Food security discussed at British Science Festival
21 September 2010
On 16 September, a British Science Festival session on ‘Food Security and Infectious diseases’ attracted around 25 delegates and proved to be intellectually stimulating with each speaker providing fascinating insights on the subject at hand, Sciencewise-ERC (supported by BIS) took the opportunity to go, take part and report back.
The session had been convened by Professor Brian Ilbery of the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) and featured four speakers, each covering a different aspect of food security and infectious diseases.
Professor Tim Lang of City University - Centre for Food Policy, started the session by exploring just what food security means to different people, what the current policy status on the subject is and who holds the power to address emerging issues, particularly with regards to infectious diseases.
Following up on the specific issue of infectious disease in animals, Gareth Enticott of Cardiff University provided some real life case studies of the way in which Bovine TB is screened by veterinarians and in particular the challenges they face in doing this in an accurate but practical way.
Professor Peter Mills of Harper Adams University College spoke on ‘Plants, pathogens, producers and the public', most interestingly from a Sciencewise-ERC point of view, the role of other stakeholders in the policy process. How much power should other stakeholders such as growers, supermarkets and consumers, have in the development of policy around food security?
A final contribution to the session came from Dr Damian Maye of the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI). Damian outlined the results from a new study on the management of crop disease by growers. The study, which focused on the crops of wheat and potatoes found that a complex range of decisions are involved in the control of plant disease.
The session ended on a highpoint with the speakers taking questions from the audience. An interesting range of questions and viewpoints were raised such as what the risks factors of crop spraying are, how climate change is linked to plant diseases and the extent of the threat of infectious disease on food security. A recurring theme throughout the session, including the final discussions was that of power and policy. Delegates were keen to know how decisions within food security and disease management are made, and the role of public (as consumers) was certainly touched on a number of times.
The rest of the festival continued on a positive and lively note, with delegates looking forward to attending sessions such as Friday's ‘Cannabinoid research - is the grass greener?' and the daily ‘x-change' evening round up.
Reports of other events attended by Sciencewise-ERC can be found here: http://www.sciencewise-erc.org.uk/cms/video-page
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