Feeding the world: experts gather to explore challenges of global food security

PhD researcher studying root systems
30 Oct 2012 12:06:59.083

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Experts from around the globe are to gather in Shanghai, China, to discuss the challenges and solutions to the biggest question facing the world – how do we achieve global food security?

The forum is being hosted by The University of Nottingham following its recent success in being awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Global Food Security. The University is using its unique connections with Asia to bring together leading minds from business, intergovernmental organisations, and the research community to identify the key challenges and potential solutions in a wide range of disciplines.

The inaugural Global Food Security Forum will be held on November 6 in collaboration with East China University of Science and Technology (ECUST) in Fengxian District, Shanghai, and will feature more than 20 high-profile speakers.

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Professor Jerry Roberts, Dean of the Graduate School at The University of Nottingham, said: “This is a vital global issue that affects all of us and it is highly appropriate that the first of the University of Nottingham's Global Food Security Forum meetings is being held in China. It brings together the leading thinkers and actors from across the world and we expect that the forum will have a positive impact on research, commerce and policy across the globe. The focus of this meeting will be to identify solutions to real and perceived problems and we are confident that participants will rise to this challenge.”

Global scale

The forum will aim to cover all the essential issues related to food security and will begin with speakers setting the scene on a global scale with presentations on the science of food security, markets, incomes and the demand for food and the changing scene for food and agriculture in Asia.

The main sections of the event will be divided up into four main themes: Production and Productivity, Supply Chain, Rules and Governance and Global Society. These themes will be discussed in an interactive format and will enable the University to produce a report that identifies a consensus and way forward for researchers, business and policy-makers in these complex multidisciplinary issues.

Among the topics to be tackled will be; the genetics of crops, soil productivity, animal disease in modern livestock production systems, water, planetary boundaries, corporate behaviour, and whether consumers are rising to the food security challenge.

Professor Sayed Azam-Ali; CEO of Crops for the Future Research Centre (CFFRC) in Malaysia, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Nottingham Malaysia campus (UNMC) will be outlining research to develop neglected and under-utilised crop species for the benefit of the poor and the environment. This work aims to expand our reliance from the three main food crops of rice, wheat and maize to a wider range of overlooked species that are important sources of food, animal feed, medicines and other resources.

Essential role for science 

Professor Lin Erda, from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, will say on behalf of the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change that in order to adapt to climate change and ensure food security, major interventions are required to transform current patterns and practices of food production, distribution and consumption. The messages for scientists are that they have an essential role to play in informing concurrent, strategic investments to establish climate-resilient agricultural production systems, minimize greenhouse gas emissions, make efficient use of resources, develop low-waste supply chains, ensure adequate nutrition, encourage healthy eating choices and develop a global knowledge system for sustainability. Scientific contributions will be essential to the seven policy recommendations for achieving food security in the context of climate change put forward by the Commission, including improved understanding of agriculture’s vulnerability to climate change, food price dynamics, food waste and consumption patterns and monitoring technologies as well as multidisciplinary investigation of regionally appropriate responses to climate change and food security challenges.

Dr Raymond Anthony, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Alaska Anchorage, will be discussing whether the ethical norms driving our science and technology are promoting the social justice ends of food security. Dr Anthony will be focusing particularly on Asia where issues including the urban-rural divide, overpopulation, poverty and hunger, inadequate government leadership and increasing industrialisation and consumerism are posing huge challenges for many of the region’s developing economies.

Water challenge

In his presentation The Water Challenge, Dr Kevin Parris from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OEDC) will discuss the significant strain that the demand for agricultural commodities such as food, feed, fibre and feedstock for bioenergy will place on water systems. Expanding agricultural production will increase competition for water resources and increase the risks of water pollution damaging human health and the environment, creating an urgent need to improve the future performance of agricultural management to minimise the impact.

Among the other high-profile speakers addressing delegates at the forum will be Professor Wang Ren, Vice-President of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Dr Kevin Noone of the Swedish Secretariat for Environmental Earth System Sciences and Dr Prakesh Shetty of the United Nations.

A full programme for the event can be downloaded from the web at http://tiny.cc/qxl3mw 

The forum is one of a series of events on the theme of global food security due to take place at The University of Nottingham’s campuses in China, Malaysia and the UK over the next three years.

The University has identified global food security as one of its research and knowledge transfer priorities. With its campuses in the UK and overseas, the University is ideally placed scientifically, geographically and politically to undertake high-calibre multi-disciplinary research on food security at a global level. It has invested in facilities and encouraged the development of research activities that underpin the food system — from laboratory to fork.

Lasting influence

In February 2012 the University of Nottingham’s Vice Chancellor received the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher & Further Education, the most prestigious national recognition for UK universities, at a ceremony in Buckingham Place in London. The award was given in recognition of the University’s work in global food security.

The prizes are a biennial award scheme, part of the UK’s national honours system, celebrating excellence, innovation, and impact in the UK’s Higher and Further Education sector. They recognise and celebrate winners’ outstanding work which is making a real and practical impact for the benefit of human progress.

Further details can be found online for the Food Security Challenges and Solutions event. Attendance is by prior bookings only by emailing GFS-Shanghai@nottingham.ac.uk

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham, described by The Sunday Times University Guide 2011 as ‘the embodiment of the modern international university’, has 40,000 students at award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings. It was named ‘the world’s greenest university’ in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking 2011.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise. The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health. The University won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2011, for its research into global food security.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest ever fund-raising campaign, will deliver the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news


Story credits

More information is available from Professor John Strak on +44 (0)1733 253006, john.strak@nottingham.ac.uk

Emma Thorne Emma Thorne - Media Relations Manager

Email: emma.thorne@nottingham.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793 Location: University Park

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