Research strategy launched to help meet food security challenge

14th Feb 2011

The UK's major public funders of national and international food-related research published their co-ordinated plan for research to help the world avoid a potential food security crisis on the 10th February 2011.

Providing the world's growing population with a sustainable and secure supply of safe, nutritious and affordable high quality food from less land and with lower inputs presents a considerable challenge. In order to meet this effectively, Research Councils including The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Government Departments and other public bodies are co-ordinating their research activities related to food and agriculture through the Global Food Security programme. The programme has now published its strategic plan, which outlines how the partners intend to work together across four cross-disciplinary research themes for food security: economic resilience, resource efficiency, sustainable food production and supply and sustainable, healthy, safe diets.

Running through each theme is a commitment to take into account the sustainability of ecosystems that relate to food production, both for the future of food security and in considering how to reduce the negative environmental impacts of all aspects of the food system. Key priorities are reducing waste and greenhouse gas emissions from the food chain.

The Global Food Security strategy publication follows the recent Foresight report on The Future of Food and Farming. This highlighted the multifaceted drivers behind food insecurity and the need for holistic approaches in meeting the challenges of feeding the growing world population, including reducing hunger in developing countries.

Professor Janet Allen, Director of Research at BBSRC and provisional Chair of the Programme Coordination Group, said: "The strategic plan puts flesh on the bones of the Global Food Security programme that the partners launched last year. It builds on the existing activities and strategies of all the partners, adding value through coordination and providing a focus for collaboration.

"The strength of the programme is the breadth of its scope and the commitment of the partners to work together on multidisciplinary, whole food systems approaches to meet the food security challenge sustainably. Through the strategy we are also committing to increase the effectiveness of translation of research findings in practical applications and policy advice."

The Global Food Security programme has also announced the appointment of Lord Cameron of Dillington as the first Chair of its Strategy Advisory Board. Lord Cameron has an established interest in agriculture and food. He is a farmer in Somerset, a Lawes trustee at Rothamsted Research and chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Agriculture, Food and Development.

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development Stephen O'Brien said: "Research that helps farmers grow crops resistant to drought or in areas prone to flooding can mean the difference between life and death for some of the world's poorest people.

"The new strategy will ensure that this sort of research works harder for people in developing countries by avoiding duplication and pushing in to areas where new research is needed."

The Global Food Security programme will shortly be strengthened though the addition of the Welsh Assembly Government as a new partner - bringing important and specific expertise, resources and research challenges to the programme, many unique to the particular food and farming landscape in Wales.

The Global Food Security programme is in discussion with other funding bodies to further widen the areas it includes.

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