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Halcyon's 52:52:52 campaign on this site and on Twitter will start in 2021. It will help you address 52 issues with 52 responses over 52 weeks.

Part consultancy, part thinktank, part social enterprise, Halcyon helps you prepare for and respond to personal, organisational and societal change.

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Halcyon monitors change for more than 150 key elements of life.

What's Changing? - Food

Food

 

Please see below selected recent food-related change.

 

See also:

 

December 2020

 

November 2020

 

September 2020

  • Around 45 million people living in southern Africa do not have enough to eat, according to the World Food Program (WFP), a UN agency. The COVID crisis and the effects of climate change are the main reasons for the uptick in food insecurity, with Zimbabwe being the worst affected country in the region. Around 8.6 million Zimbabweans may not have access to affordable and nutritious food by the end of 2020, the WFP warned.

 

August 2020

 

July 2020

  • Global meat consumption fell faster in 2020 than at any time this century as the pandemic hit spending power and made people think twice about food safety, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation. Overall meat consumption has risen most years since 2000 thanks largely to a growing taste for it in Asian markets. But Bloomberg said the FAO anticipated a 3 per cent fall in 2020.
  • “My goal,” claimed Dutch pharmacologist Mark Post, “is to replace the entirety of livestock production with cultured meat.” It’s an audacious target, noted Prospect, but one that has attracted the investment of Google co-founder Sergey Brin. In 2013 Brin helped fund a $325,000 burger made from in-vitro meat, created in a lab with stem cells. Now Post’s company Mosa Meat plans to make commercially viable cultured meat available to the general public by 2021 (you could get your steak via a 3D printer.) It could have huge benefits for the environment - fewer cows will mean fewer noxious emissions - to say nothing of the animals saved from slaughter, but Post acknowledges that palates may have to adjust before the likes of McDonald’s make the switch.

 

June 2020

  • The number of people in need of food aid globally could rise to at least 270 million as a result of pandemic-related job losses and vanishing remittances, according to the UN's World Food Program. That's an 82 percent increase over last year, and the WFP says it doesn't have enough money to meet the need.
  • Even before the COVID-19 pandemic plunged millions into joblessness, huge numbers of people around world were in danger of losing access to food and shelter. Throughout 2019, Gallup conducted surveys in 142 countries and found that 750 million people - one out of every seven adults in the world - fell into the "High Vulnerability" category, meaning they struggled to afford food or rent and lacked sufficient support from family or friends. Gallup has since published a new Basic Needs Index, which assesses vulnerability to major shocks - like a pandemic, noted GZEROMedia. 

 

May 2020

  • Climate change could affect food production through both continuous environmental changes—for example, increasing temperatures and changes to precipitation patterns—and more frequent episodes of acute stress, such as drought, heat waves, and excessive precipitation. The COVID-19 pandemic is exposing weaknesses in the global food system which McKInsey found is already vulnerable to climate change as a growing population depends on four key crops with high geographic concentration of production.
  • Big Tech companies like Amazon and SoftBank have both invested in vertical farming, the burgeoning industry in which crops are grown in stacked layers inside of enclosed climate-controlled environments. These are like indoor plant factories, where vegetables, fruits and grains are manufactured. This comes at an important time. COVID-19 hit farmers hard, forcing them to destroy crops, throw out perishable food, and slow production at animal farms. But to feed a growing population, the world must increase agriculture production by 70% by 2050 to meet projected demand and traditional farming methods won’t cut it, warned the Future Today Institute, which also noted that:
    • MIT researchers are crunching data to come up with “plant recipes.” They’re using sensors and data to improve indoor food production. They're doing this by tracking everything from carbon dioxide and temperature to water and plant tissue health, and they're analysing the best conditions and systems for tastier food. 
    • Researchers are growing food without soil or water. Indoor vertical plants can grow acres of food inside space the size of a basketball court. Bezos-backed Plenty launched a farm called Tigris that uses 5% of water consumption and 99% less land than traditional farms. 
    • South Dakota State University is studying the future of precision agriculture and creating new precision agriculture courses set to start in 2021, and University of Illinois researchers are building new prediction models using seasonal climate data and satellite images to help farmers predict crop yields in advance.

 

April 2020

  • The UN warned of “multiple famines of biblical proportions”. The head of the World Food Programme said that the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating existing food shortages caused by war in places such as Yemen and Syria, and locust swarms in Africa.
  • In the US, one of the world's biggest food exporters, almost 12% of households were "food-insecure" and 6.5 million children didn't have enough to eat even before COVID-19 arrived. A report by the US Federal Reserve published in May 2019, a time of strong US economic numbers, found that 27 percent of Americans polled would need to borrow or sell something just to meet an unexpected expense of $400, and 12 percent would have no ability to pay.
  • Crops were harvested 10,000 years ago in the Amazon. The discovery changes longstanding theories about the shift away from hunter-gatherer societies.
  • A study from Singapore found that intermittent fasting increases neurogenesis. Three groups of rats were tested, with a fourth control group receiving no eating restrictions. One group fasted for 12 hours, another for 16, and the final group fasted for 24 hours (on the second day they ate without restriction as well). All groups were given the same number of calories. The three restricted groups all fared better in terms of hippocampal neurogenesis than the control group and the 16-hour group performed best,

 

February 2020

  • Subsidising meat means subsidising climate change, earned Quartz, adding that governments shouldn’t prop up animal agriculture when it causes 14% of the world’s greenhouse emissions.

 

January 2020

  • The 77th Golden Globe Awards served a fully vegan menu to its guests. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the nonprofit behind the awards show, made the menu change in an effort to “signal and draw attention to the issue about climate change.” The Golden Globes was the first award show of its kind to serve a fully vegan meal

 

December 2019

 

November 2019

  • According to The New York Times’ guide on food and climate change, livestock accounts for about 14.5% of the world’s greenhouse gases each year, with beef and lamb having the biggest footprint per gram of protein. As awareness of how meat production harms our environment increases, consumers are taking a closer look at what’s on their plate.

 

October 2019

 

September 2019

 

August 2019

 

July 2019

  • Genetically modified food will be a necessity to feed the world’s population by 2050, according to research from the World Resources Institute. We will need crops which are both more productive and more resilient if we're going to feed 10 billion people in a rapidly changing climate, and from some that means we need to start investing more today in research on genetic modification.
  • Advances in alternative protein technology can help put nutritious food on the table at minimal cost to the environment. In fact, making non-meat burgers can require 95% less land and 74% less water - resulting in even fewer greenhouse gas emissions. As the population grows, we may need to rely more on tech-fuelled innovations to guarantee food for the future.

 

June 2019

 

May 2019

  • Africa contains 65 percent of the world's arable land, but bad roads, unreliable water supplies, and other complications force African countries to spend $35 billion per year to import food.
  • Impossible Foods is on a mission to wipe out animal-meat production by 2035. But as noted in an article in Engadget, the last thing the Silicon Valley company wants to do is nag consumers about ethical eating. Instead, it’s downplaying the vegetarian angle and appealing directly to meat lovers. The company claims that meat tastes "amazing" even as its molecular biologists learn how to try and make plant proteins taste even better.
  • In The Way We Eat Now, Bee Wilson suggests that changes in global eating habits since the mid-20th century have brought us to the point at which it is “becoming abundantly clear that the way most of us currently eat is not sustainable- either for the planet or for human health. While world hunger has declined dramatically, there has been a rapid increase in obesity and diseases such as hypertension and stroke, diabetes and cancer. The causes of this global food crisis are complex. Wilson identifies post-war industrial farming, the increasing dominance of huge multinational food companies and the consequent homogenisation and nutritional impoverishment of the global diet. In addition, social factors such as time scarcity, the ubiquity of ready-made food and the distraction of electronic devices have fundamentally altered our relationship with food, noted Prospect.
  • In the West, veganism is on the rise amid worries about unhealthy diets and the environmental impact of eating meat. It’s on the rise in Africa, too, but there, noted Quartz, it’s more about a return to traditional meals. Across the continent, chefs and entrepreneurs are catering to a hunger for the organic food of old. 
  • Worldwide, warns George Monbiot, huge ships from rich nations mop up the fish surrounding poor nations, depriving hundreds of millions of their major source of protein, while wiping out sharks, tuna, turtles, albatrosses, dolphins and much of the rest of the life of the seas. Coastal fish farming has even greater impacts, as fish and prawns are often fed on entire marine ecosystems: indiscriminate trawlers dredge up everything and mash it into fishmeal.
  • Friends of the Earth has argued that if we were designing the global food system from scratch, we'd want to ensure that enough food was grown of the right variety in the right way to fulfil 7 billion – and eventually possibly 9 billion or more – people’s nutritional needs. By using the right techniques, we could protect the natural systems on which future production depends – soil, water and biodiversity – and we would store surplus food for lean times. We could safeguard good governance of this vital system so that producers, consumers and the planet were fairly treated and were protected from any harmful influence.
  • Friends of the Earth warns that our current system is dysfunctional. Globally around 50% of food grown is wasted in the field or along the food chain - not even composted or used as feed. A third of all the crops grown and two-thirds of fresh water available are used to grow feed for farm animals. These animals are poor feed converters and the meat is sold cheaply, creating even more demand. Millions of hectares are used to produce biofuels for cars, and a large proportion is used to produce sugary foods. Vast quantities of energy-intensive fertilisers and pesticides are used to drive yield growth in monoculture systems. Natural methods of fertility and pest control are largely neglected or rejected and grain is used as a tool for global financial transactions, not food. Meanwhile, a billion are underfed, a billion suffer effects of over-nutrition, and many farmers and workers cannot gain a decent living.
  • FTI warned that, between 1980 - 2008, the global production of maize dropped 3.8% and wheat production fell 5.5%. In 2012, the American Midwest experienced a summer with temperatures comparable to what climatologists project will become the norm by the end of the century. The region’s production of corn fell by 25% and soybeans by 10%. That constitutes about a 4% to 5% drop in total global caloric production - conditions under which we can expect food prices to spike by as much as 30%, according to the MIT Technology Review.

 

March 2019

  • The Financial Times argued that, around the world, food habits are heading in the wrong direction. Over-consumption is matched by narrower, standardised, industrialised and inappropriate choices. While 1 billion people still go hungry around the globe, twice that number eat too much of the wrong food. Basic cooking knowledge has waned: “home economics” has been abandoned in primary schools; courses in catering focus on theory and health and safety but are slower to mobilise students to actually cook. The rising number of TV cookery shows seems in inverse proportion to the time that people actually spend in the kitchen.
  • The Guardian went further, claiming that for most people across the world, life is getting better but diets are getting worse. This is the bittersweet dilemma of eating in our times. Unhealthy food, eaten in a hurry, seems to be the price we pay for living in liberated modern societies. Millions of us enjoy a freer and more comfortable existence than that of our grandparents, a freedom underpinned by an amazing decline in global hunger. Yet our free and comfortable lifestyles are undermined by the fact that our food is killing us, not through lack of it but through its abundance.
  • At one time, people ate only food that was local and in season, but not anymore. Food diversity has declined. Food is now homogenised. Never Out of Season examined how dependence on single species of crops threatens human survival. The 2019 book covered the Irish potato famine, “chocolate terrorism,” a desperate race to save seeds for future generations, and more. Scientists have discovered more than 300,000 plant species, but “80% of the calories” people eat come from just a dozen species, and the book warned that pathogens, pests, wars and famine can obliterate a society’s food supply.

 

February 2019

 

January 2019

 

December 2018

 

November 2018

  • Overweight humans are stretching Earth’s food supply, warned Quartz. Current projections may underestimate the amount of food needed to feed humanity as people grow larger.

 

October 2018

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September 2018

  • The World Food Program still helps to feed 80 million people a year, mostly in war zones.
  • The new Food Sustainability Index comprises a briefing paper, infographicsand a digital hub. It is a qualitative and quantitative analysis model, based on 35 indicators and 50 sub-indicators, which analyse food sustainability from a multidisciplinary approach. One-third of the Earth’s land is devoted to agriculture, yet it accounts for 70% of water withdrawals and 80% of desertification.Despite this, agriculture is struggling to keep up with a growing population and limited natural resources, coping with climate change. 
  • The way we produce and consume food is changing, and fast. Producers must leverage modern farming techniques, factories must revolutionise the way they plan, and produce supply chains must be completely overhauled. From the rise of veganism to the ravages of climate change, Raconteur's Future of Food and Beverage report explored the factors affecting food today and the technologies making the food of tomorrow possible.
  • Feeding the planet’s next 2 billion people means changing where we farm. Quartz travelled to investigate some entrepreneurs’ claims that mussels and other farmed seafood could and should feed the vast majority of the global population.
  • Many food vendors have switched to bioplastic, which sounds like an ethical choice. But, while it may make some food feel virtuous, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace challenge its green rep. It is resource intensive and less than 40% of bioplastic is designed to be biodegradable. In many ways, it is just another polluting plastic, claimed The Guardian.
  • Further reading:

 

August 2018

 

July 2018

 

June 2018

  • At one time, people ate only food that was local and in season, but not anymore. Food diversity has declined. Food is now homogenised. In Never Out of Season, an academic examined how dependence on single species of crops threatens human survival. He writes of the Irish potato famine, “chocolate terrorism,” a desperate race to save seeds for future generations, and more. Scientists have discovered more than 300,000 plant species, but “80% of the calories” people eat come from just a dozen species and warns that pathogens, pests, wars and famine can obliterate a society’s food supply.
  • The future of farming is here, and it will look a lot different than in years past. claimed the Future Today Institute. Think: microfarms housed underground in office buildings and on neighbourhood blocks and vertical farms housed in skyscrapers in urban centres. With no soil and no sun, these factories promise 365-day seasons and no threat of droughts, freezes or infestations. They can cultivate vegetables in the middle of cities and often deliver 10 to 20 times the yield of conventional farms. All this, using robots, sensors, artificial intelligence, LED lights, better genomic editing, vertical staking and advanced hydroponic grow systems.
  • vegan diet is the best way to reduce your environmental impact, according to new research from the University of Oxford.
  • Up to 40% of food in the US goes to waste, at a cost of up to USD 160 billion a year.

 

May 2018

  • High-protein diets have been linked to heart disease - even for vegetarians, found Quartz. Animal and plant protein sources (except fish and eggs) seem to put human cardiovascular systems at risk.

 

April 2018 

 

Pre-2018

  • Major changes are needed in agriculture and food consumption around the world if future generations are to be adequately fed.
  • Some communities are well on their way towards achieving food security, growing (and where appropriate giving away) all their own produce.Food trends over the previous decade.
  • For many, organic was a synonym for “tasty” or “healthy” food.  But the episode of the German-grown bean sprouts reminded us that, when dealing with the so-called organic myth, a little bit of critical thinking (and eating) would stand us in good stead.
  • Food prices hit a record high in 2011, surpassing the levels seen during the 2007-08 crisis, according to a UN food index.
  • The era of cheap food is therefore at an end, according to recent reports, with the real prices of key crops set to rise 50-100% during the next 40 years.
  • Rising food prices are tightening the squeeze on populations already struggling to buy adequate food, demanding radical reform of the global food system, Oxfam warned, forecasting that, by 2030, the average cost of key crops could increase by between 120% and 180%.
  • The End of Food argued that the entire system of food production will need to change radically over coming years.
  • Over the next 40 years, the world’s population may increase to 9 billion plus, with most of the increase occurring in the developing world.  To avoid food shortages on an unprecedented global scale, crop yields must be increased by a similar margin during the same timeframe.
  • The billions in rescue packages provided by central banks in Britain, the European Union, Japan, Switzerland, Canada, Russia, and India could have wiped out hunger from the face of the planet, says food and trade policy analyst Devinder Sharma, adding: "The additional $900 billion that the United States has spent in the past one year could have pulled out the world's estimated 2 billion poor from perpetual poverty, and that too on a long-term sustainable basis. The $700 billion bailout package that George Bush is promising could have wiped out the last traces of poverty, hunger, malnutrition, and squalor from the face of the Earth."
  • Grassroots groups worldwide promoted a new framework to radically alter the way we produce and distribute food. Uniting behind the banner of "food sovereignty", people are working not just for access to food, but for communities to have the right to democratically define their own food and agricultural systems without harming other people or the environment.
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