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.

Temperate matters in agriculture

Most of the world’s food is produced in temperate zones. The Global Food Security programme’s Evangelia Kougioumoutzi reports on the TempAg Network.

Evangelia Kougioumoutzi

Agricultural production in temperate regions is highly productive with a significant proportion of global output originating from temperate (i.e. non-tropical) countries – 21% of global meat production and 20% of global cereal production (PDF) originates from Europe alone. This proportion is very likely to increase (PDF) in light of climate change.

TempAg is an international research collaboration network established to increase the impact of agricultural research and inform policy making in the world’s temperate regions.
Continue reading Temperate matters in agriculture

The Global Food Security programme’s Champion, Professor Tim Benton, reflects on leaving the role after five years in the post.

Tim Benton

After five years, my term as the Champion for the UK’s Global Food Security programme has come to an end. It has been a fascinating and rewarding experience, even if at times exhausting and frustrating. So what have I learned?

The issue of food security is not (just) about food, it is about how we choose to live on a planet with limited resources. Food requires land and water and affects climate, biodiversity and our health. The amount of land and water available are finite, as is the climate impact we can tolerate, and the healthcare costs of the malnourished (underweight and overweight).
Continue reading “We are the champions, my friends”

For food security we need soil security

Chris Collins from the Soil Research Centre reviews the actions and intentions of an ongoing research programme.

Chris Collins

The world will struggle to meet environmental targets around climate change, biodiversity and food production unless we understand our soil.

The contribution of soil to human well-being is often ignored. While we are all aware of the benefits clean air and water provide, this is more opaque with soil. For example, we cannot have clean water without soil. It is also vital for providing food, and the storage of water and carbon.
Continue reading For food security we need soil security

The lost world: DNA and wheat’s 12,000 year past

Retracing our genetic path of plant domestication can help us produce newer, better varieties to enhance food security, says the Earlham Institute’s Dr Peter Bickerton.

Peter Bickerton

It wasn’t long ago that we first traded hunting for a more sedentary life – harnessing the grasses of the Fertile Crescent. Yet, over the last 12,000 years, though we have mastered the art of producing abundant yields, the time has come to rejuvenate our most staple of crops.

Since humans first discovered that some wheat plants, rather than shedding their seed upon ripening, instead kept their grains attached, we’ve developed a food system that has contributed to a population explosion of over seven billion people worldwide.


Continue reading The lost world: DNA and wheat’s 12,000 year past

Blackouts and water shortages can severely harm a nation’s food security. Resource allocation tools can help policy makers improve energy access while minimising hunger, says the Stockholm Environment Institute’s Louise Karlberg.

Louise Karlberg

Last July, Zambia found itself in the midst of a crippling energy crisis caused by low water levels in the reservoirs for hydropower generation. Load shedding (cutting off supply to parts of the power grid) became the norm, sending politicians into a frenzy because electricity is the lifeblood of the economy.

The blackouts had many negative knock-on effects for food producers. For example, while some large-scale poultry farmers were able to switch to alternative energy sources, such as generators to power vital equipment such as refrigerators, many of their smaller-scale fellows were unable to make this investment and lost income. And dairy farmers were faced with a range of other challenges related to the load shedding, as their plants can take several hours to regenerate after each power cut.
Continue reading Energy and food production: powering the balancing act

How can we help people make better dietary choices for their health and the planet? The Global Food Security programme’s Sian Williams introduces a new report.

Sian Williams

Switching on the news on 1 April can be a minefield – this year the global news headlines were dominated by just one story – there are now more adults in the world classified as obese than underweight.

Unfortunately, this was no April fool.

This shocking statistic came from a study led by scientists from Imperial College London. They found that between 1975 and 2014 the incidence of obesity more than doubled in women and tripled in men.
Continue reading Eyeing up intake: an Insight on overconsumption and diet

How would we cope with a post-pesticide world?

What technologies could sustainably replace pesticides, without compromising on yield or quality? The Global Food Security (GFS) programme’s David O’Gorman reviews a recent GFS workshop on the topic.

David O’Gorman

What would happen if we could no longer use pesticides? Well, there would be significant yield losses, food price increases, greater food insecurity and potentially political unrest and instability. There may well be reduced ecological impacts, but with loss of yield would come expansion of agricultural land, with release of GHGs and loss of biodiversity.

We are heavily reliant on pesticides to maximise crop yields and put food on our tables. Even with the use of pesticides, a third of food (PDF) produced for human consumption is lost or wasted – what might the figure be with a dramatic increase in pre-harvest losses following reduced pesticide use?
Continue reading How would we cope with a post-pesticide world?

Terrestrial and aquatic food production systems share a range of common problems that need solutions. Rachel Norman from the University of Stirling reports.

Rachel Norman

A mathematical biologist by training, I was very keen to tease out whether we could treat fish and crops as being the same when we come to think about problems in food security.

After some consternation amongst my biological colleagues, there was consensus that aquaculture systems share some common features with both crops and chickens – they both have relatively high stocking densities, for example. They also share common risks, for example disease outbreaks can be devastating in all cases.
Continue reading Surf and turf: bringing crop and fish people together

Food crime matters

Criminal activity is costing global food and drink industries billions, but what is being done about it? Andy Morling of the FSA’s National Food Crime Unit reports.

Andy Morling

What does food have to do with the world of crime?

Consumers and food businesses can be disconnected by thousands of miles across the globe. From picking to packing, flavouring to refrigeration, there are multiple different processes that separate you from the hands of the farmer or farm worker that made your meal.

A lot can go wrong on that journey, from innocent mistakes to fraud and even high-level organised crime.
Continue reading Food crime matters

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?
Continue reading Engaging with agriculture on Open Farm Sunday