The Global Food Security programme’s Champion, Professor Tim Benton, reflects on leaving the role after five years in the post.
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”
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.
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.
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.
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
Global Food Security programme Champion Tim Benton reviews the year and looks ahead to 2016.
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.
Insights from a public food distribution system in Odisha, by Manoj Kumar Pati of the Institute of Public Health, Bengaluru.
Today, India operates one of the largest food safety nets in the world.
To secure food and mitigate hunger and malnutrition for a country of 1.22Bn people – the world’s second largest population – is an immensely complex and challenging job. However, the Government of India’s recent effort to mitigate hunger with the National Food Security Act (NFSA) 2013 is truly commendable, while acknowledging that many more things need to be done and the initiatives have to be self-sustained for a considerable time.
Continue reading How secure is India’s National Food Security Act?
What are the policies and actions needed to change consumption patterns? Tara Garnett of the Food Climate Research Network digests a recent report.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that human food preferences are set in stone. Demand for meat will nearly double by 2050 and – given the inalienable economic laws of supply and demand – the priority for food system researchers and policy makers alike is to grow, transport and formulate more of the foods that people want in ways that do less harm to the planet and to people’s waistlines, hearts and kidneys.
Use of food banks is rising, but so are levels of obesity. Has it become impossible to eat cheaply but well? BBSRC Strategy and Policy Officer Valerie Nadeau tucks in.
Walking down the high street at lunchtime, the smell of baking pastry is enticing. It would be easy to nip into one of the ubiquitous fast food outlets, grab a sausage roll or a pasty for little more than a pound. If I persuade myself to keep walking and track down a salad, it might cost closer to a fiver.
Does this illustrate a more general problem? Is healthy, nutritious food unaffordable?
There’s a buzz about eating insects. Is it really a viable option? GFS Strategy and Policy Officer Emma Rivers reports.
Insects are hailed as a cheap, sustainable source of protein and other micronutrients which have minimal greenhouse gas emissions and can be fed on waste.
They are much better at converting their food into protein and body mass – feed conversion (PDF) – than poultry and other livestock, meaning that they could be a much more efficient source of protein for animal and human consumption.
Continue reading Insects: the future of Christmas dinners?
Protecting the human right to food is more important than ever, argues ESRC researcher Hannah Lambie-Mumford.
In the last few years we have seen the prolific growth of emergency food charity across the UK and sharply rising numbers of people turning to them for help with food. In 2010-2011 just over 61, 000 people received emergency food parcels from the country’s largest network of food banks – the Trussell Trust foodbank Network; in 2013-2014 that number had risen to over 913,000.
Continue reading Why is Britain increasingly reliant on food banks?
Cutting an American family’s meat consumption by half is equivalent to getting rid of a car. Why isn’t the pressure on, asks Tim Benton.
The most recent figures for carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere give one pause for thought. There was a bigger increase in CO2 in the atmosphere over the last year than had been recorded for many years; despite all we know, carbon is increasing faster than ever, and faster than imagined in IPCC’s ‘worst case’ scenarios.
Continue reading Cars, cows and carbon