Retracing our genetic path of plant domestication can help us produce newer, better varieties to enhance food security, says the Earlham Institute’s Dr Peter Bickerton.
It wasn’t long ago that we first traded hunting for a more sedentary life – harnessing the grasses of the Fertile Crescent. Yet, over the last 12,000 years, though we have mastered the art of producing abundant yields, the time has come to rejuvenate our most staple of crops.
Since humans first discovered that some wheat plants, rather than shedding their seed upon ripening, instead kept their grains attached, we’ve developed a food system that has contributed to a population explosion of over seven billion people worldwide.
It’s time to re-evaluate the impacts of the potential cultivation of GM crops in UK agriculture, says policy researcher at ADAS Carla Turner.
Genetic modification (GM) in crops has been on the political agenda since their emergence in the 1980s and the first commercially available GM crop approved for cultivation in 1994.
Within the European Union (EU) there has been a precautionary approach to the commercial cultivation of GM crops with stringent approvals legislation.
Continue reading What if we grew GM crops in Britain?
How can fish-producing technology scale up to feed more people? GFS science writer Theresa Meacham casts the net wide.
Having just launched the latest GFS Insight about Aquaculture (PDF), I have been thinking a lot about the role that fish have in our food system. For a start, in the UK we sell most of the fish we catch and eat imported fish mostly caught abroad!
Aquaculture production has increased at an average rate of 8.9% since 1970 in the UK. But in fact our industry is tiny compared to Asian production which is 89% of the global total. Some of the drivers behind this growth (despite exquisite taste!) have been the health benefits associated with eating fish and shellfish products, environmental pressures on land and wild fisheries as well as an increasing world population.
Continue reading Insights on aquaculture: technology and development
In this video blog, Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine Simon Coveney makes a case for research from the Oxford Farming Conference.
“My name is Simon Coveney, I am the Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine and I am here at the Oxford Farming Conference today with a very clear message about the importance of the linkage between science and agriculture and the agri-food industry generally.
The reality is that we have an enormous challenge, but also an enormous opportunity for this sector over the next 10-50 years, because globally we have to find a way of producing significantly more food from the same, in fact less, natural resources as we see the availability of agricultural land shrink by about a percentage a year.
And at the same time we see the consumption demand for food dramatically increasing.
Collaborations between Britain and Brazil are on the up. John Lucas reports.
It is now more than one month since I arrived in Brazil to spend a period working in Embrapa (the Brazilian Government agricultural research organisation) as part of the Labex (Laboratorio no Exterior) programme.
For more than 10 years Embrapa have been sending scientists abroad to work in labs and organisations that they regard as of scientific and strategic importance, and a UK Labex base was established at Rothamsted Research in 2010.
Continue reading New frontiers in food security
It’s time to engage the public with the difficult choices that lie ahead, says Les Firbank.
Food and farming have rarely been away from the headlines in recent years. One of the ongoing themes has been the alleged departure of modern food production and distribution from so-called ‘natural’ practices. We have seen it in the controversies over genetically modified (GM) crops, the rapid spread of foot-and-mouth disease in 2001, and the risks to human health from BSE in cows and salmonella in chicken eggs.
Continue reading Farming in the future: nature versus necessity
We are too reliant on too few crop species. Using more underutilised plants will improve global food security, says Sean Mayes.
The world depends for its basic diet of carbohydrates, fats and proteins on a very limited number of crop species.
For carbohydrates, three related species, wheat, rice and maize, dominate human consumption. Any short term improvement in food security will need to include modification (either transgenic or through conventional breeding) of these and other staple crops.
Continue reading Breaking the dependency
Through our understanding of how plants secure their own nutritional requirements, we can provide new solutions for sustainable food production for the world’s growing population.
Plants must secure high levels of nitrogen, and in conventional agriculture nitrogen is added at high concentrations in the form of inorganic fertilisers. Artificial nitrogenous fertilisers can increase yield by as much as 50% and the global farming system, and hence our own food supply, is now dependent on them. We would face very severe food shortages if nitrogen fertilisers were to become unavailable.
Continue reading Getting to the root of food security