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.

Farmers can be researchers too

Second call from Soil Association ‘field labs’ seeks food growers with innovative ideas to test. Tom MacMillan reports.

Tom MacMillan

Back in April on this blog, I made the case that public funding for agricultural R&D should do more to support innovation by farmers.

The past few years have already seen welcome steps to help farmers become more vocal ‘research clients’, with the industry’s priorities increasingly reflected in the research agenda. But farmers are so much more than just clients, buying and using the bright ideas and technology that scientists have come up with. They have their own ideas; they develop and adapt techniques and technology, and many trial new approaches informally before they adopt them fully across their business.
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Open source solutions for food security

We need to share high- and low-tech technologies to diversify production, says Tyler Reed.

Tyler Reed

con·straint  /kən’strãnt/

noun

  1. a limitation or restriction.

“the availability of water is the main constraint on food production”

An internet search for the word constraint returned this definition. The example usage is surprisingly apropos considering the nature of this post, because water is certainly a constraint on food production. Traditional farming techniques, with plants growing in open plots of soil, can require substantial amounts of water while other techniques require less.
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The price is right? Wrong!

We have learnt a lot from the 2007/8 food price spike, but the future will be a bumpy ride says GFS Champion Tim Benton.

Tim Benton

The historical era of falling food prices is over. Global demand for food is continuing to increase while production growth has slowed in recent years, leading to significant upward pressure on prices.

It is well recognised that world’s biological and ecological resources (its ’natural capital‘) provides ecosystem services that subsidise production costs: think about how soil fertility, promoted by soil biodiversity, pollination, natural pest control and the climate support agricultural production. Fully investing in sustaining the natural capital, via management of soils, biodiversity, water and carbon emissions would raise food production costs and add to prices. 
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Fortifying fertilizers can fortify food

Why add nutrients to food all the time? Why not add them to the soil itself asks Esin Mete.

Esin Mete

As global leaders come together to discuss a new set of development goals to replace the Millennium Development Goals, that expire in 2015, the role of food security and nutrition is key in underpinning the development agenda’s future success.

It has been well documented that growth in the agricultural sector can have dramatic impacts in reducing poverty – in fact, at least twice the potential (see p. 6) of growth from any other sector on average, according to the World Bank.
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Eating: how much is too much?

GFS Champion Tim Benton takes a personal look at weight gain and ruminates on what quantifies over consumption.

Tim Benton

As many readers of this blog will appreciate, the demand for food is rising globally and many posts on this site tackle the issues associated with increasing production. The demand-side of the equation perhaps gets less attention than it deserves.

Like many people of middle age, I have gained weight in recent years.  Yes, I know of many extenuating circumstances (= “excuses”) that have changed my daily energy budget, but the ineluctable truth is that I have piled on the best part of 10 kilos in the last decade.
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Food, fantasies and the future

What will next generation livestock farms look like? Mick Watson examines scenarios and what we should do to get there.

Mick Watson

Farmer Jane opened the gate and walked along the track that meandered along the side of her cattle barn. Chuckling to herself, she was old enough to remember how disease surveillance used to be done. It was so much easier now. Inside the barn, she approached the first of the ten cattle that had been randomly isolated, reached into her bag and took out the first of her SeqPensTM. Removing the protective lid, she briefly pressed the steel nib to the neck of the first animal then stood back to wait for the lights to change.
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A new Global Food Security programme paper tallies votes to focus action. John Ingram reports.

John Ingram

As part of its work to understand the drivers of food security, colleagues and I in the UK’s Global Food Security programme (ably assisted by colleagues from the University of Cambridge) launched a six-month project to identify priority research questions (PDF) for the UK food system. The full results are published online in the journal Food Security.
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Let them eat carbines

Food scarcity remains a fundamental cause of violent outbreaks across the world. Bryce Evans investigates the issue.

Bryce Evans

The use of food as a strategic weapon is well established. Texts as ancient as the Chinese Art of War and the Roman De Re Militari advocate denying the enemy food. The contemporary conflict in Sudan provides a case in point in the cynical application of this ancient wisdom. There, the government intensifies bombing in rebel areas at harvest time, destroying food. In turn, the country’s rebels seize humanitarian food supplies intended for refugees.
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On the food road

In a special photo-travelogue, Geoff Tansey explores China’s problems and solutions as a powerhouse of agricultural production.

Geoff Tansey

Astounding 1600-year-old rice terraces, rapidly expanding cities, surprising labour shortages, huge organic vegetable production, small village plots, and much recent research science on soils, water and roots: my two trips to China had some of what I expected and much more that I didn’t.


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Life, death and looking ahead

A birth and bereavement gives food for thought. GFS Champion Tim Benton reflects.

Tim Benton

Two recent events – the death of my father and the birth of a friend’s first child – have made me ponder about the course of a human life. In particular, for someone born now what will happen to the world during their lifetime?

During our debates over food security and climate change we often look ahead. But does the timescale we choose to look ahead matter? If so, is there one that resonates with sufficient power to promote action?
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