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Special Issue "Critical issues on Agri-food System Management: Addressing Complexity in Present and Future Challenges"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Agriculture, Food and Wildlife".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 March 2019)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Tiziano Gomiero

Independent consultant and researcher on multi-criteria farming and food system analysis, agro-energies, environmental issues, Treviso, Italy
Website | E-Mail
Interests: farming system analysis; agroecology; organic agriculture; GMOs; biofuels; soil conservation; biodiversity/bioindicators; human impact on the environment; societal metabolism; population-Water-energy-food nexus; ecological economics; science-policy interface

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The food system encompasses the chain of activities associated with production in the field, processing, marketing, consumption, and waste disposal, as well the resources required and the impact caused by those processes (Tansey and Worsley, 1995; Lang et al., 2009). The term “agri-food system” is often used to emphasize the role of agriculture (e.g., OECD/FAO, 2016). The proper functioning of the food system is vital to society. Assessing agri-food systems’ sustainability is a complex matter, due to the multi-functional nature of agriculture and the multi-scale nature of the relations between agroecosystems and socio-economic systems (Smil, 2000; Giampietro, 2004; Conway, 2012). The globalization process introduces further complexity into the functioning of agri-food systems.

We are facing a critical situation, requiring the urgent definition of viable actions to enable the food system to cope with its present and future challenges. Rising world population, land and soil degradation, rising pollution, biodiversity loss, resources shortage (e.g., water, energy, land), conflict over resource use (e.g., food vs. fuels, large land holdings vs. small farmers, the livestock issue), and the impact of climate change (Foley et al., 2011; Gerland et al., 2014; FAO and ITPS, 2015; Gomiero, 2015, 2016; Steffen et al., 2015) call for the adoption of a complex approach in the assessment of viable management strategies and policies for the agri-food system, in the awareness that “ceteris” are never “paribus”. That entails addressing how the effects of a specific action may impact the whole system, and then pursuing a whole system assessment by addressing its pros and cons. In this context, the “Nexus approach”—an integrated analysis of food, water, and energy—is gaining attention (Howells and Rogner, 2014; FAO, 2014; Giampietro et al., 2014; Webber, 2015).

This Special Issue welcomes papers that:

  • address biophysical and socioeconomic issues relevant for better understating the complex functioning of the food system;  
  • discuss pros, cons, and trade-offs of potential “solutions”, envisaged policies, and scenarios;
  • present tools able to address the challenge posed by the complex nature of the food system.

Dr. Tiziano Gomiero
Guest Editor

References

Conway, G., 2012. One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World? Cornell University Press: Ithaca, NY, USA.

FAO, 2014. Walking the Nexus Talk: Assessing the Water-Energy-Food Nexus in the Context of the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative. FAO, Rome, http://www.fao.org/3/a-i3959e.pdf

FAO and ITPS, 2015. Status of the World’s Soil Resources (SWSR). Main Report; Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils: Rome, Italy. Available online: ftp://ext-ftp.fao.org/nr/Data/Upload/SWSR_MATTEO/Main_report/Pdf/web_Soil_Report_Main_001.pdf

Foley, J.A., et al., 2011. Solutions for a Cultivated Planet. Nature, 478, 337-342

Gerland, P., et al., 2014. World Population Stabilization Unlikely this Century. Science, 346, 234–327.

Giampietro, M. 2004. Multi-Scale Integrated Analysis of Agroecosystems. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, USA.

Giampietro, M. et al., (Eds) 2014. Resource accounting for sustainability assessment: The nexus between energy, food, water and land use. Routledge, New York, USA.  

Gomiero, T., 2016. Soil Degradation, Land Scarcity and Food Security: Reviewing a Complex Challenge. Sustainability, 8, 1-41. https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/8/3/281

Gomiero, T., 2015. Are Biofuels an Effective and Viable Energy Strategy for Industrialized Societies? A Reasoned Overview of Potentials and Limits. Sustainability, 7(7), 8491-8521; doi:10.3390/su7078491

Howells, M., Rogner, H-H., 2014. Water-energy nexus: Assessing integrated systems. Nature Climate Change, 4: 246–247.

Lang, T., Barling, D., Caraher, M. 2009. Food policy: Integrating health, environment and society. Earthscan, London, UK.

OECD/FAO, 2016. OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2016-2025, OECD Publishing, Paris. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/agr_outlook-2016-en

Smil, V., 2000. Feeding the world: A challenge for the twenty-first century. The MIT Press: Cambridge, MA, USA.

Steffen, et al., 2015. Planetary Boundaries: Guiding Human Development on a Changing Planet. Science, 347, DOI: 10.1126/science.1259855

Tansey, G., Worsley, T. 1995. The Food System: A Guide. Earthscan, London, UK.

Webber, B.E., 2015. A Puzzle for the Planet. Scientific American, February, 63-67.

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1700 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • agricultural practices
  • agriculture economics
  • agri-food chain
  • agrobiodiversity
  • climate change
  • ecological economics
  • environmental impact
  • environmental conflicts
  • farming system analysis
  • food chains
  • food security
  • food sovereignty
  • globalization
  • Nexus approach
  • resources use
  • rural development
  • scenario analysis
  • social conflicts
  • societal metabolism
  • soil management

Published Papers (15 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
Critical Issues at the Upstream Level in Sustainable Supply Chain Management of Agri-Food Industries: Evidence from Pakistan’s Citrus Industry
Sustainability 2019, 11(5), 1326; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11051326
Received: 2 February 2019 / Revised: 23 February 2019 / Accepted: 26 February 2019 / Published: 3 March 2019
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Abstract
Sustainable supply chain management (SSCM) has recently received increasing attention from researchers and the business community. Due to globalization and changing consumption patterns, agri-food industries have undergone a transformation, and the sustainability of agri-food supply chains has also received greater attention. However, the [...] Read more.
Sustainable supply chain management (SSCM) has recently received increasing attention from researchers and the business community. Due to globalization and changing consumption patterns, agri-food industries have undergone a transformation, and the sustainability of agri-food supply chains has also received greater attention. However, the issues of SSCM at the upstream level of the supply chain in agri-food industries have not been adequately empirically studied. This paper aims to list key issues or constraints in the production and marketing through farmers’ group discussions, supplemented by the literature, and empirically identifies key constraints to SSCM of the citrus industry in Pakistan. The paper used cross-sectional data from 300 farmers involved in the production and marketing of citrus in Punjab, Pakistan. Farmers were asked to answer on a Likert scale data about potential constraints identified from the literature and farmers’ group discussions. Kendell’s coefficient of concordance and the mean ranking technique was used to rank and to identify the critical constraints in the production and marketing of citrus. In addition, factor analysis (principal component analysis) was used for the grouping of these constraints. In production constraints, factors, such as fertilizer, pesticide, and seed quality, climate change, high production cost, and agricultural labor performance, are important. These constraints are aligned with some key marketing factors, such as packaging, grading, and storage facilities. The findings convey messages for policymakers to solve these issues and challenges at the upstream level of the SSCM chain in the citrus and related agri-food industries. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
A Case of ‘Muddling Through’? The Politics of Renewing Glyphosate Authorization in the European Union
Sustainability 2019, 11(2), 440; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11020440
Received: 3 December 2018 / Revised: 12 January 2019 / Accepted: 14 January 2019 / Published: 16 January 2019
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (784 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Between 2012 and 2017, the European Commission struggled to achieve the renewal of glyphosate, an active ingredient of some broad-spectrum herbicides. As indicated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the chemical kills or suppresses all plant types; when applied at lower [...] Read more.
Between 2012 and 2017, the European Commission struggled to achieve the renewal of glyphosate, an active ingredient of some broad-spectrum herbicides. As indicated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the chemical kills or suppresses all plant types; when applied at lower rates, it is a plant-growth regulator and desiccant. Glyphosate is used worldwide for agricultural and non-agricultural purposes. Once uncontroversial, new scientific evidence concerning the potential hazards of the substance has sparked a considerable debate in public and political spheres. In light of this sustained controversy, it came as a surprise when a qualified majority of European Union member states voted in favor of the Commission’s proposal to renew the approval of glyphosate for another five years. How was this outcome reached after many ‘no opinion’ votes? How are the member states dealing with the authorization’s renewal? Relying on document analyses and process tracing, we show in this study that the aforementioned renewal was attained due to a change in position on the part of German delegates, who voted in favor of the proposal instead of abstaining. By examining how the member states are addressing the renewal of the authorization, we found that both the countries that opposed renewal and those that supported it are now taking steps to reduce the use—or preparing the phaseout—of glyphosate. Due to domestic political considerations, however, the realization of these steps has so far proven to be difficult. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The Future Challenges of Food and Agriculture: An Integrated Analysis of Trends and Solutions
Sustainability 2019, 11(1), 222; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11010222
Received: 26 November 2018 / Revised: 21 December 2018 / Accepted: 25 December 2018 / Published: 4 January 2019
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (2286 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The availability, access, utilization and stability of food supply over time are the four pillars of food security which support nutrition outcomes. Addressing the issues raised globally around these pillars remains a challenge. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) [...] Read more.
The availability, access, utilization and stability of food supply over time are the four pillars of food security which support nutrition outcomes. Addressing the issues raised globally around these pillars remains a challenge. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) 2017 report “The future of food and agriculture: trends and challenges” outlined the challenges which will have to be addressed in order for sustainable agricultural services to cost-effectively meet the growing food demand of the world population. In this study, we systematically analyzed the future challenges of the agriculture and food systems by focusing on (1) their root causes and trends; and (2) the interlinkages among the solutions proposed to address the challenges using social network analysis tools. It found that, if trends leading to extreme poverty are reversed, several other challenges will also be partially addressed and that climate change has the highest impact on the network of trends. Improving food security would have positive impacts on food access and utilization. The clear outline of the qualitative relationships among challenges presented and insights will help their prioritization by decision makers. However, additional in-depth quantitative analysis is necessary before measures identified to tackle the challenges could be effectively implemented. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Economic Analysis of Perennial Crop Systems in Dak Lak Province, Vietnam
Sustainability 2019, 11(1), 81; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11010081
Received: 26 November 2018 / Revised: 13 December 2018 / Accepted: 15 December 2018 / Published: 24 December 2018
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Abstract
Dak Lak province, Central Highlands, Vietnam presents an interesting case in perennial crop systems, of which coffee and black pepper are the two premier commodities and contribute a large part to economic growth provincially and at the national level. In recent years, in [...] Read more.
Dak Lak province, Central Highlands, Vietnam presents an interesting case in perennial crop systems, of which coffee and black pepper are the two premier commodities and contribute a large part to economic growth provincially and at the national level. In recent years, in addition to mono-cropping systems, intercropping systems for diversification have developed quickly. This paper focuses on (1) comparing the economic efficiency of mono-coffee systems (MCSes), mono-pepper systems (MPSes), and coffee and pepper intercropping (CPI) by analyzing startup cost, annual cost, and profits; and (2) identifying the main factors affecting farmers’ decisions to convert their crop systems. The study was carried out by investigating 90 perennial crop samples using the three perennial crop systems (MCSes, MPSes, and CPI) in 2017–2018. Additionally, in-depth interviews and focus group discussion (FGD) methods were applied to collect more information about the operations of each system. Another survey with 37 samples (new plantations) was carried out to compute the startup cost. The findings showed evidence that MCSes had the lowest startup and annual costs, whereas MPSes had the highest costs of the three perennial crop systems. MCSes used less manure or compost in the initial setup and overused chemical fertilizer in annual production. Similarly, MPSes had high pesticide-stimulant costs in the production process to sustain crop development. The study indicated that CPI not only had the highest economic efficiency, but also created the best family employment opportunities of the three systems. Additionally, the study found some social factors that strongly influenced farmers’ decisions to shift their cropping system: These included ethnicity, education, training, and crop failure, in addition to economic factors (profits). Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Beyond Food Security: Challenges in Food Safety Policies and Governance along a Heterogeneous Agri-Food Chain and Its Effects on Health Measures and Sustainable Development in Mexico
Sustainability 2018, 10(12), 4755; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10124755
Received: 30 October 2018 / Revised: 26 November 2018 / Accepted: 11 December 2018 / Published: 13 December 2018
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Abstract
This work describes the relevance of food policies and governance to reach food safety issues along a heterogeneous food chain, in the context of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) food security definition. Using personal interviews with agents in [...] Read more.
This work describes the relevance of food policies and governance to reach food safety issues along a heterogeneous food chain, in the context of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) food security definition. Using personal interviews with agents in the food chain, and secondary data from 2014–2018, this exploratory research demonstrated that: (a) Mexican food policies regarding food safety are oriented to the exports markets and/or high income producers-consumers; (b) this has split the agri-food chain in two: one serving international and/or high income consumers, and another serving domestic markets; (c) the agri-food chain that serves domestic markets experiences regulatory budget shortfalls, lacks coordination in food regulations across its agents, and brings about alternate informal markets that put peoples’ health and financial stability at risk, especially those lower-income consumers. Only 0.7% of producers, 12.5% of supermarkets and 42.8% of restaurants have some type of food safety certifications. This is worsened by the way public resources have been distributed, focused, prioritized, and planned. If the differences between big, medium and small producers continue to increase, it will increase regional and individual inequality, leading to two different countries: one developed and one developing, challenging its sustainable development. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Landscape Agroecology. The Dysfunctionalities of Industrial Agriculture and the Loss of the Circular Bioeconomy in the Barcelona Region, 1956–2009
Sustainability 2018, 10(12), 4722; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10124722
Received: 24 October 2018 / Revised: 28 November 2018 / Accepted: 4 December 2018 / Published: 11 December 2018
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (1071 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
The paper analyses how between 1956 and 2009 the agrarian metabolism of the Barcelona Metropolitan Region (BMR) has become less functional, losing circularity in biomass flows and in relationship to its landscape. We do so by adopting a Multi-Energy Return on Investment (EROI) [...] Read more.
The paper analyses how between 1956 and 2009 the agrarian metabolism of the Barcelona Metropolitan Region (BMR) has become less functional, losing circularity in biomass flows and in relationship to its landscape. We do so by adopting a Multi-Energy Return on Investment (EROI) and flow-fund (MuSIASEM) analyses and the nexus with landscape functional structure. The study of agricultural flows of Final Produce, Biomass Reused and External Inputs is integrated with that of land use, livestock, power capacity, and population changes between 1956 (at the beginning of agrarian industrialization) and 2009 (fully industrialized agriculture). A multi-scale analysis is conducted at the landscape scale (seven counties within the Barcelona metropolitan region) as well as for the functions deployed, within an agroecosystem, by the mutual interactions between its funds (landscape, land-uses, livestock, and farming population). A complex nexus between land, livestock, dietary patterns, and energy needs is shown; we conclude that, from the perspective of the circular bioeconomy the agrarian sector has gone worse hand in hand with the landscape functional structure. Therefore, a novel perspective in landscape agroecology is opened. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Competitive Analyses of the Pig Industry in Swaziland
Sustainability 2018, 10(12), 4402; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10124402
Received: 13 October 2018 / Revised: 18 November 2018 / Accepted: 20 November 2018 / Published: 24 November 2018
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Abstract
Over recent decades, Swaziland’s pork industry has been stagnant, failing to meet the domestic demand for pork. It is only in recent years that the number of pig farmers has increased rapidly, with smallholder farmers taking the lead. However, while higher demand for [...] Read more.
Over recent decades, Swaziland’s pork industry has been stagnant, failing to meet the domestic demand for pork. It is only in recent years that the number of pig farmers has increased rapidly, with smallholder farmers taking the lead. However, while higher demand for pork could lead to opportunities for growth, with uncertain future markets, increased pig production capacity could subject farmers to extreme market competition and failure to sell their produce. This study used a survey and SWOT analysis to assess the current pig production and market performance of smallholder farms in Swaziland. To quantify SWOT factors, the Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP) was used to derive priorities for subsequent formulation of potential pig production strategies that are resilient both to market and climate changes. Strategy formulation was based on Porter’s cost leadership strategy. The findings revealed that, currently, the pig industry is attractive, and that the present is probably the best time for smallholder farmers to maximize their profits. Unfortunately, the industry was found to be threatened by the expected increase in production capacity, future market competition, and the socio-environmental challenges associated with expansion. Despite this, the findings suggest that smallholder farmers can survive future market challenges by strategically using agro-industrial by-products as alternative feed ingredients to reduce production cost. The formation of farmers’ associations could benefit smallholder farmers through economies of scale, processing and product value addition, and increased access to markets, and unity could strengthen their position in the market when bargaining for better prices. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Consumer Preferences and Welfare Evaluation under Current Food Inspection Measures in China: Evidence from Real Experiment Choice of Rice Labels
Sustainability 2018, 10(11), 4003; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10114003
Received: 13 October 2018 / Revised: 29 October 2018 / Accepted: 30 October 2018 / Published: 1 November 2018
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (1323 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Frequent food quality and safety issues result in various food inspection measures in China, while some are not widely acknowledged by the public and are less efficient. Consumer demand is significant for priority setting in food policy. This study investigates Chinese consumers’ heterogeneous [...] Read more.
Frequent food quality and safety issues result in various food inspection measures in China, while some are not widely acknowledged by the public and are less efficient. Consumer demand is significant for priority setting in food policy. This study investigates Chinese consumers’ heterogeneous preferences for selected food inspection measures and estimates welfare effects based on willingness-to-pay (WTP) calculation. Rice consumption data from a 2018 nationwide consumer survey designed using the real choice experiment is analyzed by the random parameters logit and the latent class model. The findings reveal that consumers place a high value on government certification, and brand is valuable especially when public management is perceived as weak. However, the insufficient market demand for third-party certification may increase transaction costs due to overlapping functions and consumers’ distrust. Moreover, there should be a need to broaden consumers’ understanding of traceability and grading systems. This study emphasizes the necessity of direct governmental involvement and the existence of unnecessary policy cost. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Social Valuation of Genebank Activities: Assessing Public Demand for Genetic Resource Conservation in the Czech Republic
Sustainability 2018, 10(11), 3997; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10113997
Received: 12 October 2018 / Revised: 26 October 2018 / Accepted: 30 October 2018 / Published: 1 November 2018
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Abstract
The use of diverse genetic resources to breed improved crop varieties has been a key driver of agricultural productivity improvements in the past century. At the same time, the adoption of modern varieties has contributed to substantial loss of traditional varieties. In this [...] Read more.
The use of diverse genetic resources to breed improved crop varieties has been a key driver of agricultural productivity improvements in the past century. At the same time, the adoption of modern varieties has contributed to substantial loss of traditional varieties. In this analysis, we estimate the social value provided by several proposed crop diversity conservation programs to be carried out by the Czech genebank system. We use a double-bounded dichotomous choice model to estimate the willingness-to-pay (WTP) for conserving additional crop varieties in the genebank for ten years using data collected through an online contingent valuation survey administered to a sample representative of the general Czech population (1037 respondents) and a smaller sub-sample representative of the agricultural region of South Moravia (500 respondents). Mean WTP was found to be about $9 for both the Czech and S. Moravian sub-samples, corresponding to country-wide benefits of ~$68 million. These benefits increase by 6–7% for every ten varieties conserved, implying total welfare benefits of ~$84 million for a program conserving the maximum number of 35 additional crop varieties offered in the experiment. The study illustrates an empirical approach of potential value for policymakers responsible for determining funding levels for genetic resource conservation. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The Regulation of Genetically Modified Organisms on a Local Level: Exploring the Determinants of Cultivation Bans
Sustainability 2018, 10(10), 3392; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10103392
Received: 24 August 2018 / Revised: 14 September 2018 / Accepted: 20 September 2018 / Published: 23 September 2018
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (1049 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
This study investigates municipalities’ regulatory activities in the field of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) for agricultural use. To explore the determinants of these activities, the case of Germany was selected as in this country, municipalities have legal possibilities to impose local GMO cultivation [...] Read more.
This study investigates municipalities’ regulatory activities in the field of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) for agricultural use. To explore the determinants of these activities, the case of Germany was selected as in this country, municipalities have legal possibilities to impose local GMO cultivation bans. Using data from 131 local council resolutions, the combination of qualitative and quantitative content analysis shows that, in most cases, no single factors, but a variety of factors lead to regulatory activity. The study reveals that functional motivations to prevent negative socio-economic effects or impacts on the environment or human health are decisive for municipalities’ decisions to regulate. Furthermore, the results of the quantitative analysis unveil that municipalities often refer to both socio-economic reasons and risks for the environment and human health when justifying their decisions. Moreover, the results indicate that local policymakers impose popular cultivation bans to promote their own political success. Finally, the horizontal diffusion of regulations between municipalities, but also vertical diffusion from higher political levels can be observed. Overall, the results of this study on GMOs on a local level further emphasize the importance of analyzing the interdependencies between agroecosystems and socio-economic systems in their full complexity. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Optimizing Regional Food and Energy Production under Limited Water Availability through Integrated Modeling
Sustainability 2018, 10(6), 1689; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10061689
Received: 3 April 2018 / Revised: 12 May 2018 / Accepted: 16 May 2018 / Published: 23 May 2018
Cited by 11 | PDF Full-text (2894 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
Across the world, human activity is approaching planetary boundaries. In northwest China, in particular, the coal industry and agriculture are competing for key limited inputs of land and water. In this situation, the traditional approach to planning the development of each sector independently [...] Read more.
Across the world, human activity is approaching planetary boundaries. In northwest China, in particular, the coal industry and agriculture are competing for key limited inputs of land and water. In this situation, the traditional approach to planning the development of each sector independently fails to deliver sustainable solutions, as solutions made in sectorial ‘silos’ are often suboptimal for the entire economy. We propose a spatially detailed cost-minimizing model for coal and agricultural production in a region under constraints on land and water availability. We apply the model to the case study of Shanxi province, China. We show how such an integrated optimization, which takes maximum advantage of the spatial heterogeneity in resource abundance, could help resolve the conflicts around the water–food–energy (WFE) nexus and assist in its management. We quantify the production-possibility frontiers under different water-availability scenarios and demonstrate that in water-scarce regions, like Shanxi, the production capacity and corresponding production solutions are highly sensitive to water constraints. The shadow prices estimated in the model could be the basis for intelligent differentiated water pricing, not only to enable the water-resource transfer between agriculture and the coal industry, and across regions, but also to achieve cost-effective WFE management. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The Concept of Caloric Unequal Exchange and Its Relevance for Food System Analysis: The Ecuador Case Study
Sustainability 2017, 9(11), 2068; https://doi.org/10.3390/su9112068
Received: 23 October 2017 / Revised: 6 November 2017 / Accepted: 8 November 2017 / Published: 10 November 2017
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Abstract
The impact of food production patterns and food supply upon consumption patterns is usually explained by economies of scale and affordability. Less attention is given to food trade patterns and global insertion of economies affecting dietary changes. This paper contributes to the discussion [...] Read more.
The impact of food production patterns and food supply upon consumption patterns is usually explained by economies of scale and affordability. Less attention is given to food trade patterns and global insertion of economies affecting dietary changes. This paper contributes to the discussion using the concept of caloric unequal exchange that defines the deterioration of terms of trade in food in units of calories and complements studies on unequal exchange and ecologically unequal exchange. A new perspective to food systems’ analysis is achieved by using this concept. This paper uses the case study of Ecuador to exemplify its potentiality. Exports and imports to and from Ecuador are analyzed for the period 1988 through 2013 in volume, value, and calories, for different groups of products. The conclusion is that Ecuador is increasingly helping to feed the world, at a caloric cost that is decreasing over time. There is a deterioration of the terms of trade of traded food in terms of calories for Ecuador of more than 250% between 1986 and 2013. Full article
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Changing Consumption Patterns—Drivers and the Environmental Impact
Sustainability 2018, 10(11), 4190; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10114190
Received: 4 September 2018 / Revised: 7 November 2018 / Accepted: 9 November 2018 / Published: 14 November 2018
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Abstract
Economic growth coupled with population increase and globalization have engendered structural changes in consumption patterns around the world. Contingent on their composition, these changes can be demanding on natural resources and pose unsustainable challenges for the environment. The paper aims to provide a [...] Read more.
Economic growth coupled with population increase and globalization have engendered structural changes in consumption patterns around the world. Contingent on their composition, these changes can be demanding on natural resources and pose unsustainable challenges for the environment. The paper aims to provide a general framework to assess the link between changing consumption patterns and their environmental impact by focusing on the rising beef demand in Vietnam. It draws from secondary literature and data to find that the increased beef demand in Vietnam is mostly met domestically, but there is a major dependency on imports. Within Vietnam, the rising demand has contributed substantially to the carbon footprint and land use and raised waste disposal concerns. To understand the impact of Vietnamese beef demand at the global level, the paper looks at Australia. Carbon footprint and land use are estimated to provide a perspective on the plausible scale of environmental damage that can be ensued in the future. Changes in consumption patterns are an integral part of our world and will play a significant role in determining the sustainable future of our planet. Therefore, it is important to attain a better understanding of the theme and its possible impact on the environment. Full article
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Other

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Open AccessConcept Paper
Enhancing Food Safety through Adoption of Long-Term Technical Advisory, Financial, and Storage Support Services in Maize Growing Areas of East Africa
Sustainability 2019, 11(10), 2827; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11102827
Received: 1 April 2019 / Revised: 12 May 2019 / Accepted: 14 May 2019 / Published: 17 May 2019
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Abstract
Grain production and storage are major components in food security. In the ancient times, food security was achieved through gathering of fruits, grains, herbs, tubers, and roots from the forests by individual households. Advancements in human civilization led to domestication of crops and [...] Read more.
Grain production and storage are major components in food security. In the ancient times, food security was achieved through gathering of fruits, grains, herbs, tubers, and roots from the forests by individual households. Advancements in human civilization led to domestication of crops and a need to save food for not only a household, but the nation. This extended need for food security led to establishment of national reservoirs for major produces and this practice varies greatly in different states. Each of the applied food production, handling, and storage approaches has its benefits and challenges. In sub-Saharan Africa, several countries have a public funded budget to subsidize production costs, to buy grains from farmers, and to store the produce for a specific period and/or until the next harvests. During the times of famine, the stored grains are later sold at subsidized prices or are given for free to the starving citizens. If there is no famine, the grain is sold to retailers and/or processors (e.g., millers) who later sell it to the consumers. This approach works well if the produce (mainly grain) is stored under conditions that do not favor growth of molds, as some of these microbes could contaminate the grain with toxic and carcinogenic metabolites called mycotoxins. Conditions that alleviate contamination of grains are required during production, handling, and storage. Most of the grain is produced by smallholder farmers under sub-optimal conditions, making it vulnerable to colonization and contamination by toxigenic fungi. Further, the grain is stored in silos at large masses, where it is hard to monitor the conditions at different points of these facilities, and hence, it becomes vulnerable to additional contamination. Production and storage of grain under conditions that favor mycotoxins poses major food health and safety risks to humans and livestock who consume it. This concept paper focuses on how establishment of a local grain production and banking system (LGPBS) could enhance food security and safety in East Africa. The concept of LGPBS provides an extension of advisory and finance support within warehouse receipt system to enhance grain production under optimal conditions. The major practices at the LGPBS and how each could contribute to food security and safety are discussed. While the concept paper gives more strength on maize production and safety, similar practices could be applied to enhance safety of other grains in the same LGPBS. Full article
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Open AccessCommentary
Developing Socio-Techno-Economic-Political (STEP) Solutions for Addressing Resource Nexus Hotspots
Sustainability 2018, 10(2), 512; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10020512
Received: 4 December 2017 / Revised: 26 January 2018 / Accepted: 12 February 2018 / Published: 14 February 2018
Cited by 8 | PDF Full-text (2790 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The challenge of meeting increasing water, energy, and food needs is linked not only to growing demands globally, but also to the growing interdependency between these interconnected resource systems. Pressures on these systems will emerge to become hotspots with different characteristics, and will [...] Read more.
The challenge of meeting increasing water, energy, and food needs is linked not only to growing demands globally, but also to the growing interdependency between these interconnected resource systems. Pressures on these systems will emerge to become hotspots with different characteristics, and will require a fresh look at the challenges existing both within each of the resource systems and at their respective interfaces. Proposing solutions to address different resource hotspots must be multi-faceted and need to acknowledge the multiple dimensions of the biophysical water, energy, and food systems, and the players connected with them. This commentary first explores the multiple dimensions of water, energy, and food systems as these relate to government, business, and society. It then identifies contemporary critical questions at the interface of these stressed resource systems. A 3-Filter framework is then introduced for vetting the feasibility of proposed resource allocation scenarios and to account for the bio-physical resource interactions and trade-offs, the stakeholder interactions and trade-offs, and to address governance and financing schemes for carrying forward the implementation of those scenarios. Full article
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