Global Food Security Champion appointed by public partnership

27th Sep 2011

The Global Food Security programme (GFS) has appointed a University of Leeds academic as Champion to take on the key role of coordinator and spokesperson for the group.

GFS brings together the UK's main public funders of food security related research to coordinate efforts and deliver added-value from their collective activities in this area. The GFS Champion will drive forward co-ordination of research activities, as well as contributing leadership and networking to the programme. This will give a boost to food security research, helping to link funders, the research community, public and users of research.

Professor Tim Benton, from the University of Leeds, is an interdisciplinary scientist whose work focuses on the relationship between food production and the environment. He will take up the post of Global Food Security Champion on 01 November 2011.

Professor Benton's career to date has been in academia, funded largely by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) - both members of GFS. He is involved in sustainable agriculture projects both in the UK and abroad and is Director of The Africa College Partnership, which is a cross-Faculty partnership of the University of Leeds with IITA (the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture) and ICIPE (International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology). Professor Benton recently completed a research project, funded by RELU, investigating the relative costs and benefits of organic and conventional farming, leading the biological work in a project involving both social and natural scientists.

The appointment is part of a drive by public funders of research to ensure that excellent research is carried out now to underpin future developments in this area. There is a need for improvements in food production and processing alongside developments in, food safety, diet and health. And all of this must occur in the context of increasing environmental sustainability and maintaining an equitable, affordable food supply maintaining consumer choice. This will necessarily involve the close collaboration of a large multidisciplinary community of researchers at a time when we face a challenge to meet the nutritional needs of a growing population.

Professor Benton, commenting on his appointment, said "Ensuring that there is sufficient food to meet the challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050, and that it is produced in an environmentally sustainable way, is one of biggest challenges we face. I'm delighted to be playing a key part in ensuring an effective, coordinated approach to meet this challenge."

Professor Janet Allen, speaking on behalf of the Global Food Security programme coordination group, said "We are looking forward to welcoming Professor Benton to this role. It is vital that we deploy the knowledge, skill, and resources we have in the UK to feed a growing population and we must do so rapidly and efficiently. Professor Benton's experience means that he is perfectly placed to bring together a large and varied food security research community in the UK."

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