianism, Daniel had become a big-time carnivore. As I had recently given up meat in an effort to mitigate my environmental impact, this choice struck me as incongruous. We ended up having a conversation about ethical and environmental eating, which challenged, angered, intrigued, and enlightened me. Daniel and his wife returned to their once-farm in central Minnesota, to finish packing and preparing to move to Tasmania. I called him at home to get the whole story, and record it for this article.

Would you describe yourself as a long-time farmer and environmental activist?

Not at all. I used to be a redneck. I used to race cars and motorcycles and snowmobiles… I was a motorhead. I don’t want people to think I was always like this, because then they’re like “oh, they were just brought up that way by parents that…” it’s like no, no: I was raised by wolves.

Until I was in my early 20s I ate nothing but crap. Like, garbage, American, supermarket food. When I would go shopping, I was literally after the cheapest calories I could possibly find at the supermarket.

When did that start to change?

Well, I met a girl that I ended up getting married to and she was vegetarian, and so I started eating a vegetarian diet. Which is still completely disconnected and completely clueless as to what your eating and where it’s from, it’s just you’re not eating meat. I ate tons of grain, lots of dairy and cheese, even eggs, but just no meat… And that’s where I was at for probably a good eight years, until my early 30s.

Keep Reading on Dustin’s View

The pulse of life

When pulses are removed from farming systems, synthetic nitrogen fertilisers are used… A recent study has shown that organic farming increased nitrogen content of soil between 44 and 144 per cent.

Pulses are truly the pulse of life: for the soil, for people and the planet. In our farms they give life to the soil by providing nitrogen. This is how ancient cultures enriched their soils. Farming did not begin with the Green Revolution and synthetic nitrogen fertilisers. Whether it is the diversity-based systems of India, or the three sisters planted by the first nations in North America, or the ancient Milpa system of Mexico, beans and pulses were vital to indigenous agro-ecological systems.

As Sir Albert Howard, known as the father of modern agriculture, writes in An Agricultural Testament, comparing agriculture in the West with agriculture in India: “Mixed crops are the rule. In this respect the cultivators of the Orient have followed nature’s method as seen in the primeval forest. Mixed cropping is perhaps most universal when the cereal crop is the main constituent. Crops like millets, wheat, barley and maize are mixed with an appropriate subsidiary pulse, sometimes a species that ripens much later than the cereal. The pigeon pea (cajanus indicus), perhaps the most important leguminous crop of the Gangetic alluvium, is grown either with millets or with maize… Leguminous plants are common. Although it was not until 1888, after a protracted controversy lasting 30 years, that Western science finally accepted as proved the important role played by pulse crops in enriching the soil, centuries of experience had taught the peasants of the east the same lesson.”

The monocultures promoted by the Green Revolution had a direct impact on the decline of pulse production by displacing biodiversity, and with it depleting soil fertility. Mixed cropping was impossible with the intensive use of chemicals of the Green Revolution. With the change from mixed cropping to monocultures, less pulses were planted, production reduced and with the absence of legumes, nitrogen levels in the soil got depleted.

The Green Revolution ensured India produced more rice and wheat, but our pulses have disappeared from the monoculture fields. Between 1960-61 and 2010-2011, acreage under wheat has gone up from 29.58 per cent to 44.5 per cent and rice from 4.79 per cent to 25 per cent. Meanwhile, the area under pulses has dropped from 19 per cent to 0.21 per cent, oilseeds from 3.9 per cent to 0.71 per cent, millets from 11.26 per cent to 0.21 per cent. When measured in terms of nutrition per acre and health per acre, Punjab is actually producing less food and nutrition as a result of the Green Revolution.

Keep Reading on Seed Freedom

Michael Pollan: What You Should Eat to Be Healthy

Author: Cole Mellino

A new documentary from Kikim Media based on Michael Pollan’s bestselling book, In Defense of Food, helps consumers navigate a food system complicated by globalization and industrialization.

“I’ve been writing about the food system for a very long time,” Pollan said in the trailer for the new film. “But what I kept hearing from readers was ‘yeah yeah yeah, you told me where the food comes from and how the animals live and everything, but what I want to know is what should I eat.’”

In the film, Pollan attempts to answer that very question: What should I eat to be healthy? He addresses what he has called the “American paradox: the more we worry about nutrition, the less healthy we seem to become.”

We’re consuming “edible food-like substances” rather than actual food, Pollan said. By actual food, he means the food people ate for thousands of years before we became dependent on processed foods.

“You don’t have to be a scientist to know how to eat,” said Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition at New York University. “Just go around the outside of the supermarket and pick up fruits, vegetables and meat, and stay out of the processed foods, because they’re fun to eat once in a while, but they shouldn’t be daily fare.”

Keep Reading on Alternet

Soil Carbon – Can it Save Agriculture’s Bacon?

Author: Dr. Christine Jones

The number of farmers in Australia has fallen 30 per cent in the last 20 years, with more than 10,000 farming families leaving the agricultural sector in the last five years alone. This decline is ongoing. There is also a reluctance on the part of young people to return to the land, indicative of the poor image and low income-earning potential of current farming practices.

Agricultural debt in Australia has increased from just over $10 billion in 1994 to close to $60 billion in 2009 (Fig.1). The increased debt is not linked to interest rates, which have generally declined over the same period (Burgess 2010).


Fig. 1. Increase in agricultural debt (AUD millions)
1994-2009 vs interest rates (%pa)

The financial viability of the agricultural sector, as well as the health and social wellbeing of individuals, families and businesses in both rural and urban communities, is inexorably linked to the functioning of the land.

There is widespread agreement that the integrity and function of soils, vegetation and waterways in many parts of the Australian landscape have become seriously impaired, resulting in reduced resilience in the face of increasingly challenging climate variability.

Agriculture is the sector most strongly impacted by these changes. It is also the sector with the greatest potential for fundamental redesign.

The most meaningful indicator for the health of the land, and the long-term wealth of a nation, is whether soil is being formed or lost. If soil is being lost, so too is the economic and ecological foundation on which production and conservation are based.

Keep Reading on Permaculture Research Institute

World Hunger: Ten Myths

Authors: Frances Moore Lappé and Joseph Collins

In troubled times, all of us seek ways to make sense of the world. We grasp for organizing beliefs to help us interpret the endlessly confusing rush of world events. Unfortunately, however, the two of us have come to see that the way people think about hunger is the greatest obstacle to ending it. So in this Backgrounder we encapsulate 40 years of learning and in-depth new research to reframe ten such ways of thinking explored in our latest book World Hunger: 10 Myths. We call them “myths” because they often lead us down blind alleys or simply aren’t true.

Myth one: too little food, too many people

Our response: Abundance, not scarcity, best describes the world’s food supply. Even though the global population more than doubled between 1961 and 2013, the world produces around 50 percent more food for each of us today—of which we now waste about a third. Even after diverting roughly half of the world’s grain and most soy protein to animal feed and non-food uses, the world still produces enough to provide every human being with nearly 2,900 calories a day. Clearly, our global calorie supply is ample.

Even though the global population more than doubled between 1961 and 2013, the world produces around 50 percent more food for each of us today—of which we now waste about a third.

Increasingly, however, calories and nutrition are diverging as the quality of food in most parts of the world is degrading. Using a calorie-deficiency standard, the UN estimates that today roughly one in nine people is hungry—about 800 million; but adding measures of nutrient deficiencies as well, we estimate that a quarter of the world’s people suffer from nutritional deprivation.

Food scarcity is not the problem, but the scarcity of real democracy protecting people’s access to nutritious food is a huge problem. So, fighting hunger means tackling concentrated political and economic power in order to create new equitable rules. Otherwise hunger will continue no matter how much food we grow.

Keep Reading on Food First