Increasingly the talk is about food 'security' rather than 'sustainability'. The social side of 'sustainable' has almost been lost, along with the demise of the Sustainable Development Commission, although the word persists in 'sustainable intensification'. Governments are concerned about security, as they are really worried about food prices. According to reports below, the Arab Spring was, at least in part. due to food price rises. President Nixon in the early 1970s feared food price rises (Pollan version), so told his Agricultural Minister Earl Butz(check out why he resigned!) to find him cheap food; thus was born 'high fructose corn syrup'.
Also part of his strategy was to export more - create more markets' - as they sold grain to Russia. Shutter (below) warns that uncontrolled markets may threaten food security, although the WTO are not worried. The Coalition government sees more free markets as the answer. As with the Eurozone survival summit, they protected the finance sector at the completely unreported G20 Food Summit, by resisting attempts to regulate food speculation. However. the world seems to be moving back into its usual mode of overproduction and thus lower prices, as Russia, US, Ukraine and Australia all enjoy good harvests (December Wheat prices), with China taking more food. Now is the time to introduce more sustainable production, by stabilising markets and investing in adequate food produced with minimal damage.
Like this...local food growing is doing well, sprouting up in towns and villages all over the UK, including our local work with 'learning' work of the Incredible Edibles in Todmorden. These inititiatives do most for sustainability, their communities and for the planet when it comes to eating, according to the WHO. This is further evidenced by a paper from 2007, using the standard 'Ecologial Footprint' analysis of food. It shows that the biggest way to reduce our environmental impacts from food production and consumption is to eat 'healthily' (ie 5-a-day guidelines). This reduces impacts by about 20% and eating local food provides a further 10%. Going completely vegetarian reduces another 5% and organic another 3%. See Our Health, Our Environment; the Ecologocal Footprint of what we eat. More sustainable food is quite feasible, it is interesting rather than complex, yet cannot be left to speculators making a quick buck in the Gherkin; instead we need long term iresearch and nvestment in the public sector to grow our local cucumbers - a member of gherkin family.
ETC when investigating Who will run the Green Economy?found, as governments prepare to sanction a Green Economy at Rio+20, that "The world's largest companies are converging around biomass in anticipation of a post-petrochemical future.That doesn't mean they're simply grabbing land and natural resources; theyâ€™re also investing in new technology platforms to transform plant-derived sugars (from food and fibre crops, algae, all kinds of plant matter) into industrial products. The gravitational pull of biomass is creating new constellations of corporate convergence across diverse industry sectors"
UN Rapporteurs Olivier de Shutter The WTO and the Post-Global Food Crisis Agenda says: "In no circumstances should trade commitments be allowed to restrict a country's ability to adopt measures guaranteeing national food security and the right to adequate food: a waiver to allow the adoption of such measures should be envisaged." WTO DG Lamy lashes backquoting the recent G20 Summit as evidence of progress - rather than failure at not putting rules on food speculation.
Food & Drink Manufacturing Industry Sustainable growth in Food predicts that " Globalisation, fast economic growth and rising income levels in the emerging markets are expected to drive a shift in their populationsâ€™ diet, specifically an increase in the consumption of proteins and convergence towards Western diets". See our 'Tesco in China'
Food Drink Federation 5-fold Environmental Ambition 5 yr Report "was founded on the need for greater resource efficiency in our sector's own operations. Our performance to date is evidence of the commitment of our members and of the tangible business benefits which improved performance brings. "
Foley et al in Nature Solutions for a Cultivated Planet "To meet the worldâ€™s future food security and sustainability needs, food production must grow substantially while, at the same time, agricultureâ€™s environmental footprint must shrink dramatically...progress could be made by halting agricultural expansion, closing â€˜yield gapsâ€™ on underperforming lands, increasing cropping efficiency, shifting diets and reducing waste. Together, these strategies could double food production while greatly reducing the environmental impacts of agriculture."
Inst Ag & Trade Policy Civil Society calls on African Negotiators to reject carbon markets for Agriculture saying "that bringing African agriculture into international carbon market schemes could bring about a new threat of speculative land grabs to the continent." See our landgrab summary
European Environmental Bureau Soil:Worth standing your ground for. "Europe's soil is under increasing pressure. Soil deterioration affects all member states and costs Europe an estimated 38 billion a year. Despite this, no common policy exists to conserve soil in the EU", since the demise of the proposed SOil Directive in 2008 due to opposition from UK, France Germany Austria and Netherlands. EEA Soil Facts and Functions 2010 Search Edward Hyam's Soil and Civilisation
WTO sides with Canada on US meat country of origin labeling The World Trade Organization (WTO) has ruled that US policy on country of origin labeling (COOL) violates international trade rules by creating barriers to free trade, including with Canada and Mexico". But it need not..
Taylor Francis Online Green Agriculture says : "Considering the diversity of ecological, socio-economic, historical and political contexts in which agricultural systems have developed and are evolving in, it is only wise to define a set of flexible and locally adaptable principles and boundaries of sustainability and resiliency for the agroecosystems of the immediate future."
Good Food for our Money's Dishing Out Failing Food Standards survey shows that new compulsory standards for food bought by public sector institutions in central government is weaker than existing standards. "The environmental and ethical standard of food served at McDonaldâ€™s is either higher than or equivalent to â€˜Government Buying Standardsâ€™ (GBS)."
ASDA in Green is Normal say that "Month after month the Everyday Experts on the lowest incomes, struggling with tight household budgets, tell us they care and act on sustainability as much as those on the most comfortable incomes." Their arent company - Walmart - produced global sustainability goals following Hurrican Katrina and its possible link with global warming.
Seattle Times How the local-food movement is helping solve the problem of world hunger says 'The sustainable, small-scale, organic farming methods promoted by local-food aficionados are exactly the methods needed to help this majority of the world's hungry. Backyard farming may not be the cure-all for America's food ills, but it will actually go a long way toward solving hunger in small villages around the world. And perhaps locavores will lead the way.'
Health Select Committee Report on Public Health is 'unconvinced that the new Responsibility Deal will be effective in resolving issues such as obesity and alcohol abuse and expect the Department of Health to set out clearly how progress will be monitored and tougher regulation applied if necessary.'
A spoof of the World Trade Organisation lists Trade Liberalistation Statistics that 'demonstrate that current trade liberalization rules and policies have led to increased poverty and inequality, and have eroded democratic principles, with a disporportionately large negative effect on the poorest countries. It is such studies that have provided the impetus for restructuring the WTO as the TRO.' Does anybody know about this TRO site?
Farmers Weekly Sustainability - what does it mean for farmers? (2 min video) reminds us of the importantce of soil and using science to get the balance right and improve our resources. 'Where are we going to be for our children?'.
Our Life's Talking Food Taking Action won a prestigious public sector award for its NW region-wide project initiated "to explore the barriers to eating a healthy diet and presented a fantastic opportunity to engage the region's more marginalised communities who are less able to get the best out of the existing food system". (Issue 3 & Issue 1)
State of Sustainability Initaitives, SSI Review, looked at 4 main tropical crops, responding to the 'request for improved information on the impacts and opportunities associated withvoluntary sustainability initiatives (VSIs = Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, GlobalGAP etc)...and providing a framework and resources for regular reporting on the characteristics and vital statistics of VSIs, as well as the market and supply chain trends across the sector'
ODI Foresight Oxfam UKAid Report Food Prices:Where to now? identified: "Whether it would help to regulate (food) futures markets to damp down speculative investments by non-commercial actors remains a bone of contention, some arguing that this would be justified by the precautionary principle, others seeing this as ineffective, potentially counter-productive given the likely growing importance of markets for the management of price risk, and a diversion from more important measures." (Ed. like what?)
Financial Times World Food 2011 Report says in one of the reports that "At a time of record demand, farmers would be expected to plant ever more cereals. But unstable prices are making it harder for them to take that step, raising the spectre of even steeper price rises in the future." More
The Ecologist in a major investigation Who is picking our food? reports on the hidden stories behind those harvesting the fruit and vegetables we eat everyday
WWF & FEC Square Meal suggests that, "despite the inherent complexities, it is possible to achieve the goals of promoting healthier diets, reducing the environmental impacts of food, and supporting British farmers and producers."
New Enland Complex Systems Institute Food Prices and Political Instability identifies "a specific food price threshold above which protests become likely. These observations suggest that protests may react not only long-standing political failings of governments, but also the sudden desperate straits of vulnerable populations. If food prices remain high, there islikely to be persistent and increasing global social disruption." See 'May' below.
Oxfam Land and Power 'tells a story of rapidly increasing pressure on land â€“ a natural resource upon which the food security of millions of people living in poverty depends. Too many investments have resulted in dispossession, deception, violation of human rights, and destruction of livelihoods '
New Scientist interviews Robert Lustig about his 'Sugar is toxic' thesis. His Sugar:the bitter truth YouTube presentation has over 1.5 million hits. He asks: What do Atkins (all fat no carb) and Japanese (all carb no fat) diets have in common - as both work? Ans: No fructose. See also the Visual MD on Obesity
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on POP Nutrition labelling showed that Point of Purchase (POP) Nutritional information had no affect on customers in university canteens and that 'nutrition-information interventions in canteens may be more effective with a healthier meal supply'. If it doesn't work in univeristies, there is not a lot of hope in fast food shops...McDonald's introduced a calorie tally scheme recently and the Coalition government puts a lot confidence in this 'public health responsibility deal'
Office of Free Trading fines supermarkets £50 million for fixing milk prices. because they said the consumer had lost out about £175M. The price fixing investigation followed a sustained and very public campaign by dairy farmers between 2001 and 2003 demanding higher milk prices at the farm gate. "The companies which admitted their role in the affair said they were trying to help dairy farmers at a time when they were under strain following the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001" (Guardian). As one dairy farmer told Food Manufacturer "the irony is that they were trying to pass on higher milk prices to farmers'. The final penalties announced by the OFT were £9.39m for Asda, £7.14m for Dairy Crest, £1.66m for McLelland, £5.69m for Safeway, £11.04m for Sainsbury's, £1.26m for The Cheese Company, £3.2m for Wiseman and £10.43m for Tesco. Arla was found to been involved, but was not fined as it alerted the OFT to price fixing and was given immunity. Tesco said it would challenge as it had not 'colluded' with others; they later lost challenge and paid £6.3M. While the find was for 'collusion' it is hard to see how any individual supermarket would want to go out on their own to do this - surely it is better if they all do it. So it sends out a bad sign to anybody who believes we can get supermarkets to act together voluntarily to improve any aspect of food/farm sustainability. Sustainability costs more, consumers want cheap food. Mallenbaker 'Crying over Spilt milk' for more
Union of Concerned Scientist Market Forces: Creating Jobs through public investment in local & regional food systems says:"locally grown food is not only good for your taste buds - it creates jobs, keeps money in local economies, promotes community development, and can reduce the environmental and public health costs of the food we eat.
ComRes survey for Countryfile and Farming Today found that when people were asked "Do you think we should produce more of our own food, or not? 88% said yes, we are too reliant on other countries for the food we eat."
ActionAid 'Say No to soil carbon markets' reckons that "promoting soil carbon markets is a major distraction from providing the public finance needed to help poor countries tackle climate change."
Calestous Juma New Harvest says "that sustainable agriculture should be knowledge driven, thus fundamental reforms are urgently needed in existing learning institutions, especially universities and research institutions. For this to be realized â€œkey functions such as research, teaching, extension, and commercialization need to be much more closely integrated.â€ "
IGD Food & Grocery Skills & Employability Summit Report says " The food chain is undergoing a transformation caused by forces including the shifting world economy, the digital revolution, the sustainability challenge and demographic change. This requires new skills and high calibre people at all levels"
National Geographic Food Ark says: "we still have the seeds and breeds to ensure our future food supply—but we must take steps to save them" but "perhaps the most precious and endangered resource is the knowledge stored in farmers' minds".
FAO High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security Price Volatility and Food Security says, among a lot of important issues: "Investing in agriculture with a long-term view is necessary to prevent a repetition of the food crisis. It is also necessary to guarantee a transition from food and agricultural systems that deplete natural resources to sustainable food and agricultural systems that reduce the use of fossil energy and pollution."
FAO HLPE on Land Tenure asks about the 50-80 million hectares of land bought or rented by international investors: "Can such international investment in land be a means to improve agricultural productivity and rural livelihoods?" and answers: "Evidence from this land rush to date shows very few such cases. Rather, large scale investment is damaging the food security, incomes, livelihoods and environment for local people" See our landgrab summary
GRIST Why it is so hard to reform the food system, explained in one chart shows how "the low and decreasing costs of industrialized food and low-nutrient, high-calorie "food products" have stood in for wage increases for the past several decades".
DFID FRICH project helps smallscale African farmers to reach sustainable farming standards. "In the past the produce buyers were only interested in the quality and safety of the beans. But now we have a partnership with a European company and they're really interested in the quality of the land and the life of the community, as well as the quality of the beans and peas."
International Food & Agricultural Tade Policy Council Tracking the Implementation of Internationally Agreed Standards in Food and Agricultural Production does not find much in its investigation into the way of "Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures promulgated by governments in order to protect human, animal, and plant health in importing countries, may also be formulated or implemented in such a way that makes it unnecessarily difficult for foreign producers to compete." See also WTO 'Private Standards' (like GLOBALGAP) which are appearing faster.
Bristol City Council Report "Who Feeds Bristol" says "We cannot begin to assess whether our own food system is healthy and robust unless we know more about it. For this reason...the Bristol Green Capital Momentum Group identiﬁed the need to gather baseline information about the producers and businesses that put food onto our plates."
CCRI's Prof Jamet Dwyer's inaugural lecture Pathways to Sustaianle Agriculture 1980-2020 suggested that "it is an enduring weakness in the democratic and institutional processes of policy development, that change is often just as much about the politics of the day as it is about progress based upon past experience."
G20 Summit addressing Food Speculation - the first ever for Agriculture Ministers, was barely mentioned in British Press. See our G20 Commentary for more Canadian Commentary 'Peak Food is Near' by Wayne Robers says "If freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose, then revolution could be just another word for nothing left to eat." Corn Commentary Share G20 blog.
OECD A Green Growth Strategy for Food & Agriculture says "that green growth is not only desirable and
National Foundation for Edcuation Research Evaluation of Food for Life Partnership Programme found that "the FFLP has been, to an extent, effective in terms of meeting its overarching aim of enabling schools to transform their food culture and provide positive outcomes for children, families and communities"
"Wal-Mart is not a sustainable company", says Edward Humes author of Force of Nature: The Unlikely Story of Wal-Mart’s Green Revolution. "But the mega-retailer is making money by investing in sustainability."
Oxfam's GROW is "calling on governments - especially the powerful G20 - to lead the transformation to a fairer more sustainable food system by investing in agriculture, valuing the world’s natural resources, managing the food system better and delivering equality for women who produce much of the world's food. "
Global Agricultural Development Initiative Levering Private Sector investment in Developing Country Agrifood Systems spells out "the benefits of sound private-sector investment in sustainable food security; it also explains the paper’s primary focus on investments from transnational corporations (TNCs) and describes how TNCs approach decisions on investment allocations".
Jack Winkler in the Financial Times says food export bans are "not 1930s “beggar-thy-neighbour” policies..but a response to a major structural change in 21st-century capitalism – large-scale speculation in commodities. In that context, export bans are rational." See below for more on speculation and export bans. 21 Countries with Food Export Bans
Food Farming & Freedom, Sowing the Arab Spring shows that while the protest in the Arab Spring came as a surprise to many observers, it wasnt to Rami Zurayk, an experienced Lebanese agronomist, who had been "charting the collapse of traditional agricultural livelihoods in the Middle East since the late 1980s."
The New Significance Revolutions and the price of Bread 1848 quotes BArings Bank guys:â€œThere were, undoubtedly, deeper seated causes to the Jasmine Wave than the price of a loaf of bread. But to paraphrase Berger and Spoererâ€™s investigation into the economic causes of the revolutions that rocked Europe in 1848, while food inflation does not provide the brains, it does supply the brawn.
European Nitrogen Assessment study found that "Nitrogen pollution costs Europe between 70 and 320 billion euros ($100bn-$460bn) per year which outweighs the direct economic benefits of Nitrogen in agriculture. The highest societal costs are associated with loss of air quality and water quality, linked to impacts on ecosystems and especially on human health.". Complete Report
Marcin Jacubowski in his TED talk on Factor E Farm Blog says that 'Open Source Technology' may make for "A greater distribution of the means of production, environmentally sound supply chains, and a newly relevant DIY Maker culture transcending artificial scarcity"..click
Committee on Climate Change Food, Land and Greenhouse Gases "shows that the UK agricultural land base can support increased consumption of plant-based products arising from the reduced consumption of livestock products. A 50% reduction in livestock product consumption reduces the area of arable and grassland required to supply UK food, both in the UK and overseas. It also reduces emissions of greenhouse gases from primary production by 19%"
International Food & Agricultural Trade Policy Council Alert Food Prices & Food Volaltility: what Role for Policy? says: "Higher prices importantly stimulate increased production, which leads to lower prices, but higher levels of public and private investment in sustainable agricultural intensification will also be required to spur productivity." Most of this document is a response to Sarkosy's proposals for his Presidency of G20.
Daily Telegraph Food Prices rising faster in Britain than rest of Europe. "Food prices are rising three times as fast in Britain than the rest of Europe, rasiing fears that supermarkets in this country are taking advantage of global food inflation. Food inflation in January ran at 6.3 per cent, on an annual basis, compared with an average of 1.5 per cent in the Eurozone" Nothing to do with £15 billion of food imports that we could grow ourselves?
Kindling Trust Sustainable Fayre Study "investigated the feasibility of supplying significant quantities of sustainable food to Manchester Fayre and the wider public sector with the aims of: Reducing the CO2 emissions of our city’s food, Nurturing behavioural change in favour of low-carbon food choices, Offering a replicable and financially sustainable solution, Identifying solutions which offer greater economic security for both farmers and Manchester Fayre."
UNCTAD‟s Trade and Environment Review article -The Effectiveness Efficiency and Equity of Market-based and Voluntary Measures to Mitigate Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Agri-food Sector (pdf) investigates "instruments such as carbon taxes, emissions trading schemes, payment for environmental services (PES) schemes, border tax adjustment measures, carbon food miles, accounting and labelling."
Sustainable Development Commission's (SDC) final report Looking Back Looking Forward Sustainability and Food Policy 2000-11 argues "that a new complex analysis of sustainable food systems has emerged, almost by default, and that it is a matter of urgency to begin to address food as a system, ie as a complex of issues rather than continuing to deal with problems on a single issue basis. We cannot ‘trade off’ health for environmental protection, or social values for low prices, the report suggests. It therefore proposes a new 6-heading template by which Governments should re-engineer food policy for long-term sustainability: quality, health, environment, social values, economics and governance."
Food Ethics Council The ethics of speculating on food: a discussion paper "reviews the evidence for and against speculation playing an important part in exaggerating food price volatility, and concludes that much uncertainty remains. It seems that the complexity of both food prices and financial markets, and the limitations of the available evidence, mean that this debate will likely defy definitive resolution." More on Speculation and the Frenzy in Food Markets see in 'February' - below. Felicity Lawrence in Chicago.
UN Special Rapporteur Oliver De Schutter's new report Agro-ecology and the Right to Food "demonstrates that agroecology, if sufficiently supported, can double food production in entire regions within 10 years while mitigating climate change and alleviating rural poverty."
UNEP Towards a Green Economy suggest investing over $100 billion in Green Agriculture which "demonstrates that the greening of economies is not generally a drag on growth but rather a new engine of growth; that it is a net generator of decent jobs, and that it is also a vital strategy for the elimination of persistent poverty."
Food Ethics Council Nudge politics: Changing government changing lives says "that the science behind nudge theory can be very effective in encouraging healthier and greener behaviour" but "it should complement and enhance more traditional approaches to policy, not simply replace them."
Land Research Action Network in Development Magazine 54 devoted to Global Land Grabs "warns that a new global wave of land grabbing is underway. The current trend of investments is triggered by the interrelated crises in food, finance, energy and climate"... and "argue that one positive outcome of the multiple crises is a renewed interest among peoples, academics, entrepreneurs, scientists and policymakers in alternative models of production, consumption and using energy and resources." This includes the World Bank which asks Rising Global Interest in Farmland: Can it yield Sustainable & Equitable Benefits? and considers "large-scale land acquisition, drawing on the experience from past land expansions, discussing predictions for potential future demand, and providing empirical evidence of what is happening on the ground"
Ecological Land Use Small is Successful "demonstrates that economically viable and highly sustainable land based livelihoods can be created on holdings of this size."
RELU Kind words butter no parsnips asks whether social science can play a part in food security (& sustainability). Post your comments there.
Real News Speculation and the Frenzy in Food Markets..
OR...You can find out where to bet, sorry - invest - your Agrimoney
The Global Food Security Strategetic Plan 2011-16 "will take into account the sustainability of ecosystems related to food production (including land use, biodiversity and other ecosystem services) and the overarching challenges of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing losses and waste throughout the food system."
Billy Wharton Underneath the Egyptian Revolution: The politics of food says "While commentators focus on the corruption of the dictatorship, or the viral effects of the Tunisian moment or the something akin to an Arab political awakening, the inability of the Egyptian regime to insure a steady flow of food staples should be viewed as a critical factor driving the seemingly spontaneous movement for freedom".
NFU President Peter Kendall Conference Speech claims:"The government must introduce a food white paper to set out clear plans for creating sustainable food supplies in the UK" and "if we’re going to have a debate about morality I honestly believe that a country short of food trying to protect its own people’s supplies by banning grain exports is nothing compared to rich countries allowing their agriculture to decline and then expecting the rest of the world to feed them." (this quote refers to Spelman's speech)
EEAC (European Environment and Sustainable Development Advisory Councils) Conference Report on Sustainable Land Use says the issue of land use is still underestimated and that "the European Commission should integrate the concept of ‘sustainable land use’ into its policies. Sustainable land use will become more important than ever if we want to be able to provide enough food and drinking water for all without endangering biodiversity"
DEFRA Envionmental Labelling of Food Products "wish to explore the practicality and effectiveness of environmental labelling of food as a mechanism to promote behavioural change in order to reduce the negative environmental impacts of food production and consumption."
WWF Report Livewell looks at whether it is possible to eat a diet that is both lower in GHG emissions and more nutritionally balanced than current dietary norms in the UK. WWF-UK’s One Planet Food Programme (2009-12) has set goals to reduce UK food-consumption related emissions by at least 25% by 2020 and by 70% by 2050, based on 1990 emission levels.
BIS Government Office for Science Foresight Report: Global Food and Farming Futures (main points) says: "The food system must become sustainable, whilst adapting to climate change and substantially contributing to climate change mitigation. There is also a need to redouble efforts to address hunger, which continues to affect so many" and argues for a more interconnected food policy - "that policy in other sectors outside the food system also needs to be developed in much closer conjunction with that for food".
Our CAP Commentary follows the present debate about the reform of the CAP, complete with our commentary and others...
National Bureau of Economic Research in How does the business cycle affect eating habits says "Estimates...indicate that a higher risk of unemployment is associated with reduced consumption of fruits and vegetables and increased consumption of “unhealthy” foods such as snacks and fast food"
Kevin Morgan The Coming Crisis for School Meals From Sustainability to Austerity argues "that the school food revolution - which aims to create a healthier diet for children, a more localised food economy and a more sustainable food system - was beginning to show some real progress, especially in deprived parts of the country where health gains are hard to secure. However, these hard won “little victories” are now under threat".