The Nutrition Transition

Evolution is transition. Fueled by ideas, war, scientific breakthroughs, and chance, the relationship of humans with their environment is in constant change, in an endless quest for equilibrium.

The Nutrition Transition

Data from the past decade and projections for the next 20 years (Murray and Lopez, 1996) indicate a continuing rise in the contribution of no communicable diseases to mortality rates in developing countries, where a large proportion of the global poor lives.

The Nutrition Transition

Robert W. Fogel and Lorens A. Helmchen, The growth in material wealth has been matched by changes in body size over the past 300 years, especially during the twentieth century.

The Nutrition Transition

Per capita availability of calories more than doubled in this period in France, and increased by about 50% in Great Britain, where caloric supply was 30% larger than that in France at the beginning of the period.

The Nutrition Transition

The role of genes in the human adaptation to rapid environmental changes has been postulated for many decades, but only with advances in molecular genetics can we identify with some clarity the interactions between genes and environmental components such as diet.

Selasa, 27 September 2011

Feeding efficiencies

Better management of grasslands, and some of their inevitable, but undesirable, expansion in Latin America, Africa, and Asia (as nearly all new grazing land will be created through deforestation) will supply only a small fraction of future increases in meat and milk production and more than 90% of additional output of animal foods will have to come from growing more concentrate feeds, above all corn and soybeans, in direct competition with food crops. This trend has been one of the most obvious features of the 20th-century cropping. In 1900 just over 10% of the global grain harvest was consumed by animals; by 1950 the share surpassed 20% and now it is approaching 50%, with national shares ranging from nearly 70% in the USA to less than 5% in India.
But future feeding requirements are not irrevocably determined by a given demand for animal protein. As these proteins are all of the highest quality they are mutually substitutable and long-term dietary shifts can reduce the relative, or even absolute, consumption of one kind of animal food while greatly increasing the demand for another. For example, in 1950 chicken made up less than 10% of average US per capita meat consumption, but in 2000 its share was about one-third (USDA, 1950–2001). Consequently, a future combination of animal foodstuffs that is inherently more efficient to produce can lead to substantial feed savings in comparison to the prevail-ing consumption pattern.
Milk is by far the most efficient animal food. Highly productive animals need just 1–1.1 kg of concentrate feed per kg of milk. They convert more than 30% of the total metabolizable feed energy, and 30–40% of feed protein to milk protein. Eggs come second (current best practices need less than 3 kg of feed per kg of eggs), and chicken third. Large-scale broiler production requires fewer than 5 units of concentrate feed per unit of edible tissue and feed proteins are converted into meat proteins with efficiency averaging 20%, twice as high as in pigs. Pigs grown for their lean meat can turn more than 20% of metabolizable energy into edible tissues and they need about 7.5 units of concentrate per kg of meat; pigs are also the most efficient convertors of feed energy into edible lipids which give meat its satisfying palatability.
Conversion efficiencies for beef clearly indicate the extravagant cost of that meat; feedlot-fed animals need at least 20 kg of corn and soybeans for each kg of meat, and only 5% of all fed protein is converted into protein in beef. Obviously, only those ani- mals that do not require any concentrates, i.e., raised completely by grazing, or con-suming crop-processing residues such as brans and oilseed cakes, that is digesting biomass that cannot be used by nonruminant species, can be seen as efficient users of agricultural resources. Consequently, it is difficult to imagine a less-desirable change of dietary habits than the global expansion of hamburger empires.
Aquacultured herbivorous fishes are better convertors of feed than pork or chicken. Conversion ratios (kg of feed per kg of live weight) for semi-intensively bred carp in warm waters are 1.4–1.8, and for catfish 1.4–1.6. As a smaller share of fish total mass is wasted in comparison with mammalian or bird carcasses, herbivorous fish need fewer than 2.5 kg of concentrate feed per unit of edible weight, and their protein con-version efficiency is as good as chicken (Smil, 2000). Salmon are even better protein convertors, but these carnivores need fish oils and proteins and their feeding actually results in a net protein loss. Use of concentrate feed in aquaculture of herbivorous species is thus an excellent way of increasing global availability of animal protein and the FAO believes that this rapidly growing enterprise has excellent prospects.

Selasa, 20 September 2011

Investing in agriculture

For most people the idea of investing in agriculture conjures the images of extending credit to farmers or building new irrigation schemes but the most important investments needed to assure high agricultural productivity are in maintaining viable agroecosys-tems. Although modern agriculture has eliminated many environmental limits and insulated itself from many environmental interferences through fertilization, irrigation, use of pesticides and breeding of better cultivars, crop production remains embedded within the dynamic complexities of the living biosphere and depends critically on reli-able provision of many natural services and on the maintenance of essential ecosystem structures. These necessities range from having sufficiently friable soils containing large amounts of organic matter and protected against excessive erosion to promoting practices that will minimize nutrient losses from fertilizer applications and increase water use efficiencies in irrigation as much as practicable.
 Achieving these goals is a matter of complex management that can be effective only when we use the best understanding of how agroecosystems operate. For example, the first necessity (maintaining desirable soil structure) requires the use of appropri-ate tillage methods (including minimum tillage practices), recycling of crop residues and animal wastes, regular crop rotations, and where possible also planting of legu-minous cover crops (Agassi, 1995). Without these measures soil bacteria and inverte-brates could not thrive, high organic matter content able to maintain soil structure would decline, soil would not be able to hold moisture and would be prone to erosion losses that would eventually lower its productivity. Similarly, reducing nutrient losses requires measures ranging from repeated soil and plant testing and split applications of fertilizers to selecting appropriate cultivars and regular planting of cover crops (Smil, 2001). These practices require a great deal of understanding and ongoing per-sonal commitment by individual farmers but most of them now rest on fairly well-understood principles.
 In contrast, new methods of more productive farming will require further inten-sification of agricultural research and technical innovation. Not surprisingly, many observers of the current agricultural situation argue for substantially increased public support of basic and applied agricultural research (Pinstrup-Andersen, 2001), and there is no shortage of studies to show the efficacy of this approach. For example, Huang and Rozelle (1996) showed that innovation accounted for almost all of the growth in agricultural productivity in China during the latter half of the 1980s and in the early 1990s. Avery (1997) stressed that only further intensification of crop produc-tion can save the remaining tropical rainforests, and hence most of the world’s existing biodiversity, from eventual destruction. Virtually every assessment of future agricul-tural needs prepared by the FAO or by specialized crop research centers (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, International Rice Research Institute) notes that returns to public investments in agricultural research and extension are very high and urges that future funding should be increased. In spite of this well-proven reality research funding remains inadequate throughout the developing world.
Given this state of affairs it is even more worrisome that the developing world may not be able to take full benefit of one of the most important scientific advances of the past generation, our increasingly effective ability to confer desirable traits on plants and animals by means of genetic engineering. Of course, an argument could be made that the rich countries, with their obscene surplus of food, have really no need to use arcane techniques in order to further boost their crop and animal production. But a common view that genetic engineering is a tool of multinational companies geared toward the rich world’s markets and that developing countries have no chance to benefit from biotechnology is wrong. As Wambugu (2001) argues, small-scale farmers have profited by using hybrid seeds and transgenic seeds simply add more value to these hybrids.
This is a very important point that needs constant stressing to scientifically illiterate critics. All but a few of our currently planted crops are products of extensive breeding modifications and today’s world could not feed itself without using these hybrid and high-yielding cultivars. Traditional breeding has made a fundamental difference to the agricultural productivity of the 20th century; current harvests would be impossible without hybrid corn (introduced in the 1930s), HYV of rice and wheat (first released during the 1960s) and hybrid rice (developed in China during the 1970s). Hybrid corn, the planting of which began slowly in Iowa in the early 1930s, has transformed US corn harvests since World War II and is now benefiting both small- and large-scale corn producers throughout the developing world. Hybrid rice, which can boost aver- age yields by 15–20%, has been finally adapted to tropical climates and is now being accepted throughout Asia (Virmani et al., 1996).
Genetic engineering is thus only the latest, and the most powerful, tool of agricultural innovation. Admittedly, it is also a tool with considerable potential for adverse effects and unwanted complications but this reality should not be the reason for banning the  effort and walking away from the prospect of immense future benefits. After all, this combination of risks and benefits is nothing unique to genetic engineering. Modern society constantly confronts such dilemmas and has found ways to deal with them. Perhaps the most apposite example is that of drug companies and the billions of users of prescription medicines who must weigh the benefits against a range of potentially even fatal side effects. Careful research and testing and responsible regulation are the answers, not a ban on the drugs. Genetic engineering alone will not solve food short- ages that are now experienced by hundreds of millions of people but it could become the most powerful tool in that quest.
I will note just a few of the recent bioengineering advances whose potential for producing larger and better harvests or more desirable animals is self-evident. Broader-leafed rice can deprive weeds of sunlight, thus reducing the need for apply-ing herbicides or for laborious weeding. Rice with higher vitamin A and iron content can be the most cost-effective, as well as the most practical, way to end two of the most persistent micronutrient deficiencies in rice-eating countries. Millions of poor tropical families cultivating sweet potatoes in their fields and kitchen gardens would benefit from a transgenic cultivar resistant to feathery mottle virus which can reduce the yields by up to 80% (Wambugu, 2001). And, to give perhaps the most impressive example from animal farming, transgenic pigs able to produce phytase (the enzyme needed to digest phytate phosphorus in their feed) in their saliva will void manure with phosphorus content reduced by up to 75% (Goloran et al., 2001). This impres- sive achievement will reduce one of the principal causes of aquatic eutrophication, algal growth and fish kills in affected waters.
Seeing genetic engineering as the solution to the world’s food problems would be naïve. Refusing to proceed with careful research and regulated applications might be one of the most shortsighted human choices ever made as the technique has potential not only for increased and improved food production but also for enhanced environ-mental protection. Well-conceived bioengineering research, together with the stress on environmentally sound farming and higher efficiency in the use of all farm inputs, should be one of the key ingredients with which to build greater food security for tomorrow’s developing world.

Selasa, 13 September 2011

Can the challenges of poverty, sustainable consumption and good health governance be addressed in an era of globalization?

Tim Lang
The nutrition transition has taken different characteristics in various developing countries, cultures, and historical eras. Huge policy challenges arise. Is the nutrition transition inevitable? Can its patterns be altered? What policies minimize its adverse health outcomes most effectively? This chapter, while perhaps adding further complexity to an already difficult issue, outlines four policy elements that ought to inform and be part of the debate about the nutrition transition.
The first element relates to the interaction between food and nutrition and the environment – the issue of sustainable consumption. The second is social inequality – the extent of poverty and food insecurity. The third is governance, the notion that, if human policy “frames” nutrition, then human forces should themselves be shaped to do this equitably, responsibly, and effectively. The English word “governance” refers not just to what governments do, but also to the actions of other powerful social forces, such as private business.
The last element is culture, a key and often a missing component in the nutrition transition debate. Food culture is the “pull” in the transformation of tastes, just as marketing and corporate reach are the “push”.

Jumat, 02 September 2011

Globalization and the nutrition transition

A distinction must be made between the nutrition transition and the wider socioeconomic process of globalization, which refers to the process by which goods, people, and ideas spread throughout the world. The subject has been the source of much excitement in sociological and political circles recently, to which the topic of food can add a suitably gentle corrective. Globalization of food is, of course, nothing new. Plants have moved and been moved around the globe for centuries. Today, many are grown
Table 4.1
Top economic countries and corporations, 2001 (from Davidson, 2001)
The richest Ranking by country Country or corporation Food role GDP or revenue 1999 player ranking or corporation (millions of US$)
1 1 United States 9152 098
2 2 Japan 4346 922
3 3 Germany 2111 940
4 4 United Kingdom 1441 787
5 5 France 1432 323
6 6 Italy 1170 971
7 7 China 989 465
8 8 Brazil 751 505
9 9 Canada 634 898
10 10 Spain 595 927
23                                1 General Motors 176558
25                                2 Wal-Mart Stores Retailer 166 809
26                                3 Exxon Mobil 163 881
27                                4 Ford Motor 162 558
28                                5 Daimler-Chrysler 159 986
32 27 Indonesia 142 511
33 28 Saudi Arabia 139 383
34 29 South Africa 131 127
38                                6 Mitsui 118 555
39                                7 Mitsubishi 117 766
40                                8 Toyota Motor 115 671
41 33 Portugal 113716
42                                9 General Electric 111 630
44                                10 Itochu 109 069
45                                11 Royal Dutch/Shell Retailer 105 366
46 35 Venezuela, RB 102222
47 36 Israel 100840
48 12 Sumitomo 95 701
57 17 BP Amoco Retailer 83 566
72 29 Philip Morris Processor 61 751
                              and tobacco
75 44 Pakistan 58154
88                                41 Nestlé Processor 49 694
97                                46 Metro Retailer 46 664
99 52 Bangladesh 45961
100                              48 Tokyo Electric Power 45 728
Countries are indicated in normal type; company rankings are shown in bold.
All countries produce food; only those corporations with direct food interests are noted in this column.

far from their site of original cultivation. The same has happened to animals: cows, poultry, pigs, sheep, and goats. What is new about current globalization is its pace, scale, and extent, primarily fueled by government and private market forces.
Table 4.1 combines World Bank figures of national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (World Bank, 2001) with estimates of corporate turnover from the Fortune 500 (Fortune, 2001). Produced by CAFOD, an international aid agency (Davidson, 2001), it seeks to measure relative economic “punch”. Of the richest 100, 48 are companies and 52 are countries. When ordered, one notes that Wal-Mart (26th), a retailer, had revenues greater than the GDP of Indonesia (32nd), Saudi Arabia (33rd) or South Africa (34th). Phillip Morris (72nd), a tobacco company which in 1998 was also the world’s largest food company, had a turnover greater than the GDP of Pakistan (75th). Nestlé (88th) had a turnover greater than the GDP of Bangladesh (99th).
The diverse reach of modern food corporations is considerable. Food companies are in discrete markets, mostly either in production or trading of raw commodities – such as Cargill, the world’s largest grain trader, a private corporation – or in value-adding industries such as food processing. Table 4.2 provides a picture of the world’s largest food global corporations. These are key framers of the food system.