Food & Agriculture

INESAD News: “Helping Poor Children Avoid Poor Diets”

Today, The Statesman in Austin, Texas, United States published a op-ed co-written by Danielle Nierenberg, Director at Worldwatch Institute‘s Nourishing the Planet (NtP) project and INESAD‘s Ioulia Fenton, who is spending the summer researching food and agriculture issues with NtP.

Helping Poor Children Avoid Poor Diets, The Statesman, Monday, August 13, 2012.

It’s almost time for kids to go back to school. But for many children in Austin, this means a return to terribly unhealthy school lunches fried chicken, pizza pockets, corn dogs, and desserts loaded with high-fructose corn syrup that jeopardize the health and well-being of America’s next generation. This needs to change. Read More »

Can We Use Trade to Make Us Healthier? A Case Study From Mexico

U.S. exports obesity epidemic to Mexico was the conclusion of a recent Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) report. The study looks at the health consequences of the North American Free Trade agreement (NAFTA), a tri-lateral trade liberalization agreement between Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. that came into effect in 1994. The researchers tracked the increases of U.S. exports into Mexico that followed NAFTA’s implementation. These included such items as soft drinks, snack foods, processed meats, and dairy, as well as raw inputs such as corn and soybeans that are used in the food processing industry. They then linked the rises to increased consumption of unhealthy foods and, thusly, to an incremental rise in the nation’s climbing obesity epidemic. Read More »

A Cornavore’s Dilemma: Fighting Back C(orn)olonisation

Corn, corn, corn; mountains of corn as far as the eye can see. The images of the piling up Iowa harvests were one of a number of poignant visuals brought forward by the 2007 documentary King Corn (available on Netflix). The fact is, US production of corn has been growing rapidly since the 1970s and this year American farmers will plant an unprecedented harvest – 94 million acres of corn crop. This is the largest since 1944 and will take up roughly a third of the country’s harvested cropland.

This expanse has been largely driven by a change in direction of US farm policy four decades ago. Previously, agricultural production was tightly controlled to ensure overproduction did not drive the prices that farmers could get for their harvests too low and helped ensure that available agricultural land was not overworked and the environment was not unduly harmed. Read More »

Book Roast: “Food Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know”

In this 2010 book Robert Paarlberg takes a Q & A approach to a broad set of food and agriculture topics, covering aid and trade, obesity and famine, organic farming and genetically engineered (GE) organisms, and the food system’s effects on health and environment, among others. The work is a self-proclaimed attempt at “rebalancing some debates around food and farming” for “an aware audience of non-specialists.” And on the whole, its strength lies in its accessible style and the common myths it dispels: how buying local produce, for example, is not necessarily more environmentally friendly or the fact that global market food prices do not automatically increase local consumer costs.

For all its breadth, however, the book is beset by problems. Read More »

Stuffing and Starving: Are Cycles of Advertising Contributing to the Rise and Rise of Eating Disorders?

As the Victoria Beckhams of this world have replaced the Marilyn Monroes on the centerfolds of magazines and advertisements selling everything from perfume to real estate, wide social effects have taken place in rich nations. Although size zeros are no heroes, adolescent girls and grown women the world over have succumb to chasing the promised good feel of the thinness ideal. At the extreme, this chase can lead to conditions diagnosed by mental health professionals as binge eating and disordered eating (which includes self-starvation, bingeing, purging and exercising obsessively), leading to more widely known conditions of anorexia (self starvation) and bulimia (regular self-induced cycles of binge-eating and vomiting), found to affect up to 5.7% and 7.3% of women in Western nations respectively (1). Both are addictive psychological attempts to take back control over inputs into the body and sometimes other aspects of life. And both are on the rise in less wealthy countries too as they transition into Western lifestyles brought to them through cultural and corporate marketing transmissions associated with the age of globalisation (2). Read More »

“I eat, therefore I am”: Should Mental Health Enter the Food Policy Debate?

If the old parable is true and you are what you eat, does food affect who we are and what we think? I have previously written about the visible problems associated with poor diets in the world such as obesity, diabetes and food related cancers and the possible starting points for individual and public policy solutions. However, one notable health aspect generally missing from discourse on food policy is that of mental health problems associated with diet. These can include depression, with associated human cost of suicide, and health problems due to malnutrition associated with eating disorders. For example, according to the World Health Organisation “in low-income countries, depression represents almost as large a problem as does malaria (3.2% versus 4.0% of the total disease burden)” and every year 844,000 people commit suicide globally, a staggering 60% rise in the last 45 years. It is a pricey omission too since mental health issues are highly costly to: societies overall through their national health and medical systems; to the private sector through lost days of work; and to individuals through the suffering of depression or the silent, and often unreported and untreated, psychological and physical suffering associated with eating disorders. Mental health disorders cost the UK National Health Service, for instance, an estimated £77bn ($120bnUSD) annually and 77,000 people currently out of work due to mental health problems. Read More »

Guatemala Field Notes: Men of Maize

Until recently, probably like for many of you, my imagination when it came to corn, aka maize, was limited to a bright yellow sunshine goodness, steamy and fresh on the cob soaked in butter and lightly salted, bursting with warm juices with every bite, the remnants of which I discover in my teeth hours after I am done. Or, perhaps, some ready-to-eat tinned sweet-corn kernels added to my jacket potato, tuna, chilli (sin)carne or simply adding a crunch and a juicy burst to my salad plate. In reality corn comes in a rainbow of colours and subtle gradient of tastes and despite one or two varieties being only an occasional dinner or snack companion for many of us in the West, corn or, as it is known in Spanish, maiz, has been the mainstay of the peoples of Central America and many other countries for centuries. Read More »

10 Things I Bet You Didn’t Know About Food

Food is a key part of everyone’s lives. It is also, however, at the core of many of the world’s problems and disagreements. Today, Development Roast brings you ten roasting facts that we bet you didn’t know about food.
1. 15 species of cultivated plants “literally stand between man and starvation” because they make up 80-90% of all globally consumed calories.

2. Sugar was unheard of in England in 1000AD, yet by 1900s it made up 20% of all caloric intake. Whilst Soy, domesticated as far back as 3000BC, is now a vital component of 75% of all products on supermarket shelves, including chocolate and is in most products sold  by fast food industry. Read More »

So you want to do your bit for the planet? Here is some food for thought…

Climate change, water shortages, rising global pollution levels and food insecurity have made environmental sustainability the most pressing concern of our time. Improvements in production systems and agriculture, and advances in clean technology, will certainly help, but as the global population becomes more conscious of the issues facing us as a human race, we begin to ask ourselves what it is that we can do to help preserve our planet for centuries to come. More than in anything else, the answer to that lies in the diet choices we make.

Read More »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: