Companies' sustainable sourcing practices play an increasing role in addressing the social and environmental challenges in agricultural supply chains. Yet the approaches companies take to regulate their supply chains continue to evolve. I use the chocolate industry as a critical case to explore how and why companies have changed their approaches to sustainable cocoa sourcing over the last 20 years.
Crop responses to climate warming suggest that yields will decrease as growing-season temperatures increase. Deutsch et al. show that this effect may be exacerbated by insect pests (see the Perspective by Riegler). Insects already consume 5 to 20% of major grain crops. The authors' models show that for the three most important grain crops—wheat, rice, and maize—yield lost to insects will increase by 10 to 25% per degree Celsius of warming, hitting hardest in the temperate zone.
The extent to which armed conflicts—events such as civil wars, rebellions, and interstate conflicts—are an important driver of child mortality is unclear. While young children are rarely direct combatants in armed conflict, the violent and destructive nature of such events might harm vulnerable populations residing in conflict-affected areas. A 2017 review estimated that deaths of individuals not involved in combat outnumber deaths of those directly involved in the conflict, often more than five to one.
Linkages between climate and mental health are often theorized, but remain poorly quantified. In particular, it is unknown whether the rate of suicide, a leading cause of death globally, is systematically affected by climatic conditions. Using comprehensive data from multiple decades for both the United States and Mexico, we find that suicide rates rise 0.7% in US counties and 2.1% in Mexican municipalities for a 1 °C increase in monthly average temperature. This effect is similar in hotter versus cooler regions and has not diminished over time, indicating limited historical adaptation.
Rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are anticipated to decrease the zinc and iron concentrations of crops. The associated disease burden and optimal mitigation strategies remain unknown. We sought to understand where and to what extent increasing carbon dioxide concentrations may increase the global burden of nutritional deficiencies through changes in crop nutrient concentrations, and the effects of potential mitigation strategies.
Climate-induced shocks in grain production are a major contributor to global market volatility, which creates uncertainty for cereal farmers and agribusiness and reduces food access for poor consumers when production falls and prices spike.
Aquaculture in many countries around the world has become the biggest source of seafood for human consumption. While it alleviates the pressure on wild capture fisheries, the long-term impacts of large-scale, intensive aquaculture on natural coastal systems need to be better understood. In particular, aquaculture may alter habitat and exceed the carrying capacity of coastal marine ecosystems.
Large and regular seasonal price fluctuations in local grain markets appear to offer African farmers substantial inter-temporal arbitrage opportunities, but these opportunities remain largely unexploited: small-scale farmers are commonly observed to "sell low and buy high" rather than the reverse. In a field experiment in Kenya, we show that credit market imperfections limit farmers' abilities to move grain inter-temporally.
The availability of climate model experiments under three alternative scenarios stabilizing at warming targets inspired by the COP21 agreements (a 1.5 ºC not exceed, a 1.5 ºC with overshoot and a 2.0ºC) makes it possible to assess future expected changes in global yields for two staple crops, wheat and maize.
Crop yields in smallholder systems are traditionally assessed using farmer-reported information in surveys, occasionally by crop cuts for a sub-section of a farmer's plot, and rarely using full-plot harvests. Accuracy and cost vary dramatically across methods. In parallel, satellite data is improving in terms of spatial, temporal, and spectral resolution needed to discern performance on smallholder plots.
Worldwide, humans are facing high risks from natural hazards, especially in coastal regions with high population densities. Rising sea levels due to global warming are making coastal communities’ infrastructure vulnerable to natural disasters.
Ending world hunger is a universal goal, yet progress and social awareness of the issue waxes and wanes in the course of broader political and economic developments. The massive famine in China under Chairman Mao’s 1958–62 Great Leap Forward, a succession of severe droughts and associated famines in India in 1965–66, and the political violence that accompanied regime change in Indonesia in 1964–67 left tens of millions of people starving and drew global attention to the threat of food insecurity.
Food retailers and manufacturers are increasingly committing to address agricultural sustainability issues in their supply chains. In place of using established eco-certifications, many companies define their own supply chain sustainability standards.
Policies that promote biofuels in major agricultural economies raise important questions for food prices and food security at local to global scales. Global biofuel output rose from 38 billion liters to 131 billion liters between 2005 and 2015, boosting the demand for annual- and perennial-crop feedstocks such as maize, sugar, soy, rapeseed, and palm oil. Although ethanol volume was three times that of biodiesel in 2015, the share of biodiesel in total biofuel output rose from 10% to almost 25% over the course of the decade (EIA, n.d.; REN21, 2016).
A critical question for agricultural production and food security is how water demand for staple crops will respond to climate and carbon dioxide (CO
Oil palm production expanded 1.2 million hectares in sub-Saharan Africa since 1990, with expansion accelerating in several heavily forested countries since 2000.
Food security will be increasingly challenged by climate change, natural resource degradation, and population growth. Wheat yields, in particular, have already stagnated in many regions and will be further affected by warming temperatures. Despite these challenges, wheat yields can be increased by improving management practices in regions with existing yield gaps.
Although development organizations agree that reliable access to energy and energy services—one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals—is likely to have profound and perhaps disproportionate impacts on women, few studies have directly empirically estimated the impact of energy access on women's empowerment.
Accurate measurements of crop production in smallholder farming systems are critical to the understanding of yield constraints and, thus, setting the appropriate agronomic investments and policies for improving food security and reducing poverty. Nevertheless, mapping the yields of smallholder farms is challenging because of factors such as small field sizes and heterogeneous landscapes.