by Rebecca Nesbit, Society of Biology
The conference opened this morning with a keynote talk from Professor Charles Godfray, who spoke very convincingly about the need for food production to become radically more sustainable. At the moment, our food production system is compromising our future capacity to grow food.
Professor Godfray, who is Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food at the University of Oxford, explained that we have to address the challenges of feeding 10 billion people in a new way.
Not only will we have more people to feed, but also they will be richer. They will expect more varied diets, which require more resources to produce. Population growth and changing diets were a focus of his talk and he believes that these are both important conversations to have.
The challenges become even greater as we experience a changing climate and increased competition for water and other natural resources.
Each night, around a billion people go to bed hungry, and a further billion lack essential nutrients. To meet the growing demand for food we need to increase crop yields, but we also need to ensure that food reaches the right people.
Most strikingly for me, Professor Godfray was keen to stress that feeding the hungry billion is not just about food production or food waste, but also about how we allow the poorest countries in the world to develop. Many organisations try to argue that one is enough, but he is convinced this is far too simplistic.
I’m at the conference with plant scientists and educators, and this year’s theme is ‘Plant Science in a Changing World’. There is some very interesting tweeting going on and Professor Godfray’s talk was well covered – if you are interested I can recommend following #PlantSci2013.