Title: Awareness of phosphorus sustainability threats in the EU
Authors: Brzezina, Natalia
Contributors: Avermaete, Tessa
Mathijs, Erik
Issue Date: 8-Sep-2014
Conference: WPHNA 2014 Conference on Building Healthy Global Food Systems: A New imperative for Public Health Ground-breaking Food Policy location:Oxford date:8-9 September 2014
Abstract: Phosphorus is a an indispensable, unsubstitutable macronutrient for virtually all life on the planet. As such, phosphorus plays a crucial role in food security and human health by ensuring soil fertility, maximising crop yields, supporting farmer livelihoods and nutritional security of the global population. It is estimated that phosphorus and other mineral fertilizers are essential to feed around half of the world’s population.
The world’s main source of phosphorus is non-renewable phosphate rock, with deposits only in a few key countries. The demand for phosphorus fertilizers is increasing due to the growing human population and rising per capita meat/dairy consumption. Yet, human activities have broken the sustainable closed-looped phosphorus cycle. As a result phosphorus currently moves linearly from mines to oceans posing risks for its future supply and consequently food security, given there is no alternative to phosphorus as an essential plant nutrient.
Global institutions, governments, scientists and public are increasingly investing in closing the phosphorus cycle and sustaining the future. However, many scientists point out that political and public debate focuses too much on quantifying the remaining phosphate rock and how to secure its national supply, rather than on working out and implementing sustainable policies.
The aim of this study is to examine scientific, political and public communication in the EU about phosphorus. Media content analysis for the timescale 2007-2014 is conducted using NVivo10. It encompasses governmental documents, websites, media coverage and peer-reviewed papers across disciplines, including the relevant economics, agriculture and food, environmental and social sciences. The results provide an insight into the magnitude and focus of interest given by the different voices in the debate on phosphorus. In our discussion, we will highlight the gaps between scientific evidence and communication.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Division of Bioeconomics
Department of Health and Technology - UC Leuven

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