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BC3 Seminar: “Losses and inefficiencies in the global food system”

October 27, 2017 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

BC3  Seminars
“Losses and inefficiencies in the global food system”

Dr. Peter Alexander
School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh and Land Economy and Environment,Scotland’s Rural College.


Abstract: Losses throughout the food system influence the extent to which the nutritional requirements of a growing global population can be sustainably met, with inefficiencies in agricultural production and consumer behaviour all playing a role. Analysis of the global food system from primary production of agricultural biomass through to human nutritional requirements reveals the magnitude of different losses and provides insights into how these influence overall food system efficiency. If the objective of the food system is to provide sufficient healthy and nutritious food in a sustainable manner, then consumption in excess of nutritional requirements is a form loss. Human over-consumption is shown to be at least as large a contributor to food system losses as discarded food waste. This suggests that the current food waste agenda and rhetoric warrants re-examination because over-consumption of food may be more damaging to society than discarded food waste due to a combination of environmental and health costs. Livestock production is well-known to be a major source of inefficiency, and the analysis places it into context with other forms of food system losses. Although diets with lower rates of animal product consumption are likely to substantial reduce production impacts, e.g. land use requirements, a mix of smaller changes in consumer behaviour, such as replacing beef with chicken, reducing food waste (including over-consumption) and potentially introducing novel protein sources (including entomophagy) more commonly into diets, would also help to achieve a healthier and more sustainable food system.

Lecturer´s personal webpage

Dr. Peter Alexander

Research interests

Recently appointed to a lectureship at the University of Edinburgh on food security, but currently working both at Scotland’s Rural College and University of Edinburgh.  My main area of interest is the interactions within food systems and land use, combining social, economic and environmental aspects.  Approaches typically apply data or computationally intensive techniques, such as agent-based modelling, and where necessary use high-performance computing, to improve understanding of the human-natural interactions within these complex systems. Research has focused on the dynamics and coupling between land use, consumer behaviours and the environment from local to global scales.  This work includes the development a new global agricultural land use and food system model, and other work investigating the current role of diet and waste in global land use and land use change.

Referenced papers

Alexander P, Brown C, Arneth A, Finnigan J, Moran D, Rounsevell MDA (2017) Losses, inefficiencies and waste in the global food system. Agricultural Systems, 153, 190–200.

Alexander P, Moran D (2017) Comment Rethinking food waste for a healthier planet. Lancet Planet Health, 1, e170–e171.

Alexander P, Brown C, Arneth A, Dias C, Finnigan J, Moran D, Rounsevell M (2017) Could consumption of insects, cultured meat or imitation meat reduce global agricultural land use? Global Food Security.

Alexander P, Brown C, Rounsevell M, Finnigan J, Arneth A (2016) Human appropriation of land for food: The role of diet. Global Environmental Change, 41, 88–98.

Sede Building  (Ground Floor), Scientific Park of the University of the Basque Country, October 27, 12:00

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October 27, 2017
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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BC3-Basque Centre for Climate Change
Sede Building 1, 1st floor, Scientific Park of the University of the Basque Country
+34 944 014 690
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