Food security meeting in London
Last Monday (22nd October) I joined 40 or so scientists from universities and from the Research Councils, also civil servants from the likes of Defra, people from various Institutes to do with nutrition, health and food safety and a few others such as yours truly.
We were in London to talk about food security, an event organised by the Global Food Security programme.
Professor Tim Benton began with a brief presentation before four groups of us discussed three topics:
- What is healthy diet, and for whom according to, say, age, gender, genome?
- What the implications of this in terms of global food security? Is it sustainable for the world population to all to have a healthy diet?
- What interventions could be made to help people choose a healthy diet? (In the UK, the 5-day fruit’n'veg is a tad simplistic, and not working . . . )
The organisers wanted to understand what we already know, and what we don’t know — and so what would be the most useful areas for research.
New Optimist Rob Lilleywhite was in my group. When it came to talk about the second question, he made the point UK agriculture wasn’t sustainable now; my childhood memories of fallow fields and manure, i.e. mixed farming, are long gone.
In our group, we spent some time discussing how sustainable food sources could be identified, let alone sourced and/or labeled.
We need to understand what’s sustainable or not, otherwise we’ll do the Malthus thing, and chomp our way into oblivion.
Imagine we can identify what’s a sustainable, healthy diet including enough protein for each of us. But how to communicate that is another matter.
Would the people of Birmingham or any other city, en masse, make the “right” decisions about sustainability as well as health each time they traipse to the shops? Unlikely.
As several people said, it’s therefore mostly a matter for the supply chain to ensure we don’t plunder global resources, rather than the likes of thee and me thinking through the social, economic and environmental trade-offs between this food or that on the supermarket shelf in front of us.
Rob and I travelled on the same train back to the Midlands, and so had the opportunity to talk more. How is everyone on the planet going to have a healthy diet from sustainable agriculture?