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
A committed effort in every agricultural sector and discipline will reap real benefits for the continent, says Lindiwe Majele Sibanda.
Next week, over 200 farmers, policymakers, agricultural researchers, agrodealers and non-governmental organisations from across Africa and around the world will be gathering in Namibia for the annual FANRPAN Policy Dialogue to discuss the state of food security in sub-Saharan Africa and future priorities for continuing progress.
Continue reading Achieving food security in Africa
Let’s understand, utilise and conserve the indigenous cattle breeds, says Oliver Hanotte.
Livestock is and has been intertwined with African societies for centuries. They provide nutrition, labour, transport and fulfil major socio-cultural roles. It is estimated that 70% of Africa’s rural poor keep livestock and some 200M people rely on these animals for their livelihoods. Indigenous livestock are not only adapted to diverse African agro-ecological production systems – they are also unique and responsive genotypes shaped by the needs of African farmers.
Continue reading African livestock for Africa
When it comes to food and farming, Mother Nature does not always know best, says Ottoline Leyser.
© The University of York
No one says to their children, “Go into the woods and eat anything you can find. It is all natural, so it must be good for you.” But for some reason when we walk into the supermarket ‘natural’ is a key selling point for all kinds of foods.
My favourite example is a sweetcorn you can buy that claims to be ‘naturally sweet’. This is an absurd idea.
Continue reading What is ‘natural’ food?