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World Food Day: grow, nourish, sustain together… our actions are our future

World Food Day 2020 poster
Intelligent Growth Solutions
“We ought to be planning for a future food system in which a vaccine did not arrive in the nick of time in case that is the future that awaits us; we ought to consider how our food system can respond to the climate emergency while unemployment figures climb; or how we avert increasing dependency on food banks amidst rising food prices”

In the last 75 years, the world has made great progress in the fight against poverty, hunger, and malnutrition. Agricultural productivity and food systems have come a long way, but still, too many people remain vulnerable. On World Food Day 2020, we must remember that more than 2 billion people do not have regular access to enough safe, nutritious food.

The COVID-19 pandemic has added to this challenge, threatening to reverse important gains in food security, nutrition, and livelihoods. “Now is the time to address the persistent inequalities and inefficiencies that have continued to plague our food systems, economies and social support structures; now is the time to build back better,” says the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Scientists at the James Hutton Institute are working to increase food security both globally and at home in the UK. The diverse and multi-faceted impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on UK and global food nutrition security are at the centre of a multi-disciplinary research initiative led by the Institute, partnered by Chatham House and Cranfield University, and funded with a £341,000 grant from the Economic and Social Research Council.

COVID-19 is causing major shocks to the global food system through impacts on multiple parts of it. Examples include reductions in productivity, breakdown of distribution, changed demands and supply chain restrictions. Economic impacts are altering both supply, distribution and demand. Collectively these shocks are substantially altering food systems whilst in the longer-term previous approaches to trade may not adapt appropriately leading to changes in the balance of traded commodities, a reduction in food reserves and price increases.

“In normal times millions of workers, from farm to fork, do their jobs with an efficiency shaped by market forces across highly complex supply chains. Farmers and farm workers, excluding subsistence farmers, produce food to order for wholesalers and retailers. Food is perishable and needs to pass through the supply chain in a timely manner otherwise it goes to waste,” writes Hutton social scientist Dominic Duckett in a blog post for Sceptical Scot that explores how scenario planning can help avoid a COVID-19 food crisis.

“We ought to be planning for a future food system in which a vaccine did not arrive in the nick of time in case that is the future that awaits us; we ought to consider how our food system can respond to the climate emergency while unemployment figures climb; or how we avert increasing dependency on food banks amidst rising food prices,” Dr Duckett says.

Beyond the pressure created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the challenges posed by climate change and crop pests and diseases remain as urgent as ever. The Institute has, for many years, researched the potential of new crop varieties, notably potatoes, for enhanced resilience, yield, quality and nutritional content. With potato being the world’s fourth largest food crop, this work is incredibly valuable for increasing food security across the world.

Hutton researchers also work extensively with barley, the dominant arable crop in Scotland, which will be increasingly important should we come to rely more on UK based primary produce. The Institute’s Dundee site hosts the International Barley Hub (IBH), a centre of excellence linking industry-focussed research with innovation, to both deliver immediate impact and ensure the long-term sustainability of the UK and international agriculture, brewing and distilling, food and non-food sectors. The IBH is backed by a £35M investment as part of the Tay Cities deal.

Likewise, the Institute’s Dundee site is also the location of the Advanced Plant Growth Centre, a hub for step change in our existing and future agricultural and horticultural production systems. The APGC, backed by a £27M transformational investment from the Tay Cities deal, will generate state-of-the-art research and innovation infrastructure associated with both totally-controlled-environment agriculture, and protected cropping and storage. This facility will mean that the UK can play its part in leading the science agenda around this rapidly expanding global market expected to be worth $10 billion by 2025.

Indoor farming offers huge reductions in water wastage, the elimination of the use of pesticides and a huge reduction in food miles. It allows produce to be grown locally and on demand, which could reduce fresh food waste by up to 90 per cent.

Collective action across 150 countries is what makes World Food Day one of the most celebrated days of the UN calendar. Hundreds of events and outreach activities bring together governments, businesses, NGOs, the media, and general public.

For more information about how to participate in the global events programme put together to mark the 75th anniversary of FAO and World Food Day 2020, visit the FAO website.

More information from: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, James Hutton Institute, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).


Printed from /news/world-food-day-grow-nourish-sustain-together%E2%80%A6-our-actions-are-our-future on 27/10/20 09:15:14 PM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.