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2010

December

Wilfred Laurier University Imagining Sustainable Food Systems (Ed Alison Blay-Palmer) asks "What defines a sustainable food system? How can it be more inclusive? How do local and global scales interact and how does power flow within food systems? How to encourage an interdisciplinary approach to realizing sustainable food systems? And how to activate change?"

Kellogg's Charting Growth Sustainable Food Indicators is designed to develop indicators for sustainable community-based food systems (SCBFS), and to use these indicators to assess their current strength in the US and their growth. The vision guiding this project was one of greater viability and number of food systems that provide access for all communities to a safe and healthy food supply, grown in a manner that protects the environment and adds social and economic value to rural and urban communities."Kellogg banned (June '10) from making false health claims

Association of Public Health Observatories says UK has highest level of obesity in Europe and "revealed that the West Midlands was the fattest region in the European Union, with 29% of adults classed as obese. The level was double that of the EU average of 14%."

WHO Americas Food System: a prism of present and future challenges for health promotion and sustainable development says:"in many cases, the best choices for health are also the best choices for the planet; and the most ethical and environmental choices are also good for health. But too frequently, the two agendas are dealt with in separate debates and policy arenas".

Parliamentary Question: "What is he cost of food imported into the country that we are able to, and have the capacity, to grow?" SoS Mrs Caroline Spelman answer: "In 2009 the UK imported indigenous food - food that could be grown in season in the UK - with a total value of approximately£15 billion. Total imports of food, feed and drink in the same period were valued at £32.5 billion. (Topical Questions Section. 9 Dec 2010 : Column 515 )

Cargill & Ethical Corporation Developing a sustainable supply chain (pdf) outline how 'The Truvia'enterprise offers consumers the taste of natural “sweet” without the calories while making a responsible decision for the environment, the growers and themselves... our team embraced the opportunity to create a responsible and sustainable supply chain that delivers on its future promises.'

Food Ethics Council Food & Finance: Commodity Trading, Speculation and food prices asks a lot of questions, including: "how effective are financial markets at channelling agricultural investment where it will best tackle food insecurity?

Commission for Rural Communities (soon to be abolished by Coalition government) Poverty among farming households (pdf) says: "working longer hours, uncertainty of the farms future and increased paperwork due to government and EU regulations can impact on the mental health and well being of farmers and at times of need, farming households should receive the support of welfare benefits, like other citizens."

November

Global Food Security Great Food Bubble "picked up on a theory that the spike in food prices had as much to do with financial markets as it did with  food markets."

Dept of Health Healthy lives healthy people, says: "We will protect and promote community ownership of green spaces and improve access to land so that people can grow their own food and work collaboratively with business and the voluntary sector through the Public Health Responsibility Deal with five networks on food, alcohol, physical activity, health at work and behaviour change."

Soil Association spells out in 'A rock and a hard place: Peak phosphorus and the threat to our food security"the urgent need for farming to become less reliant on phosphate rock-based fertiliser."

EU Commission Blueprint for future CAP outlines "outlines 3 options for the future direction of the CAP, in order to address these major challenges 1) adjusting most pressing shortcomings in the CAP through gradual changes; 2) making the CAP greener, fairer, more efficient, and more effective; and 3) moving away from income support and market measures and focusing on environmental and climate change objectives. In all 3 options, the Commission foresees the maintenance of the current system of 2 Pillars - a 1st Pillar (covering direct payments and market measures, where rules are clearly defined at EU level) and a 2nd Pillar (comprising multi-annual rural development measures)." See what we propose for CAP.

FAO create draft definition of Sustainable Diet and make recommendations for action, alomg with an outline Code of Conduct at the symposium on Biodiversity and Sustainable Diets in Rome. "All are intended to promote the use biodiversity and food-based systems to improve human nutrition, particularly in poor rural areas, and hope also to accelerate progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals."

Parliamentary Briefing (pdf) on Sustainable Livestock Bill ock Bill and Public Bodies Sustainable Food Bill which would "create a duty ... to prepare a Code for Sustainable Food to promote the procurement of healthy and sustainable food by public bodies. This could be made compulsory if uptake was not extensive enough. "

International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability asks Top 100 Questions for future of Global Agriculture (pdf) in "four overarching sections that reflect stages of the agricultural production system: (i) natural resource inputs;(ii) agronomic practice; (iii) agricultural development; and (iv) markets and consumption." We await the answers...

Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition have developed a Double Pyramid to help people select foods that contribute to a Balanced Diet from the Nutritional viewpoint but that are also Sustainable for the Environment. On the site, put your mouse over the area you want to find out more about...

New York University Center for Human Rights and Global Justice Report explores the epidemic of land grabs now sweeping across poor countries and delves behind the scenes in four countries, revealing who stands to win and lose in each of these “large-scale land acquisitions.” The findings build on previous work establishing the scope of the problem by GRAINFriends of the Earth and the Oakland Institute.

October

DEFRA's Report of Fruit and Vegtables Task Force. At its final meeting on 12 October 2010 (Coalition cut), the task force agreed anaction plan to deliver the proposals outlined in the report. One particular apsect of concern i sthe planning process that "creates costly processes for local planning authorities and risks of legal challenges and losses for growers missing production seasons" FVTF - Planning includes government's response

International Food & Agricultural Trade Policy Council Seminar in Brazil on Carbon Standards in Agricultural Production and Tradeexamined "growing concerns about greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and land use change have led to a large number of carbon standards, some of them based on “life cycle analyses,” which seek to measure the entire carbon footprint of a particular product from its production to its consumption, and sometimes also seek to encompass indirect impacts."

Walmart unveils global Sustainable Agriculture Goals because "Walmart is uniquely positioned to make a positive difference in food production - for farmers, communities and customers. Our efforts will help increase farmer incomes, lead to more efficient use of pesticides, fertilizer and water, and provide fresher produce for our customers.” It plans to double the sales of fresh produce from local farms in its U.S. stores by the end of 2015. Unilever's plans for Sustainable Agricultural Sourcing

Leaked CAP discussion document in Farmers Weekly says 'the future CAP should contain a greener and more eqitably distributed first pillar, and a second pillar focusing more on competitiveness and innovation, climate change and the environment'. Key part

September
Caroline Spelman @ EFRA Select Committee said: "the direction of travel that’s emerging among European agricultural ministers is a recognition that taxpayers in Europe are increasingly going to expect public goods, as well as food, to be sustainably produced. I think we’re likely to see as part of the CAP reform discussion an interesting debate about what taxpayers’ money should be used on to achieve the multiple objectives of environmental protection, sustainable food production and rural development." (see alsoCoalition)

Figures for food self sufficiency have dropped to 59%, a 42 yr low, although not siginifanctly different from average of 60% of last 5 years. (On site: click 'Self Sufficiency in Food' to download spreadsheet with stats for last 50 odd years). Possible reasons for gradual decline include Foot and Mouth, Single Farm Payments and lots of cheap foreign food...

The Taylor Review of Agricultural Science says: "for science to really make a difference in boosting production sustainably in the UK, the right skills, mechanisms, incentives, rewards and benefits must be in place in academia and in industry all along the supply chain. This paper explores the specific and targeted policies which are needed, and must be driven by strong and visionary leadership by Government." (see also Coalition)

August

Royal Society special open access edition 'Food security: Feeding the world in 2050' (and as part of the UK Foresight Programme) provides a variety of contributions, from those confident of producing enough food from the same amount of land, through those who consider that a radical rethink is needed to reduce the dependence on oil (for70% energy input), to those who are worried that seven “companies are accumulating intellectual property to an extent that...represents a threat to the global commons in agricultural technology”.

Walmart with EDF have produced a Supplier GHG Innovation Program: Guidance Document following their commitment in February of 2010: "to reducing 20 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) from its products’ lifecycles and supply chains between calendar year 2010 and 2015" (= emissions from 3.8 million cars).

Nature special edition "Can science feed the world" says: "What is needed is a second green revolution — an approach that Britain's Royal Society aptly describes as the 'sustainable intensification of global agriculture'. Such a revolution will require a wholesale realignment of priorities in agricultural research."

FEC's Food & Fairness Inquiry Report Food Justice finds "that injustice is widespread throughout the UK and global food system; and it shows how a fairer food system is central to achieving wider sustainability and health goals."

Much more theoretical: Environment & Planning Special Issue Ethical Foodscapes - promises, premises and possibilities

July

Our Life new web site Talking Food, Taking Action says that "Food and diet are a huge concern for the North West and Our Life believes our current food system is bad for people's wellbeing and health. But, where would we start in making things better? " Our Charlie is on their Oversight Panel

DEFRA Draft Structural Reform Plan is to "1) Support and develop British farming and encourage sustainable food production 2) Help to enhance the environment and biodiversity to improve quality of life 3) Support a strong and sustainable green economy, resilient to climate change" - all manly through voluntary action. Keep an eye on what Coalition is doing to Food n Farming

Nature How to feed a hungry world says "Producing enough food for the world's population in 2050 will be easy. But doing it at an acceptable cost to the planet will depend on research into everything from high-tech seeds to low-tech farming practices." Regulation must be revolutionized p561 "Unjustified and impractical legal requirements are stopping genetically engineered crops from saving millions from starvation and malnutrition", says Ingo Potrykus.

Tim Lang in Guardian article "Food Standards Agency What a Carve Up" says "The last government ...was trying to steer the FSA to be lead body on creating integrated advice to consumers. The coalition is ditching this idea. It now would need to turn to three bodies even to start talking to itself!"

Joe Hanlon in Just Give money to the poor says "that dozens of countries now give money to the poor with no strings,, in order to encourage local intiatives and local development." It is just those in the West who don't trust the poor - that is apart from Sarah Palin who gives more per capita in Alaska than anywhere else.

World Development Movement in The Great Hunger Lottery has compiled "extensive evidence establishing the role of food commodity derivatives in destabilising and driving up food prices around the world. This in turn, has led to food prices becoming unaffordable for low-income families around the world, particularly in developing countries highly reliant on food imports."

New Scientist in "What the beef with meat?" imagines "what would happen if the whole world decided to eliminate meat, milk and eggs from its diet, then traces the effects as they ripple throughout agriculture, the environment and society. The result may surprise you."

National Research Council of the (US) National Academies Towards Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the 21st Century "reviews the state of knowledge on farming practices, technologies and management systems that have the potential to improve the environmental, social and economic sustainablity of agriculture, and it discusses the tradeoffs and risks that might occur if more farms were to adopt those practices, techologies, and systems."

Centre for Alternative Technology ZeroCarbonBritain2030 Chap 7 says "the land use sector can completely decarbonise itself, mop up the residual emissions from the rest of the UK economy, and at the same time deliver improved food security, healthier diets and enhanced biodiversity."

June

EU Committee on Agriculture & Rural Development (Rapporteur George Lyon) Report on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy after 2013 says "the new CAP will have to face new and demanding challenges with a view not merely to meeting the food consumption needs of European citizens with adequate quality products, addressing the difficulties relating to world food security, ensuring the functioning of the agricultural markets and supporting the income of the agricultural sector but also preserving the environment in all parts of Europe and responding to climate change" See SusFood CAP Commentary 2011

National Institute for Health and Clinical Exellence (NICE) new public health guidance says that "up to 40,000 deaths from heart disease and stroke could be prevented each year by reducing the levels of salt and saturated fat in our food" and regrets that "the EU has voted to go for the guideline dietary amount scheme instead of the traffic lights". MEP's decision on GDA v Traffic lights (also includes extension of origin labelling).

May

Financial Times EU pays subsidies to sugar  who are the biggest recipients of EU subsidies, due in part to their consolidation.

Lang & Clutterbuck argue in online Guardian article Food can help cut Fiscal Deficit what better way to "save £6bn this year rising to £10bn per year next year and ever after – with no public sector cuts or increases in taxes? And, what if this also boosted the green economy, creating jobs? And met consumer demand? And helped improve health?" than grow more of our own food - at present responsible for £15b deficit.

Science Magazine Pest munches China Crops as GM crop sprays halt "a once minor pest (mirid) has ravaged fruit orchards and cotton fields in China after farmers stopped spraying insecticide in crops of a genetically-modified type of cotton resistant to bollworms".

Jeremy Harding in London Review of Books What we are about to receive says "Scientists, policy analysts, nutritionists, campaigners – call them the food observatory...has warned us we’ll have to countenance a change in the way we eat – and so will the next government. Drifting into uncharted waters on a raft of voluntary codes with a sail rigged for propitious trade winds seems like a form of madness."

3D Exploring the Global Food Supply Chain. Markets, Companies, Systems (pdf) Find out, what is the level of market concentration in the global agrifood industry, and how countries around the globe are responding to the homogeneisation of plant variety protection brought about by the TRIPS agreement.

April

Food Ethics Council Ethics: A toolkit for Businesses "helps businesses get to grips with daily dilemmas about where their products come from, and who or what is affected by them, and introduces key ideas in ethics, and provides a framework for decision-making."

Election "Food is as political as ever" says Food Ethics Council's What's on the menu for polling day?. "The parties are divided over the future for farming and envirornmental protection. But do any of the parties go far enough in supplying a food system that is fair to people and the planet?". Details in pdf.
Conservative Manifesto 'Promoting Sustainable Farming' p96-7 will abolish the Wages Board. Shadow Environment's 'Sustainable Food Procurement'Tories to expose public procurement of foreign food.
Labour Manifesto 'Sustainable farming, healthy food' (para 8.5) will create a Supermarket Ombudsman.
Libdem Manifesto offers a fair deal for the countryside and fair trade for farmers. Green Party will localise the food chain. UKIP will sit directly on WTO.

The EU Commission has launched a Consultation for CAP post 2013 that invites all EU citzens and organisations to take part in the debate. "The Common Agricultural Policy is for all of society. It is your policy, not just for farmers. European agriculture is about food security, but also about landscapes, employment, environment, climate change." See what we say

According to Eurobarometer 336 (pdf), the European public consider "the main priority for the CAP should be ensuring agricultural products that are of good quality, healthy and safe (59%). Ensuring reasonable food prices (49%), protecting the environment and ensuring a fair standard of living for farmers (both 41%) are also given a high position on the public agenda." What we say about CAP.

National Academies Press Impact of Genetically Engineered Crops on Farm Sustainability in the United States (2010) "provides the first comprehensive assessment of the effects of GE-crop adoption on farm sustainability in the United States". NRC studies "how GE crops have affected U.S. farmers—their incomes, agronomic practices, production decisions, environmental resources, and personal well-being." Book free online with search facility.

March

Institute for Social and Educational Research (ISER) Working Paper Healthy school meals and Educational Outcomes "uses the "Jamie Oliver Feed Me Better" campaign to evaluate the impact of healthy school meals on educational outcomes" and "finds evidence that healthy school meals did improve educational outcomes, in particular in English and Science". See our News for Jamie in USA

DEFRA 2nd Report of Food Policy Advisers says "The Government should use the year ahead to implement its new food strategy, Food 2030, in the well-founded expectation that it can help to deliver a healthier, happier, wealthier and greener society".

Food Standards Agency, working with more than 40 major UK caterers, has new web page of Health Catering requirements that sets out "activities of each company captured in a commitments document, which has sections on procurement, menu planning, kitchen practice and consumer information. The commitments vary according to the type of business and food served and provide an overview of what each company is doing to support the Agency’s priorities to reduce salt, saturated fat and energy intake; to promote healthier options and to provide consumers with more information".

Welsh Assembly Government Land Use Climate Change Report's "emphasis is on maintaining intensive dairy, sheep and beef sectors while diversifying and increasing vegetable crops. In the longer term, the report recommends development of a more radical approach where much of the cattle herd is housed and methane emissions are captured."

Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Inquiry into the employment & recruitment in Meat and Poultry Processing Sector (pdf)found "there are significant challenges facing the industry if it is to uphold ethical standards and effectively promote equality and inclusion. We found evidence of widespread poor treatment of agency workers, particularly migrant and pregnant workers, both by agencies and in the meat processing factories." In the same week, Unite the Union and ASDA sealed a deal to treat all their agency workers the same as permanent staff. Look out in next few weeks for Tesco, M&S, Co-op and Waitrose to launch their online Ethical Growers Handbook - produced by guess who? EP@W Ltd!

Countryside Survey of Great Britain contradicts that soils have lost carbon across England and Wales 1978-2003 of about 100mt according to the National Soil Inventory examined by P.Bellamy et alNature, Vol 437, 8.9.2005 (complete pdf). So an independent inquiry is in place (see Observer article March 2010). Our verdict: This is far to important to be left to a couple of statisticians..lets have an open debate.

February

DEFRA's new Evidence Investment Strategy 2010-13 says "modest reorientation of priorities from such areas as animal welfare and pesticides towards areas such as water, biodiversity, soils and climate change would improve both the overall impact of our investments on the delivery of Defra’s strategic objectives and our ability to respond to the big evidence challenges."

UNEP Year Book 2010 says "The nitrogen cycle is in hyperdrive. A major study in 2009 identified human interference in biogeochemical cycles, particularly the nitrogen cycle, as one of three key areas where ‘planetary boundaries’ have been crossed, threatening Earth’s habitability. The others are climate change and the rate of biodiversity loss An estimated 120 million tonnes of atmospheric nitrogen per year is converted into reactive forms through human processes, mainly the manufacturing of fertilizers and the cultivation of leguminous crops such as soybeans". The "planetary boundary" is estimated in the Yearbook to be about 35mt/reactiveN/yr, so we are excceding that level over 3X. More about Nitrogen in our Sustainable Food Guide

IUF launch website McJobs carrying stories of what it is like to work for the world's biggest hamburger comapany, including details of an agreement that McDonalds has reached with labour and environmental organisations in the states, "to survey its U.S. potato suppliers, compile a list of best practices in pesticide reduction and recommend those best practices to its global suppliers. It also will share its findings with investors and include the findings in its annual corporate social responsibility report.".

Science publishes Special Online Collection: Food Security that "examines the obstacles to achieving global food security and some promising solutions. News articles introduce farmers and researchers who are finding ways to boost harvests, especially in the developing world." "We have perhaps 40 years to radically transform agriculture, work out how to grow more food without exacerbating environmental problems, and simultaneously cope with climate change."

Global Environmental Change publishes The Story of Phosphorus: Global food security and food for thought."Current global reserves may be depleted in 50–100 years. While phosphorus demand is projected to increase, the expected global peak in phosphorus production is predicted to occur around 2030. The exact timing of peak phosphorus production might be disputed....This paper puts forward the case for including long-term phosphorus scarcity on the priority agenda for global food security."

RELU asks What is Land for? saying "Use of land is one of the principal drivers of global environmental change, and, in turn, environmental change, particularly climate change, will increasingly influence the use made of land as communities strive to adapt to, and mitigate, the effects of a changing climate."  and " Gordon Brown stressed the ‘core responsibility’ of British farmers to ‘grow and produce the majority of food consumed by the British people’, alongside a ‘front line’ role adapting and reacting to the challenges and opportunities of climate change and exploiting the potential of farmers to become ‘energy exporters’. Farmers and their advisors have been quick to embrace the ‘new productivism’".

January

Food Standards Agency Integrated Advice to Comsumers (pdf) discusses the research "undertaken to gauge consumer attitudes and reactions to the concept of a website providing integrated government advice for consumers in relation to food safety, healthy eating and environmental and wider sustainability issues."

All Party Parliamentary Group Why No Thought for Food? asks "why has the (UK) Government consciously and deliberately run down its support for agriculture in international development when it once led the world – why no thought for food?"

Lifeworth Consulting Capitalism in Question describes "how politicians and even business leaders are calling for more critical assessment of what kind of economic system we need for a fair and sustainable future" and reviews the main books that "seek to do something that previously seemed neither necessary or interesting − to defend capitalism.” 

Dan Morgan (he of "Merchants of Grain") for the German Marshall Fund of the US, in The Farm Bill and Beyond explains "At the White House, President Obama has proposed cutting some key subsidies, and he has signaled interest in aligning himself - at least symbolically - with a grass roots movement that supports "sustainable agriculture" and "healthy foods." These developments have moved long-standing tensions over agriculture policy to center stage". Latest comments from Dan Morgan Meanwhile 1 in 8 Americans now use Food Coupons.

FCRN & WWF-UK How Low Can We Go  found that the usual account for the food chain is around 20% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. "However, this newly published report finds that, once food related land use change impacts are included in the calculation, the contribution from food rises to 30% of the UK total." It then goes on to look at scenarios for reducing this by 70% by 2050 in line with all government targets.

Corinna Hawkes edits Trade, Food, Diet and Health: Perspectives and Policy Options that "examines the role global food trade has played in the rise in diet-related chronic illness, looking carefully at how the trade of food across national borders, international and regional trade agreements, the process of trade and investment liberalization, and the growth of transnational food corporations affects what people eat and, by implication, their health."

Defra launch their new Food Strategy called Food 2030 @ Oxford Conference saying: "With a growing population, climate change and the pressure we are putting on land, we will have to produce more food sustainably. We also need to provide the right information for people to make more informed choices about what they eat. Diet will have a huge impact not only on our health and our economy, but most importantly on sustainability." Includes Indicators for a Sustainable Food System.

Heinrich Boll Foundation Climate Change and the Right to Food study "proposes concrete methods by which institutions can address climate change problems and realize the right to food (see - de Schutter in November 09) symbiotically, in compliance with the principles of systemic integration under international law."

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