Two new schemes from the Soil Association aim to put farmers at the forefront of research. Tom MacMillan reports.
There is hardly a year that starts without at least somebody at the Oxford Farming Conference lamenting the gulf between agricultural research and practice, and calling for it to be bridged. The difference this year is that these calls may now be getting some answers.
The past few months have seen an upsurge in efforts to address this gap including Feeding the Future, a review of research priorities for farmers and growers up to the year 2030 which was commissioned by four organisations at the heart of UK food production:
Continue reading Food producers: experts in their fields
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
The UK Government has published recommendations that will shape policy and decisions well into the future. The Minister of State for Agriculture and Food tells us more.
How might we produce more food and improve our environment in the future? Not an easy exam question!
Some say the answer is sustainable intensification, but there is a lot of disagreement about what that might mean (see this blog post for more), particularly when you start talking about what it might mean in England.
Continue reading The Green Food Project
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
Global leaders should not forget their promises on food security, says Robin Willoughby.
The November 2011 G20 meeting in Cannes last week, perhaps understandably, focused on addressing the eurozone crisis. However, behind the financial headlines lies a bigger crisis of global hunger and malnutrition.
The Horn of Africa famine has drawn heightened attention to the issues of food security and hunger, with many tens of thousands of people suffering from losses of food supplies and an inability to purchase food in parts of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia.
Continue reading G20 leaders – did they address the real crisis?
Agriculture needs to produce more food from less. Are ‘mega’ farms the answer, asks Becky Hothersall.
I research the health and welfare of chickens reared for meat, but last year I spent six weeks working with BBC Countryfile as part of the British Science Association’s Media Fellowship scheme for research scientists. At the BBC I had the chance to act as researcher and scientific adviser for a feature looking at the rise of huge indoor ‘mega’ dairies and pig farms in the United States.
The mega farm debate is highly polarised. I heard equally passionate arguments that mega farms pollute the environment and destroy rural communities, and from others who believe that they’re the only viable way to keep meat and dairy products affordable back here in Britain.
Continue reading Mega farms: yay or nay?
Iain Gordon reflects on a unique opportunity for Scottish science and enterprise as well as the challenges that lie ahead.
On 1 April 2011 Scotland became home to a brand new scientific research centre. The James Hutton Institute aims to be one of the world’s leading research institutes on land, crops, water and the environment and is the biggest, multi-disciplinary centre of its type in the UK.
Fittingly, its name has been taken from one of the leading figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, James Hutton (1726-97).
Continue reading A new institute to tackle food security challenges
Developing agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa involves tackling political problems as well as the scientific ones, says Sara Delaney.
Bold orange signs decorated the brightly lit rooms, each proclaiming ‘New Directions for Smallholder Agriculture’ and offering a taste of keywords to come: ‘finance, migration, accessing markets, youth…’, serving as an inspiring backdrop for the two day conference held at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in Rome, on January 24-25.
Continue reading Elephants in the conference room
Concerted and coordinated action can bring success in the field and enhance food security, says John Anderson.
We now believe rinderpest has been eradicated from the world. When finally confirmed in 2011, rinderpest eradication will be the only disease conquered after smallpox back in the 1970s.
Rinderpest was one of the most devastating virus diseases of livestock known to man. Closely related to measles in humans, rinderpest (from the German ‘cattle plague’) has probably been around since before the birth of Christ and devastated European powers in the 17th century.
Continue reading Lessons learned from global rinderpest eradication
More sustainable food production can be high yielding and will prepare us for an uncertain future, says Richard Jacobs.
As we hurtle towards a world of peak oil production and phosphate depletion it’s easy to assume we have only technology, specifically genetic modification, to turn to in our efforts to ensure food security.
The numbers of people in the world who take seriously the notion that organic farming is part of the answer are certainly not in the majority.
Continue reading Don’t write off organics