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.

Global Food Security programme Champion Tim Benton reviews the year and looks ahead to 2016.

Tim Benton

Food insecurity remained at the front of mind in 2015 for three reasons. 

Firstly, in Europe, we have had the refugee crisis and the horrific events in Paris in November. Part of the reason for the destabilisation of the Middle East was the interaction between food and climate. The 2007-10 Syrian drought undermined rural livelihoods and helped create disaffected urban populations and the 2010 East European heat wave drove up food prices and helped spark the Arab Spring. Food insecurity is more than people simply being hungry.


Continue reading Roundup ready: food security from 2015 into 2016

Introducing the Global Food Security programme’s Public Panel

BBSRC’s Patrick Middleton reports on a new approach from GFS to help people engage with the programme and its activities.

Patrick Middleton

Food security is an issue for all of us. Here in the UK, we import around 40% of our food, and the figure is rising. Through trade deals, climate change, rising global populations and the shared risk of plant and animal diseases spreading, we now live on a global farm.

With this in mind, we want to listen to your thoughts on food security issues. As a partnership of public organisations who fund research, the Global Food Security programme (GFS) is keen that the public are able to help shape GFS’s decision making. After all, it is the public who are ultimately paying for the programme through their taxes.
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Antimicrobials in agriculture

As a new report is published, BBSRC’s Adam Staines discusses the complex issues surrounding antibiotic use in the food chain.

Adam Staines

Despite lots of wider media coverage in the last year on antimicrobials and antimicrobial resistance many people are still asking basic questions about what resistance is, what is resistant to what, and why should I really care?

Any societal complacency over the importance of antimicrobial drugs is actually a testament to their success. Many of the diseases that ravaged us and our livestock industries for centuries until Alexander Fleming and penicillin came along have been so successfully controlled we no longer fear them, or even recognise the names. (The leading causes of human death in 1900 were bacterial infections causing pneumonia, tuberculosis, diarrhoea and enteritis.)
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Meet the Innovative Farmers

A new network helps researchers get their hands dirty. The Soil Association’s Tom MacMillan explains how you can get involved.

Tom MacMillan

What would agricultural R&D look like if farmers were in charge?

I’ve written for this blog before about the Duchy Future Farming Programme, which recognises and supports innovation by farmers. With three years of ‘field labs’ under our belts, involving more than 750 farmers and looking into 35 topics, we’ve just launched its next phase – a network called Innovative Farmers.
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The nitrogen crisis: what are the solutions?

An expert group gathers to discuss this elemental problem. The John Innes Centre’s Allan Downie reports on problems and progress.

Allan Downie

What is the nitrogen crisis? It is clear that we have introduced major global shifts in production and use of reactive nitrogen without really knowing what happens to the ammonia and nitrogen oxides released to the environment.

The production of nitrogen fertiliser and combustion of fossil fuels doubles the amount of reactive N entering the nitrogen cycle annually.
Continue reading The nitrogen crisis: what are the solutions?

Training female farmers to get the best from their land can reap benefits. IFDC’s former president Amit Roy makes the case for fertilisers and other innovations.

Amit Roy

By 2030, the agriculture and agribusiness sector in Africa is predicted to become a US $1 trillion industry. Farming has long been hailed as the engine of the African economy, and over the next 15 years it is going to need a jump-start if it is to feed the rocketing population, particularly in urban areas. Many factors will fuel this growth, but fertilizer is going to be critical.

Currently, 65 percent of land in Africa is degraded and lacking in the essential nutrients crops need to grow. Yet much of the world’s remaining arable land is in Africa. Replenishing undernourished soils is a unique opportunity for African agricultural growth.
Continue reading If agriculture is Africa’s engine, let’s add fuel

Temperate times: a new research collaboration

Peter Gregory and Richard  McDowell

Peter Gregory from the University of Reading and Richard McDowell, Principal Scientist at AgResearch, introduce the new GFS-coordinated TempAg network.

The International Sustainable Temperate Agriculture (TempAg) Network was launched in April 2015 as an international research network that aims to deliver sustainable agricultural systems in temperate regions of the world.  After four years of preparatory work, we are delighted that our international research programme is now underway and linking scientists in the temperate regions of the world.
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How secure is India’s National Food Security Act?

Insights from a public food distribution system in Odisha, by Manoj Kumar Pati of the Institute of Public Health, Bengaluru.

Manoj Kumar Pati

Today, India operates one of the largest food safety nets in the world.

To secure food and mitigate hunger and malnutrition for a country of 1.22Bn people – the world’s second largest population – is an immensely complex and challenging job. However, the Government of India’s recent effort to mitigate hunger with the National Food Security Act (NFSA) 2013 is truly commendable, while acknowledging that many more things need to be done and the initiatives have to be self-sustained for a considerable time.
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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.
Continue reading Building better crops from the bottom up