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.

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.
Continue reading Advancing insects as animal feed

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.
Continue reading Choosing food: consumption and the carbon footprint

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.
Continue reading Game-changing technologies in agriculture

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.
Continue reading Engaging with our food future

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

Global Food Security programme Champion Tim Benton reviews the year and looks ahead to 2016.

Tim Benton

Food insecurity remained at the front of mind in 2015 for three reasons. 

Firstly, in Europe, we have had the refugee crisis and the horrific events in Paris in November. Part of the reason for the destabilisation of the Middle East was the interaction between food and climate. The 2007-10 Syrian drought undermined rural livelihoods and helped create disaffected urban populations and the 2010 East European heat wave drove up food prices and helped spark the Arab Spring. Food insecurity is more than people simply being hungry.


Continue reading Roundup ready: food security from 2015 into 2016

Introducing the Global Food Security programme’s Public Panel

BBSRC’s Patrick Middleton reports on a new approach from GFS to help people engage with the programme and its activities.

Patrick Middleton

Food security is an issue for all of us. Here in the UK, we import around 40% of our food, and the figure is rising. Through trade deals, climate change, rising global populations and the shared risk of plant and animal diseases spreading, we now live on a global farm.

With this in mind, we want to listen to your thoughts on food security issues. As a partnership of public organisations who fund research, the Global Food Security programme (GFS) is keen that the public are able to help shape GFS’s decision making. After all, it is the public who are ultimately paying for the programme through their taxes.
Continue reading Introducing the Global Food Security programme’s Public Panel

Antimicrobials in agriculture

As a new report is published, BBSRC’s Adam Staines discusses the complex issues surrounding antibiotic use in the food chain.

Adam Staines

Despite lots of wider media coverage in the last year on antimicrobials and antimicrobial resistance many people are still asking basic questions about what resistance is, what is resistant to what, and why should I really care?

Any societal complacency over the importance of antimicrobial drugs is actually a testament to their success. Many of the diseases that ravaged us and our livestock industries for centuries until Alexander Fleming and penicillin came along have been so successfully controlled we no longer fear them, or even recognise the names. (The leading causes of human death in 1900 were bacterial infections causing pneumonia, tuberculosis, diarrhoea and enteritis.)
Continue reading Antimicrobials in agriculture