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Project Title:

A Framework for Assessing Health, Environmental, and Social Effects of the Food System
PIN: IOM-FNB-12-05        

Major Unit:

Division on Earth and Life Studies
Institute of Medicine

Sub Unit: Food and Nutrition Board
Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources

RSO: Oria, Maria

Subject/Focus Area: Agriculture; Environment and Environmental Studies; Food and Nutrition; Health and Medicine


Project Scope
An ad hoc expert committee will develop a framework for assessing the environmental, social and health effects (positive and negative) associated with the ways in which food is grown, processed, distributed, and marketed within the U.S. food system. The framework is envisioned as a systematic approach, using a variety of methods, to compare alternative configurations and their respective effects. Alternative configurations may be activities, practices, or other aspects of concern within or across the food system. Although the committee will carry out its task from the perspective of the U.S. food system, it will consider implications derived from the global food system when warranted and feasible. The committee will describe examples to illustrate the potential utility of the framework and identify additional needs for its further improvement.  In developing the framework, the committee will undertake the following activities:

1. Examine available methods, methodologies, and data that are needed to undertake comparisons and measure effects. Examples of such needs that the committee will examine are:

- Defining relevant characteristics of alternative configurations for comparison.

- Mapping the pathways through which alternate configurations of elements of the food system create or contribute to defined health, environmental, and social effects.

- Determining the contribution of alternatives to effects relative to those from other influences.

- Characterizing the scale of effects (e.g., individual, national, etc.).

- Quantifying the magnitude and direction of effects.

- Monetizing effects, when appropriate.

- Addressing uncertainty, complexity, and variability in conducting comparisons and measuring effects.

2. Describe several examples of alternative configurations of the food system and describe how the framework will be applied step by step. Pairs of alternative configurations should be drawn from different sectors of the food system (production, harvest, processing, distribution, marketing, and retailing). The emphasis will be on those effects that are generally not recognized (i.e., they may not be fully incorporated into the price of food). Alternative configurations for the committee to consider might include: a regionally-based food system versus a global supply system; free-range production of poultry versus current housing practices; reduced retail presence of processed food versus current availability of processed food.

3. In constructing examples, describe the strengths and weaknesses of the framework in different contextual situations and suggest how and when adjustments to the framework may lead to more accurate comparisons given the nature of the alternatives being compared. The goal of the examples is to illustrate the potential utility of the framework to analyze a variety of questions, and compare, measure and, in some cases, monetize effects of alternatives on health, environment, and society. The focus of these exercises should be on explaining the elements of the framework, not on attempting the analyses.

4. Identify information needs and gaps in methods and methodologies that, if filled, could provide greater certainty in the attribution and quantification of effects related to food-system alternatives and improve the predictive value of the framework for evaluating how changes in and across the food system might affect health, the environment, and society.

The project is sponsored by The JPB Foundation.

The approximate start date for the project is March 1, 2013.

A report is expected be issued at the end of the project in approximately 21 months.


 
Project Duration: 21 months    

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Committee Membership
Committee Membership

Meetings
 Meeting 1 - 07/16/2013
 Meeting 2 - 09/16/2013
 Meeting 3 - 12/16/2013
 Meeting 4 - 02/13/2014
 Meeting 5 - 04/11/2014
 Meeting 6 - 05/16/2014
 Meeting 7 - 06/26/2014

Reports

Reports having no URL can be seen
at the Public Access Records Office