Global Food Security blog

Contributors to this blog include academics, policy makers, farmers and end-users. To join the community of authors please email including details of your expertise, experience and a short synopsis of your proposed article.

The challenge of soil

The United Nations has dedicated this year to a well-known substance that has incredible properties. The Soil Association’s Louise Payton digs deep.

Louise Payton

It can support buildings, filter and store billions of tonnes of water, provides a home for a quarter (PDF) of all species on earth, and is used to produce around 95% of our food. It’s soil, and this is the International Year of Soils.

The reason for this grand title is the need for food security debates to better recognise soil. Soil isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about food security, but incredibly, 25% of agricultural soils (PDF) are severely degraded.
Continue reading The challenge of soil

What are the policies and actions needed to change consumption patterns? Tara Garnett of the Food Climate Research Network digests a recent report.

Tara Garnett

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.

Continue reading Labels or legislation: how do you shift eating habits?

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.

Continue reading Making sustainable connections

Is a healthy diet affordable?

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.

Valerie Nadeau

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?

Continue reading Is a healthy diet affordable?

Facing the future: water and agriculture

Following World Water day, three new reports on water use are launched by the Global Food Security programme. GFS Science Writer Theresa Meacham pours over the results.

Theresa Meacham

After land, water is the most important resource for farmers. Agriculture accounts for 75% of global fresh water extraction, yet it is often taken for granted. Irrigating land, mixing liquid fertilisers and sprays, providing drinking water for livestock, and washing down and cleaning equipment all require water.

Increasingly water is being recognised as a critical resource under threat.
Continue reading Facing the future: water and agriculture

When it comes to child nutrition, it needn’t be all doom and gloom. Francis Peel from the Partnership for Child Development explains why.

Francis Peel

The global child malnutrition statistics make for pretty grim reading. The World Health Organisation estimates that whilst over 42 million under-fives are overweight and obese, around one in five children in low income countries suffers from stunting caused by poor diets.

The sad fact is it is many of these children suffer from a double burden of malnutrition resulting in stunted growth due to poor diets followed by a higher propensity for obesity later in life.

Continue reading Why schools should be on the frontline in combating malnutrition

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

Photo diary: A story of sustainability in China

In an audio slideshow special, food writer and consultant Geoff Tansey wonders what will happen to the ancient rice terraces of the Far East.

Geoff Tansey

Will China build on its long-term sustainable farming systems, such as these famous rice terraces in Yunnan, or abandon them?

That’s the question I’ve found myself pondering about since my most recent visit to China.

As you can see in these pictures, for many visitors to China it’s the gleaming new city centres, glitzy shopping malls and swathes of high-rise apartments that seem to grow faster than their crops that impress.
Continue reading Photo diary: A story of sustainability in China

Going against the grain

Scientists – and economists – should avoid being prisoners of present knowledge, says former FAO agricultural economist Andrew MacMillan.

Andrew MacMillan

It is strange how many good ideas, when they are first advanced, are ridiculed and dismissed by the establishment but somehow eventually gain respectability and enter mainstream thinking. 
Continue reading Going against the grain

Trees of life for food security

Principles of agroecology can get us out of the food crisis in simple steps. Tree biologist Roger Leakey explains.

Roger Leakey

We hear doom and gloom about the now ever-present Global Food Crisis, exacerbated by worsening climate change, and it’s possible to conclude that there isn’t a viable solution. This is exacerbated by the dichotomy of views on ways to address the future of food. The menu seems to be either a genetically-modified silver bullet from biotechnology or, at the other extreme, pure organic farming.
Continue reading Trees of life for food security