Publications

The Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI) recently published an update of their Global Multidimensional Poverty Index. This is an international measure of acute poverty covering over 100 developing countries. It complements traditional income-based poverty measures by capturing the severe deprivations that each person faces at the same time with respect to education, health and living standards.

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A new study, published in Climatic Change, analyses the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the diets of meat eaters, fish eaters, vegetarians and vegans using the EPIC-Oxford baseline dataset.

It shows that the greenhouse gas emissions for a meat-based diet are approximately twice as high as those for vegans and about 50% higher than for vegetarians.

The study by researchers at the British Heart Foundation Centre on Population Approaches for Non-Communicable Disease Prevention and the Cancer Epidemiology Unit, both part of the Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, looked at the diets of 2,041 vegans, 15,751 vegetarians, 8,123 fish-eaters and 29,589 meat-eaters aged 20-79 using a food frequency questionnaire.The greenhouse gas emissions of these diets were then estimated using a dataset of greenhouse gas emissions for 94 food commodities in the UK, with a weighting for the global warming potential of each component gas.

The authors concluded that "dietary GHG emissions in self-selected meat-eaters are approximately twice as high as those in vegans. It is likely that reductions in meat consumption would lead to reductions in dietary GHG emissions."

The study used data from EPIC-Oxford, a cohort study of 65,000 men and women living in the UK, many of whom are vegetarian, which examines how diet influences the risk of cancer.

Read the full article in Climatic Change.

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New FCRN report - Changing what we eat: A call for research & action on widespread adoption of sustainable healthy eating

Government leadership and substantial investment in research are needed to shift global consumption habits towards eating patterns that are both healthy and sustainable, say academics, industry and NGOs representatives in a new report.

The report, Changing What We Eat, published by the Food Climate Research Network (FCRN), part of the Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford, outlines the work needed to shift societies to consumption patterns that can meet both public health and environmental goals.  

Research is now needed in three key areas, say those involved in the report:

  • What are healthy sustainable eating patterns?
  • How do we eat now, why, and what are the health and sustainability implications?
  • How do we achieve positive change?
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An international panel of scientists is calling for an evidence-driven debate over whether a widely used type of insecticide is to blame for declines in bees and other insect pollinators.

The Oxford Martin School published on May 21st the second in its "restatement" series. Restatements take an area of current policy concern and controversy and attempt to set out the science evidence base in as policy neutral way as possible. They also provide a commentary on the nature of the evidence base.

The restatement, from a group of nine scientists led by Professor Charles Godfray and Professor Angela McLean from the Oxford Martin School, attempts to clarify the scientific evidence available on neonicotinoids to enable different stakeholders to develop coherent policy and practice recommendations. 

The study is published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society.  It is open access and can be downloaded from the Royal Society website here or you can download a single pdf of the paper with the Annotated Bibliography.

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The Food Climate Research Network has released a new FCRN discussion paper which considers the increasingly topical question of: ‘What is a sustainable healthy diet?’

The paper begins by highlighting the rationale for focusing on the diets question, and then moves on to discuss definitions of ‘good nutrition’ on the one hand, and ‘sustainability’ on the other. The main substance of the paper concerns itself with the major food groups that constitute UK’s Eatwell plate, examining the health and sustainability issues that their consumption raises, before drawing some conclusions. A review of recent studies in this area is also included. An important limitation of the paper is that it focuses largely on developed country contexts.

Download the Discussion Paper.

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Women who always or mostly eat organic foods have the same likelihood of developing cancer as women who eat conventionally produced foods, according to a study by Oxford's Cancer Epidemiology Unit.

Kathryn Bradbury, Professor Tim Key and colleagues found no evidence that regularly eating a diet that was grown free from pesticides reduced a woman's overall risk of cancer.

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Dr Tara Garnett, who runs the Food Climate Research Network, has brought out a major new report on the social, economic and environmental transformations in China’s food system.

Appetite for Change provides a detailed and integrative analysis of the dramatic changes in China’s food system over the last 35 years, and explores the linkages among the environmental, health, economic and cultural trends that are emerging.

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The current edition of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B is a special Discussion Meeting Issue on ‘Achieving food and environmental security: new approaches to close the gap’, following a meeting that took place at the Royal Society, in London between 3 and 4 December 2012, to explore some of avenues that science is currently pursuing.

The special edition, organized and edited by Guy Poppy, Paul Jepson, John Pickett and Michael Birkett, includes a paper by Professor Charles Godfray and Dr Tara Garnett, Oxford University, which sets out the case for Sustainable Intensification, arguing that more food needs to be produced but with less impact on the environment. The paper also investigates how Sustainable Internsification may interact with other food policy agendas, in particular, land use and biodiversity, animal welfare and human nutrition.

In the paper, they explain the logic underlying Sustainable Intensification:

  1. That increased production must play at least some role in meeting the food security challenge of the next fifty years
  2. That the vast majority of this increase must come from existing agricultural land
  3. That increasing the sustainability of food production is of equal importance
  4. That we must consider a broad range of tools and production methods to achieve these goals.
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Fertilisation of grasslands significantly reduces their ability to cope with changing conditions even when they contain a diverse mix of plants, finds a global study involving Oxford University. The research, published this week in Nature, showed that diverse grasslands were more stable over time but that this effect was weakened when the plots were artificially fertilised.

"More diverse areas are generally more stable because different plants will benefit from different things at different times," said Professor Andrew Hector of Oxford University's Department of Plant Sciences, senior author of the study. "To take a simple example, if you have plants that thrive in heavy rain and plants that prefer lighter rain in the same field, then the total amount of plant matter in the field in a given year will be less dependent on rainfall as both types will balance each other out."

Fertilisers are known to drive down grassland diversity over time, but this study found that fertilised plots were less stable even before their diversity decreased. This effect was not expected based on previous results. As fertilisation boosts total yields, it was expected to increase short-term stability by making small variations less significant. However, the study found that fertilisation disproportionately increased yearly variations in yield, particularly in the most diverse grasslands.

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A new paper by Lindsay Turnbull shows that organic farming increases species richness by about 30%.

The study was a meta-analysis that compared biodiversity under organic and conventional farming methods, mainly in Europe and North America. The authors note that more studies need to be carried in the Developing World to see if the same results would apply.

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