release n° 01/2017


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ANALYSIS / Text analysis of the themes in focus


Over the past three months, the most frequent debates on food, sustainability and nutrition have concerned climate change (the most widely discussed, by far), food emergencies in large areas of the planet and food security. This is especially the case for the MEDIA and RESEARCH sections, while the areas of LEGISLATION and INTERNATIONAL AGENCIES & NGO’s paid significant attention to the topics of Sustainable Development Goals and Biodiversity.


Climate Change, Food Security and Food Safety – in that order – are the three main topics that, in the first quarter of 2017, characterised the debate on food in the online news outlets. It is also worth highlighting that the number one issue – Climate Change – took the lion’s share of the media debate, making two thirds of the total volume of keywords. Below, we can examine how and why.
The topic of “Climate Change” (11,396 mentions, 69.7% of the total) was mostly connected to the topic of “Global Warming”. This, in turn was linked to the new environmental policies of the USA (compared to the policies of the Obama Administration), Donald Trump’s new appointments to his Administration (nomination of Scott Pruitt as Director of the US Environmental Protection Agency) and the U.S. relations with China.
The keyword “Food Security” (715 mentions, 4.4% of the total) was most commonly associated with the FAO, especially with reference to the World Food Programme and certain Countries such as Zimbabwe, Somalia and Kenya. As the weeks went by, growing attention was paid to Countries affected by food crises (see FOCUS ON), including South Sudan.
The keyword “Food Safety” (670 mentions, 4.1% of the total) often appeared in connection with Brazilian meat exports to various Countries including Singapore (whose Agri-food and Veterinary Authority - AVA - was the most frequently associated reference) and Hong Kong. The issue was also addressed by Vytenis Andriukaitis, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety.
Here are the top 10 online media outlets which focused on these topics.


Between January and March 2017, the most frequently discussed topics were Climate Change and Food Safety, which, combined, amounted to 55% of the total volume of keywords, followed by Biodiversity, to a lesser extent. It is worth noting that “Food Security” was also frequently mentioned.
The topic of Climate Change (409 mentions, 30.8% of the total) is mainly associated with the word “Rights”. In addition, the geographical areas leading the discussion, such as the UK and the European Union, and issues such as education and forestry, all feature heavily.
Food Safety appears 324 times (24.4% of the total) in relation to the following topics:
Some of the most commonly recurring keywords are “EFSA” (the European Food Safety Authority) and the “Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety” (ENVI), a body of the European Parliament which has grown in stature over time as the decision-making powers of Strasbourg have increased.

The topic of Biodiversity appears 123 times (9.3% of the total mentions), connected above all to the following topics:
“Natura 2000” and “Network” mainly appear as a result of a series of questions asked to the European Parliament about the Natura 2000 project, which - as we quote from one of these debates - “is the largest protected area in the world (it covers nearly one-fifth of the area of the EU). It protects about one thousand important biotopes and species. What is more, it brings a number of benefits to all economic sectors, improves human health and living standards and helps to maintain biodiversity.”

Finally, here are the 10 government and legislative agency websites which most frequently discussed the trending topics on food. As you can see, the European Parliament website is by far the most commonly consulted source (55% of cases). Among other things, it publishes all the answers to the questions raised by members of parliament.

International agency & NGOs

Climate Change, Food Security and the Sustainable Development Goals are the most commonly discussed issues on the websites of International Agencies and NGO’s. These three keywords accounted together for 70% of the queries. Furthermore, the World Food Programme (WFP) reports on individual Countries were released on the 15th February, leading to a spike in interest regarding Food Security and Climate Change, given the close connection between the two issues.
“Climate change” was mentioned 855 times (38% of the total), closely associated with words such as the Paris Agreement, SDGs and Economic Growth, especially in developing Countries. The significance of the term “Climate Change Adaptation” (shortened in the image below due to its length, but very much present in the evaluated samples) is also interesting to note.
“Food Security” was used 493 times (28% of the total), featuring mainly in a series of reports from international agencies such as the FAO and IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development), which address the desperate nutritional situation in certain areas of the world. Of particular interest, as shown by the image below, is the intense use of verbs. Policies are, by definition, actions to be carried out, namely “Increase Food”, “Reduce Poverty” and “Improve Nutrition”. This trend became increasingly strong as the weeks went by, following the publication of the WFP reports and the extensive headline coverage on food crises (again, see FOCUS ON).

23%: the percentage of undernourished people in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite this percentage falling from 1990-1992, the total figure continues to climb as a result of population growth.
490 million people suffering from hunger (62% of the global total) live in Asia, which has also seen an increase in the number of overweight or obese people.
33 million people die every year as a result of illnesses linked to excessive food intake.

The keyword “Sustainable Development Goals” (or SDGs) appears 228 times (10% of the total), mainly associated with the names of international agencies such as the FAO and the WFP. However, for the same reasons given above, the keyword is often used with verbs, the most common one being “Achieve”, referring to the SDG’s as well as words like “Food” and “Efforts”.

Finally, the following is the list of the top 10 websites of international agencies and NGO’s which most frequently discussed these issues during this period.


In the first quarter of 2017, the RESEARCH sector (just like the MEDIA area) mainly focused on Climate Change, Food Safety and Food Security. The most frequently used words show a particular focus on the topics of agriculture, CCAFS (Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security of the CGIAR, a global partnership of organisations committed to research for food security) and Agricultural Development.
The keyword “Climate Change” occurrence totals 886 counts (52.3% of the overall mentions), and is most frequently connected to the topic of Global Warming. More specifically, on the websites of scientific institutions, Global Warming is obviously associated with words such as “Science”, “Data”, “Scientists” and “Studies”. However, it is important to highlight that in the last few weeks of the quarter the use of the words “Climate Change Denial” or “Climate Change is Real”, significantly increased, demonstrating the polarisation of the debate caused by the spreading of revisionist positions on climate change supported by the Trump Administration. This polarisation therefore appears to have entered the academic sphere. Nevertheless, the adopted positions are generally more nuanced due to the well-known scientific complexity of the situation.
“Food Security” (250 mentions, 14.8% of the total) was chiefly associated with research programmes such as the CCAFS (Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security) by CGIAR. It is worth noting that over this period, there has been an increased interest shown in the SDG’s and issues connected to hunger and malnutrition.
In relation to Food Safety (147 mentions, 8.7% of the total), the term that most frequently appears is “Center for Food Safety” (a branch of the US Food and Drug Administration which regulates food, dietary supplements and cosmetics). In particular, at the start of the year, this body dealt with the incident involving the US restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill and its food safety problems.
The following are the 10 websites which most frequently discussed the aforementioned topics during the first quarter of 2017.
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