They get a bad press, but certain compounds are key to a future with safe, sufficient and affordable food, says the ECPA’s Graeme Taylor.
Food is my passion. My dream was to become a MasterChef, but, despite my one-time appearance on the UK television programme of the same name, I am not.
My passion for food (combined with a politics degree) led me down an unexpected career path. I have spent 15 years working in public sector, primarily in animal health and welfare in various positions at national, international and multilateral level. About a year ago, I accepted a Brussels-based position in the world of pesticides and plant protection at the European Crop Protection Association.
Continue reading Pesticides: with or without?
The Global Food Security programme’s Sian Williams decided to cut all meat and animal products from her diet to see how difficult it would be to eat more sustainably.
Never one to shy away from an experiment, I took on the challenge of changing my previously omnivorous diet to become vegan for a month, hoping to better understand what challenges this might bring.
With the global food system as a whole currently responsible for around 30% of total anthropogenic GHG emissions, it is clear that the agri-food sector must adapt in order to meet the Paris Agreement. Especially given estimates that food-related emissions could account for the entire carbon budget for a 1.5°C temperature rise by 2050.
Continue reading My vegan challenge: how hard is it to change your diet?
Most of the world’s food is produced in temperate zones. The Global Food Security programme’s Evangelia Kougioumoutzi reports on the TempAg Network.
Agricultural production in temperate regions is highly productive with a significant proportion of global output originating from temperate (i.e. non-tropical) countries – 21% of global meat production and 20% of global cereal production originates from Europe alone. This proportion is very likely to increase (PDF) in light of climate change.
TempAg is an international research collaboration network established to increase the impact of agricultural research and inform policy making in the world’s temperate regions.
Continue reading Temperate matters in agriculture
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”
Blackouts and water shortages can severely harm a nation’s food security. Resource allocation tools can help policy makers improve energy access while minimising hunger, says the Stockholm Environment Institute’s Louise Karlberg.
Last July, Zambia found itself in the midst of a crippling energy crisis caused by low water levels in the reservoirs for hydropower generation. Load shedding (cutting off supply to parts of the power grid) became the norm, sending politicians into a frenzy because electricity is the lifeblood of the economy.
The blackouts had many negative knock-on effects for food producers. For example, while some large-scale poultry farmers were able to switch to alternative energy sources, such as generators to power vital equipment such as refrigerators, many of their smaller-scale fellows were unable to make this investment and lost income. And dairy farmers were faced with a range of other challenges related to the load shedding, as their plants can take several hours to regenerate after each power cut.
Continue reading Energy and food production: powering the balancing act
How can we help people make better dietary choices for their health and the planet? The Global Food Security programme’s Sian Williams introduces a new report.
Switching on the news on 1 April can be a minefield – this year the global news headlines were dominated by just one story – there are now more adults in the world classified as obese than underweight.
Unfortunately, this was no April fool.
This shocking statistic came from a study led by scientists from Imperial College London. They found that between 1975 and 2014 the incidence of obesity more than doubled in women and tripled in men.
Continue reading Eyeing up intake: an Insight on overconsumption and diet
What technologies could sustainably replace pesticides, without compromising on yield or quality? The Global Food Security (GFS) programme’s David O’Gorman reviews a recent GFS workshop on the topic.
What would happen if we could no longer use pesticides? Well, there would be significant yield losses, food price increases, greater food insecurity and potentially political unrest and instability. There may well be reduced ecological impacts, but with loss of yield would come expansion of agricultural land, with release of GHGs and loss of biodiversity.
We are heavily reliant on pesticides to maximise crop yields and put food on our tables. Even with the use of pesticides, a third of food (PDF) produced for human consumption is lost or wasted – what might the figure be with a dramatic increase in pre-harvest losses following reduced pesticide use?
Continue reading How would we cope with a post-pesticide world?
Terrestrial and aquatic food production systems share a range of common problems that need solutions. Rachel Norman from the University of Stirling reports.
A mathematical biologist by training, I was very keen to tease out whether we could treat fish and crops as being the same when we come to think about problems in food security.
After some consternation amongst my biological colleagues, there was consensus that aquaculture systems share some common features with both crops and chickens – they both have relatively high stocking densities, for example. They also share common risks, for example disease outbreaks can be devastating in all cases.
Continue reading Surf and turf: bringing crop and fish people together
Criminal activity is costing global food and drink industries billions, but what is being done about it? Andy Morling of the FSA’s National Food Crime Unit reports.
What does food have to do with the world of crime?
Consumers and food businesses can be disconnected by thousands of miles across the globe. From picking to packing, flavouring to refrigeration, there are multiple different processes that separate you from the hands of the farmer or farm worker that made your meal.
A lot can go wrong on that journey, from innocent mistakes to fraud and even high-level organised crime.
Continue reading Food crime matters
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