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’
All roads lead to Rome for the UN’s Committee on World Food Security. Morgane Danielou previews the action.
From 15-20 October, watchful eyes will be on Rome as the UN World Committee on Food Security (CFS) holds its annual session at the FAO headquarters. As an intergovernmental body, it serves as a forum for review and follow up of food security policies. Following a turbulent year for food security, in particular the US and African droughts, the CFS will look to address these crises, as well as long-term structural issues.
Continue reading Global food and agriculture takes centre stage
Utilising satellites as insurance loss adjusters could help to some of the poorest farmers in Africa. Michael Baron is watching.
Things happen, and sometimes bad things happen, like my house catching fire.
About 4000 years ago, people invented the concept of insurance, to share risks so no one lost everything when a bad thing happened. But my house catching fire is preventable – the things that are most important to insure against are the unpreventable bad things, such as extreme weather.
Continue reading From insecurity to food security
Tara Garnett tackles the thorny and complex issue of growing more with less.
‘Sustainable intensification’ is one of those phrases regularly bandied about in discussions about agriculture. What does it actually mean?
The shorthand definition: ‘producing more food with less negative impact’ – seems hard to dislike. But considering what it might mean in practice, all sorts of questions arise.
Does sustainable intensification imply a particular system or philosophy of agriculture? What about the ‘more food’ issue – how much more, what kind of food, produced where and for whom? How much weight does one attach to the ‘sustainable’ as opposed to the ‘intensification’ part? And what happens when ethical concerns such as animal welfare are added to the mix?
Continue reading The semantics of sustainability and food security
UK hosts meeting to highlight agricultural innovations that deliver improved nutrition for women and children. Tim Wheeler reports.
On 12 August 2012, the last day of the London Olympic Games, the UK Prime Minister David Cameron will bring together government, business and civil society leaders to define a set of actions to reduce global hunger and undernutrition rates. He will seek to gather support for a global legacy for the London Games, looking ahead to the next Games in Rio in 2016. Ensuring that the growing global population can be fed sustainably and equitably is an unprecedented challenge for the global food system and the UN Secretary General recently pressed the global community to act with urgency on hunger.
Continue reading The Global Hunger Event
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?
Fresh from the Rio+20 conference, Tim Benton ponders the paradox of producing more with less.
In the last weeks, I have attended an unsustainable flurry of meetings and discussions about sustainable intensification, sustainable agriculture or sustainable development (or all three together).
So what does “sustainable” mean, in the context of environment?
Agriculture, the world’s biggest industry, is rightly seen as the engine of development. It also generates the fuel, literally, that we all require.
Continue reading Sense and sustainability
A view from the Brazilian agricultural frontier. John Lucas reports.
I’ve just got back from a five month stay in Brazil as a UK scientist working as part of the Embrapa Labex programme. Labex entails two main activities: a research project in collaboration with colleagues in the host organisation, and networking with potential research partners to identify joint research opportunities of strategic importance to both countries.
So, contrary to suggestions that I spent most of my time playing beach volleyball, cavorting with revellers at the Rio Carnaval, or communing with indigenous tribes in remote reaches of the Amazon
Continue reading Keeping science connected
In our second post on the Durban Climate Change Conference, David Howlett asks what was agreed on agriculture.
I am co-author of a new paper – What next for agriculture after Durban? – published in the journal Science. Here are some thoughts from the article and the conference itself.
The 17th conference of the parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ended two days late on 11 December 2011. The extra time was used by governments to agree the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (PDF).
Continue reading Political economy and food security
Collaborations between Britain and Brazil are on the up. John Lucas reports.
It is now more than one month since I arrived in Brazil to spend a period working in Embrapa (the Brazilian Government agricultural research organisation) as part of the Labex (Laboratorio no Exterior) programme.
For more than 10 years Embrapa have been sending scientists abroad to work in labs and organisations that they regard as of scientific and strategic importance, and a UK Labex base was established at Rothamsted Research in 2010.
Continue reading New frontiers in food security