16 Reasons 2016 Will Bring Positive Change to the Global Food System
As we wrap up 2015 at Food Tank, we are already looking forward to next year. From food safety law to a heightened focus on food waste, there are so many exciting food and agriculture stories that unfold every day. We'll continue to cover the most important food issues in 2016, focusing on equity and sustainability in the food system to drive positive change.
Here we have selected 16 stories that represent the most exciting food trends for 2016:
1. Beans are finally getting their due—the UN General Assembly declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses. Pulses are crops harvested solely for the dry grain and include crops like lentils, beans, peas and chickpeas. The International Year of Pulses will highlight the potential for these plant-based proteins to improve food security, enrich soils and increase incomes for farmers around the world.
2. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization LIBERATION project is highlighting effective ways to reduce—and even reverse—agriculture's environmental footprint. According to LIBERATION, food production will need to increase 70 percent by 2050. Ecological intensification—increasing yields through ecosystem services, rather than external inputs—is critical to achieving this goal. Follow Food Tank's monthly Harvesting the Research series in 2016 to hear from researchers and scientists of the project.
3. The 2016 Global Forum for Food and Agriculture will take place in Berlin from January 14–16. The international conference focuses on central questions concerning the future of the global agri-food industry. The 2016 theme focuses on the importance of urban agriculture for improving food security.
4. The newly launched Family Farming Knowledge Platform will support family farmers around the world. Launched by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the Family Farming Knowledge Platform provides a wealth of information, data and legislation, aiming to build stronger public policies in support of family farming worldwide. This new digital platform represents the potential to unlock farmers' solutions to everyday challenges.
5. The Sustainable Food Trust will hold the Real Cost of American Food conference in April to highlight the high cost of cheap food in the U.S. The event will uncover the economic distortions of our current food system, which depends on intensive farming, to reveal the dishonest food pricing that is holding back the shift to sustainable practices in farming.
6. The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Agriculture and Food project is working to reveal the true worth of eco-agri-food systems, helping policymakers to better understand the complex links between ecosystems and food. A final report from the project will be finished in 2016, highlighting the positive and negative externalities of food production. Stay tuned for this definitive publication to find out more about the nexus of food, health and the environment.
7. Food waste is finally getting the attention it deserves. From U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree's (D-Maine) Food Recovery Act to the UN's goal to halve food waste by 2030, leaders are taking action on this massive problem. 2016 may be a landmark year for revising sell-by labels, improving donation incentives, de-stigmatizing imperfect produce and scaling out composting.
8. After launching a youth manifesto in Milan, the young leaders of the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition will continue their work for food sustainability in 2016. The manifesto represents a concrete commitment by young people to work for a more sustainable future through a novel approaches to food sustainability and innovation. The 2016 Young Earth Solutions annual program will provide an opportunity for young people to share their ideas and finance their projects to fight hunger across the globe.
9. Recognition for women farmers as climate leaders is growing. From Africa to the Caribbean, women farmers are finding ways to mitigate the impacts of climate change and improve food security. Food Tank and CARE International recently released a joint report on equitable solutions in the face of climate change, recommending that women farmers receive a fair share of recognition and resources.
10. Food workers are starting to win the fight for fair wages. The Fight for $15 campaign has claimed victories in Seattle, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco and the activists will ramp up campaigns in 2016 to advocate for elected officials and presidential candidates to support a $15-per-hour wage for the 64 million people earning poverty-level wages at their jobs. Saru Jayaraman, co-founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Center will also release a new book next year, Forked: A New Standard for American Dining, which explores the labor politics of the restaurant industry.
11. The face of agricultural innovation is changing, as farmer knowledge networks and information communications begin to define research and development processes as well as technological dissemination. Food Tank will release a new report in 2016 from the Democratizing Innovation panel describing the ways in which farmers are innovating, transferring knowledge to their peers and leading the charge for a more equitable and sustainable food system.
12. Sustainable diets are gaining traction as consumers, public health advocates, scientists and policymakers are beginning to understand the connections between nutrition, climate change and environmental impacts of specific dietary patterns. At COP21 in Paris, researchers from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future presented results from a new report revealing the links between animal product consumption and global climate change, showing the need for a massive shift in global diets. As the Paris agreement moves forward, leaders hope to amplify the public health message as a key area of advance work prior to 2020.
13. Antibiotic resistance is a key issue to watch in 2016. Despite many companies pledging to phase out sub-therapeutic antibiotic use in their supply chains, sales are up in the U.S. livestock sector and so is the prevalence of resistant bacteria. “Dangerous overuse of antibiotics by the agricultural industry has been on the rise at an alarming rate in recent years, putting the effectiveness of our life-saving drugs in jeopardy for people when they get sick," Avinash Kar, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said.
14. More and more students are interested in the food system. From agroecologists and food system planners to scientists and extension workers, the next generation of food leaders is working to better understand the links between human health and the health of the environment. The Center on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford University, directed by Rosamand Naylor, addresses critical gloal issues of hunger, poverty and environmental degradation by generating research and policy solutions. And the University of California Davis World Food Center, the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and Earth University offer just a few of the other high-caliber programs now available to students who are hoping to learn more about food and agriculture.
15. 2016 is expected to be a great year for food media and film. The Real Food Media Project, in exploration of food, farming and sustainability, will accept short film submissions until March 1, 2016, for its third annual contest. And the Food on Film season of the Toronto International Film Festival—to take place June 8—will bring together chefs, food experts and film lovers in Toronto, Canada.
16. Food Tank will convene four two-day summits in 2016—in Washington, DC; Sacramento, California; Chicago; and São Paolo, Brazil—bringing together some of the world's most impactful food system leaders. Each event will feature more than 50 speakers in interactive panels moderated by top food journalists, networking and delicious food followed by a day of hands-on activities and opportunities for attendees.
Click here for more information about these events.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The U.S. reported more than 55,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, in a sign that the outbreak is not letting up as the Fourth of July weekend kicks off.
- The U.S. Isn't in a Second Wave of Coronavirus – The First Wave ... ›
- Navajo Nation Has Highest Covid-19 Infection Rate in the U.S. ... ›
- U.S. Coronavirus Cases Top 2 Million as All 50 States Start ... ›
By Jason Bruck
Human actions have taken a steep toll on whales and dolphins. Some studies estimate that small whale abundance, which includes dolphins, has fallen 87% since 1980 and thousands of whales die from rope entanglement annually. But humans also cause less obvious harm. Researchers have found changes in the stress levels, reproductive health and respiratory health of these animals, but this valuable data is extremely hard to collect.
Researchers work with trained dolphins to learn more about their sensory abilities, seen here testing a dolphin's hearing. Jason Bruck / CC BY-ND
A Lot to Learn From Hormones<p>When sampling the blow, we are looking for hormones in mucus as these can be used to gauge psychological and physiological health. We are specifically interested in <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0114062" target="_blank">hormones like cortisol</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ygcen.2018.04.003" target="_blank">progesterone</a>, which indicate stress levels and reproductive ability respectively, but can also help determine overall health.</p><p>Additionally, blow samples can detect <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1128%2FmSystems.00119-17" target="_blank">respiratory pathogens</a> in the lungs or nasal passages - blowholes evolved from noses after all.</p><p>This health analysis is especially important in areas with oil spills as the chemicals can cause hormonal problems that harm <a href="https://www.carmmha.org/investigating-how-oil-spills-affect-dolphins-and-whales/" target="_blank">development, metabolism and reproduction</a> in dolphins.</p><p>Hormone samples can provide scientists with valuable data, but collecting them from intelligent and unpredictable animals is challenging.</p>
Cetacean Collaborators<p>To build a drone that can stealthily collect spray from moving dolphins, we needed more data on their eyesight and hearing, and this is data that couldn't be collected in the wild nor simulated in a lab.</p><p>We worked with dolphins at facilities like Dolphin Quest in Bermuda, which provides guests opportunities to learn about dolphins while allowing <a href="https://dolphinquest.com/about-us/our-story/" target="_blank">scientists access to animals for noninvasive research</a>. Here the dolphins can swim away if they choose not to work with us, so we had to design the study like a game; the way a kindergarten teacher entertains a class. If the dolphins aren't interested, we don't get to do the science.</p><p>Over the course of hundreds of sessions, we sought to answer two questions: What can dolphins hear and what can they see around their heads?</p><p>To test dolphin hearing, we set up microphones and cameras to record dolphin behavior as we played drone noise in the air. We analyzed the responses to each noise – such as how many dolphins looked at the speaker – and used these as a proxy for their ability to hear the sounds.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5f31daf07a652b8d64a093b993ee4e96"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UjmQeH3vXHI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Robodolphin doesn't look like a real dolphin, but it doesn't need to in order to train our drone pilots. C.J. Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND<p>To build robodolphin, we worked with dolphins trained to "chuff" or sneeze on command to measure spray characteristics. We used high-speed photography to see the dolphins' breath as it moved through the air. Then we conducted high resolution CT scans of a dolphin head and 3D-printed a replica of a nasal passage.</p><p>Now, we have a complete robodolphin and are tweaking its sprays to be nearly identical to the real thing. This will allow us to determine how close we need to get to collect the samples, and therefore, how quiet our drone needs to be.</p>
The replica dolphin blowhole was designed from a scan of a real blowhole passage, and the spray it produces closely matches the real thing. Alvin Ngo, Mitch Ford and CJ Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND
A Bit of Practice, Then Into the Wild<p>In the next few months, we will test flights over robodolphin with existing drones to determine the timing and strategy for collection. From there, we will fabricate a low-noise drone that can fly fast enough and with sufficient maneuverability to capture samples from wild dolphins. Like a video game, we will use the visual field data to develop approach trajectories to stay in the visual blindspots.</p><p>We plan to test our drones on a truck-mounted robodolphin moving down a runway, then using a boat to simulate realistic conditions. The next steps will involve ocean testing with dolphins trained for open ocean swimming. These tests will determine if our devices can catch and hold the hormones as the drone flies back to a researcher's boat.</p><p>Finally, we will deploy the system to collect data on wild dolphins. Our first goal is to test resident dolphins – animals that live on the coasts and deal directly with boat and oil industry noise – which will allow us to learn more about stress resulting from human impacts.</p><p>Those samples are a way off, but if all goes well we will have a specially built drone capable of flying long distances and capturing samples undetected in a few years. The samples collected will allow researchers to do better science with impact on the animals they study.</p>
- Drone Footage Captures Rare Finless Porpoises in Hong Kong ... ›
- Brazil's Amazon River Dolphin Faces Extinction After Fishing ... ›
- 10 Surprising Dolphin 'Superpowers' - EcoWatch ›
Sunscreen pollution is accelerating the demise of coral reefs globally by causing permanent DNA damage to coral. gonzalo martinez / iStock / Getty Images Plus
On July 29, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a controversial bill prohibiting local governments from banning certain types of sunscreens.
- Your Guide to Reef Friendly Sunscreens - EcoWatch ›
- Hundreds of Sunscreens Don't Work or Have Unsafe Ingredients ... ›
- FDA Study: Sunscreen Chemicals Seep Into the Bloodstream ... ›
By Kelli McGrane
Oat milk is popping up at coffee shops and grocery stores alike, quickly becoming one of the trendiest plant-based milks.
- Is Oat Milk Gluten-Free? - EcoWatch ›
- What Nutritionists Think About Starbucks' Three New Plant-Based ... ›
- 6 Alternatives to Milk: Which Is the Healthiest? - EcoWatch ›
"Emissions from pyrotechnic displays are composed of numerous organic compounds as well as metals," a new study reports. Nodar Chernishev / EyeEm / Getty Images
Fireworks have taken a lot of heat recently. In South Dakota, fire experts have said President Trump's plan to hold a fireworks show is dangerous and public health experts have criticized the lack of plans to enforce mask wearing or social distancing. Now, a new study shows that shooting off fireworks at home may expose you and your family to dangerous levels of lead, copper and other toxins.
- No Social Distancing or Mask Requirement at Trump's Mt ... ›
- Trump's Fireworks Show at Mt. Rushmore Is a Dangerous Idea, Fire ... ›
By Ashutosh Pandey
Billions worth of valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper were dumped or burned last year as electronic waste produced globally jumped to a record 53.6 million tons (Mt), or 7.3 kilogram per person, a UN report showed on Thursday.
Environmental and Health Hazard<p>Experts say e-waste, which is now the world's fastest-growing domestic waste stream, poses serious environmental and health risks.</p><p>Simply throwing away electronic items without ensuring they get properly recycled leads to the loss of key materials such as iron, copper and gold, which can otherwise be recovered and used as primary raw materials to make new equipment, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions from extraction and refinement of raw materials.</p><p>Refrigerants found in electronic equipment such as fridge and air conditioners also contribute to global warming. A total of 98 Mt of CO2-equivalents, or about 0.3% of global energy-related emissions, were released into the atmosphere in 2019 from discarded refrigerators and ACs that were not recycled properly, the report said.</p><p>E-waste contains several toxic additives or hazardous substances, such as mercury and brominated flame retardants (BFR), and simply burning it or throwing it away could lead to serious health issues. Several studies have linked unregulated recycling of e-waste to adverse birth outcomes like stillbirth and premature birth, damages to the human brain or nervous system and in some cases hearing loss and heart troubles.</p><p>"Informal and improper e-waste recycling is a major emerging hazard silently affecting our health and that of future generations. One in four children are dying from avoidable environmental exposures," said Maria Neira, director of the Environment, Climate Change and Health Department at the World Health Organization. "One in four children could be saved, if we take action to protect their health and ensure a safe environment."</p>
Europe Leads the Way<p>While most of the e-waste was generated in Asia (24.9 Mt) in 2019, Europe led the charts on a per person basis with 16.2 kg per capita, the report said.</p><p>But the continent also recorded the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/the-eu-declares-war-on-e-waste/a-51108790" target="_blank">highest documented formal e-waste collection and recycling</a> rate at 42.5%, still below its target of 65%. Europe was well ahead of the others on this front. Asia ranked second with 11.7%.</p><p>The authors said while more that 70% of the world's population was covered by some form of e-waste policy or laws, not much was being done toward implementation and enforcement of the regulations to encourage the take-up of a collection and recycling infrastructure due to lack of investment and political motivation.</p><p>"You have to think about new economic systems," said Kühr.</p><p>One approach could be that consumers no longer buy the products, but only the service they offer. The device would remain the property of the maker, who would then have an interest in offering his customers the best service and the necessary equipment. The maker would also be interested in designing his products in such a way that they are easier to repair and easier to recycle, Kühr said.</p>
- Dangerous Chemicals From E-Waste Found in Black Plastics From ... ›
- Electronic Waste Study Finds $65 Billion in Raw Materials ... ›
- Electronic Waste: New EU Rules Target Throwaway Culture ... ›
- COVID-19 Masks Are Polluting Beaches and Oceans - EcoWatch ›
- Plastic Packaging Use Increases During the Coronavirus - EcoWatch ›
- Coronavirus Worsens Thailand's Plastic Waste Crisis - EcoWatch ›
- Coronavirus Plastic Waste Polluting the Environment - EcoWatch ›