Feeding the future with Brian Cox: highlights

by Francesca Goudousaki /

At BDB, we’re no strangers to science. In fact, we love it. That’s why we joined Brian Cox, the Royal Society Professor of Public Engagement, for his presentation on feeding the future at Victoria Warehouse, Manchester. Cox was joined by a panel of experts on food to discuss key issues for feeding future populations.

Panellists included:

  • Sir David Baulcombe FRS FMedSci, Regius Professor of Botany at the University of Cambridge
  • Professor Ottoline Leyser CBE FRS, plant developmental biologist at the University of Cambridge and director of the Sainsbury Laboratory
  • Professor Philip Stevenson, Professor of Chemical Ecology at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich
  • Dr Claire Marris, Centre for Food Policy, City, University of London

The panel discussed the growing global population, changing consumption patterns, the impacts of climate change and growing scarcity of water and land, which put pressure on our ability to grow enough food.

Here are some highlights from the discussion:

  • How agriculture began, has evolved and how it will change in the future
  • Concern around our ability to feed future populations
  • Scepticism around GM foods, including the ambiguity of their impact on human health and the growing concern around seed patents from major corporations
  • What GM options are out there
  • Food waste across the whole food chain
  • How to secure a sustainable food chain.

The panellists were joined by food researcher and Michelin star chef, Charles Michel. Michel described how he spent his first years as a chef trying to make food delicious from a technical perspective. After a few years he met Professor Charles Spence, experimental psychologist at the University of Oxford, who has spent time researching how we decide to purchase the foods we do, and how we form our preferences by integrating information from our senses. Michel subsequently became interested in desigining experiences and products that make people go for the ‘right’ choices and be more mindful about what they eat.

Michel showcased different types of every day vegetables, including beetroot, explaining that we currently only tend to eat some parts of these crops, when in fact much more of them is edible. For example, every part of a leek is edible, yet supermarkets tend to only sell part of it, meaning a lot of the food product is wasted. If we start to make the most of these products, we can increase the yield. The take away message was that we should start to change our perceptions and expectations of food – why waste so many edible and delicious parts of a food product?

Currently, there is enough food to feed the entire planet. However, despite this, around 2 billion of people go hungry, while 1.9 billion are overweight or obese. We now even have a situation where we have both overweight and malnourished people worldwide.

Finally, when asked how we can, as individuals, support a more sustainable food chain, the panellists gave a number of different responses:

  • Eat less food, eat more slowly, be mindful of what you are eating
  • Eat more lentils and less meat (The 68th UN General Assembly declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses (IYP))
  • Get involved with and show support for NGOs that are lobbying for a more sustainable food chain
  • Take food seriously
  • Take your brain into the supermarket with you and ask yourself: what do I really want? What do I really need? What will I end up wasting? How can I minimise my carbon footprint?

The future is constantly evolving and we need to keep up with new science and innovations. Perhaps most importantly though, we need to reflect on our current practises and how we can improve how we deal with food today, for a brighter tomorrow.

If you would like to find out how BDB can support you with specialist B2B international marketing communications, please get in touch.

Blog author: Francesca Goudousaki, Account Manager at BDB

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