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.
The global child malnutrition statistics make for pretty grim reading. The World Health Organisation estimates that whilst over 42 million under-fives are overweight and obese, around one in five children in low income countries suffers from stunting caused by poor diets.
The sad fact is it is many of these children suffer from a double burden of malnutrition resulting in stunted growth due to poor diets followed by a higher propensity for obesity later in life.
A major new report spells out what science can, and can’t, do to help provide nutritious food for all. Co-author and GFS Champion Tim Benton provides an inside eye on the Milan Expo 2015.
The first ‘Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations’ famously took place at Crystal Palace in 1851. It spawned a regular series, of which the 99th Universal Exposition will take place in 2015 in Milan, Italy, on the theme Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.
Continue reading The role of research in food and nutrition security
In an audio slideshow special, food writer and consultant Geoff Tansey wonders what will happen to the ancient rice terraces of the Far East.
Will China build on its long-term sustainable farming systems, such as these famous rice terraces in Yunnan, or abandon them?
That’s the question I’ve found myself pondering about since my most recent visit to China.
As you can see in these pictures, for many visitors to China it’s the gleaming new city centres, glitzy shopping malls and swathes of high-rise apartments that seem to grow faster than their crops that impress.
Continue reading Photo diary: A story of sustainability in China
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.
How can young agricultural entrepreneurs make the most of the continent’s opportunities? Sir Gordon Conway of Agriculture for Impact reports on the Montpellier Panel’s latest report.
The time has come to debunk a common myth about agriculture. It is not a dead-end profession that requires eternal, back breaking labour on a farm. At least, it does not have to be. With the right investments to support entrepreneurs in agriculture beyond the production stage, in processing, retail, marketing and even business management, profitable careers await Africa’s young population.
Continue reading Why Africa’s youth should not shun agriculture
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
In a special photo-travelogue, Geoff Tansey explores China’s problems and solutions as a powerhouse of agricultural production.
Astounding 1600-year-old rice terraces, rapidly expanding cities, surprising labour shortages, huge organic vegetable production, small village plots, and much recent research science on soils, water and roots: my two trips to China had some of what I expected and much more that I didn’t.
A birth and bereavement gives food for thought. GFS Champion Tim Benton reflects.
Two recent events – the death of my father and the birth of a friend’s first child – have made me ponder about the course of a human life. In particular, for someone born now what will happen to the world during their lifetime?
During our debates over food security and climate change we often look ahead. But does the timescale we choose to look ahead matter? If so, is there one that resonates with sufficient power to promote action?
Continue reading Life, death and looking ahead
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