Plants and the future of global food security

For Fascination of Plants Day 2012, the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture & Food Innovation (QAAFI), the Global Change Institute (GCI) and the UQ Faculty of Science hosted a lecture by Julian Cribb.

“Feeding 10 billion people sustainably in the mid-late 21st century is the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. While food demand will double by 2060, scarcities are emerging of almost all resources required to satisfy it. This challenges us to rethink food itself and how we produce it, and to create diets and foods for the future that are safe, healthy, nutritious and tread less heavily on the planet. The role of plants in this will be absolutely critical and the opportunities enormous.”

Julian Cribb’s talk begain with an overview of a “constellation of limitations”, including peak oil, water, soil, phosphate and land. In the face of such a dire prognosis for global food supply Julian highlighted opportunities that may be found amongst these threats. Arguably focusing on a technocratic vision of solving future crises, key components of potential solutions included urban renewal and design, and greater fudning fro R&D. However, case studies included vat grown sausage for general protein needs, and large-scale algae farms that could provide new sources of fuel. Questioned as to consumer’s willingness to eat such types of food it was argued that no-one knows what’s in their pie or sausage roll anyway. Alongside these contentious possibilities lay some fascinating facts about plants. With a global catalogue of some 26,000 known edible plants it was wondered what “food fashions” could drive consumer awareness, and with it demand and production. Are consumers expected to be both more knowledgable yet blissfully ignorant when told to?

The full lecture can be found here.

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