Article published by Nature (Nature 531, 551 (31 March 2016) doi:10.1038/531551a) written by Dr Adam Briggs

 

Health campaigners and political observers got a surprise in the United Kingdom's latest budget. This month, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced a sugar tax in the form of a levy on sugary-drinks manufacturers.

This is a bold and welcome move from a Conservative government that has often been criticized for not standing up to industry. It demonstrates that officials and policymakers have heeded advice and now recognize that sugar is a public-health problem that needs legislative control. The tax has potential implications not just for public health and the global soft-drinks industry, but also for the ability of all governments to act on market failures in food.

Britain will not be the first place to introduce a sugar-drink tax. Mexico, France, Hungary and Finland, among others, have taxed sugary drinks; South Africa, the Philippines, Indonesia and India are considering doing so. Hungary and Finland have also taxed some unhealthy foods.

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A global switch to diets that rely less on meat and more on fruit and vegetables could save up to 8 million lives by 2050, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds, and lead to healthcare-related savings and avoided climate damages of $1.5 trillion (US).

 

The study, published today in PNAS, is the first to estimate both the health and climate change impacts of moving towards more plant-based diets for all major world regions.

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Our researchers' reactions to George Obsorne's inclusion of a sugar tax in the latest governmental budget:

Professor Susan Jebb:

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  • By 2050, reduced fruit and vegetable intake could cause twice as many deaths as under-nutrition
  • Three-quarters of all climate-related deaths due to changes in food production are estimated to occur in China and India

 

Read the accessible PDF here

 

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By John Ingram, Food Systems Programme Leader, Environmental Change Institute, on the 'Climate Change, Global Food Security, and the U.S. Food System' report to which he contributed:

It is well recognised that climate change poses considerable risks to global food production: IPCC AR5 and many other analyses detail where, by how much and to what types of production system given degrees of climate change will have impact. There are, however, fewer analyses of the challenges facing the food system as a whole. While disruptions to production are clearly important, climate change – and extreme weather in particular – will impact many of the food system’s ‘post-farm gate’ activities and hence food security; food security depends on more than just food production. For instance, damage to food transport and storage infrastructure due to storms and floods causes local shortages, affecting food affordability and variety. Temperature and humidity changes can lead to numerous food safety issues, and hence both health considerations and food waste, the later also affecting availability. Consumer behaviour can also change, leading to changes in diets and hence nutrition.

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By Prof. Charles Spence

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A combination of a carbon tax on food and a tax on sugary drinks in the UK could lead to health benefits, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and raise up to GB£3.6 billion revenue, according to research published in the open access journal BMC Public Health.

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Article by Footprint:

 

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Conference Title: TECHNOLOGICAL FRONTIERS IN FOOD SECURITY AND SUSTAINABILITY

University of Oxford

May 7, 2016

Call for Papers

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Introduction by Marie Persson of the Food Climate Research Network (FCRN), Blog post by Henri de Ruiter

The UK is increasingly “outsourcing” the environmental impact of its food supply

This new FCRN blog-post discusses the findings of a recent paper by Henri de Ruiter and colleagues, Global cropland and greenhouse gas impacts of UK food supply are increasingly located overseas.  Henri is a PhD Student at the University of Aberdeen and the James Hutton Institute and his current PhD project considers the implications of meeting a healthy and environmentally sustainable diet for future land use. In this post he describes how the UK is becoming increasingly dependent on croplands overseas and the environmental implications of this trend. He also reflects on the complexities of this type of research, and describes the combination of methods that the researchers used to calculate the total cropland footprint of the UK and its associated greenhouse gas emissions.

 

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