Plants science in the fight against food insecurity – University of Copenhagen

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18 November 2015

Plants science in the fight against food insecurity

How can plant science help overcome the challenges of food security? This is commented upon in an article in Nature Plants by Copenhagen Plant Science Centre scientist John R. Porter and John S. I. Ingram from the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford.

What is food (in)security?
Not to be confused with food toxicity and biosafety, food security is more of a socio-economic term. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations defines a state of food security when “all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.

We face increasing hazards concerning food security
Changes in the climate and in our dietary habits, as well as depletion of natural resources, affect the ability to secure sufficient food for a growing world population. While some people consume too much, others consume too little. Current agricultural practices over-exploit the environment and emit significant amounts of greenhouse gasses. Climate change and the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather threaten the food production, while upsetting its optimal distribution and storage.

New concepts, tools and approaches are needed
An interdisciplinary approach to address these challenges is necessary. This is argued by the authors John R. Porter and John S. I. Ingram in a new article “Plant science and the food security agenda” in Nature Plants. Any viable solution is to be found using a combination of social science, economics, plant science, humanities, and the biophysical sciences.

Plant science can contribute to better crop nutrient content and higher productivity
Molecular biology and genetic approaches can increase the nutrient content in crops and contribute to retaining nutrients during processing, storage and cooking. Translating results and observations from the laboratory to the field is a goal that still needs to be reached. It is clear, however, that plant science has an important role to play in the food security agenda.

Read more about Professor John Roy Porters research on climate and food security here ( )

Written by Lene Rasmussen, CPSC coordinator

Edited by Konstantinos Vavitsas, PhD fellow at CPSC.