Call for Papers: Agri-food systems transformation for climate action, environmental improvements, with co-benefits for food security and nutrition
Food systems, besides sustaining life of human beings, also account for a third of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) worldwide (Crippa et al., 2021).
Three major contributors to global warming from agriculture include methane from livestock and rice, carbon emissions from land use change and land management, and nitrous oxide from farming operations.
With global population continuously on the rise and consumer preferences likely to shift towards livestock products in many countries, the FAO and other international bodies have been calling for food systems transformation to address GHG emissions while boosting resilience, enhancing ecosystems and public health, and improving food and nutrition security, and enhancing poverty reduction and equity.
Reducing beef consumption and replacing animal-sourced proteins with novel foods and alternative protein sources are actions often proposed to reduce the environmental footprint of consumers, but more research is needed to assess the socio-economic impact of such measures, provided that livestock is also a pillar of a circular economy and part of cultural heritage of many countries.
While it is often in the spotlight for its negatives on global warming, agriculture is also one of the few sectors, if not the only one, offering great opportunities to mitigate and offset greenhouse gases, and to even contribute to atmosphere cooling, depending on farm management. The portfolio of GHG mitigation strategies is wide and stretches from quality feeding choices, to improvements through genetic resource selection, management of grasslands and manure, sourcing of deforestation-free feed crops and alternative feed ingredients, and employing circular bio-economy solutions by turning waste into valuable resources for many sectors (e.g. fertilizer, energy, pet-food, leather, fiber, food and supplements, soaps, glues). Soil carbon storage and afforestation are now increasingly embedded in public policy and strategy of many business operators for emissions offsetting. In addition, extremely active is science on climate solutions. In particular, remarkable progress was made on animal feeding and technology development in order to curb methane emissions and work for food security and atmosphere cooling through agriculture. Longer and longer is the list of feed additives, including 3-nitrooxypropanol (3-NOP) and red seaweed, presented as disruptive innovation and climate change fixes.
As agriculture is also a major user of resources (land, water, fossil fuels, and nutrients for fertilization), and impacts ecosystems and human health in multiple ways, LCA is increasingly used to assess GHG emissions and other environmental impacts, and to support evidence-based climate action and sustainable intensification of agricultural systems through a multi-criteria approach.
Digital tools in support of precision agriculture are being developed and increasingly used to assist farmers and tackle food production systems transformations.
The Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance Partnership (FAO LEAP) has been building common ground between governments, private sector and NGOs to understand and improve the environmental footprint of feed and livestock systems relying on an attributional life cycle assessment framework and complementary approaches. To date, FAO LEAP has delivered guidelines on feed, feed additives and a wide array of livestock systems providing specific guidance on greenhouse gases emissions, water footprint, nutrients flows and associated impact assessment, soil carbon stocks and stock changes, biodiversity.
Currently, FAO LEAP is improving quality of its guidelines collecting feedback from the community of users Livestock, Climate and Environment (LCE) Community of Action .
In parallel, guidance is being updated on short-lived greenhouse gases such as methane in light of novel metrics such as GWP*, also highlighted in the IPCC Report Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Besides reviewing metrics, the FAO Technical Advisory Group on methane is also providing an overview of mitigation options for methane emissions from rice and livestock systems in support of the Global Methane Pledge, a collective effort to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30 percent from 2020 levels by 2030 announced at COP26.
In addition, FAO LEAP is planning additional guidance development to best cover topics such as ecosystem services, direct land use change, biomass carbon storage, future-oriented scenario building and assessment of low-carbon livestock pathways.
While FAO LEAP continues to consolidate its technical work, the climate crisis requires countries and the private sector to take urgent action to accelerate the pathway towards net zero greenhouse gas balances and nature-positive solutions in agriculture. To raise the ambition of its partners at regional and country level, FAO LEAP is calling for incubation of national networks for environmental improvement and has established a catalogue of applications showcasing policy solutions, evidence-based better management practices and innovation.
In parallel, FAO is also developing an LCA methodology to assess the environmental footprint of food items looking into the nutrients delivered. Amongst others, the methodology will inform decision making in the context of healthy diets and sustainable food systems. More specifically, the FAO methodology will inform the forthcoming FAO reference study about the global assessment of the contribution of livestock to food security, sustainable agri-food systems, nutrition and healthy diets.
Building on the momentum generated by the UN Food Systems Summit 2021 and COP26, this call for papers welcomes papers:
- Summarizing the lessons learned from the Technical Advisory Groups of the FAO LEAP Partnership in terms of rationale underpinning the recommendations in the technical guidance documents;
- Showcasing solutions for methane emissions mitigation making also use of novel metrics to assess GHG emissions;
- Analyzing the impact of policies enabling decoupling of sectoral growth and food security from GHG emissions;
- Presenting case studies to highlight areas where the FAO LEAP guidelines can be improved;
- Reviewing literature to compare approaches and input additional guideline development on ecosystem services, land use change, biomass carbon storage, soil carbon storage, biodiversity ecotoxicity;
- Assessing the impact of shifting to alternative diets (for either livestock or humans) from a climate, environmental and socioeconomic perspective at system level, ideally relying on the principles for Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment by Valdivia et al (2021) and consequential LCA associated to econometric models;
- Proposing criteria for Net Zero claims about food items in the context of Race To Zero global campaign providing rationale in support of key definitions (e.g. carbon neutrality, GHG emissions neutrality, warming neutrality, climate neutrality, net zero emissions) and LCI modelling choices;
- Summarizing lessons learned and rationale underpinning the forthcoming FAO methodology about nutritional LCA;
- Showcasing pilot applications of the FAO LCA methodology on nutritional LCA in support of policies supporting healthy diets and sustainable food systems.
 For more info: www.fao.org/partnerships/leap/resources/community-of-action/en/
Dr. Camillo De Camillis, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Camillo.DeCamillis@fao.org
Dr. Tim McAllister, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, email@example.com
Dr. Maryam Rezaei, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Maryam.Rezaei@fao.org
The tentative schedule for this special issue development, from original submission receipt and registration to special issue publication is shown below:
Special issue-development phases
Online submission open
|30 October 2022|
Full paper submission deadline
|30 April 2023|
Announcement of final decision
30 July 2023
How to submit:
Manuscripts should be original and written in English. The suggested length per article is up to 10,000 words, excluding references. Submission requires that the manuscript has not been submitted for review or publication elsewhere and that it will not be submitted elsewhere while the review process is underway. All papers go through peer review by at least two experts; in the cover letter that accompanies the article, please suggest a number of reviewers’ names.
Papers should be submitted online via https://www.editorialmanager.com/jlca/default.aspx. Please indicate that your manuscript belongs to the “Agri-food systems transformation for climate action” special issue in the “Additional Information” tab during the submission process. Details about the preparation of the manuscript can be obtained from the journal's webpage at https://www.springer.com/journal/11367/submission-guidelines. Please do ensure to follow these guidelines closely as incorrectly formatted papers cannot be considered for review.
Crippa, M., Solazzo, E., Guizzardi, D. et al. (2021). Food systems are responsible for a third of global anthropogenic GHG emissions. Nature Food 2, 198–209 https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-021-00225-9
De Camillis, C., Agarwal, M., Manzano, P., Uwizeye, A., (2016). Developing sound tools for transition to sustainable food and agriculture - Methodological notes. Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance Partnership (FAO LEAP), Rome.
OECD (2021) Agricultural Policy Monitoring and Evaluation 2021: Addressing the Challenges Facing Food Systems, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/2d810e01-en.
FAO (2020) Environmental performance of feed additives in livestock supply chains – Guidelines for assessment – Version 1. Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance Partnership (FAO LEAP), Rome.
FAO (2020) Biodiversity and the livestock sector – Guidelines for quantitative assessment – Version 1. Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance Partnership (FAO LEAP), Rome.
FAO (2019) Water use in livestock production systems and supply chains – Guidelines for assessment – Version 1. Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance Partnership (FAO LEAP), Rome.
FAO (2019) Measuring and modelling soil carbon stocks and stock changes in livestock production systems: Guidelines for assessment – Version 1. Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance Partnership (FAO LEAP), Rome.
FAO (2018) Nutrient flows and associated environmental impacts in livestock supply chains: Guidelines for assessment – Version 1. Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance Partnership (FAO LEAP), Rome.
FAO (2018) Environmental performance of pig supply chains: Guidelines for assessment – Version 1. Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance Partnership (FAO LEAP), Rome.
FAO (2016) Environmental performance of animal feeds supply chains: Guidelines for assessment – Version 1. Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance Partnership (FAO LEAP), Rome.
FAO (2016) Principles for the assessment of livestock impacts on biodiversity – Version 1. Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance Partnership (FAO LEAP), Rome,
FAO (2016) Greenhouse gas emissions and fossil energy use from small ruminant supply chains: Guidelines for assessment – Version 1. Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance Partnership (FAO LEAP), Rome.
FAO (2016) Environmental performance of large ruminant supply chains: Guidelines for assessment – Version 1. Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance Partnership (FAO LEAP), Rome.
Valdivia, S., Backes, J.G., Traverso, M. et al. (2021) Principles for the application of life cycle sustainability assessment. Int J Life Cycle Assess, 26:1900–1905 https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-021-01958-2