High on the hog

While this study has focused on the internal dynamics, it is important to note that China’s contemporary pork industry relies on – and is altering – global resources and markets. With 21 per cent of the world’s population but only 9 per cent of arable land, feeding China’s pigs without starving China’s people has required re-routing international trade, investment and resource flows. In 2014, China imported almost 60 per cent of the total global soybean trade (70 million tonnes) for its livestock feed industry; maize imports are also rising, and the party-state increasingly supports Chinese agribusiness firms to ‘go out’ (zou chuqu) to seek access to land, resources and markets abroad. In terms of ramping up pork production while avoiding widespread hunger, the development model has been successful: although food security remains a focus for the state (and a problem especially for poor rural populations), for those who can afford it, modern life means living high on the hog.

How can you possibly resist a piece that ends like that? It’s from Reforming the Humble Pig: Pigs, Pork and Contemporary China by Mindi Schneider, the final chapter in Animals through Chinese History: Earliest Times to 1911. The whole thing is open access, courtesy of Cambridge University Press.

Brainfood: Tibetan barley, Eastern Sahel domestication, CC & coffee, Good bugs, Garden Organic, Amazonian domestication, Maize domestication, Maize & CC, Acidless citrus, Seed commons book, Crispy blueberry, African hunter-gatherers, Indian forages, Brazilian PGR, Cloudberry picking, Wheat & CC

Feeding the nutrition debate

There’s a new set of weekly information nibbles in town:

Food Bytes is a weekly blog post of “nibbles” of information on all things food and nutrition science, policy and culture.

It’s a bit tricky to work it out, but the person behind this welcome addition to the discussion of nutrition and related issues is none other than Dr Jess Fanzo, co-chair of the Independent Expert Group of the Global Nutrition Report. Which gives me the opportunity to remind everyone in the words of Jess herself that said report came out a couple of months back :

The Global Nutrition Report was released this November. The news is not great. The report revealed that the global burden of malnutrition is unacceptably high and now affects every country in the world. But it also highlighted that if we act now, it is not too late to end malnutrition in all its forms. In fact, we have an unprecedented opportunity to do so. Steps have been taken in understanding and addressing malnutrition in all its forms, yet, the uncomfortable question is not so much why are things so bad, but why are things not better when we know so much more than before? Check it out and read all the deets.

This recommendation from the report is particularly relevant to us here:

Healthy diet policies and programmes are proving effective in countries, cities and communities but overall there is inadequate delivery of a holistic package of actions. The World Health Organization Global database on the Implementation of Nutrition Action (GINA) includes more than 1,000 national policies in 191 countries in support of healthy diets. For example, many countries have adopted sugar-sweetened beverage taxes in recent years, and these are proving effective, as are product reformulation policies. Large-scale food fortification is another area where there has been progress – but also exemplifies that there remain many barriers to change. A growing number of community and city-level initiatives are being implemented to improve diets and nutrition. New evidence is showing that intensive multi-level action can improve infant diets and reduce childhood obesity. Lessons could be scaled up from city to national level and shared through newly emerging international city networks. To date, however, few countries have implemented the comprehensive package of actions needed to significantly improve diets at the population level.

And since we’re on the subject, the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health, which is attempting to reach a scientific consensus on what constitutes a healthy and sustainable diet, is delivering its first scientific review tomorrow. No doubt Jess will have something to say about it in due course.

But if this commentary from Frédéric Leroy is anything to go by, that consensus may be elusive, at least with regards to meat.

…the campaign, that will be launched in Oslo on January 17th, sounds like a powerful push to shift global diets by discouraging animal products. It is fuelled by large budgets and will be mediatised for a long time to come, scheduling more than 30 events around the world. But a closer look into its background reveals some perturbing elements. The danger is that the overstatement of certain concerns will result in an anti-livestock narrative, create a false impression of scientific consensus, and do more harm than good in a world in need of nutrient-rich meals and sustainable food systems.

Open seeds

We’ve blogged a couple of times about the Open Source Seed Initiative. The first time was when Jeremy interviewed Jack Kloppenburg, whose idea it was, back in 2013. The second yielded this little gem:

“It’s almost like a haiku,” says Irwin Goldman a professor of horticulture at UW-Madison and plant breeder, who has released two of his carrot varieties under the OSSI. “It basically says these seeds are free to use in any way you want. They can’t be legally protected. Enjoy them.”

Well, it turns out there’s a German version as well, as well as a project in east Africa. That’s according to a new policy brief from CIRAD.

It’s not quite a haiku, but here’s how the approach is described by Selim Louafi and his co-authors:

This approach is distinct from the public domain, whereby anyone has free and open access to the seeds, with the inevitable risk of free appropriation. Conversely, the open source approach is based on viral effects (i.e. the same conditions apply for any subsequent use) and non-proprietary assets: it reverses the intellectual property rights rationale by introducing negotiated terms of access and use with the aim of keeping seeds in a protected commons.

Long may it prosper.

LATER: And no, it isn’t lost on me that the past three posts on open source seeds, seed sector innovation and extension services could all have been mashed up into one mega-post on sustainable seed systems. But I do have a day job. Anyone want to give it a go?