Home / Fellows / David Kanter


David Kanter

Associate Professor
New York University
Governing Nutrient Pollution Beyond Farmers
01 September 2021 -
30 June 2022

David Kanter is an Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at New York University and Vice-Chair of the International Nitrogen Initiative. His research examines new policy options for addressing nitrogen pollution and how to manage the transition to a global food system consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals. Prior to his current position, David was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at The Earth Institute at Columbia University. He received his BSc in Chemistry and Law from the University of Bristol in the UK and his MA and PhD in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy from Princeton University.

Research interests

Nutrient pollution, Sustainable agriculture, Climate change, Food security

Governing Nutrient Pollution Beyond Farmers

The central objective of this project is to develop and evaluate a new governance framework for agricultural nutrient pollution in the EU. Agricultural nutrient pollution – the loss of nitrogen and phosphorus to the environment via the oversupply of fertilizer and manure – is one of the most important environmental issues facing the EU and the world. And yet policies to address it, even in relatively robust regulatory systems such as the EU, are largely ineffective. This is due to a singular fixation on farmers, which ignores their immense political power and the practical difficulties of implementing policies across tens of millions of hectares, coupled with the cultural and economic factors that motivate farmer-decision making.

This project moves beyond a narrow legal focus on farmers by introducing a novel whole-of-systems approach to nutrient pollution policy, because farmers are part of a large and complex agri-food system made up of actors up- and downstream of the farm whose choices, products, and expectations significantly shape their decision-making. Focusing legal interventions on these non-farmer actors – that are also more limited in number, facilitating implementation – could therefore significantly influence farm-level nutrient management decisions. This would transform an intractable nonpoint source pollution problem into a series of more manageable point source approaches focused on a limited number of actors and activities.

Key publications

Kanter David, Chodos O., Nordland O. et al., “Gaps and opportunities in nitrogen pollution policies around the world”, in Nature Sustainability, vol 3, 2020, p. 956-963. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-020-0577-7

Kanter David, Bartolini F., Kugelberg S. et al., “Nitrogen pollution policy beyond the farm”, in Nature Food, vol 1, 2020, p. 27-32. https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-019-0001-5

Kanter David, Searchinger TD., “A technology-forcing approach to reduce nitrogen pollution”, in Nature Sustainability, vol 1, 2018, p. 544-552. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-018-0143-8 

Contemporary period (1789-…)
Western Europe