Global food security – We are all part of the problem, and we can all be part of the solution

We need a new “Green Revolution” if we’re going to feed the world’s growing population, argues Professor Bill Davies, from Lancaster University, who is leading a free online course on food security starting next month.

Global food security

The latest report by the International Panel on Climate Change made depressing reading for those of us who spend our lives thinking about how to make food available to the billion plus people who go to bed hungry every night. That number is due to double in the next few decades, and a warming planet makes the task much harder.

A few days before the report’s publication I spent a week in Mexico at CIMMYT, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center credited with launching the “Green Revolution” of the 1960s. The meeting celebrated 100 years since the birth of Norman Borlaug, the American plant breeder who developed the high yielding dwarf wheat cultivars which increased the availability of food to millions of people around the world.

While the impact of these new wheat varieties is undeniable, not everyone has been able to take advantage of them.  Many hungry people, including large numbers of small holder farmers, have little access to the water and nitrogen fertiliser needed to get high yields from these crops.

One focus of the meeting in Mexico was a discussion of how we create another “Green Revolution” that, this time, helps the poorest as well.  It was an interesting gathering involving 700 delegates from around the world, including prominent scientists, economists and sociologists, and Howard G. Buffett, Chairman and CEO of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation

As a tangible contribution, a new International wheat yield partnership was launched, with substantial funding from many countries including the UK. My colleagues from Lancaster University and I hope to contribute research to that programme.

While there is still much focus on the potential contribution of plant genetics, there is also considerable interest in how farming systems can make a difference, including agro-ecology and programmes to improve soil health.  But increasing the availability of food is not just about science and crop management – it’s also about changing behaviour, and putting the consumer closer to the centre of the food system. So the approach might be described as Genetics x Environment x Management x Society or G x E x M x S.

For me, this is one of the big challenges of our time, which is why colleagues from Lancaster Environment Centre and I are leading this free online course.  We’ve been discussing these issues on video with a range of players in the food system: from top plant scientists and social scientists, to innovative producers and retailers, and policy makers, food campaigners and Non-Government Organisations (NGOs).

We are all part of the problem, and we can all be part of the solution. If you want to learn more and find out about the contribution you could make – whether you are a plant scientist, social scientist, food producer, campaigner or just interested – please join us on Global food security: addressing the challenge, starting on 12 May.

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Global food security - We are all part of the problem

Global food security - We are all part of the problem

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Comments (23)

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  • onina

    Hi,yes I would be part of the solution by saying that: The world is able to overfeed the worldwide community on seeing ,the all producing industries technologies we have at our disposal ,the solution should be found .But, nowadays the problem of interest made us be selfish to share food correctly throughout all parts of the world.
    In ,a certain scale,to share advanced technologies between developed countries and undeveloped countries unable to produce them.

    • Justin Rwema

      As my contribution in this course, the problem is focused on the inequality capacities between countries. Secondly let me ask why most of powerful countries doesn’t finance agricultural technology and reduce nuclear projects?

  • Julia Kiden

    I missed the other one week topics can I have the course topics in PDF as my auto midia player is not active

  • Julia Kiden

    How possible scientifically to curb the issue of dry spell in attetpme to in increase crop production to fight food insecurity due to lengthy absence of rain, i.e when there no rain to adopt irrigation system.

  • Lynn Ferguson

    Hi is this course biased to thinking the only option are GM seed, patented seed, and chemical fertilisers or is biodiversity and organic farming considered. Farmers in India and parts of the US are realising how short sighted the use of patented seeds is. Who is funding the course please?

    • Cary Clark

      Yes, I would also like to know who is funding this course. Talking about another Green Revolution is so out-of-date. If the Green Revolution had been so good why did it not continue. Let’s ask about the soil degradation and illness rates left behind in India or the suicide rates from micro-finance to borrow for fertilizers etc…The planet is growing enough food. Look at how much we throw away. What about look at FAO’s climate smart agriculture methods like Conservation Agriculture?

    • Abiud Gamba - ACT Field Officer

      We need to consider the environment resilient in this

  • Martine Adriana

    I look forward to participating in this important course, food security, learning from the expert in the field. Really, an interesting experience as the pressure is only a matter of having a variety of perspectives regarding food security and its solutions.

  • Dhanya Rajan

    Hi! I would like to know if this course is over already or it’s still yet to begin.Thanks 🙂

  • christine Takai

    hoping this course will put the global in a position to curb this problem that is affecting so many livelihoods in the world and it seems to be in the increase, thanks for making it free for many people to access it and get answers to so many questions at hand.

  • Marjorie Chon

    I`ve also done research on other sites and found that PDFfiller has 10K positive reviews from an independent review site Shopper approved here: http://goo.gl/E6nWob

  • Mohammed Awal Alidu

    Hi professor Bill, I am agriculture officer traineer @ women service foundation-Ghana, as part of my roles of training women farmer on current agriculture and climate change technologist to improve and increase production and adapt to the current environments changes, am interested in learning more about climate change issues and food security in order to impact more knowledge of climate and food security to the target beneficiaries in the project areas.

  • María Vera

    Hi professor Bill, I am an agroindustrial engineer from Peru very interested in food security issues, I would like to help producers or companies to become more responsible with the quality and conditions their products provide to protect their customers’ health. There is always something useful to learn, to put into practice even more if related to global food security.

  • Bookie Ezeomah

    Hi Bill,
    I’m really eager to start this course as I have just rounded up the taught aspect of my MSc on Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security. I am currently working on my research which is tilted Food Culture, Nutrition Security and Development using some indigenous communities in FCT, Nigeria. One of the courses I enjoyed the most was Poverty and Food Security during which we had a lot of debates on food poverty and the politicisation of food security. I hope this course will spark progressive debates and proffers solutions to the global issue of food as well as nutrition security.

  • Abdi Geleta Gebissa

    Hi Professor Bill, thanks a lot for you offer me Global food security course in the coming next week. I have BSc in Public Health Officer, so I am so very interested to follow it and improve my knowledge about food security. Did the course has relevance with human health or more related to stock animals? Most of the third world countries and developed country are suffering with a disease like botulism, fungal and other microbial disease which some of the foods contaminated and harbor those dangerous diseases and also with a shortage of nutritious foods. So I am eager to follow your lesson and also what is an advantage for my future career too?

  • Yvonne Luna

    Hi Bill, I am interested in this course but don’t see any mention of animal welfare. I recently read Farmageddon by Philip Lymbery, the CEO of Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) and my interest lies in the issues raised in this book, including looking at the price of cheap meat in terms of the environmental and social impact of intensive factory farming which has devastated vast tracks of land in many third world countries where the local people are starving and suffering serious health issues caused precisely by the presence of these industries. Lymbery suggests many positive, workable solutions, arguing, for example, that the answers lie mainly in returning to smaller farming units and lowering meat consumption due to quantities of lands being taken over to feed livestock. I’m also interested in the arguments against the genetically mutated superwheats whose protein has been shown to be an appetite stimulant – so leading to overeating – and a cause of the increasing problems with allergies. So I would like to know to what extent these issues are raised in the course, and to what extent the statistics and research laid out in Farmageddon are looked into. Many thanks. Yvonne Luna

  • Andrea

    Hi, I really like this course, but unfortunately isn’t available? I see the lessons even after the end of the course? This course will start again?
    Bye
    Andrea

    • The FutureLearn team

      Hi Andrea,
      Yes, this course has now ended. You can still join it and work your way through the steps, although there probably won’t be as many learners online to discuss your ideas with.
      Alternatively, you might like to try ‘Tackling the Global Food Crisis: Supply Chain Integrity’, which starts on 17 November. You can join the course here: http://www.futurelearn.com/courses/global-food-crisis.
      Thanks,
      Luke

  • Elizabeth Dow

    Having completed two other courses via future learn, ‘Climate change’ and ‘When Worlds Collide’, this course appears to be the natural follow on to my understanding of the problems we are facing now, and certainly in the future with regard to global food security I am looking forward to learning more about this subject. I feel very privileged to have been able to study (free) with these future learn courses.

    • The FutureLearn team

      Hi Elizabeth, thank you so much for getting in touch, it is really great to hear that you have enjoyed your experience on FutureLearn so far and are continuing sign up to our partners courses. We hope you enjoy it!

  • Robert

    I’ll be taking this course but will be approaching it from the position of a heretic. Anyone familiar with the Global Footprint Network and the concept of “overshoot”, the rapid growth of the consumer class from the emerging economies, our planet’s broken hydrological cycle, pest and disease migration, threats to our biodiversity and the ravages of overconsumption manifested in deforestation, desertification and the collapse of global fisheries will probably be a hard sell on the prospects of another Green Revolution.

    • The FutureLearn team

      Hi Robert, it’s great to hear from you. We hope that you will enjoy sharing your thoughts with other learners in the discussion threads throughout the course. Happy learning.

      • Amjad Saeed

        Hi Robert, thanks for offering his course…..I hope that we will learn a lot from your innovative ideas and experiences. Cheers