Scientists – and economists – should avoid being prisoners of present knowledge, says former FAO agricultural economist Andrew MacMillan.
It is strange how many good ideas, when they are first advanced, are ridiculed and dismissed by the establishment but somehow eventually gain respectability and enter mainstream thinking.
Continue reading Going against the grain
Protecting the human right to food is more important than ever, argues ESRC researcher Hannah Lambie-Mumford.
In the last few years we have seen the prolific growth of emergency food charity across the UK and sharply rising numbers of people turning to them for help with food. In 2010-2011 just over 61, 000 people received emergency food parcels from the country’s largest network of food banks – the Trussell Trust foodbank Network; in 2013-2014 that number had risen to over 913,000.
Continue reading Why is Britain increasingly reliant on food banks?
Politics and economics are getting in the way of better food. The Global Food Security programme’s Sarah Nicholson reports.
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the number one cause of death globally and are predicted to increase by 15% between 2010 and 2020 (PDF), and the increasing prevalence of non-communicable diseases such as CVDs and diabetes are to a large extent determined by dietary factors. In Europe, our diets have changed to include higher levels of saturated fats, sugars and salt and lower levels of dietary fibres, fruits and vegetables.
Continue reading Do European agricultural policies encourage the adoption of unhealthy diets?
We need to be better prepared for shocks, says Rajul Pandya-Lorch of the International Food Policy Research Institute.
Poor countries and vulnerable people are being hit hard by a barrage of shocks: economic shocks such as volatile food prices and financial crises; environmental and natural disasters like droughts, floods, and earthquakes; and social and political upheavals including conflicts and violence. Climate change, competition for resources, and growing inequality and social exclusion are likely to intensify the risks for food and nutrition security.
Continue reading Bouncing back: building resilience for food and nutrition security
GFS Champion Tim Benton looks to the New Year and considers food waste on national and personal levels (including his own recipes).
I enjoy cooking, so do the kitchen duty when I am at home. And, of course, Christmas is the most intensive cooking festival. I just totted up that I prepared 141 meals, spread over 32 mealtimes. No wonder coming back to work seems restful!
As food waste is such an issue, we worked hard to minimise waste over the period through a concerted effort of planning, inventorying and negotiation over how to eat left overs. As a result, we threw away very little that was avoidable, perhaps though at the expense of over-consumption!
Continue reading Waste not, want not
Effective policies need to consider interactions at multiple levels, say John Ingram and Tim Benton.
The way individuals and institutions react to environmental and other stresses affects food security at local, national and international levels. This was seen in the food price-spikes in 2007/08 where a combination of droughts affecting food production in some countries, food export restrictions in others, and speculation on world markets exacerbated hunger in many counties for extended periods around the world.
Continue reading Embracing the complexity of food security
Muhammad Akbar reviews the problems and potential of a populous food producing nation.
Agriculture plays a major role in Pakistan’s economy; it accounts for 21% of GDP and 45% of the workforce is employed in agriculture. But agriculture in Pakistan faces numerous difficulties and despite its importance to the country, food security is not guaranteed for significant portions of the country.
Pakistan’s population in 2011 was 177 million – the sixth largest in the world – and is predicted to reach 191.7 million by 2015. Yet the agriculture sector has been suffering from decline for the past three decades. Productivity remains low; yields per unit area are low, and critical investments in developing new plant varieties, farming technology and water infrastructure are not being made.
Continue reading Food security in Pakistan: past and present
Has environmental protection taken the edge off UK farming’s competitiveness? Mark Tinsley makes the case.
Who should run the countryside? This was the banner of an event was hosted by Relu (the Rural Economy and Land Use programme) on Nov 16 this year in Gateshead, UK. It was a day-long opportunity for people from all walks of life to take part in activities coordinated by Relu researchers and debate major questions about the future of the UK countryside.
Continue reading Debating rural affairs
UK agriculture needs to be more competitive, says Jim Godfrey.
As farmers we want a competitive farming industry because that is what will be sustainable in the longer term. A competitive industry is profitable, more resilient, better able to withstand financial, disease and other shocks; it is more likely to reinvest, better able to provide good working conditions, environmental benefits, and give greater choice, innovation and value to consumers as well as being less likely to require subsidy.
Over the last 20 years we have seen the output of UK agriculture decline, mainly as a result of less land in production and less livestock. The UK’s self sufficiency has decreased too, and the average yields of our major crops have at best only marginally increased over this time, the notable exception being sugar beet. The pig sector has decreased substantially as a result of UK welfare legislation and subsequent under re-investment, whilst the poultry sector has increased substantially due to well targeted research and investment in buildings.
Continue reading Better British farming
Individuals, governments and farmers are all responsible for the changes we need, says Oliver Dowding.
My first 13 years of farming saw endless lorry-loads of fertilisers and chemicals coming on to the farm. The controls on their usage, and the consequential problems, were evidently increasing. I re-examined what I was doing and who the gainers and losers were.
Conclusion: I needed to cut down the inputs, improve sustainability, stay friends with the consumer and re-enliven my soils.
Continue reading Business as usual is not an option