Archive for 'science'

How has the GFS programme made a difference?

What have we achieved so far? Head of the Global Food Security programme Riaz Bhunnoo takes stock of work to date.

Riaz Bhunnoo

As Charles Darwin reportedly once said, “in the history of humankind those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed”. Even if he didn’t actually say it, collaboration is essential to meet the food security challenge, and it is therefore a central pillar of the Global Food Security (GFS) programme. So what has GFS achieved to date?

To answer this question, we need to think about what GFS was set up to do – in brief, improve coordination and collaboration on food security research across the public sector.
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Building better crops from the bottom up

Synthetic biology can help us to secure a sustainable food supply. Huw Jones of Rothamsted Research explains all.

Huw Jones

In the same way that Alec Issigonis first conceptualised, drew and then built the iconic Mini, I predict it will not be long before crop plants are designed and built, bottom up, using the principles of synthetic biology.

Plant breeding using classical, top-down or forward genetic approaches has served us well in the millennia since people settled in agricultural communities and started crossing plants, selecting individuals with traits that made farming easier and the edible parts more nutritious.
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What if we grew GM crops in Britain?

It’s time to re-evaluate the impacts of the potential cultivation of GM crops in UK agriculture, says policy researcher at ADAS Carla Turner.

Carla Turner

Genetic modification (GM) in crops has been on the political agenda since their emergence in the 1980s and the first commercially available GM crop approved for cultivation in 1994.

Within the European Union (EU) there has been a precautionary approach to the commercial cultivation of GM crops with stringent approvals legislation.
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Don’t blame it on the weatherman

What can seasonal forecasts bring to agriculture and food security? Pete Falloon of the Met Office predicts progress.

Pete Falloon

They say it often pays to look ahead. Farmers have been doing just that for thousands of years, searching for the signals or patterns that might tell them the best time to sow seeds, or seek shelter for their animals.

Here in the 21st century, our desire to predict the weather is no less diminished. Now we are developing the tools, technology and models to make better predictions, not just a few days ahead, but to cover whole growing seasons and climactic events.
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Making sustainable connections

Agricultural scientist Andy Whitmore from Rothamsted Research introduces a new network for scientists working on sustainable intensification.

Andy Whitmore

The sustainable, secure and resilient production of food to feed our growing population in the face of environmental change is one of the most pressing problems of our age. And in keeping with other major scientific endeavours such as the search for the Higg’s Boson or deciphering the human genome, it requires a huge, concerted effort from the world’s scientists.

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A major new report spells out what science can, and can’t, do to help provide nutritious food for all. Co-author and GFS Champion Tim Benton provides an inside eye on the Milan Expo 2015.

Tim Benton

The first ‘Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations’ famously took place at Crystal Palace in 1851. It spawned a regular series, of which the 99th Universal Exposition will take place in 2015 in Milan, Italy, on the theme Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life
Continue reading The role of research in food and nutrition security

Why a mother’s nutrition is so important

Diet before conception affects a baby’s genes. Paula Dominguez-Salas from the MRC International Nutrition Group reports from the field.

Paula Dominguez-Salas

In recent years evidence has been accumulating that nutrition during pregnancy can have a profound effect on the offspring. Our group, the MRC International Nutrition Group, works in maternal and child nutrition and is particularly interested in this ‘fetal programming’ idea, because a child’s health (and possibly even its children) could be effected throughout its whole life – not just its early years.
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Vertical farming and friends

Jodie Clarke explores innovative projects that use unusual spaces and intriguing technologies to farm fresh produce for urban populations.

Jodie Clarke

Urban centres are expanding across the globe. Today, half of the world’s population live in urban environments, and by 2050 this figure will rise to 70%.

In countries such as China and India, this process is unfolding at an exceptional rate, with skyscrapers and highways appearing where farms and fields existed only a decade ago.
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The need for science in food security

In this video blog, Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine Simon Coveney makes a case for research from the Oxford Farming Conference.

Simon Coveney

“My name is Simon Coveney, I am the Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine and I am here at the Oxford Farming Conference today with a very clear message about the importance of the linkage between science and agriculture and the agri-food industry generally.

The reality is that we have an enormous challenge, but also an enormous opportunity for this sector over the next 10-50 years, because globally we have to find a way of producing significantly more food from the same, in fact less, natural resources as we see the availability of agricultural land shrink by about a percentage a year.

And at the same time we see the consumption demand for food dramatically increasing.

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Genetics, genomics and gene modification

What does the future of animal production hold? David Hume looks forward.

David Hume

We need to plan for increased production of animal products.

Major funders such as the Gates Foundation and CGIAR have recognised that livestock are the major route out of poverty for the poorest farmers.

And there is increasing recognition that protein malnutrition has long-term effects on development of cognitive ability. Vegetarianism is not an option; there is evidence of subclinical malnutrition on vegetarian diets even in Western countries, and in developing countries high quality vegetable protein sources are no more available than animal protein.
Continue reading Genetics, genomics and gene modification