Time filter

Source Type

News Article
Site: www.nature.com

The visible face of intensive agriculture is supermarkets bulging with vegetables, meat and milk. Yet behind the scenes, as Science Gallery Dublin's latest exhibition reveals, factory farming's reliance on energy-intensive fertilizer manufacture and vast amounts of water raises big questions about sustainability. No one solution is on offer in Field Test, which is curated by the Center for Genomic Gastronomy, an artist-led global think tank devoted to imagining a more just, biodiverse food system. But visitors can feast on prototypes, research, revolutionary agronomy manifestos, innovative and imagined farm technologies and speculative cuisines. “We're asking how we can get more from less,” explains acting gallery director Lynn Scarff. Meat, for instance, is a Western penchant now spreading around the world. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that demand will increase by more than two-thirds over the next 40 years, despite sky-high costs — it takes 15,000 litres of water to produce a kilogram of beef. The curators' Farmstand Forecast looks at alternatives: attractively packaged insect-based foods, and historical 'miracle' crops such as breadfruit and Chlorella algae. An exhibition strand dubbed 'Farm Cyborgs' features animal-husbandry innovations including Silent Herdsman, a smart collar for tracking data on bovine health. Playing With Pigs: Pig Chase is a video game for alleviating porcine boredom, designed by researchers at the HKU University of the Arts Utrecht and the Wageningen University and Research Centre, both in the Netherlands. A pig uses its snout to manipulate a virtual ball on a touch-sensitive display, while a person uses a finger to do the same on a tablet computer. The reward for moving the ball in harmony is colourful 'fireworks'. Imagination-tickling as this is, it does not probe the central issue — demand and supply. That dilemma is framed in 'Grow House'. Does the plastinated leftover of physician Mark Post's 2013 in vitro burger, made by culturing beef cells, represent a viable solution? Bioartist Oron Catts thinks not. “The real price of growing meat in a lab is hidden,” he notes. Muscle cells are macerated in huge quantities of fetal bovine serum obtained by slaughtering pregnant cows — half a litre of serum yields just 5 grams of meat, says Catts. His speculative Stir Fly is a sleek prototype bioreactor co-created by artist Ionat Zurr and designer Robert Foster to grow fly cells in bovine serum. The mix could be siphoned off and eaten as soup, or drained to form insect 'meat'. Closed-loop urban agriculture systems offer a time-honoured sustainable alternative. AQUAlab, by Dublin-based agricultural start-up firm URBANFARM, harnesses aquaponics — a system in which waste from fish raised for food fertilizes salad and herbs, which in turn purify the water for the fish. (Plants and fish will eventually be harvested as a tasty proof of concept.) The 'Open Ag Lab' showcases another city-farming trend — beekeeping. In the The Dublin Honey Project, Irish black bees do their stuff in six apiaries across the city, and ecologist Jane Stout from Trinity College Dublin will be identifying pollen from the honey to determine foraging sources. Counter-intuitively, the project argues that cities can be relatively clean for bees because of stringent controls on pesticides. Stout argues, too, for ecological intensification — replacing artificial inputs by optimizing ecosystem services and fostering crop diversity. In service to that vision, botanists at Trinity focus on the microbiome. For Endophyte Club, Trevor Hodkinson, Brian Murphy, Anna Kaja Hoeyer and Anindita Lahiri have extracted the microbiome of wild barley and plated the microorganisms that live in the plant out on agar plates. They show how sprinkling seeds with such endophytes can boost yields, potentially reducing fertilizer use. The show points out that consumer choices can determine how and what is grown. 'LOCI Food Lab' is a cart peddling personalized snacks made from Irish foods, digitally selected on a tablet device using criteria such as biodiverse, traditional or delicious. My attempts yielded sweet-salty yogurt, shoots and leaves, mushroom dust and dillisk seaweed: a locavore's dream nibble. Field Test has dug up an assortment of agricultural advances, idealistic prototypes and thought experiments. But the quirkiness on show spurs questioning even as the discoveries framed rouse hope. A coordinated solution to our hungry future remains elusive.

de Rosa C.,The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations | Nadeau A.,The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations | Hernandez E.,The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations | Kafeero F.,The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations | Zahiga J.,National Pedagogy University
International Journal of Training and Development | Year: 2016

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) utilizes training as a major component of the support it provides to its member countries in Africa. In the past, stand-alone training events targeting individual actors were the norm. However, an external evaluation indicated that this type of training scores low in terms of sustainability. The FAO has recently adopted a more sustainable approach to training and learning as part of its new corporate approach to capacity development. Drawing on four recent experiences implemented in Africa from 2010 to 2014, this paper discusses the concept of training sustainability as adopted in the FAO's operations, looking at the extent to which both learning results and processes are transferred to country and/or regional organizations. Lessons learned are presented for consideration in the design and delivery of future learning activities in Africa. © 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Alexandra Clark is a sustainable-food campaigner at Humane Society International. She recently presented HSI's meat reduction work at the COP21 in Paris. Prior to joining HSI, Clark worked for the vice president of the European Parliament and was responsible for a number of high-profile parliamentary initiatives on sustainable food systems. She contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights. Global leaders in Paris accomplished much with the climate change agreement they reached late last year, but it had its shortcomings — including a failure to specifically mitigate the emissions of climate-changing gases from animal agriculture. However, outside of the Paris talks, policymakers in the European Union (EU) are beginning to advance that discussion, pushing for a shift away from diets heavy in meat, egg and dairy products, in an effort to clear the air. There is extensive research showing the outsize impacts of animal agriculture on the environment. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has concluded that "the livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global." It's not hard to see why. The process of converting energy and protein in animal feed into meat calories and protein for humans is highly inefficient: For example, a 2014 study led by Henk Westhoek for the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, and appearing in Global Environmental Change, found a 50 percent reduction in all EU consumption of meat, dairy and eggs would cut agricultural greenhouse gas emissions by 19 to 42 percent. Similar research that year in the journal Climatic Change found that, in the U.K., vegetarian and vegan diets had 32 percent and 49 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions , respectively, than medium-meat diets. Compared to high-meat diets, the difference was even starker, with vegan diets emitting 60 percent less greenhouse gasses. Yet, reductions aren't the projected future we face. One 2010 study by Nathan Pelletier and Peter Tyedmers at Dalhousie University, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, projected a 39 percent rise in emissions from animal agriculture by 2050 over year-2000 levels, accounting for more than two-thirds of the amount of greenhouse gases considered safe by 2050. Given the threats that climate change and other environmental impacts from farm animal production pose to long-term food security, there is a need for a global shift away from meat-heavy diets. Less meat for the wealthy, food security for the poor Eggs, meat and milk can continue to serve as sources of nutrition — particularly in rural areas of developing countries, which sometimes exhibit higher rates of undernutrition. Farm animals can provide a variety of supports to pastoralists, mixed farmers and landless peoples in rural areas. In rural communities around the world, people use farm animals as a means of acquiring cash income, a way to save and accumulate assets, as a food source, and as insurance against health or other financial crises. Integrated into a broader rural landscape of small farms, animals provide inputs and services for crop production. However, most farm animal production (and growth in production) is taking place in polluting and inhumane industrial farm animal production systems. These industrial systems are feeding middle- and higher-income consumers who could benefit from more plant-based diets. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 40 percent of adults across the globe are overweight, and noncommunicable diseases linked to the overconsumption of fats and energy-dense foods (such as meat, eggs and milk) are now a leading cause of illness and death worldwide. The WHO has called for an increase in the consumption of plant-based foods — specifically fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts — as part of the solution. Developed countries like the United States still have the highest per-capita meat consumption. However, according to the FAO, developing and emerging economies already account for the majority of meat production overall, and are projected to account for the majority of growth in animal consumption in the coming years. Developing countries where farm animal production is expanding may no longer require an overall increase in the consumption of animal source foods among all segments of their populations, as a significant proportion of their populations are already meeting or exceeding their energy requirements.  Ironically, many developing countries with high levels of hunger and malnutrition now simultaneously bear the burden of an obesity-related public health crisis, with the number of overweight women already exceeding the number of underweight women in most developing countriesby 2005, according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  To allow for a more equitable distribution of agricultural resources and to ensure long-term food security and health for all communities around the world, society should place greater emphasis on small-scale, multipurpose, more animal-welfare-friendly and environmentally sustainable farm animal production led by small farmers. Middle- and higher-income populations should also reduce their consumption of animal products.  A side event held within the U.N. climate conference — entitled "Meat: The Big Omission from the Talks on Emissions," hosted by leading international organizations such as the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) and Humane Society International — brought together policymakers, scientists and civil society groups, and emphasized the need to reduce the number of animals raised for food. The event highlighted successful efforts around the world to achieve this goal by encouraging people to consume more plants and less meat. Jo Leinen, a German member of the European Parliament, spoke at the event, emphasizing nations' inability to mitigate climate change without shifting away from meat-centric diets. His comments came on the heels of a recently published report by Chatham House, "Changing Climate, Changing Diets: Pathways to Lower Meat Consumption," which specifically addresses potential government interventions to encourage meat and dairy reduction, ranging from public-awareness-raising campaigns to a carbon tax. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger agreed with the event premise — the former California governor, actor and bodybuilder made waves during the climate conference by calling on people to keep meat off their plates one or two days a week to address climate change, according to the BBC. And, a growing number of food service providers, educational institutions, environmental groups and other stakeholders are embracing meat-reduction initiatives such as Meatless Monday.  In October, HSI launched Green Monday South Africa and a Meatless Monday campaign in Mexico with events attended by media, celebrities and other stakeholders. There are also thriving humane eating campaigns in India, China and other emerging economies where meat consumption is rapidly rising, along with problems relating obesity and chronic disease.  The growing middle- and upper-class consumers in these countries are becoming increasingly sensitive to animal welfare, health and environmental issues, as exhibited by the increasing number of food companies in these regions adopting animal welfare policies, and the growth in the market for organic and other sustainable products.  HSI advocates what it calls compassionate eating, or the three R's: "reducing" or "replacing" consumption of animal products, and "refining" diets by choosing products from sources that adhere to higher animal welfare standards. In the EU, those goals are gaining popularity, and there is growing public support for meeting the target of a 30 percent reduction in animal product consumption by 2030 through a variety of policy mechanisms. HSI launched this formal call in September 2015 at The Free Lunch, one of the largest food events ever held outside the European Parliament, where approximately 1,000 people, including politicians, attended in support of reducing the consumption of animal-based foods in the EU. The event featured cross-party members of the European Parliament, including the Parliament's vice president, civil society representatives and a representative of the EU Health and Food Safety Commission. Pathways to the 30 percent goal include incorporating sustainable food consumption into the EU and its member states' climate action plan; revising the European Commission's Green Public Procurement guidelines; and developing guidelines for healthy and sustainable diets.  In early 2015, more than 60 cross-party members of the European Parliament wrote to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and others to demand the publication of the blocked Communication on Building a Sustainable System, as well as EU sustainable dietary guidelines including a reduction in consumption of animal-based foods. The communication has been held up by a "principle of political discontinuity," practically ensuring that this important document never sees the light of day. Yet science demands more work to move this issue forward. With its overall goal and its recognition of the importance of people's consumption choices, the Paris Agreement provides a signal at the global level.  The preamble of the document states that "sustainable lifestyles and sustainable patterns of consumption and production, with developed country Parties taking the lead, play an important role in addressing climate change." The parties should elaborate this at the national and subnational level. Research increasingly shows the benefits of moving toward more plant-based diets — to improve the welfare of farm animals, promote environmental sustainability and protect human health. It is time to really get to the meat of the matter and stop avoiding the elephant — or chicken or pig — in the room.  Follow all of the Expert Voices issues and debates — and become part of the discussion — on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This version of the article was originally published on Live Science. Why Does Less Meat Mean Less Heat? (Op-Ed) Copyright 2016 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discover hidden collaborations