A View from the COP21 Sidelines

cop21-peace_climate_justiceLast week, I attended the United Nations Conference of the Parties Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris with my colleague Roni Neff. Roni wrote about our experiences getting out the word about the meat consumption to climate change, and she also wrote about how COP21 addressed public health issues. After Roni left Paris, I stuck around to participate in more COP21-related activities and protests, and these are my impressions from that week. Read More >

The Sustainable Development Goals and Food Systems

UN-SDGs copyToday, leaders from 193 countries will gather in New York City to formally adopt the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an agenda to guide global development during the next fifteen years. The SDGs will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which led this agenda from 2000 to 2015. The MDGs generally neglected issues pertinent to food systems; hunger and environmental sustainability were the only particularly relevant topics included. As we move into the SDG era, are food systems likely to feature more prominently in global development initiatives? Read More >

Doing What Congress Won’t: China Bans Antimicrobials as Growth Promoters

In 2009, China produced 450 million pigs

China has announced that it will join the European Union in banning the use of antimicrobial growth promoters (AGPs) in food animal production, WattAgNet.com reports.  When implemented, the ban could affect food animal production throughout the country.  The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimated Chinese production at more than 4.7 billion chickens, 450 million pigs, and 84 million cattle in 2009, the most recent year for which data are available.  This is clearly big news.

The use of AGPs in food animal production has long been a concern in the public health and medical communities.  The administration of non-therapeutic doses of antimicrobials to increase animals’ growth rates has been found repeatedly to select for resistant bacteria.  The practice could even induce mutations that make bacteria previously susceptible to antibiotics become resistant to them. Read More >

Q & A with Olivier De Schutter on the Right to Food

Olivier De Schutter (center) with Brother David Andrews (left) and Robert Lawrence.

UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier De Schutter recently spoke at the Bloomberg School, as the Center’s 11th Annual Dodge Lecture. In his presentation, he re-framed hunger by redefining the hungry and by identifying the roots of hunger, which are more often than not political (as opposed to technical). De Schutter insisted that hunger—and famine—is not a crisis of productivity but a crisis of power. “We’ve produced hunger over the years by depriving peasants of their ability to produce,” he said. CLF correspondent Leo Horrigan and I were able to talk with him about his research and recommendations.

What does the “right to food” mean to you, and how does the idea of accountability play into that?

The right to food is primarily about an obligation of governments to explain decisions that they make in light of the impact of these decisions on the most vulnerable segments of the population…. The right to food is, essentially, showing that hunger is not a purely technical question that agronomists or economists should answer to, but a political question that shall only be sustainably addressed if governments are held to account, and if independent bodies, including courts, can step in, to censor decisions that are not going in the right direction. Read More >