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      Sustainable Agri-Food Systems: Environment, Economy, Society, and Policy

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      Sustainability
      MDPI AG

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          Abstract

          Agri-food systems (AFS) have been central in the debate on sustainable development. Despite this growing interest in AFS, comprehensive analyses of the scholarly literature are hard to find. Therefore, the present systematic review delineated the contours of this growing research strand and analyzed how it relates to sustainability. A search performed on the Web of Science in January 2020 yielded 1389 documents, and 1289 were selected and underwent bibliometric and topical analyses. The topical analysis was informed by the SAFA (Sustainability Assessment of Food and Agriculture systems) approach of FAO and structured along four dimensions viz. environment, economy, society and culture, and policy and governance. The review shows an increasing interest in AFS with an exponential increase in publications number. However, the study field is north-biased and dominated by researchers and organizations from developed countries. Moreover, the analysis suggests that while environmental aspects are sufficiently addressed, social, economic, and political ones are generally overlooked. The paper ends by providing directions for future research and listing some topics to be integrated into a comprehensive, multidisciplinary agenda addressing the multifaceted (un)sustainability of AFS. It makes the case for adopting a holistic, 4-P (planet, people, profit, policy) approach in agri-food system studies.

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          Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses: the PRISMA Statement

          Systematic reviews and meta-analyses have become increasingly important in health care. Clinicians read them to keep up to date with their field,1,2 and they are often used as a starting point for developing clinical practice guidelines. Granting agencies may require a systematic review to ensure there is justification for further research,3 and some health care journals are moving in this direction.4 As with all research, the value of a systematic review depends on what was done, what was found, and the clarity of reporting. As with other publications, the reporting quality of systematic reviews varies, limiting readers' ability to assess the strengths and weaknesses of those reviews. Several early studies evaluated the quality of review reports. In 1987, Mulrow examined 50 review articles published in 4 leading medical journals in 1985 and 1986 and found that none met all 8 explicit scientific criteria, such as a quality assessment of included studies.5 In 1987, Sacks and colleagues6 evaluated the adequacy of reporting of 83 meta-analyses on 23 characteristics in 6 domains. Reporting was generally poor; between 1 and 14 characteristics were adequately reported (mean = 7.7; standard deviation = 2.7). A 1996 update of this study found little improvement.7 In 1996, to address the suboptimal reporting of meta-analyses, an international group developed a guidance called the QUOROM Statement (QUality Of Reporting Of Meta-analyses), which focused on the reporting of meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials.8 In this article, we summarize a revision of these guidelines, renamed PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses), which have been updated to address several conceptual and practical advances in the science of systematic reviews (Box 1). Terminology The terminology used to describe a systematic review and meta-analysis has evolved over time. One reason for changing the name from QUOROM to PRISMA was the desire to encompass both systematic reviews and meta-analyses. We have adopted the definitions used by the Cochrane Collaboration.9 A systematic review is a review of a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select, and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect and analyze data from the studies that are included in the review. Statistical methods (meta-analysis) may or may not be used to analyze and summarize the results of the included studies. Meta-analysis refers to the use of statistical techniques in a systematic review to integrate the results of included studies. Developing the PRISMA Statement A 3-day meeting was held in Ottawa, Canada, in June 2005 with 29 participants, including review authors, methodologists, clinicians, medical editors, and a consumer. The objective of the Ottawa meeting was to revise and expand the QUOROM checklist and flow diagram, as needed. The executive committee completed the following tasks, prior to the meeting: a systematic review of studies examining the quality of reporting of systematic reviews, and a comprehensive literature search to identify methodological and other articles that might inform the meeting, especially in relation to modifying checklist items. An international survey of review authors, consumers, and groups commissioning or using systematic reviews and meta-analyses was completed, including the International Network of Agencies for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA) and the Guidelines International Network (GIN). The survey aimed to ascertain views of QUOROM, including the merits of the existing checklist items. The results of these activities were presented during the meeting and are summarized on the PRISMA Website. Only items deemed essential were retained or added to the checklist. Some additional items are nevertheless desirable, and review authors should include these, if relevant.10 For example, it is useful to indicate whether the systematic review is an update11 of a previous review, and to describe any changes in procedures from those described in the original protocol. Shortly after the meeting a draft of the PRISMA checklist was circulated to the group, including those invited to the meeting but unable to attend. A disposition file was created containing comments and revisions from each respondent, and the checklist was subsequently revised 11 times. The group approved the checklist, flow diagram, and this summary paper. Although no direct evidence was found to support retaining or adding some items, evidence from other domains was believed to be relevant. For example, Item 5 asks authors to provide registration information about the systematic review, including a registration number, if available. Although systematic review registration is not yet widely available,12,13 the participating journals of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE)14 now require all clinical trials to be registered in an effort to increase transparency and accountability.15 Those aspects are also likely to benefit systematic reviewers, possibly reducing the risk of an excessive number of reviews addressing the same question16,17 and providing greater transparency when updating systematic reviews. The PRISMA Statement The PRISMA Statement consists of a 27-item checklist (Table 1; see also Text S1 for a downloadable template for researchers to re-use) and a 4-phase flow diagram (Figure 1; see also Figure S1 for a downloadable template for researchers to re-use). The aim of the PRISMA Statement is to help authors improve the reporting of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. We have focused on randomized trials, but PRISMA can also be used as a basis for reporting systematic reviews of other types of research, particularly evaluations of interventions. PRISMA may also be useful for critical appraisal of published systematic reviews. However, the PRISMA checklist is not a quality assessment instrument to gauge the quality of a systematic review. Box 1 Conceptual issues in the evolution from QUOROM to PRISMA Figure 1 Flow of information through the different phases of a systematic review Table 1 Checklist of items to include when reporting a systematic review or meta-analysis From QUOROM to PRISMA The new PRISMA checklist differs in several respects from the QUOROM checklist, and the substantive specific changes are highlighted in Table 2. Generally, the PRISMA checklist “decouples” several items present in the QUOROM checklist and, where applicable, several checklist items are linked to improve consistency across the systematic review report. Table 2 Substantive specific changes between the QUOROM checklist and the PRISMA checklist (a tick indicates the presence of the topic in QUOROM or PRISMA) The flow diagram has also been modified. Before including studies and providing reasons for excluding others, the review team must first search the literature. This search results in records. Once these records have been screened and eligibility criteria applied, a smaller number of articles will remain. The number of included articles might be smaller (or larger) than the number of studies, because articles may report on multiple studies and results from a particular study may be published in several articles. To capture this information, the PRISMA flow diagram now requests information on these phases of the review process. Endorsement The PRISMA Statement should replace the QUOROM Statement for those journals that have endorsed QUOROM. We hope that other journals will support PRISMA; they can do so by registering on the PRISMA Website. To underscore to authors, and others, the importance of transparent reporting of systematic reviews, we encourage supporting journals to reference the PRISMA Statement and include the PRISMA web address in their Instructions to Authors. We also invite editorial organizations to consider endorsing PRISMA and encourage authors to adhere to its principles. The PRISMA Explanation and Elaboration Paper In addition to the PRISMA Statement, a supporting Explanation and Elaboration document has been produced18 following the style used for other reporting guidelines.19-21 The process of completing this document included developing a large database of exemplars to highlight how best to report each checklist item, and identifying a comprehensive evidence base to support the inclusion of each checklist item. The Explanation and Elaboration document was completed after several face-to-face meetings and numerous iterations among several meeting participants, after which it was shared with the whole group for additional revisions and final approval. Finally, the group formed a dissemination subcommittee to help disseminate and implement PRISMA. Discussion The quality of reporting of systematic reviews is still not optimal.22-27 In a recent review of 300 systematic reviews, few authors reported assessing possible publication bias,22 even though there is overwhelming evidence both for its existence28 and its impact on the results of systematic reviews.29 Even when the possibility of publication bias is assessed, there is no guarantee that systematic reviewers have assessed or interpreted it appropriately.30 Although the absence of reporting such an assessment does not necessarily indicate that it was not done, reporting an assessment of possible publication bias is likely to be a marker of the thoroughness of the conduct of the systematic review. Several approaches have been developed to conduct systematic reviews on a broader array of questions. For example, systematic reviews are now conducted to investigate cost-effectiveness,31 diagnostic32 or prognostic questions,33 genetic associations,34 and policy-making.35 The general concepts and topics covered by PRISMA are all relevant to any systematic review, not just those whose objective is to summarize the benefits and harms of a health care intervention. However, some modifications of the checklist items or flow diagram will be necessary in particular circumstances. For example, assessing the risk of bias is a key concept, but the items used to assess this in a diagnostic review are likely to focus on issues such as the spectrum of patients and the verification of disease status, which differ from reviews of interventions. The flow diagram will also need adjustments when reporting individual patient data meta-analysis.36 We have developed an explanatory document18 to increase the usefulness of PRISMA. For each checklist item, this document contains an example of good reporting, a rationale for its inclusion, and supporting evidence, including references, whenever possible. We believe this document will also serve as a useful resource for those teaching systematic review methodology. We encourage journals to include reference to the explanatory document in their Instructions to Authors. Like any evidence-based endeavour, PRISMA is a living document. To this end we invite readers to comment on the revised version, particularly the new checklist and flow diagram, through the PRISMA website. We will use such information to inform PRISMA's continued development. Note: To encourage dissemination of the PRISMA Statement, this article is freely accessible on the Open Medicine website and the PLoS Medicine website and is also published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, BMJ, and Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. The authors jointly hold the copyright of this article. For details on further use, see the PRISMA website. The PRISMA Explanation and Elaboration Paper is available at the PLoS Medicine website. Supporting Information Figure S1 Flow of information through the different phases of a systematic review (downloadable template document for researchers to re-use) Text S1 Checklist of items to include when reporting a systematic review or meta-analysis (downloadable template document for researchers to re-use)
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            Food security: the challenge of feeding 9 billion people.

            Continuing population and consumption growth will mean that the global demand for food will increase for at least another 40 years. Growing competition for land, water, and energy, in addition to the overexploitation of fisheries, will affect our ability to produce food, as will the urgent requirement to reduce the impact of the food system on the environment. The effects of climate change are a further threat. But the world can produce more food and can ensure that it is used more efficiently and equitably. A multifaceted and linked global strategy is needed to ensure sustainable and equitable food security, different components of which are explored here.
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              Comparing the yields of organic and conventional agriculture.

              Numerous reports have emphasized the need for major changes in the global food system: agriculture must meet the twin challenge of feeding a growing population, with rising demand for meat and high-calorie diets, while simultaneously minimizing its global environmental impacts. Organic farming—a system aimed at producing food with minimal harm to ecosystems, animals or humans—is often proposed as a solution. However, critics argue that organic agriculture may have lower yields and would therefore need more land to produce the same amount of food as conventional farms, resulting in more widespread deforestation and biodiversity loss, and thus undermining the environmental benefits of organic practices. Here we use a comprehensive meta-analysis to examine the relative yield performance of organic and conventional farming systems globally. Our analysis of available data shows that, overall, organic yields are typically lower than conventional yields. But these yield differences are highly contextual, depending on system and site characteristics, and range from 5% lower organic yields (rain-fed legumes and perennials on weak-acidic to weak-alkaline soils), 13% lower yields (when best organic practices are used), to 34% lower yields (when the conventional and organic systems are most comparable). Under certain conditions—that is, with good management practices, particular crop types and growing conditions—organic systems can thus nearly match conventional yields, whereas under others it at present cannot. To establish organic agriculture as an important tool in sustainable food production, the factors limiting organic yields need to be more fully understood, alongside assessments of the many social, environmental and economic benefits of organic farming systems.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
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                Journal
                SUSTDE
                Sustainability
                Sustainability
                MDPI AG
                2071-1050
                June 2021
                June 01 2021
                : 13
                : 11
                : 6260
                Article
                10.3390/su13116260
                927500f3-7625-4fa3-af23-f474c1a76400
                © 2021

                https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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                Self URI (article page): https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/13/11/6260

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