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What are the interactions between Food Security and Planetary Boundaries?


John Ingram NERC Food Security Leader Environmental Change Institute University of Oxford

Food security… ... exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. (UN-FAO World Food Summit 1996)

… is more than food production … is underpinned by food systems

GECAFS Food  System  Concept   Food  System   ACTIVITIES ... exists when all people, at all times,   have physical Producing   food:  natural   esources,  inputs,  msafe, arkets,  …  and and economic access to rsufficient, Processing  &  packaging  food:  raw  materials,  standards,  storage  requirement,  …   nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food Distribu4ng  &  retailing  food:  transport,,  adver.sing,  …   preferences for an active and healthy life. Consuming  food:  acquisi.on,  prepara.on,  customs,  …   (World Food Summit 1996) Food  System  OUTCOMES  Contribu4ng  to:   •  •  •  •  •  • 

Social Welfare   Income   Employment     Wealth   Social  capital   Poli;cal  capital   Human  capital  

Food Security,  i.e.  stability  over  4me  for:   FOOD   UTILISATION  


• Nutri.onal Value   • Social  Value   • Food  Safety  

• Affordability • Alloca.on   • Preference  

FOOD   AVAILABILITY   • Produc.on   • Distribu.on   • Exchange  

Environmental Welfare   •  Ecosystem  stocks   &  flows   •  Ecosystem  services   •  Planetary   Boundaries  

So what are the contributions of Food Systems to crossing Planetary Boundaries? Food System ACTIVITIES Producing food Processing & Packaging food Distributing & Retailing food Consuming food


1: Agriculture as a driver of Landcover Change Extensification Pressure on many (?all) Planetary Boundaries Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

2: Agriculture as a driver of GHG emissions

Agriculture 13%

70% of  arable  GHG  emissions   connected  with  N  fer4lizer   (manufacture,  use):   CO2  &  N2O  

EarthTrends, 2008

Contribution of agriculture to crossing planetary boundaries

Campbell 2011,  based  on  BenneK  et  al.  (in  prep.)    

Contribution of capture fisheries to crossing planetary boundaries

But ‘Food Systems’ involve more than producing food …

Food System  ACTIVITIES   Producing  food:  natural  resources,  inputs,  markets,  …   Processing  &  packaging  food:  raw  materials,  standards,  storage  requirement,  …   Distribu4ng  &  retailing  food:  transport,,  adver.sing,  …   Consuming  food:  acquisi.on,  prepara.on,  customs,  …  

‌ and a major proportion of GHG emissions from food systems are not from agriculture

Edwards et al., Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, 2009

Food Processing

•  •  •  •  •  • 

Common characteristics of wastes from the industry Large amounts of organic materials such as proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids Large amounts of suspended solids depending on the source High biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and/or chemical oxygen demand (COD) High N concentration High suspended oil or grease contents High variations in pH

Most have higher levels than municipal sewage Kroyer, 1995

Processing Food

Water use in Canadian food processing Water use


% of all industrial use









Food processing plants are responsible for 4.7% of total manufacturing intake but account for 5.2% of total consumption Dupont & Renzetti, Can J Ag Econ, 1998

Packaging Food Packaging: some environmental issues •  Litter •  Use of raw materials for packaging •  Ease and convenience of packaging disposal •  Adverse consequences of careless disposal of packaging •  Feasibility of recycling or reuse •  Real and virtual energy content

Retailing food Refrigerant leakage accounts for 30% of supermarkets’ direct GHG emissions (Environment Investigation Agency, 2010)

Guardian 1 February 2009

But the retail industry is “tidying up� Net GHG emissions connected with premises, transport and refrigerants

The Co-operative Group Sustainability Report 2008/09

Consuming Food Breakdown (%) of energy use in commercial kitchens in the US (broadly similar in the UK) Space hea;ng   Water  hea;ng    


Cooking Ven;la;on  


Office equipment   Refridgera;on  


Other Cooling  

Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers, 2009    

Consuming Food Environmental and operational CO2 usage (kgCO2) per meal served Facility




Primary School




Fast food outlet




Ministry of Defence: -  junior ranks’ mess




-  officers’ mess




Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers, 2009

Example contributions of FSAs to PBs Climate change N cycle P cycle Fresh water use Land use change Biodiversity loss Atmos. aerosols Chemical pollution

Producing food

Processing & Packaging food

Distributing & Retailing food

Consuming food

Example contributions of FSAs to PBs

Producing food

Processing & Packaging food

Distributing & Retailing food

Consuming food

Climate change

GHGs, albedo


Emissions from transport and cold chain

GHGs from cooking

N cycle

Eutrophicn, GHGs


NOx from transport


P cycle

P reserves



Fresh water use


Washing, Cleaning food heating, cooling

Cooking, cleaning

Land use change

Intensificn, soil degdn


Transport & retail infrastructure

Forest to edible oils plantation

Biodiversity loss

Deforestation, [Aluminium] soils, fishing

Invasive spp

Consumer choices

Atmos. aerosols



Smoke from cooking

Chemical pollution


Transport emissions

Cooking, cleaning


‘Food Security’ is now the BIG ISSUE

Independent; 16 October 2011: World Food Day

Food systems are already failing many: 1.02 billion people hungry in 2009

Developed 15m

“In New York City the number of people having NENA 42m trouble paying for food Asia & Pac has increased 60%, to 3.3m, since 2003 and ... a staggering one in five 642m of the city's children rely on soup kitchens - up by 48% since 2004” LAC 53m

SSA Economist, Jan 14th 2010 265m

“One new food bank opens every week in UK as more people find they cannot afford to feed themselves and their families” London Times, April 17th 2012

Food systems are failing a further 2 billion! 1 billion with insufficient nutrition

1 billion with too much food and/or “poor� diet

How do changes in Climate and other Planetary Boundaries affect Food Security? Food Security,  i.e.  stability  over  4me   for:   FOOD   UTILISATION   • Nutri.onal  Value   • Social  Value   • Food  Safety  

FOOD   ACCESS   • Affordability   • Alloca.on   • Preference  


FOOD   AVAILABILITY   • Produc.on   • Distribu.on   • Exchange  

Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. (World Food Summit, 1996)

Concern that climate change will undermine food production in many parts of the world‌ Anticipated wheat yield decline by 2030 Reduction in wheat yields 0 - 5% 5 -10% 10 -15% 15 - 20% > 20%

Australia exports 15 Mt/yr (~19% of world exports)

Kokic, et al. Australian Commodities, 2005

… further compromised by O3 pollution.

•  Significant yield losses for important food crops •  Adaptation strategies were modelled, e,g. change of timing of crop growth period to avoid peak ozone, but no marked improvement was found

T a u h m o c n n a 4 p d d

Extreme weather events also disrupt food distribution systems ‌

… and food storage …

… and food safety. •  Mycotoxins formed on plant products in the field or during storage •  Residues of pesticides in plant products affected by changes in pest pressure •  Trace elements and/or heavy metals in plant products depending on changes in their abundance and availability in soils •  Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in foods following changes in longrange atmospheric transport and deposition into the environment •  Marine biotoxins in seafood following production of phycotoxins by harmful algal blooms •  Pathogenic bacteria in foods following more frequent extreme weather conditions, such as flooding and heat waves. Miraglia et al., Food and Chemical Toxicology, 2009

Weather-induced price spikes affect affordability

Consequences of the 2008 Food Price Crisis

Bringing it all together Need to consider FS:PB interactions in context of drivers and feedbacks Environmental feedbacks e.g. water quality, GHGs

GEC DRIVERS Changes in: Land cover & soils, Atmospheric Comp., Climate variability & means, Water availability & quality, Nutrient availability & cycling, Biodiversity, Sea currents & salinity, Sea level


‘Natural’ DRIVERS e.g. Volcanoes Solar cycles

Producing food Processing & Packaging food Distributing & Retailing food Consuming food

Food System OUTCOMES

DRIVER Interactions Socioeconomic DRIVERS Changes in: Demographics, Economics, Socio-political context, Cultural context Science & Technology

Socioeconomic feedbacks e.g. livelihoods, social cohesion

Contributing to: Food Security Social Welfare

Food Utilisation

Food Access

Food Availability

Environ Welfare

So what do we do about it?

ü  Adapt to inevitable change ü  Mitigate further change

Adaptation “doing things differently” Producing food

=> adapt our Food System “Activities”

Processing & packaging food Distributing & retailing food Consuming food

Adaptation: Improved agriculture, livestock, horticulture, aquaculture, fisheries, … • More varied crops • Stress-tolerant varieties • Wider range of food stuffs • Novel food producing systems • Improve water mgmt • Insurance for producers • …

Adaptation: Preserving crop varieties for the future

• Opened 2008 • > 4,000,000 samples • -18 oC • “Climate-change proof”

Adaptation: Improving food storage

~ 15-25% losses to pests and damp in store

Adaptation: Considering novel foods?

Tuomisto & Teixeira de Mattos. Env Sci & Tech, 2011

Mitigation: improving N-use efficiency? China grain production and fertilizer consumption (1980 = 100) 375



Fertilizer 204 139 100








Considerable food production achievement BUT inefficient use (quantity, timing)

Still a need to improve N-use efficiency N inputs – N output in crop kg N/ha/yr

Western Kenya (maize-based system) North China (maize-wheat) USA (maize-soybean)


+227 +10

Vitousek et al, Science, 2009

Mitigation: reduced tillage?

ü Reduce SOC oxidation ü Reduce input energy

Mitigation: Sequestering more carbon in soil? N Cost of Carbon Sequestration •  At a C/N ratio of 12 in soil organic matter (SOM), 1 tonne of stored C requires 83 kg N/ha •  At approximately $0.85/kg N applied, N cost of 1 tonne SOM is $71/ha •  Current price of C on European market is < $25… Ken Cassman, pers comm

Mitigation: Reducing food miles?

The Well Travelled Yogurt Pot: Stefanie Bรถge

What about us as individuals? Adaptation/Mitigation: Accepting less choice?

Tesco Oxford has 25,000 different food linesâ&#x20AC;Ś

Adaptation & Mitigation: Modifying our diets?

=> One of the biggest, most immediate impacts!

Behavioural Change and Personal Action CO2 emissions Emissions reductions (MtCO2e) achievable if adopted by 100% of the US population Consume less red meat and diary: Eat poultry in place of red meat and consume plant-based food rather than dairy two days per week


Waste less food: Reduce consumer food waste by 25%


Input Suppliers

Reducing food waste





Final Consumers

•  May occur anywhere along the supply chain, from farm to final consumer •  Difficult to measure •  Globally, 15-50% of food is lost postharvest •  Often unnoticed until too late

What are the ineractions between food security and planetary boundaries  

John Ingram Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

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