How can technological innovation promote food safety in developing countries?
Technological innovation can sustain food security in developing countries at local production level, at primary production level and at food processing level. In developing countries, products which require cold chain conditions suffer for the lack of cold chains and for the hot climate, a problem which will become even worse with global warming.
Technological innovations can help having foods which are stabilized, heat treated and dried, and can therefore contribute to promote the production and distribution of safe and healthy foods.
What role will animal proteins play in the feeding the planet challenge?
They will play a crucial role as far as nutrition is concerned. Meat and milk proteins, in particular, are proteins with high biological value, and their nutritional contribution is therefore very important in countries where undernourishment is still widespread. What we need is to increase the production of animal proteins, since in 2050 the world’s population is expected to reach over 9 billion people and to feed the world we will have to increase production of these foods at least by 50%. This should be done not only in developed countries, but also in developing countries, where we have to find out varieties, both plant and animal, which allow us to increase production without facing the food security and food waste problems we are facing at the moment.
What’s the first step we have to take to feed the planet?
It has been made abundantly clear that we will need more food to feed the 9 billion people that we will be in 2050, but not only we will need more food, we will also need better food, more nutritious food, more sustainable food. The problem is that 85% of agriculture sector is represented by smallholder agriculture, i.e. farmers who own less than two hectares of land.
This is essentially a market of lonely poor farmers, which is not attractive for private sector players and investors, who prefer doing their business somewhere else. As a consequence, these farmers are affected by low access to credit, low access to markets and high environmental risks.
That’s why we believe that to feed the planet in a sustainable way we have to start investing in rural people, in order to increase their productivity and their revenues and to reduce poverty through rural development programs.
How can international institutions such as the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) support this process?
IFAD (a specialized agency of the United Nations) has been working to promote investments and projects for a long time. Our objectives now are to use public money to attract private sector to invest in smallholder agriculture and to reconcile short-term objectives, as the ones we face when we talk about poverty, with long-term ones, as the ones we face when we talk about sustainability.
Agriculture is, essentially, a private sector activity. It is crucial to integrate this sector in production chains and in agribusiness. Otherwise, we will never achieve a win-win situation with long-term sustainability targets.
What is the impact of climate change on food safety?
Climate change can potentially make our food system vulnerable towards issues in relation with the occurrence of contaminants, particularly of natural toxins. There is a great variety of different contaminants which can enter the food supply, and while pesticides are very well known, less known are so-called natural toxins or also mycotoxin.
Since climate change can have an impact on the production of mycotoxins, to ensure food safety it is important for us to know why some fungi produce toxins which enter the food supply and how can we actually make a food crop, for instance wheat or maize, fit to fight these toxins. There are some resistent plants which are able to detoxify the toxins in the plant: studying them is crucial to know which genes are responsible for the production of the toxins and which genes are responsible for the plant to detoxify these toxins.
How can these studies help ensuring food safety?
When we understand the entire biological system, then we can find the right strategies, like breeding techniques, to breed resistent plant genotypes which have a genetically based resistence against fungi production on the one hand and against mycotoxins production on the other hand.
Our research focuses very much on detection techniques, so before you find a strategy to fight mycotoxins you have to control mycotoxins and identify with novel analytical methods which contaminants produced by fungi are there. Once you know about this, then you can identify right strategies. Nowadays we are looking at the entire food chain to prevent fungal growth on the soil to breed resistent wheat or maize and to identify the right milling strategies and baking strategies to reduce mycotoxins in the food factory.
The Government of Nepal wants to amend its Food Safety Act to broaden the definition of food and define more types of malpractice in food trade. The changes in the law are being designed to control food adulteration and “other wrongdoings”.
A spokesman for the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DFTQC) said the changes will involve all types of edibles, but not tobacco or cosmetics. Nepal law currently defines adulteration as that involving food. The changes will add chemical residues, microbes and toxins to the adulteration category.
Government action will also come faster with the changes. Currently, DFTQC can only file violations. Under new laws fines will be increase by about 20 times current rates.
Nepal’s existing food act was written in 1967. It establishes four areas where misconduct could be found: selling contaminated food, selling sub-standard products, running a food business without a license and receiving compensation payments.
Food Safety News, 28 June 2016 – www.foodsafetynews.com
Read more: http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/06/first-update-to-food-safety-law-since-1967-in-nepal/#.V3Ul51ey_8l
What role can European food research play in meeting the feeding the planet challenge?
First of all I have to say that the food sector in Europe has to change. If we really want to feed the world, as we all would like to do, and if we want to do it sustainably, that comes with a lot of challenges and all these challenges are basically music to the ears of scientists. They should therefore interpret these challenges because we need to find new ways of protecting crops, we need to find new ways of improving the agricultural production systems, making them more sustainable, making them more robust and resilient.
What is the first step we have to take?
We have to close cycles in nitrogen, in fresh water, in phosphate and much more. There is a treasure chest of challenges for food and agricultural research in Europe and the only thing I can say now is let’s get it started. Let’s start collecting what we have and implementing it and building on that to take the next step in the challenges that we face.
Haiti has about 3.6 million food insecure people, including 1.5 million in critical situations. The food aid program implemented by France, aims to strengthen local production and to support the national school feeding policy.
In order to guarantee income for Haitian farmers, France has been the first partner of Haiti to allocate all of its food aid credits to a program of purchases of local products. More than 12,000 tons of local products have been purchased from 7,500 small Haitian producers between 2005 and 2015, 11,985 tons of cereals (rice and ground corn) and 55 tonnes of pulses (beans and pigeon peas).
This strategy has contributed effectively to the development of a national policy of purchasing of local agricultural products and a school feeding policy, respectively controlled by the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development and the Ministry of National Education.
Haiti Libre, 14 June 2016 – www.haitilibre.com
Read more: www.haitilibre.com/en/news-17733-haiti-humanitarian-france-improves-food-security-in-schools.html
How is China addressing the food sustainability issue and what role are research and innovation playing in this process?
In the next five years in China the innovation, genetic ad productivity improvements will be emphasized to increase yields instead of the use of land and water. Moreover, we will be working to improve food quality instead of quantity to make consumers confident in the use of domestic food as well. These are our main prioirites as far as research and innovation are concerned.
The World Food Research and Innovation Forum is working to promote international cooperation to meet the Feeding the planet challenge. What is the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences doing as far as international cooperation is concerned?
We are working with several Institutions all over the world and we are working to strengthen international cooperation in science, technology and research in several ways. First of all we are building up some joint labs with international institutions. Second, we are exchanging some young talents. Third, we are joining international programs with our Centers. Last, but not least, the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences is home to science and technology innovation programs, some of which are open to international cooperation.