Securing the future supply of food is a major challenge facing the food industry. How can we ensure that the food chain continues to supply, safe healthy food to the consumer in a sustainable manner, as population grows and resources become scarcer? This is the focus of the IFST Spring Conference, being held jointly with the Institute of Food Research on the Norwich Research Park, 17-18 April.
Prof. Ian Crute, Chief Scientist, Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board will get to the heart of this to open the programme of talks. The future supply of food must be sustainable over periods of generations, so how do we judge whether it is truly sustainable now? How can we balance environmental sustainability with economic sustainability, and social cohesion? Prof. Crute will argue that reconciling these needs requires responsibility to be shared, generating long term benefits for all, and that continued investment in science and innovation will be part of this.
So what role can science and innovation play in the future supply of food? Prof. Cathie Martin of the John Innes Centre will look at what modern plant biotechnology can deliver. 3 out of 4 deaths in western countries are due to chronic diseases. Increased consumption of health-promoting foods could reduce this, but despite many years of campaigns, like the 5-a-day campaign, major changes to diets are hard to achieve. Is it time to approach the problem from a different angle, by increasing the levels of health-promoting bioactives in current diets? Prof. Martin will explore how through conventional breeding, or more rapidly through genetic modification, the development of novel foods will address some of these challenges.
Mentioning European seafood security usually brings to mind the complicated, controversial efforts to protect fish stocks and seafood supply, but, as Prof. Dave Little of the Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling will argue, the biggest influence on EU seafood security now lies in the global south. Prof. Little will discuss how rising levels of imports from Asian aquaculture is supporting seafood security in the EU, and how this will impact on EU fisheries. What lessons can Europe learn, and what are the concerns for traceability and governance in the food chain?
Dwindling natural resources present global problems, not least in supplying energy for agriculture, food production and distribution. Biofuels, touted as a renewable energy supply, can put even more pressure on food supplies where crops are used for non-food products. Graham Redman, The Andersons Centre will provide an overview from an economic perspective of the impact this has on the food chain. What impact will moving away from using grain for fuel have, now that we produce 120 million more tonnes of grain than we eat, and biofuel producers are among the biggest buyers?
A challenge to global food security is the increasing uptake of Western-style high-meat diets in the developing world, increasing demand for livestock feed, but taking us further from a sustainable state. Could alternative sources of protein for livestock help, if efforts to encourage more sustainable diets don’t? This will be the subject of a talk by Prof. Ilias Kyriazakis – School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Newcastle University.
But is sustainability necessarily the biggest concern for the consumer when they are buying meat? Over the past decade EU consumers have become increasingly concerned about the animal welfare, leading to new EU and national legislation and changes to farming practices. Animal welfare has become an aspect of marketing, but there is a lack of standardization across the EU in how this is measured. Prof. Harry Blokhuis, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences will talk about how animal welfare research is now a mature scientific discipline, and how a standardised quantification of animal welfare in food production is needed.
Maintaining animal welfare, and a safe food chain, are of vital importance but coming under increasing pressure as we realise the need to reduce the use of antibiotics because of the rise of antimicrobial resistance. Jeff Jones of the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency will compare responses to this problem across the world and look at how the global food trade must be resilient to the potential transfer of resistant pathogens across country borders.
George Freeman MP, Life Science Adviser to the Government will join a panel discussion to summarise key messages from the conference and decide on plans for action.
IFST is hosting its Spring Conference jointly with the Institute of Food Research. Practical sessions led by IFR’s scientists form a key part of the conference programme, on topics including food safety microbiology and food composition databases. IFR’s Food and Health Network, which bridges the gap between IFR’s science and its application to industry, will make available its expertise in areas such as structuring food for health, food chain sustainability and the link between plants food and health.
The conference is sponsored by Marks and Spencer and Greencell. The post-graduate poster competition is sponsored by Barfoots.
Securing the future supply of food: challenges and opportunities takes place 17th & 18th April on the Norwich Research Park, one of Europe’s largest single-site concentrations of research in health, food and environmental science. There will be a chance to tour some of the facilities that make the research park unique, such as the Biorefinery Centre at IFR, converting food waste to valuable products, and the John Innes Centre’s GM plant services.
The conference will be of interest to anyone working in the food supply chain, from farm to fork, giving a snapshot of how science and technology can help current and future challenges. Students are particularly encouraged to attend. The IFST Ralph Blanchfield Award was established to encourage young, undergraduate food scientists, technologists and engineers, based in the UK, to travel to, and participate in the Annual IFST Spring Conference, where they will meet with fellow professionals. A post-graduate poster competition will showcase the range of solutions to food security problems being developed by early career food scientists across the UK. The conference dinner will take place at Delia Smith’s restaurant at Norwich City football club.