Category Archives: Global Food Nexus

Register Now for Food Agendas in a Post-Brexit Future Symposium #BSUFN17

Food Agendas in a Post-Brexit Future: BSUFN Annual Symposium 2017
Monday 6th of February 2017
9:00 – 17:20
Auditorium, Brighthelm Centre, North Road, Brighton, BN1 1YD
You can now register to attend the BSUFN Annual Symposium on the 6th of February 2017. Tickets cost £11.21. Buy tickets to attend here.
Lunch and refreshments will be provided.
During the symposium we will be using the hashtag #BSUFN17 so please join the conversation if you are on Twitter.

There has been much talk of the ways in which the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, or ‘Brexit’, will impact British farmers due to changes to the Common Agricultural Policy. We believe that Brexit will have far reaching effects across the food systems in many ways, in the UK, Europe and beyond. From policy implications for food safety standards and nutrition labels, to international trade and markets, to controls on chemical pesticides and the regulation of genetically modified (GM) organisms, and to diet and public health, and more.

To reflect current discussions about Brexit and its implications, the BSUFN Annual Symposium 2017 will consider food agendas in a post-Brexit future. This will reflect anticipated impacts of Brexit on the UK food system as well as implications for food agendas in other countries and regions of the world. Topics will explore the future of food in the immediate aftermath of Brexit, likely to be 2019, and more distant horizons.

The provisional programme for the symposium is available here: Provisional programme

Time Session
9:00-9:20 Registration, tea/coffee
9:20-9:30 Welcome
9:30-10:15 Provocations

Brexit Implications for Food Agendas

Chair: Rachael Taylor

Speakers to include: Brighton & Hove Food Partnership, The Linseed Farm, University of Brighton, and the Institute of Development Studies

10:15-11:15 Session 1 – Policy Dynamics

Chair: Abigail Wincott

Prof. Erik Millstone

The future of UK food & agricultural policies post-Brexit

Peter Senker

Post-Truth Politics and Food Poverty in the UK  after Brexit

11:15-11:45 Tea/coffee break
11:45-13:15 Session 2 – Panel Discussion – Learning from Global Discourses

Chair: Rachael Durrant

Three 15-minute presentations followed by 45 minutes of open discussion

Dipak Sarker

Use, History and Promises, Both True and Untrue, of Genetically-Modified (GM) Crops: Reflections Post-Brexit

Jennifer Constantine

Prospects for the Sustainable Development Goals in post-Brexit Britain: learning from Brazil’s experience with food and nutrition governance

Rachael Taylor

Finding the Future in the Past: Agroecology and Remnants of Colonialism in Senegal

13:15-14:15 Lunch
14:15-15:00 Future Food Agendas

Synergies for Policy, Practice and Research

Chair: Jennifer Constantine

15:00-16:00 Session 3 – Sustaining Farming through Brexit

Chair: Dipak Sarker

Adrian Ely

Transforming Food Systems in Brighton and Hove – Local Opportunities within a Changing Global Context

Helena Howe

Farming through Brexit

16:00-16:20 Tea/coffee break
16:20-17:20 Session 4 – Ecological Knowledge and Policy

Chair: TBC

Elise Wach

What scope for food sovereignty in a post-Brexit Future?

Jeremy Evans

A radical Regionalisation of fisheries quota for LIFE: developing new mechanisms of emancipatory fisheries governance

17:20 Close – move to Earth and Stars, 46 Windsor Street, Brighton, BN1 1RJ for a social evening

Questioning the Future of Food

Last month members of BSUFN took part in an event which explored the Future of Food. The event was held at the Science Museum, London, as part of the 50th birthday celebrations of the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex.

Members of the public were given the opportunity to interact with, and ask questions of, SPRU researchs and experts on four topics concerning the future of food. Conversations were held around four questions:

  1. How will Brexit impact UK farmers?
  2. Could we be growing more food underground?
  3. How can the UK government best respond to the rising obesity problem?
  4. What impact does our food system have on climate change?

Some of these questions raised contentious issues among the public who engaged in the debates. There were areas of agreement while on other issues people disagreed and had different opinions about priorities and the future.

BSUFN would like to continue this debate. If you have any thoughts, opinions or ideas about the above questions please leave them in the comments box below and we will build the ongoing discussion around these comments.

You can read more about the SPRU anniversary event at the Science Museum and other celebratory events here.


Golden Rice, the Green Revolution, and heirloom seeds in the Philippines – New article by Dominic Glover

BSUFN member Dominic Glover (Institute of Development Studies and STEPS Centre, University of Sussex) has co-authored an article on Golden Rice and heirloom seeds in the Philippines with Glenn Stone (Washington University). This article has just been published online and relates to many of the interests of the BSUFN Special Interest Groups.

Abstract:  “Golden Rice” has played a key role in arguments over genetically modified (GM) crops for many years. It is routinely depicted as a generic GM vitamin tablet in a generic plant bound for the global South. But the release of Golden Rice is on the horizon only in the Philippines, a country with a storied history and complicated present, and contested future for rice production and consumption. The present paper corrects this blinkered view of Golden Rice through an analysis of three distinctive “rice worlds” of the Philippines: Green Revolution rice developed at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the 1960s, Golden Rice currently being bred at IRRI, and a scheme to promote and export traditional “heirloom” landrace rice. More than mere seed types, these rices are at the centers of separate “rice worlds” with distinctive concepts of what the crop should be and how it should be produced. In contrast to the common productivist framework for comparing types of rice, this paper compares the rice worlds on the basis of geographical embeddedness, or the extent to which local agroecological context is valorized or nullified in the crop’s construction. The Green Revolution spread generic, disembedded high-input seeds to replace locally adapted landraces as well as peasant attitudes and practices associated with them. The disembeddedness of Golden Rice that boosts its value as a public relations vehicle has also been the main impediment in it reaching farmers’ fields, as it has proved difficult to breed into varieties that grow well specifically in the Philippines. Finally, and somewhat ironically, IRRI has recently undertaken research and promotion of heirloom seeds in collaboration with the export scheme.

Stone, G. D. and D. Glover (2016). “Disembedding grain: Golden Rice, the Green Revolution, and heirloom seeds in the Philippines.” Agriculture and Human Values online first: 1-16.

The full text of the article is available online here.



Water for food: global, regional and domestic virtual trade networks

The Department of Geography in collaboration with the Brighton and Sussex Universities Food Network (BSUFN) and the Sussex Sustainability Research Programme (SSRP) are organising a weekly seminar series on “Food, Climate and Society”. This series will explore the multiple challenges that the global food system is facing: feeding more people healthy food while limiting environmental and social impacts.

This week Dr Carole Dalin (Gratham Research Institute, London Schoool of Economics) will be giving the seminar on the topic of Water for Food: global, regional and domestic virtual trade networks.

Carole Dalin’s research concentrates on the water-food-energy nexus of Southern Africa, and on the socio-economic implications of climate forecasts, regarding natural resources management in particular. She works with Declan Conway, on the SAHEWS project (Southern Africa’s Hydro-Economy and Water Security).

Her doctoral thesis focuses on water resources transfers, through Chinese and international agricultural trade.

The seminar will be held on Thursday the 18th of February from 12:30 until 14:00 in Arts C Global Studies Resource Centre, University of Sussex campus.

Droughts hit cereal crops harder since 1980s, study shows

Drought and extreme heat events in Europe slashed cereal harvests in recent decades by up to 20 per cent according to new research by the University of Sussex and Canadian academics.

At a time when global warming is projected to produce more extreme weather, the study, published in Nature, provides the most comprehensive look yet at the influence of such events on crop area, yields and production around the world.

Drought in France

Sussex geographer Dr Pedram Rowhani, together with colleagues at McGill University and the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada, analysed national production data from the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization for 16 cereals in 177 countries. They also examined 2,800 international weather disasters from 1964 to 2007 and found that droughts cut a country’s crop production by 10 percent, and heat waves by 9 percent.

Dr Rowhani said: “This study shows for the first time how droughts and heatwaves significantly damage crop production globally, and how the losses have varied across different regions and throughout time. The frequency and severity of these disasters is expected to increase in many regions of the world and it is crucial to adapt our farming practices to better resist such extreme weather events if we want to ensure food security.”

Europe and North America suffer bigger crop losses in droughts

They found that, from 1985 to 2007, droughts caused cereal production losses averaging 13.7%, up from 6.7% for the period from 1964 to 1984.

“We found that the average impact of drought disasters on crops has gotten worse, but it is still debated whether droughts themselves have gotten more severe [or] crops have gotten more susceptible to drought over the decades,’’ said Lesk, a recent graduate of McGill’s Department of Geography and first author of the study. “That could mean, speculatively, that we’re already on the wrong path with regard to climate adaptation.’’

Production levels in the more technically advanced agricultural systems of North America, Europe and Australasia dropped by an average of 19.9% because of droughts – roughly double the global average. However, extreme cold events and floods had no significant impact on crop production.

Corey Lesk said the greater production impacts from drought in developed countries may reflect differences in scale and methods of farming in wealthier countries, compared with the developing world.

Senior author Navin Ramankutty, professor of global food security and sustainability at UBC’s Liu Institute for Global Issues and Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, said the findings may help guide agricultural priorities and adaptation efforts, to better protect the most vulnerable farming systems and the populations that depend on them.

“We don’t think about it much, but rice, wheat and maize alone provide more than 50 percent of global calories,” Dr. Ramankutty said. “When these grain baskets are hit, it results in food price shocks, which leads to increasing hunger.”

One bright note does emerge from the analysis: the extreme weather events had no significant lasting impact on agricultural production in the years following the disasters.

The researchers also included extreme cold events and floods in their analysis, but found no significant impact on crop production. One possible explanation is that floods tend to occur in the spring in temperate regions, and susceptibility to cold weather in most agricultural regions is outside the growing season – such as the recent floods in Scotland and Cumbria. So many of the flood and extreme cold disasters may have had little effect on harvest levels.



Notes for editors

  • The research was supported by a Discovery Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
  • “Influence of extreme weather disasters on global crop production,” Corey Lesk, Pedram Rowhani, and Navin Ramankutty. Nature, Jan. 7, 2016. DOI:10.1038/nature16467
  • University of Sussex Media Relations: Jacqui Bealing and James Hakner.  01273 678888,
  • @SussexUniPress

Celebrate Your Food on World Food Day

Today, the 16th of October, is World Food Day 2015. We’re taking this opportunity to reflect on the food we eat – our daily meals, what we take for granted, and those sneaky treats. The global food system is vast and is the biggest employer in the world, so a lot of time, energy, and care has gone into feeding you.

To mark World Food Day 2015, we’re asking everyone to pay attention to where your food has come from and reflect on the amount of work and resources that have gone into providing that food. Food is essential to maintain life so many of us take it for granted that we will have three meals per day, but for others, access to food is not so reliable.

Here in East Sussex a lot of the ingredients in the food we eat have been imported from other countries around the world and this is typical of Western diets. There are many stages required to provide you with your daily meals, snacks and treats. From land preparation and cultivation, to harvesting and processing, to trading and marketing, to distribution and sale, to preparation and cooking, and many more processes or actors according to the type of food produce.

There are many people both locally and worldwide who skip parts of this food production system by either growing their own food or buying directly from the grower. Farmers markets are a regular feature of many UK towns and many farms have shops on-site to sell produce. There is an increasing demand for local produce throughout the Global North which is being stimulated by the demand for organic produce and the growing profile of the food sovereignty movement and environmental sustainability concerns.

Globally, there are around 500 million small-holder farmers and they provide up to 70% of the global food supply. In some areas of the world the majority of these small-holders are subsistence farming, growing food to feed their own family rather than sell. For example, in Sub-Saharan Africa up to 70% of small-holders are subsistence farmers. Small-holders are notoriously vulnerable to environmental, climatic, economic, and social shocks and stresses, making their food production often uncertain.

Meanwhile, in the Global North socio-economic disparities are growing and more people are becoming food insecure. In the UK this has been notable through the increase of people living in food poverty and rapidly growing demand for food banks. Although many think that food poverty is caused by a lack of money to buy food, there are multiple complex factors which interact including access to transport, physical and mental health, age, ‘food deserts’ and employment/unemployment. To complicate this further, the cheapest and most easily accessible food for those living in food poverty is often less nutritious and does not provide a healthy diet.

So today while you sit down to that coffee which was grown in Latin America or tea from Southern Asia, think about what you are eating, where it has come from, and how that fits into a food system which covers the whole world. To mark World Food Day 2015, celebrate the food you have.

Edible Insects and Global Food Security – new report

This post was shared by Rachael Taylor (University of Sussex) and reflects some of her own views on the report discussed and not necessarily those of the authors of the report.

This month two members of BSUFN published a report based on a piece of research they undertook earlier this year. The report is titled ‘Edible Insects and the Future of Food: A Foresight Scenario Exercise on Entomophagy and Global Food Security‘.

Researchers Dominic Glover (Institute of Development Studies) and Alexandra Sexton (King’s College London) used Foresight methods to anticipate whether edible insects can provide health protein and micronutrients to contribute to future global food security.

One of the methods used in the study was a scenario exercise to identify whether edible insects would potentially feature in future diets according to different economic and resource scarcity conditions. Study participants identified four different future scenarios: A Gated World; New Asia; Mundus Middle-Class; and Bread and Circuses.

The outcome of the scenario exercise suggested that edible insects would feature in future diets under each scenario but to varying degrees. This is perhaps not surprising given that, on a global scale, edible insects already feature in diets so some degree of consumption of edible insects could be anticipated regardless of changes in resource scarcity or economic power.

The researchers recognise that there were limits to the scope of this study. Further, in the scenario-building exercise the participants identified a variety of potential influences on future trends in diet and then selected resource scarcity and economic power as the two which were used for scenario development. Although significantly difficult to model or factor into a scenario exercise, social and cultural influences on behaviour change are likely to have a central role in determining the future of edible insects in achieving global food security.

The full report by Glover and Sexton (2015) is available here. If you have any comments on this report please share them with us using the comments box below or via e-mail to