Global Food Security blog

Contributors to this blog include academics, policy makers, farmers and end-users. To join the community of authors please email web@foodsecurity.ac.uk including details of your expertise, experience and a short synopsis of your proposed article.

Engaging with agriculture on Open Farm Sunday

Delivering more sustainable food and farming has to start with reconnecting people with where their food comes from and how it is produced, says LEAF’s Annabel Shackleton.

Annabel Shackleton

With 81.5% of the UK population (PDF) living in urban areas, our connection with the natural world, farming and the value of our food is increasingly being lost.

With this in mind, how do we make long lasting and meaningful changes to the way people think about and engage with their food? How do we embed health as a value when we make food choices? And how can we link consumer knowledge and demands to deliver more sustainable food and farming?
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Food, business and the Sustainable Development Goals

How can industry and academia collaborate to meet defined 21st century challenges? The Global Food Security programme’s Evangelia Kougioumoutzi reports from a GFS workshop on the topic.

Evangelia Kugioumoutzi

At the UN Summit in September 2015, nations announced and adopted a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that would drive the implementation of sustainable development globally, after 2015.  

The SDGs build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and seek to complete what they did not achieve, towards a new universal Sustainable Development Agenda.

Food security plays an important role within this agenda, such as SDG 2 ‘zero hunger’. But it is not the only one – other goals like SDG12 ‘sustainable consumption and production’ or SDG13 ‘climate action’ are also very pertinent to the challenge.
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A common voice is needed to make the most of the evidence, says Global Food Security programme Champion Tim Benton.

Tim Benton

Across the world there are a very large number of food experts and commentators, each a vocal advocate of their own analyses, disciplinary backgrounds and framing assumptions. 

But whilst they are all well-meaning, there is very little agreement about either what should be done or how it should be done. Different communities of academics – developed vs developing world, agriculture vs nutrition, ‘sustainable’ vs industrial – major on different analyses and different sets of actions.
Continue reading Do we need an IPCC-like international body for food?

Advancing insects as animal feed

Insect farms could recover the true value of wasted organic nutrients, improve local food security and assist in environmental protection, says Keiran Olivares Whitaker of Entocycle.

Keiran Olivares Whitaker

Agriculture is probably the single most damaging human activity for the planet. Natural resources are already stretched, and to feed the future growing population and meet the demographic shifts in diet, extreme environmental damage will occur.

The optimum direction would be for the global population to shift to a more plant-based diet. The trajectory however is for 70% increase (PDF) in fish and meat consumption by 2050. But around 70% of agricultural land and 70% of fresh water use is already designated to produce feed for animals (PDF), and a recent report from The Economist has highlighted nearly 100% of fish stocks are now under pressure, to varying degrees of severity.
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Where was food in the COP21 Paris Agreement?

Failure to tackle food demand could make 1.5°C limit unachievable. Global Food Security programme Champion Tim Benton and Bojana Bajželj from WRAP explain.

Tim Benton and Bojana Bajželj

In Paris in December last year, 195 countries agreed to try and keep global temperature rise to “well below” 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and to “pursue efforts” towards 1.5°C.

Many had expected the 1.5°C temperature goal to drop out of the draft text during the fortnight of negotiations. Now, as the dust settles after the landmark agreement, scientists are grappling with the feasibility of meeting this more ambitious target.

But there was one sector that was largely absent from the talks in Paris. It’s something that we rely on everyday, and continuing to ignore it could mean waving goodbye to that 1.5°C goal. It’s food.
Continue reading Where was food in the COP21 Paris Agreement?

Priming plants for natural disease control

Can we tap into ecological defences to better protect crops? The University of Sheffield’s Will Buswell reports.

Will Buswell

Crop pathogens are a substantial drain on world food production. Annually, an estimated 20% of global yields are lost to disease, but this figure belies far greater losses for specific food systems and the people whose stable existence is dependent upon them, particularly in developing countries.

For instance, rice is the staple crop for over half of the world’s population, yet almost 40% of yield is lost to disease each year.
Continue reading Priming plants for natural disease control

Choosing food: consumption and the carbon footprint

How can we nudge people to eat more healthily and sustainably? University of Cambridge’s Arianna Psichas reports from the Global Food Security programme’s Policy Lab on sustainable nutrition.

Arianna Psichas

As the child of someone who has spent their career working in environmental policy, I have grown up with an acute understanding of the many challenges our planet faces, particularly with regard to climate change. Now, as a nutritional scientist I am passionate about public health, and I know that a shift towards more sustainable food options can very often also be healthier.
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Game-changing technologies in agriculture

What innovations really have the potential to transform the food-producing landscape? Head of the Global Food Security programme Riaz Bhunnoo takes a whistle-stop tour.

Riaz Bhunnoo

In just a 35 year period the Earth is being tasked with producing more food than it has in the last 2000 years combined. We either need to find very clever ways of sustainably producing more on the same area of land, or we need to demand less. In reality we need to do both, and cutting-edge technologies will have a key role to play.
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Engaging with our food future

We need plan for tomorrow today. The Food Standards Agency’s Guy Poppy reports on the upcoming #OurFoodFuture event to do just that.

Guy Poppy

When was the last time you ate a chocolate bar and wondered where the ingredients came from? The odds are it was manufactured in a factory in the UK and bought in a supermarket down the road. But there’s a strong chance that the salt in that bar came from China, the palm oil from Southeast Asia, the whey from New Zealand, the sugar from the Caribbean, the cocoa from South America, the calcium sulphate from India and the milk and wheat from several EU countries.
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Utilising invasive species for food security

Employing exotic animals and plants can help the fight against hunger and power economic development. UJAT’s Mike Mitchell reports.

Mike Mitchell

Is there more that can be done with so-called ‘invasive’ species? 

The introduction of ‘alien’ or ‘non-native’ species varies greatly around the world and through history. From stowaway rodents on cargo ships rodents, seeds or pollen clung to clothing or deliberately introduced as with Japanese knotweed, to pets released to unexpectedly thrive in the wild like lionfish, they are usually considered pests or weeds in their new homes.
Continue reading Utilising invasive species for food security