Environmental imprints of agricultural and livestock produce: a scoping review from South Asian countries (2023 Dec)

Sachdeva B, Puri S, Aeri BT. Environmental imprints of agricultural and livestock produce: a scoping review from South Asian countries. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2023: 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1111/jhn.1323 (pay wall)

Relevant to: 

Medical professionals, nutrition experts, chefs, foodservice procurement

Question: 

The present study explored the role of South Asian food crops and livestock in environmental degradation.

Bottom line for nutrition practice: 

  • A prerequisite for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals is the sustainable food production. Many foods that are healthy for people are healthy for the environment, too. Trained medical professionals and nutrition experts encourage healthy eating. According to the research, nutrition experts in South Asian nations do possess enough understanding about sustainable food systems. Thus, in addition to nutrition education, they can spread the knowledge about food sustainability as well.
  • At the public level, concept of food sustainability can be promoted by chefs or nutritionists who oversee large food establishments and serve maximum population. Providing plant-based, seasonal, varied, and traditional menus, along with reduced portion sizes, could be easy yet effective ways to encourage sustainable diets and decrease food waste.

Abstract: 

  • Background: Global agricultural activities in 2020 produced 5.5 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent, and this amount is projected to increase since 70% more food would need to be produced in 2050 to feed the world’s population. Food security in South Asian countries is expected to rise due to increased agricultural output, yet it is unclear how their livestock and food crops will affect the environment. The purpose of this review was to evaluate the environmental effects of agricultural activities (pre and post-production) associated with edible food crops and livestock products consumed in eight South Asian nations.
  • Methods: Three databases—PubMed, Google Scholar, and Science Direct—were used to find the studies between 2011 and 2022. There was no registered protocol for this scoping review.
  • Results: The criteria for inclusion were met by twenty-seven studies. Most of the research was done in India. The assessment of greenhouse gas emissions was reported in twenty-four papers followed by water footprints (n = 5), emissions of nitrogen and phosphorus (n = 4), and land requirements (n = 4).A major source of greenhouse gas emissions has been found to be the cultivation of wheat and rice. It has been reported that the production of livestock (meat, dairy, prawns, and bovine) in Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka has also a negative impact on the environmental. For other environment variables, inconclusive data were obtained.
  • Conclusions: Growing more coarse cereals (millets) and diversifying the food production are the requisite steps to reduce the GHG emissions. However, to corroborate the current analysis, further long-term studies for South Asian nations are necessary.

Details of results: 

  • A total of twenty-seven screened studies met the scoping review’s eligibility and were included in the final analysis. Selected research articles discussed the impact of livestock and/or food production on various environmental parameters.
  • With the help of this review, information about various environmental effects of pre- and post-production activities pertaining to food crops and livestock products in South Asian nations was gathered. In accordance with the World Bank’s classification, eight South Asian nations—India, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and Pakistan—were taken into consideration.
  • It was observed that greenhouse gas emissions were the most often researched environmental impact worldwide. Retrieved data on land requirements, water footprints, and nitrogen.
  • Understanding a nation’s food production and consumption pattern is essential to ensure food sustainability. Research indicates that due to globalisation there has been a nutrition transition in South Asian countries.
  • Refined products, high fat, high sugar and animal-based food which are consumed more frequently are considered harmful for the environment. Diversifying one’s diet is recommended at the individual level in all six countries. This includes consuming a range of grains and substituting millets (bajra, ragi, and sorghum) for rice/wheat and plant based milk (almond milk for dairy or animal products.

Of additional interest: 

Conflict of interest/ Funding:  

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.

Corresponding author: 

Seema Puri, Department of Food and Nutrition, Institute of Home Economics, University of Delhi, New Delhi, India, dr.seemapuri@gmail.com

Sustainability Practices in School Feeding Programs (2023 Sep)

This paper provides an overview of research on environmental considerations in school feeding programmes and a synopsis of evaluations of two school feeding programs (U.S. National School Lunch Program and Portugal) with emphasis on their environmental impacts.

The paper concludes that estimates of the environmental impacts of school feeding programs are needed to design menus and make policy recommendations, which, in turn, can reduce their environmental impacts and help students develop food preferences aligned with sustainable dietary patterns. Studies can be performed to better inform implementation of different components of new standards.

The following were strategies found to assist:
💰 Financial incentives, including local food procurement, could encourage school districts to offer beef less frequently, and provide plant-based meals on school menus.
📝 School-based curriculum that emphasizes food literacy (e.g., cooking, gardening) and marketing campaigns could ensure that menu changes are well-received by students.
🫛 Sourcing plant-based school meals seasonally and locally that use eco-friendly production practices such as organic food production and agroecology can provide environmental, economic, and social
sustainability benefits.
🧑‍🍳 Finally, introducing plant-based school meals gradually, giving careful consideration of the seasoning, naming, and aesthetics of plant-based meals, and training kitchen staff in the preparation of plant-based meals are all strategies that can be used to overcome potential implementation barriers.

This article appeared in a member-only newsletter of the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetics Practice Group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and is shared with permission. The author, Christine McCullum-Gomez, PhD, RDN, is a food and nutrition consultant based in Bogotá, Colombia. She has a PhD in Nutritional Sciences from Cornell University with minors in Program Evaluation and Public Policy. Her research and work experience lie in food security and sustainable food systems. Dr. McCullum-Gomez is a Column Editor and serves on the Editorial Board for the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition. She is also Chair-Elect of the Global Member Interest Group (GMIG) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Sustainable Food Systems Network (EUFIC)

European Food Information Council (EUFIC)‘s Global Sustainable Food Systems Network facilitates communication and collaboration amongst stakeholders in sustainable food systems (SFS) across the globe. In this community, you will find policy makers, business professionals, civil society organizations, researchers, NGOs/non-profit organizations, funding agencies and interested citizens. The network allows members to:

  • Add to and use the resources section
  • Reach out to members through the chat in a field/topic you are interested in. Network, ask questions, build bridges. Chat conversations are private and confidential!
  • Publish about events you are organizing regarding SFS (on average, 30-120 members attend events shared in the feed!)
  • Peruse the calendar of events shared by other members.
  • Share calls, documents, reports, papers, etc. that you think are interesting for the whole community.
  • Ask the community for feedback and start a conversation, e.g. by creating a poll!
  • Share job openings as “opportunities”. The network currently spans 2000+ people, and their personal networks spread much further.

The SFSN Community leaders send a biweekly newsletter with featured shared events, opportunities, posts, and new members for further dissemination.

If you have any feedback, questions or would like to get more involved, email sfsn@eufic.org or contact us directly through the chat (search Community Managers).

JHND Special Issue: Sustainable Food Systems and Dietary Patterns in Nutrition and Dietetic Practice (2023 Dec)

The British Dietetic Association’s Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics (JHND) published a Special Issue on Sustainable Food Systems and Dietary Patterns in Nutrition and Dietetic Practice edited by: Liesel Carlsson, Angela Madden, and Kalliopi-Anna Poulia (Volume 36, Issue 6, Pages: 2121-2350, December 2023).

Twelve of the sixteen articles are open access and cover a wide range of practice settings.

  • Open Access – Conceptualising sustainability in Canadian dietetic practice: A scoping review – Dietitians are well-positioned to promote sustainable food systems and diets. This research identifies practice activities described in the Canadian published literature and compares these with dietetic competency standards. Increasing practitioners’ ability to analyse issues using systems thinking will help address complex challenges. Updates to competency standards and curricular supports are needed to support this area of practice.
  • Open Access – Local food procurement by hospitals: a scoping review – There is a paucity of peer-reviewed studies describing local food procurement by hospitals. Details of local food procurement models were generally lacking: categorisable as either purchases made ‘on-contract’ via conventional means or ‘off-contract’. If hospital foodservices are to increase their local food procurement, they require access to a suitable, reliable and traceable supply, that acknowledges their complexity and budgetary constraints.

SEAFOOD TOMORROW (2021)

cover of the book
Wilson, Annette M., Reuver, Marieke, Santos, Marta, & Marques, António. (2021). SEAFOODTOMORROW Key Achievements Booklet – Nutritious, safe and sustainable seafood for the future. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4696236

SEAFOOD TOMORROW was a €7m European Union Horizon 2020-funded project that ran from 2017-2021 that aimed to develop innovative sustainable solutions for improving the safety and dietary properties of seafood in Europe.

Addressing the challenge to meet the growing market need for safe and sustainable seafood, the project generated new knowledge to develop commercial solutions for improving the socio-economic and environmental sustainability of the European seafood production and processing industry.

This interactive booklet summarises the key achievements of the SEAFOOD TOMORROW project: Nutritious, safe and sustainable seafood for consumers of tomorrow.

This booklet is for all seafood stakeholders, including industry representatives, policy- and decision-makers, and seafood consumers.

They present the Eco-Innovative Solutions and Key Exploitable Results generated by the SEAFOOD TOMORROW team, including their potential or realised impact, a summary of dissemination and exploitation activities carried out, and the next steps needed to ensure maximum uptake and legacy of the SEAFOOD TOMORROW outcomes.

Marine Conservation Society & Good Fish Guide (website)

Marine Conservation Society (MSC) is fighting for a cleaner, better protected, healthier ocean: one we can all enjoy.

For a cleaner ocean, MSC campaigns to stop pollution entering our oceans, and volunteer beach cleans remove and record the litter on the UK coastline. Using science, MSC tracks the health of our waters, influences business practice, and calls for better environmental regulations.

For a better-protected ocean MSC secures space where species and habitats can recover. MSC is campaigning for a minimum of 30% of UK waters being effectively managed by 2030 to protect wildlife and ecosystems. Only seas full of life can absorb carbon and help tackle climate change.

For a healthier ocean MSC promotes sustainable fishing and seafood to minimise harm. MSC support businesses to catch, produce and source seafood sustainably and incorporate conservation into their work. The MSC Good Fish Guide highlights the most and least sustainable fish, so people can make better seafood-buying choices.

MSC makes sure ratings are as up-to-date as possible, aiming to review them all at least once every three years. Many are updated annually. Any significant changes, like new laws or new scientific evidence, may trigger an update. For transparency and credibility, MSC researches and drafts a set of ratings updates, and puts them out to consultation. Scientists, fishermen, and businesses review proposed updates and provide extra information. In between consultations and launches, MSC is working on the next set of ratings updates, so always looking out for important changes and incorporating the latest available information. MSC follows two separate processes, one for farmed seafood and one for wild-caught, allowing us to address key issues for each area.

FishChoice Calculator (Website)

Click to go to FishChoice, your personal fish calculator

This is a personal fish consumption calculator. Seafood has been recognised as a high-quality, healthy and safe food type and is one of the most important food commodities consumed worldwide. However, seafood, like other types of food, can also be a source of harmful environmental contaminants with potential to impact on human health.

FISHCHOICE is part of the H2020 project SEAFOODTOMORROW, aimed at assessing food safety issues related to priority contaminants present in seafood as a result of environmental contamination and evaluating their impact on public health.

Aquaculture Stewardship Council (Website)

The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) is the world’s leading certification scheme for farmed seafood – known as aquaculture – and the ASC label only appears on food from farms that have been independently assessed and certified as being environmentally and socially responsible. Aquaculture produces over half of the seafood eaten around the world and will be vital in providing healthy, affordable protein to the world’s rapidly growing population in the future. But like all food production, it has impacts and must be done responsibly.

ASC develops and manages the strictest standards in the industry. These standards include hundreds of requirements covering the potential impacts of aquaculture – including water quality, responsible sourcing of feed, disease prevention, animal welfare, the fair treatment and pay of workers, and maintaining positive relationships with neighbouring communities.

The ASC Metrics Methodology project to creates transparency and consistency into the ‘metric’ standard-setting. The ‘Baseline’ Methodology published in November 2020 was issued for a 62-day public consultation period. It is applicable to all species-specific metrics and aims to provide minimum requirements for setting and/or revising metrics within any of the ASC standards.

Click here to find a farm, supplier, or product around the globe. You’ll also be able to access ASC country / regional websites from this link as well.

The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) was launched in 2010 and we have been collecting data since the first farms achieved certification against our standards in 2012. You can visit their dashboard to see what countries are covered and how many frames and products are included. This provide an important picture of ASC’s growth, the reach of environmentally and socially responsible seafood choices, and inform market opportunities. Aggregated data are often used by stakeholders in their own research and understanding on responsible farming practices.

Click here to explore the database via the ASC dashboard.

Updated 2023 April

The vital roles of blue foods in the global food system (2022 Jun)

Michelle Tigchelaar, Jim Leape, Fiorenza Micheli, Edward H. Allison, Xavier Basurto, Abigail Bennett, Simon R. Bush, Ling Cao, William W.L. Cheung, Beatrice Crona, Fabrice DeClerck, Jessica Fanzo, Stefan Gelcich, Jessica A. Gephart, Christopher D. Golden, Benjamin S. Halpern, Christina C. Hicks, Malin Jonell, Avinash Kishore, J. Zachary Koehn, David C. Little, Rosamond L. Naylor, Michael J. Phillips, Elizabeth R. Selig, Rebecca E. Short, U. Rashid Sumaila, Shakuntala H. Thilsted, Max Troell, Colette C.C. Wabnitz. The vital roles of blue foods in the global food system. Global Food Security 33 (2022) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2022.100637

Highlights

  • Blue foods are diverse, rich in essential nutrients and fatty acids, and can offer sustainable alternatives to terrestrial animal-sourced foods.
  • Blue foods are often missing from food system analyses, policies, and investments.
  • This paper offers three recommendations for realizing the potential of blue foods in sustainable, healthy, and just food systems.
Fig. 1

Abstract

  • Blue foods play a central role in food and nutrition security for billions of people and are a cornerstone of the livelihoods, economies, and cultures of many coastal and riparian communities. Blue foods are extraordinarily diverse, are often rich in essential micronutrients and fatty acids, and can often be produced in ways that are more environmentally sustainable than terrestrial animal-source foods. Capture fisheries constitute the largest wild-food resource for human extraction that would be challenging to replace.
  • Yet, despite their unique value, blue foods have often been left out of food system analyses, policies, and investments.
  • Here, we focus on three imperatives for realizing the potential of blue foods: (1) Bring blue foods into the heart of food system decision-making; (2) Protect and develop the potential of blue foods to help end malnutrition; and (3) Support the central role of small-scale actors in fisheries and aquaculture. Recognition of the importance of blue foods for food and nutrition security constitutes a critical justification to preserve the integrity and diversity of aquatic species and ecosystems.

Fig. 1. Overview of blue food benefits and challenges and the three areas of policy action identified in this paper that would help realize the potential of blue foods to contribute to sustainable, healthy, and just food system outcomes.

  • To make a case for integrating blue foods into global food system decision-making, we draw on the findings of the Blue Food Assessment.
  • These policy recommendations should not be seen as all-encompassing. Instead, they are an entry point into making blue foods part of food system transformations.

Compound climate risks threaten aquatic food system benefits (2021)

Tigchelaar, M., Cheung, W.W.L., Mohammed, E.Y. et al. Compound climate risks threaten aquatic food system benefits. Nat Food 2, 673–682 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-021-00368-9 (open source)

Abstract

  • Aquatic foods from marine and freshwater systems are critical to the nutrition, health, livelihoods, economies and cultures of billions of people worldwide, but climate-related hazards may compromise their ability to provide these benefits. Here, we estimate national-level aquatic food system climate risk using an integrative food systems approach that connects climate hazards impacting marine and freshwater capture fisheries and aquaculture to their contributions to sustainable food system outcomes.
  • We show that without mitigation, climate hazards pose high risks to nutritional, social, economic and environmental outcomes worldwide—especially for wild-capture fisheries in Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and Small Island Developing States. For countries projected to experience compound climate risks, reducing societal vulnerabilities can lower climate risk by margins similar to meeting Paris Agreement mitigation targets. System-level interventions addressing dimensions such as governance, gender equity and poverty are needed to enhance aquatic and terrestrial food system resilience and provide investments with large co-benefits towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.

Fig. 3: Climate risk profiles based on differences in hazards, exposure and vulnerability across food system outcomes.

figure 3
  • On the basis of a cluster analysis, we identify four climate risk profiles for aquatic food system outcomes.
  • The profiles are based on the characteristics of countries that have ‘high’ or ‘very high’ climate risk for at least one food system outcome by mid-century under a high-emissions scenario.
  • The profile descriptions are based on median indicator values for each profile.
  • Individual countries within each cluster can deviate slightly from this characterization. SLR, sea level rise.

Results, excerpt from Towards climate-resilient aquatic foods

  • For countries with high marine fisheries dependence, including many SIDS, one of the challenges will be to design measures that strike an appropriate balance between supporting economic development aspirations through efficiency and revenue generation, and supporting food security through local and domestic consumption of fish (for example, climate-smart agreements for transboundary resources and the development of climate-resilient aquaculture for food security).
    • For countries where freshwater aquaculture contributes to poor environmental outcomes, solutions may target the adoption of integrated farming solutions or of technological innovations such as resource-efficient production systems that can be isolated from the environment.
    • In both contexts, solutions need support through enabling government policies, functional institutions at the national to community levels and sustainable, responsible financial investment.
  • Enhancing climate resilience for highly vulnerable countries facing compound climate risk—from freshwater and deltaic fisheries and aquaculture or from marine fisheries—is most challenging and urgent given that these countries are projected to have the greatest number of food system outcomes experiencing high climate risk.
    • For such countries, resilience efforts focused on aquatic food systems provide options (such as nature-based solutions (for example, mangrove, reef and seagrass restoration to aid coastal storm protection and enhance aquatic ecosystem productivity), sustainable intensification, livelihood diversification and investments in local value chains), but these efforts need to be part of a more generalized resilience framework that addresses the social dimensions of vulnerability (for example, through strengthening governance, promoting gender equity and reducing poverty).
    • Climate solutions that require public sector investments must be able to deliver both social and political gains to increase their acceptability to the public choice-maker. Ultimately, a generalized resilience approach means enhancing the capacity of coastal and riparian people to become the agents of societally desired systems transformation and to recognize aquatic food systems as integral to socio-economic development efforts and nutrition policies and overall food system resilience.