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UK scientists tackle food security

The Universities of Exeter and Bristol, in partnership with Rothamsted Research are joining forces to tackle one of the biggest challenges facing humanity: how can we feed a growing population?

Every 3.6 seconds someone in the world dies of hunger, and more than a billion people in the world suffer from starvation.

Moreover, by 2030 the human population of the planet will exceed 8.3 billion and will need to generate 50% more food. Ensuring global food security is therefore one of the biggest challenges facing humanity, and it can only be achieved by dramatic increases in food availability across the world. Fundamental research in plant and animal science, sustainable agriculture, land use and ecosystem services, in addition to addressing the impact of social science to sustainable production and consumption, will be pivotal to meeting this exceptional challenge.

Through a strategic alliance on food security research, these three institutions will harness their expertise across a range of disciplines, from biosciences to economics.

Professor Michael Winter OBE, of the University of Exeter, chair of the Working Group established to set up the alliance, said: “The range of relevant work in all three institutions is enormously wide. It encompasses not only bioscientists engaged in plant breeding and tackling crop diseases, but also leading work on farm animal welfare at Bristol’s School of Veterinary Science and the full breadth of economic and social science expertise at Exeter and Bristol.”

Professor Alistair Hetherington at the University of Bristol explained: “We need to work together to achieve both the critical mass and the level of cross-disciplinarity required to tackle complex issues of farming, food and the land.”

Professor Maurice Moloney, Director of Rothamsted Research, commented on the partnership, saying: “Collaborations of this nature are essential as we look to meet the challenges of global food and energy security.” He also highlighted Rothamsted’s exciting new research facility: “The new Farm Platform, at North Wyke in Devon, gives us the facilities and technology to conduct collaborative research and we are looking for researchers to work with us on this Platform to explore alternative land use scenarios and their impacts.”

A formal launch of the new alliance will take place in London in autumn 2011.

Date: 12 July 2011

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