The Global Food Security programme’s Champion, Professor Tim Benton, reflects on leaving the role after five years in the post.
After five years, my term as the Champion for the UK’s Global Food Security programme has come to an end. It has been a fascinating and rewarding experience, even if at times exhausting and frustrating. So what have I learned?
The issue of food security is not (just) about food, it is about how we choose to live on a planet with limited resources. Food requires land and water and affects climate, biodiversity and our health. The amount of land and water available are finite, as is the climate impact we can tolerate, and the healthcare costs of the malnourished (underweight and overweight).
Continue reading “We are the champions, my friends”
Delivering more sustainable food and farming has to start with reconnecting people with where their food comes from and how it is produced, says LEAF’s Annabel Shackleton.
With 81.5% of the UK population (PDF) living in urban areas, our connection with the natural world, farming and the value of our food is increasingly being lost.
With this in mind, how do we make long lasting and meaningful changes to the way people think about and engage with their food? How do we embed health as a value when we make food choices? And how can we link consumer knowledge and demands to deliver more sustainable food and farming?
Continue reading Engaging with agriculture on Open Farm Sunday
Insect farms could recover the true value of wasted organic nutrients, improve local food security and assist in environmental protection, says Keiran Olivares Whitaker of Entocycle.
Agriculture is probably the single most damaging human activity for the planet. Natural resources are already stretched, and to feed the future growing population and meet the demographic shifts in diet, extreme environmental damage will occur.
The optimum direction would be for the global population to shift to a more plant-based diet. The trajectory however is for 70% increase (PDF) in fish and meat consumption by 2050. But around 70% of agricultural land and 70% of fresh water use is already designated to produce feed for animals (PDF), and a recent report from The Economist has highlighted nearly 100% of fish stocks are now under pressure, to varying degrees of severity.
Continue reading Advancing insects as animal feed
How can we nudge people to eat more healthily and sustainably? University of Cambridge’s Arianna Psichas reports from the Global Food Security programme’s Policy Lab on sustainable nutrition.
As the child of someone who has spent their career working in environmental policy, I have grown up with an acute understanding of the many challenges our planet faces, particularly with regard to climate change. Now, as a nutritional scientist I am passionate about public health, and I know that a shift towards more sustainable food options can very often also be healthier.
Continue reading Choosing food: consumption and the carbon footprint
We need plan for tomorrow today. The Food Standards Agency’s Guy Poppy reports on the upcoming #OurFoodFuture event to do just that.
When was the last time you ate a chocolate bar and wondered where the ingredients came from? The odds are it was manufactured in a factory in the UK and bought in a supermarket down the road. But there’s a strong chance that the salt in that bar came from China, the palm oil from Southeast Asia, the whey from New Zealand, the sugar from the Caribbean, the cocoa from South America, the calcium sulphate from India and the milk and wheat from several EU countries.
Continue reading Engaging with our food future
What are the policies and actions needed to change consumption patterns? Tara Garnett of the Food Climate Research Network digests a recent report.
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.
Cutting an American family’s meat consumption by half is equivalent to getting rid of a car. Why isn’t the pressure on, asks Tim Benton.
The most recent figures for carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere give one pause for thought. There was a bigger increase in CO2 in the atmosphere over the last year than had been recorded for many years; despite all we know, carbon is increasing faster than ever, and faster than imagined in IPCC’s ‘worst case’ scenarios.
Continue reading Cars, cows and carbon
Indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals must be chosen with care, says Jørgen Ole Haslestad of the International Fertilizer Industry Association.
When considering the sustainable development of our planet, one sector sits squarely at the cross section of protecting natural resources, feeding the world and reducing carbon emissions: agriculture.
Within that sector, it is often the role of natural and especially mineral fertilizers that could yield the greatest benefit, but also attracts the most criticism.
Continue reading Fertilizers: quality over quantity
The Rural Economy and Land Use Programme (Relu) has been running since 2004. Laura Meagher reports on its value and progress.
Rural areas in the UK, and elsewhere, are experiencing considerable change at a pace that makes many feel uneasy about the future. The Rural Economy and Land Use Programme (Relu) uses a combination of natural and social sciences to advance understanding of the challenges they face.
Continue reading Measuring the impact of food security research
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’