Diet before conception affects a baby’s genes. Paula Dominguez-Salas from the MRC International Nutrition Group reports from the field.
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.
Continue reading Why a mother’s nutrition is so important
Jodie Clarke explores innovative projects that use unusual spaces and intriguing technologies to farm fresh produce for urban populations.
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.
Continue reading Vertical farming and friends
In this video blog, Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine Simon Coveney makes a case for research from the Oxford Farming Conference.
“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.
What does the future of animal production hold? David Hume looks forward.
We need to plan for increased production of animal products.
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
We should not fear failure when looking for novel food security solutions, argues Christina Owen.
In the business world, the motto “fail early, fail often” is frequently hailed as the formula for success. It is also the key tenet behind one of the most effective learning methods in the history of humanity – trial and error.
One can imagine how many errors were made as humans learned how to make and control fire, sow and harvest plants, build sturdy shelters. And it is the systemic process of trial and error that has allowed science and invention to produce history-altering discoveries and innovations like antibiotics, incandescent light bulbs, and the cellular telephone.
Continue reading Freedom to innovate
Two new schemes from the Soil Association aim to put farmers at the forefront of research. Tom MacMillan reports.
There is hardly a year that starts without at least somebody at the Oxford Farming Conference lamenting the gulf between agricultural research and practice, and calling for it to be bridged. The difference this year is that these calls may now be getting some answers.
The past few months have seen an upsurge in efforts to address this gap including Feeding the Future, a review of research priorities for farmers and growers up to the year 2030 which was commissioned by four organisations at the heart of UK food production:
Continue reading Food producers: experts in their fields
Innovation is a critical part of solving global food security challenges, and presents business opportunities too, says Calum Murray.
But, if the UK economy is to maintain its own food security and benefit from the potential global commercial opportunities that will prevail, we need to ensure that the business base both exists and is adequately supported.
As the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board understands that breaking down the barriers to innovation can be hard; these might include a traditional mind set, policy and regulatory hurdles, available expertise or adequate funding.
Continue reading Linking and clever thinking
Top researchers gather to tuck into global food matters. Tim Benton relishes the chance.
I have recently returned from a Meeting of the Agricultural Chief Scientists (the ‘MACS’) of the G20, held in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Each time we left the hotel for a venue, I couldn’t get over the security involved in our bus escort which at one stage included 11 or 12 vehicles: motorbikes, police cars, machine-gun mounted jeeps, an army vehicle and an ambulance! And it wasn’t all work, one day’s meeting was held in the grounds of the Jose Cuervo distillery in the town of Tequila, including a fascinating tour involving vision, audio and (of course) taste(s).
Continue reading A meeting of the big ‘MACS’
New insights are needed for an age-old problem, says Sara Kirk.
A recent survey (PDF) undertaken for the Global Food Security programme has revealed that more than half the UK population felt that ‘food security is not an issue that affects me, rather it’s more a problem for people in developing countries’.
This finding is notable when considered in the light of comments by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier de Schutter, who condemned Canada over what he saw as unacceptable rates of food insecurity in that country, where one in ten families with a child under six is unable to meet their daily food (PDF) needs.
Continue reading Food insecurity and nutrition
Engineering innovation is a must for modern life – and the same goes for sustainable intensification, says Bill Day.
For agriculture, biological innovation will be of fundamental importance, but does not deliver in isolation. In the gap between Gregor Mendel and the frozen pea, many engineering advances have contributed to the realisation of a staple, high quality food.
So, escaping from damp and dismal England to the sunny climes of Valencia for the Agricultural Engineering International Conference gave every opportunity to feel warm about the future.
Continue reading Food production: what about engineering?