Global Food Security programme Champion Tim Benton reviews the year and looks ahead to 2016.
Food insecurity remained at the front of mind in 2015 for three reasons.
Firstly, in Europe, we have had the refugee crisis and the horrific events in Paris in November. Part of the reason for the destabilisation of the Middle East was the interaction between food and climate. The 2007-10 Syrian drought undermined rural livelihoods and helped create disaffected urban populations and the 2010 East European heat wave drove up food prices and helped spark the Arab Spring. Food insecurity is more than people simply being hungry.
Use of food banks is rising, but so are levels of obesity. Has it become impossible to eat cheaply but well? BBSRC Strategy and Policy Officer Valerie Nadeau tucks in.
Walking down the high street at lunchtime, the smell of baking pastry is enticing. It would be easy to nip into one of the ubiquitous fast food outlets, grab a sausage roll or a pasty for little more than a pound. If I persuade myself to keep walking and track down a salad, it might cost closer to a fiver.
Does this illustrate a more general problem? Is healthy, nutritious food unaffordable?
There’s a buzz about eating insects. Is it really a viable option? GFS Strategy and Policy Officer Emma Rivers reports.
Insects are hailed as a cheap, sustainable source of protein and other micronutrients which have minimal greenhouse gas emissions and can be fed on waste.
They are much better at converting their food into protein and body mass – feed conversion (PDF) – than poultry and other livestock, meaning that they could be a much more efficient source of protein for animal and human consumption.
Continue reading Insects: the future of Christmas dinners?
What agricultural problems do Africa and Europe have in common? Jenny Wilson from UKCDS examines an ambitious collaborative project.
There’s a really exciting initiative that UKCDS (UK Collaborative on Development Sciences) has been involved in that aims to produce a step-change in the funding, and consequent research, available for EU-Africa scientific collaboration.
Continue reading Joining food forces across continents
Population growth and more meat-intensive diets require an increase in global protein production. NERC’s Jodie Clarke tucks into the issue.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) agricultural outlook for 2015-2030
total world meat production will continue to increase in this period by 1.5% per year while milk production is estimated to increase at 1.3% annually.
The ‘white revolution’ could bring food security and economic benefits to Africa. Cesar Revoredo-Giha from Scotland’s Rural College reports from the field.
In recent years there has been talk of a ‘white revolution’ in milk production in Africa. Countries such as Tanzania and Uganda have looked to follow India in increasing per capita consumption of milk and dairy products.
We take the white stuff for granted in the West. It is so cheap and plentiful that it has even become derided as a source of modern ailments like allergies. But so long as you are not genuinely lactose intolerant, the balance of evidence favours milk as a good source of sugar, fats and nutrients. And in developing countries, this can be the difference between health and malnutrition.
Continue reading Milking it in Malawi
Diet before conception affects a baby’s genes. Paula Dominguez-Salas from the MRC International Nutrition Group reports from the field.
In recent years evidence has been accumulating that nutrition during pregnancy can have a profound effect on the offspring. Our group, the MRC International Nutrition Group, works in maternal and child nutrition and is particularly interested in this ‘fetal programming’ idea, because a child’s health (and possibly even its children) could be effected throughout its whole life – not just its early years.
Continue reading Why a mother’s nutrition is so important
A new Global Food Security programme paper tallies votes to focus action. John Ingram reports.
As part of its work to understand the drivers of food security, colleagues and I in the UK’s Global Food Security programme (ably assisted by colleagues from the University of Cambridge) launched a six-month project to identify priority research questions (PDF) for the UK food system. The full results are published online in the journal Food Security.
Continue reading What are priority research questions for the UK food system?
What does the future of animal production hold? David Hume looks forward.
We need to plan for increased production of animal products.
And there is increasing recognition that protein malnutrition has long-term effects on development of cognitive ability. Vegetarianism is not an option; there is evidence of subclinical malnutrition on vegetarian diets even in Western countries, and in developing countries high quality vegetable protein sources are no more available than animal protein.
Continue reading Genetics, genomics and gene modification
Agricultural markets in sub-Saharan Africa are fragmented for the people who need them most. Two new reports set out the solutions, says Michael Hoevel.
Population in Africa is set to almost double to two billion by 2050, and current food production systems in Africa will only be able to meet 13% of this increased demand (PDF).
At the same time, across Africa it is estimated that 80% of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihoods. Transforming this sector’s markets will not only help address food insecurity and undernutrition, but it can also unlock Africa’s trade and development potential more broadly, if implemented responsibly and sustainably.
Continue reading Linking African smallholder farmers to markets