July 01, 2017

The debate at every level -in the media as in politics and science- has focused on the topic of climate change, whose above-mentioned effects are almost unanimously regarded as the most striking phenomena. The most authoritative supporter of this view is the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres who, in a speech delivered to the UN General Assembly on September 18, stated: “This year’s hurricane season is already the most violent on record and the season fits a pattern. Changes to our climate are making extreme weather events more severe and frequent, pushing communities into a vicious cycle of shock and recovery”.

After recalling how these events have “an impact all over the world, including floods in southern Asia and landslides and drought in Africa”, and that in August 2017 alone “more than 1,200 people died as monsoon floods hit South Asia, whereas in the US Hurricanes Harvey and Irma killed just over 100”, the UN Secretary General warned that these tragedies highlight: “the need to help poor countries better prepare for the effects of extreme weather ”, Otherwise, he concluded, the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals could “never be achieved” in countries that need constant rebuilding.

The topics of water and climate change and its effects on the planet and its inhabitants are at the heart of the Food Sustainability Report No. 3. Its particular focus, which will be the subject of the now regular feature Focus On, is the inadequacy of water supply, in terms of quantity and quality, in a growing number of areas across the planet, and especially, though not exclusively, in the world’s poorest countries, as widely reported by the media this summer.

Quite apart from the topical nature of such events, these issues are at the core of the engagement of the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) as well as the Milan Center for Food Law and Policy. 

On September 27 and 28, 2017, the first edition of the international forum “Rules of Water, Rules for Life” was held in Milan, promoted by the Milan Center and under the auspices of the Italian presidency of the G7, in which 60 experts from 14 countries discussed the future, the reuse, the management and the governance of water.

On December 4-5, 2017, Milan will host the eighth edition of the International Forum on Food and Nutrition. This interdisciplinary event, unique in the Italian panorama, is organized every year by BCFN to share evidence, scientific data and best practices with a view to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations. The Forum aims to promote nutrition models -beginning with the Mediterranean diet- that are respectful of the health of people and the planet alike. The focus is on models and solutions designed to limit the consumption of valuable resources like water, but which at the same time facilitate people’s access to optimal nutrition.

From July to September 2017, our analysis platform, set up to monitor the topics of food sustainability and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), found almost 26,000 articles mentioning these topics.

Overall, the topic of climate change alone accounted for some two thirds of the mentions (17,393). The main related issues and terms most frequently mentioned were:

1. Global Warming, seen as the most important phenomenon resulting from the climate changes currently under way;

2. the names of several countries/continents (United States, Africa) that are most affected by phenomena caused by climate changes or other natural disasters (Mexico, struck by the earthquake of September 8, 2017);

3. the President of the United States Donald Trump, both as the leader of one of the countries affected by the summer 2017 tornados and for his commitment to reviewing the environmental polices adopted by previous U.S. administrations (for more details, see the Food Sustainability Report No. 2).

An interesting fact: Al Gore featured among the most frequent mentions, following the premiere on July 19, 2017, of his environment-inspired documentary titled “An Inconvenient Sequel, Truth to Power”, dedicated to the theme of the new and imminent “energy revolution”. The film comes ten years after the release of the former US Vice-President’s first documentary, also dealing with the environment, “An inconvenient truth”, which focuses specifically on global warming and won an Oscar award in 2006.

Another word linked to climate change is “Sea Level Rise”. Rising ocean levels have predictably returned to center stage following the extreme weather events that occurred in September-October 2017. The resulting debate has brought back into focus the relationship between water and climate change and the policies to be adopted for the appropriate management of water resources, which are increasingly valuable for the planet.

According to President of the OECD Water Governance Initiative Peter Glas, “water management and water governance is key for the development of countries, for territories, for economic development and for the wellbeing of people.”

“The Water Governance Initiative” Glas went on to say, “is an international network that includes various organizations from the public, private and non profit sectors from OECD countries and non OECD countries, as well as NGOs and also representatives from academia. We have developed principles, a set of indicators, and also good practices, for sharing those practices.” Water, concluded the President of the Water Governance Initiative, “should have central stage in urban development, in city planning, in investments, in infrastructure. So if you put water in the center of your planning, the rest will follow, I am convinced”.

Speaking at the international forum “Rules of Water, Rules for Life” mentioned earlier, BCFN Research Programme Manager Marta Antonelli emphasized the critical importance of food choices for the rational use of water resources: “Choosing a vegetarian type of diet instead of a diet with a high meat content reduces the consumption of virtual water, that is the amount of water it takes to produce the food we eat, by up to 2,000 liters of water per day.” Globally, added Antonelli, “if we compare water use by agriculture, industry and domestic households, the agricultural sector has the highest consumption levels, with 70% of the total freshwater withdrawal being used for irrigation, while industry uses 22% and domestic households the remaining 8%. And agriculture accounts for an even bigger share of water use in medium and low income countries, where consumption can reach up to 95% of the total and shows many inefficiencies.”

Focusing on Italy, Riccardo Valentini, a member of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - IPCC, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, said: “When we think about our food, we don’t ask ourselves how much water was used to produce it. Yet, it’s a question we should ask ourselves because there are foods, like red meat, that require vast amounts of water to be produced, while there are others, like vegetables, that require far less. In terms of reducing our water footprint (the total volume of water used to produce a good/service), Italian agriculture has considerable room for improvement since, overall, the food it currently produces requires a high use of water resources. We need to move towards a more sustainable agriculture.”



What is the state of rational water management in the planet today? And, above all, how are water resources being used by agriculture, which alone, as was pointed out, uses almost three quarters of all the available water supply?

The answer comes from the Food Sustainability Index, a study developed by BCFN and the Economist Intelligence Unit, which compiles and updates a ranking of 25 of the world’s leading economies -representing two thirds of the world’s population and 87% of global GDP- based on the sustainability of their food systems.

The study ranks countries using a set of 58 indicators, 4 of which refer to the sustainable use of water in agriculture: Environmental impact of agriculture on water, Sustainability of water withdrawal, Water scarcity, and Water management (the score ranges from 0 to 100 and the lower it is, the more it indicates a critical situation).

The top 5 performers
  • GERMANY 88.38
  • COLOMBIA 86.07
  • UK 85.63
  • CANADA 81.32
  • SUD COREA 79.35
The worst 5 performers
  • INDONESIA 45.86
  • SUD AFRICA 42.08
  • EGITTO 20.45
  • INDIA 16.87


ANALYSIS / Text analysis of the themes in focus






TOP NEWS / Vital news and documents

Somalia: displaced populations hard hit by drought
Internally displaced continue to be among the most vulnerable in Somalia as a drastic increase in displacement this year due to drought is putting additional strain on scarce resources in existing and new internal displaced settlements, the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) says.

Here's why Egypt's Nile river is in danger
About 2,500 years ago, the Greek historian Herodotus called Egypt the “Gift of the Nile." Today, urban sprawl and changing agricultural practices - due in part to Egypt’s Aswan Dam that allows for year-long irrigation - have caused groundwater problems along the Nile. 

Kenya: poor rains deepen drought, children go hungry - UNICEF
Kenya has been ravaged by what the United Nations calls the worst drought since the 2011 Horn of Africa food crisis that led to famine in parts of Somalia. The number of children in need of life-saving aid continues to grow amid one of most punishing droughts in years.

How will we feed and water 10 million Londoners by 2031?
Extra farmland more than one and a half times the size of London will have to be cultivated to grow the food needed for the capital’s booming population by 2031, according to new analysis. The figures reveal the huge resources that will be necessary.

Why pollution-free growth now is vital for Asia's health and future
Senior government officials from across Asia have been meeting in Bangkok in the first-ever Asia-Pacific Ministerial Summit on the Environment to answer this question: how can we use our resources more efficiently to continue to grow our economies in a manner that does not tax our natural environment?

Brazil abolishes huge Amazon reserve in 'biggest attack' in 50 years
The Brazilian president Michel Temer has abolished an Amazonian reserve the size of Denmark, prompting concerns of an influx of mineral companies, road-builders and workers into the species-rich forest. The dissolution of the Renca reserve was opposed by the Sustainability Network party.

Mongolia bans grain exports as hottest temperatures in 56 years cause drought
Mongolia has suspended grain exports with as much as a third of its farmland suffering from severe drought after temperatures last month rose to the highest in more than half a century, agricultural officials said.

Corn could be major victim of climate change
The weather has always been an unpredictable element of agriculture, but climate change is expected to make matters significantly worse. A new study says climate-induced drought could hit several of the world's major corn producing regions all at once.


Towards a circular economy - Waste management in the EU
Significant progress has been achieved in reducing the impacts of waste generation on the environment and human health. The challenge for the future is both continuing this progress especially related to the relatively high amounts of untreated waste still landfilled in many EU Member States.

Claire Perry at Climate Week: UK decarbonising fastest in G20
Claire Perry, Minister of State for Climate Change and Industry said: “Since 1990 we have cut emissions by more than a third while growing the economy by two thirds, and the Government is determined to drive up the pace of decarbonisation while maximising the opportunities for growth from the global transition to a clean economy.”

Environment. Regions and Cities European Week Workshop
The European Commission is hosting a workshop on sustainable urban strategies as part of Regions and Cities European Week, on 11th October 2017, in Brussels, Belgium. The workshop focuses on the question, ‘How can we set long-term sustainable urban strategies within the framework of short-term political cycles?’

Clearing up confusion caused by flip-flopping diet news
UK government recommendations on nutrition have been fairly constant over the years. The only recent significant changes were in 2015 when maximum sugar recommendations were halved and fibre ones increased. Those changes were made following a thorough analysis of hundreds of high-quality studies.
Towards a fairer food supply chain: European Commission asks for input
The Commission is seeking views on how the EU's food supply chain could be made fairer for farmers and small businesses and how unfair trading practices could be addressed. Stakeholders have until 17 November to contribute to the online public consultation.

South Africa. Water security key to sustainable development
Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane says strengthened partnerships are crucial to meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Agenda 2030. The Minister said key to the attainment of the SDGs is financing water security.

Secretary Perdue announces $16.8 million to encourage SNAP participants to purchase healthy foods
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced 32 grants totaling $16.8 million to help Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants increase their purchases of fruits and vegetables.

Wallonia promotes smart farming
Smart farming lets farmers tailor the use of fertiliser, pesticides, fodder and water to their specific crops and livestock. This helps to lower the environmental impact of agriculture, while increasing farms’ competitiveness. Smart farming also creates new business opportunities.

India’s National Food Security Act (NFSA): early experiences
In September 2013, the Parliament of India passed the National Food Security Act (NFSA) that made ‘right to food’ a legal entitlement for approximately three-quarters of the rural population and half of the urban population of India. A first evaluation of the impact of NFSA.

Forecasting the impact of extreme weather on food security
An EU-funded project has developed new modelling tools to better forecast the impact of extreme weather on agricultural production in Europe and beyond - important for protecting the global food supply.


Building climate-resilient agriculture systems in South Asia: top ten success stories
The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) has been active in the region since 2010. A new publication captures a wide spectrum of stories within the domains of climate change, agriculture and food security.

7 ways the Fourth Industrial Revolution can help the planet
At the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) first Sustainable Development Impact Summit last week in New York, several of the discussions focused on how today's tech revolution - the so called Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) - can create a better, cleaner and safer world.

FAO and Université Laval announce new partnership
On the occasion of the International Symposium on Food Security and Nutrition in the Age of Climate Change, they have signed an agreement with the overall goal of strengthening capacities for improving food security and nutrition through mitigation and adaptation to changing climatic conditions.

Rome Agencies call for zero tolerance on food waste
During a High-level Event held on the margins of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, the heads of FAO, IFAD, WFP and other partners have urged the international community to renew its commitment towards reducing food waste.

World hunger again on the rise, driven by conflict and climate change, new UN report says
After steadily declining for over a decade, global hunger is on the rise again, affecting 815 million people in 2016, or 11 per cent of the global population, says a new edition of the annual United Nations report on world food security and nutrition.

Global Report on food crises 2017
The world is facing one of its largest humanitarian crises since 1945 with millions of people facing the threat of starvation and famine in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria. This number is expected to further increase, according to a report by the Global Network against Food Crises. 

At start of World Water Week, UN Assembly President says water and sanitation goals need ‘major push’
“None should imagine that the state of sanitation and coral reefs are anything but directly connected,” Mr. Thomson said, delivering the keynote address at special event in Stockholm to start World Water Week. “It makes no sense to consider terrestrial environmental issues, fresh water challenges or climate change in isolation.”

California’s water troubles didn’t end with the drought - they just went underground
After one of the wettest winters on record, Governor Jerry Brown announced in April that the drought had ended. But situation remains grim, says Rios, 80, who lives in rural Madera County in California’s San Joaquin Valley.

World Bank, UNIDO address water scarcity, management in cities
The World Bank is providing financing for water-scarce cities to share their management knowledge, while the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has set up a public-private partnership to improve industrial and municipal water management practices.

Democratizing finance for the Sustainable Development Goals
The estimated cost for achieving SDGs them is $5-7 trillion per year. The UN called on a powerful private sector tool to step up to ensure that they can be implemented: it’s the capital market finance. How can the capital markets be engaged? What kind of capital is needed to achieve zero hunger? And which categories of investors are best placed to provide it?


Water risk hotspots for agriculture
Agriculture is expected to face increasing water risks that can be mitigated with targeted policy actions on water hotspots. This report presents a mitigation policy action plan. The People’s Republic of China, India and the United States are identified as countries facing the greatest water risks for agriculture production globally.

IFPRI Research Day: What to do when markets and governments fail poor people
How to overcome market failures was once the key question underlying development research. A primary conclusion of this research was that governments had to step in to resolve these market failures, for example by providing free public services or protecting infant industries.

Nourished: How Africa can build a future free from hunger & malnutrition
While hunger and malnutrition are still clearly major problems in Africa, research from the Malabo Montpellier Panel shows that several countries are starting to win the battle for better nutrition outcomes.

The state of food security
This year’s edition of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World marks the beginning of a new era in monitoring the progress made towards achieving a world without hunger and malnutrition, within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Measuring progress and projecting attainment on the basis of past trends of the health-related Sustainable Development Goals in 188 countries
A new study outlines the serious toll that poor nutrition can have on our well-being, and in some cases that even means death. In fact, about one in five deaths around the world in 2016 can be attributed to poor diet, making this one of the biggest killers, according to the study, “The Global Burden of Disease.”

What happens when you heat the Antarctic ocean by a single degree?
Researchers spent six years developing a heating device capable of heating the ocean. Their findings were released in the journal Current Biology, and suggest that even this tiny shift could have a big impact on the local ecosystem.

Agriculture, development, and the global trading system: 2000-2015
This book is devoted to the complex relationship between the global trading system and food security, focusing on two important elements: the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) and how food price volatility can be managed, or not, through trade instruments.

Climate change projected to significantly increase harmful algal blooms in U.S. freshwaters
Harmful algal blooms known to pose risks to human and environmental health in large freshwater reservoirs and lakes are projected to increase because of climate change, according to a team of researchers led by a Tufts University scientist.

Climate change is making our favorite carbs less nutritious
If we do nothing, growing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide from emissions will seriously impair the nutritional value of wheat, rice and other staple crops, putting millions of people around the world in danger of protein deficiency, according to new research published in the journal in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Obesity becomes worldwide epidemic, US is the fattest
A detailed report in the latest New England Journal of Medicine is winning alarmed attention in Washington because it finds that American children and adults are leading the obesity parade.

Food Sustainability Report - Release N° 3/2017 - July - September