Accepting complexity’ of the food system

From a lecture of Carolyn Steel, author of Hungry City

Bifurcation in the food system often leads to polarized and unproductive debates about the future of food systems.  Carolyn suggested that we see the true complexity, and go beyond these dichotomous debates.
Working with the enemy: to what extent should researchers and nonprofit organisations work with large corporate actors toward sustainability?  Are we doing anything new if we’re working with the corporations?  Carolyn said that ultimately it is a paradox — there is no ideal solution.  But the important thing to examine is: what are the models that we need to move forward?  Carolyn suggested a control for scale – so that supermarkets don’t get so big and powerful that they no longer need to play by the rules.  But the question of ‘How do we deal with Wal-Mart?’ needs to be attacked with a  ’multi-faceted, multi-front’ approach — seeing the complexities of the reality and the several different types of solutions that might address these problems.
What can encourage systemic changes, other than a ‘crisis’, such as the Havana urban farming (2000) example or the UK Dig for Victory (1940) example?  Carolyn said that in truth we are in crisis, but no one is acting like it’s a crisis.  In reality, we are almost at the tipping point, so the question is ‘what is going to push us over the edge?’
Source: Sustainable Food Blog

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Reform of the European Common Agricultural Policy

Proposals Lack Ambition to Mainstream Sustainainability Says IFOAM EU Group
      On October 12, 2011, the European Commission unveiled its proposals for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) 2014–2020. The lacks ambition where substantial commitments are needed to shape future farming to ensure the delivery of tasty food and a clean environment says the European group of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM EU Group) in a recent press release.
      According to the group’s president, Christopher Stopes, “this CAP reform comes at a time of scarce public funding and austerity discussions – which should be a reason to clearly re-focus funding towards measures that deliver to societal needs”. Furthermore he adds “Society wants tasty and healthy food, clean water, diverse landscapes and vibrant rural economies.
      We also need to ensure biodiversity and food security for future generations, and food producers have to deal with climate change. All this cannot be obtained by continuing with business as usual – but although we can see some new greening attempts, the Commission proposals are much too close to that.”

Food miles

Food miles is a term which refers to the distance food is transported from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer. Food miles are one factor used when assessing the environmental impact of food, including the impact on global warming.

The concept of food miles originated in the early 1990s in the United Kingdom. It was conceived by Professor Tim Lang, at the Sustainable Agriculture Food and Environment (SAFE) Alliance.

Some scholars believe that an increase in the miles food travels is due to :

  • the globalization of trade
  • the focus of food supply bases into fewer, larger districts; drastic changes in delivery patterns
  • the increase in processed and packaged foods
  • making fewer trips to the supermarket.

At the same time, most of the greenhouse gas emissions created by food have their origin in the production phases, which create 83% of overall emissions of CO2.

A range of studies compare emissions over the entire food cycle, including production, consumption, and transport. These include estimates of food-related emissions of greenhouse gas ‘up to the farm gate’ versus ‘beyond the farm gate’. In the UK, for example, agricultural-related emissions may account for approximately 40% of the overall food chain (including retail, packaging, fertilizer manufacture, and other factors), whereas greenhouse gases emitted in transport account for around 12% of overall food-chain emissions. The goal of environmental protection agencies is to make people aware of the environmental impact of food miles and to show the pollution percentage and the energy used to transport food over long distances.
Researchers are currently working to provide the public with more information.

More information here.

EU scientists vet food marketing’s health claims

      The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published its scientific evaluations of 2,758 of health claims for the marketing of foods. Only one fifth of these claims were ultimately approved. The evaluations form part of the EU’s strategy for encouraging consumers to make informed choices in their diet.

Rejected claims include those where beneficial effects to humans lacked evidence, such as some foods claiming “antioxidant properties” or easing “renal water elimination”. Similarly, vague claims such as assertions of added “energy” and “vitality” were rejected.

      But not all food products marketed as good for health fall in this category. Professor Albert Flynn, who chaired the panel in charge of reviewing the claims, said in a press release that EFSA’s independent evaluation had concluded that a considerable number of claims made on foods “are backed by sound science, including claims related to a wide range of health benefits.”

      Claimed that were approved by EFSA as scientifically-grounded included those on certain fibers and blood cholesterol, walnuts and improved functioning of blood vessels, and the enhanced sports performance through carbohydrate-electrolyte drinks.

More information here.

Is local food better ?

      In 1993, a Swedish researcher calculated that the ingredients of a typical Swedish breakfast-apple, bread, butter, cheese, coffee, cream, orange juice, sugar-traveled a distance equal to the circumference of the Earth before reaching the Scandinavian table. In 2005, a researcher in Iowa found that the milk, sugar, and strawberries that go into a carton of strawberry yogurt collectively journeyed 2,211 miles (3,558 kilometers) just to get to the processing plant. As the local-food movement has come of age, this concept of “food miles” (or “-kilometers”) -roughly, the distance food travels from farm to plate– has come to dominate the discussion, particularly in the United States, the United Kingdom, and parts of Western Europe.

      The concept offers a kind of convenient shorthand for describing a food system that’s centralized, industrialized, and complex almost to the point of absurdity. And, since our food is transported all those miles in ships, trains, trucks, and planes, attention to food miles also links up with broader concerns about the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from fossil fuel-based transport.

      In this sense, life-cycle analyses of the current food system offer a paradoxically hopeful perspective, because they suggest that, if the goal is to improve the environmental sustainability of the food system as a whole, then there are a variety of public policy levers that we can pull. To be sure, promoting more localized food production and distribution networks would reduce transport emissions.
But what if a greater investment in rail infrastructure helped to reverse the trend toward transporting more food by inefficient semi-truck? What if fuel economy standards were increased for the truck fleet that moves our food? Or, to name one encompassing possibility, what if a carbon-pricing system incorporated some of the environmental costs of agriculture that are currently externalized?
Local food is delicious, but the problem -and perhaps the solution- is global.

See more here.

Future of Scotland’s food chain

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The importance of Scotland developing a resilient food supply chain and growing more of its own produce has been highlighted in a new report.

Mapping and Analysis of the Resilience of the Food Supply Chain in Scotland suggests Scotland is currently dependent on imports. It shows that global food chains may be vulnerable to both short and longer term emergency situations which could disrupt this supply.
The research will be used to help businesses prepare for future scenarios such as flooding, health scares and the impact of climate change.

Measures in Scotland’s new national food and drink policy which aim to address food security include:

  • Building capacity and skills to produce food and keep food production at the heart of farming
  • Build food security into the delivery of our farming, fishing and aquaculture policies.
  • Support the appropriate legal framework to ensure our food and drink producers, processors, retailers and consumers are treated fairly
  • Fund new research to help meet the challenges of food security in Scotland and the rest of world
      The Scottish Government is also providing advice and additional funding to local producers to help them develop markets for their products and encourage the growth of farmers markets, farm shops and local food initiatives. Work is continuing with the Scottish Retailers’ Forum to help producers and processors identify new markets for their products in our supermarkets. And a new Retailers’ Charter has been signed by eight of the UK’s leading supermarkets.

More information here.

Rencontres PSDR CLAP

 Ces rencontres avaient pour ambition la diffusion et la discussion autour de quelques éléments d’analyse produits par les équipes de chercheurs impliqués dans le projet CLAP.

      CLAP (Compétitivité Localisation Action Publique) :
Ce projet a pour principal objectif d’évaluer les gains et coûts liés à l’agglomération d’activités agricoles et agroalimentaires.Cette évaluation a été menée en étudiant d’une part les déterminants de la localisation de ces activités au sein du grand Ouest, et d’autre part l’impact du contexte local sur la performance des exploitations et des firmes de l’agro-industrie.
In fine, l’ambition du projet est de définir dans quelle mesure, les politiques publiques, peuvent influencer, conforter, la compétitivité des secteurs agricoles et agroalimentaires sur le territoire du Grand Ouest dans une perspective de développement soutenable.

      Un projet du PSDR Grand Ouest (Pour et Sur le Développement Régional) :

C’est un programme de recherches interrégional et pluridisciplinaire  initié par l’INRA et le CEMAGREF en partenariat avec les régions : Basse-Normandie, Bretagne, Pays de la Loire et Poitou-Charentes, dont les objectifs sont :
  • Analyser les processus de développement territorial et plus particulièrement le rôle et la place des activités agricoles et agroalimentaires.
  • Apporter une contribution opérationnelle au développement territorial à travers la fourniture d’outils et méthodes pour ses acteurs, dans une démarche de co-construction.

Ce sont environ 50 personnes qui se sont retrouvées l’espace d’une journée à l’Agropole, accueillies par l’AC3A et la Chambre d’Agriculture de la Vienne.

Plus d’information et source.

Le commerce de proximité

Le plan d’actions en faveur du développement du commerce de proximité présenté en juin 2008 par le secrétaire d’Etat en charge du Commerce, de l’Artisanat, des PME, du Tourisme, de la Consommation et des Services s’articule autour de trois objectifs forts :

  1. identifier les bonnes pratiques et assurer leur diffusion aux plans local et national
  2. réformer les outils de soutien aux projets innovants, fédérateurs et porteurs de croissance pour le commerce de proximité
  3. valoriser le commerce de proximité.

La déclinaison de ces objectifs a mené à conduire les actions suivantes :

  • une campagne d’information en direction des consommateurs confiée à l’Institut national de la consommation (INC) dans le cadre des émissions de télévision « Consomag », de chroniques pour les radios et d’un film pour la presse vidéo.
  • une communication visant à promouvoir les formations, les métiers et les carrières du commerce de proximité est lancée début mars sur le thème « Ma passion, j’en fais mon métier ». Elle comprend notamment la création d’un site Internet
  • une série de quatre appels nationaux à projets innovants et rassembleurs sur les thèmes suivants: « commerce et nouvelles technologies de l’information », « commerce et développement durable », « commerce et services connexes », et « commerce et accessibilité ».
Le premier appel diffusé le 5 juin 2009 a permis la sélection par la Commission d’orientation du commerce de proximité de six projets ( les consulter ).
Le deuxième appel à projet, visant à recueillir les bonnes pratiques sur le thème « commerce et développement durable», lancé le 25 janvier 2010, a permis de sélectionner 6 projets sur 28 présentés ( les consulter ).
Le troisième appel à projet portant sur les bonnes pratiques en matière de “commerce de proximité et services connexes” a sélectionné un seul projet ( le consulter ).
Et le quatrième appel à projet portant sur les bonnes pratiques en matière de “commerce de proximité et accessibilité ” a permis de sélectionner 6 projets sur 17 présentés( les consulter )

Plus d’information et source.