Knowledge for a sustainable world

Professor Delia Grace Randolph, Professor of Food Safety Systems at NRI, has been awarded the Peter Ellis award for ‘exceptional contributions to veterinary epidemiology’. Delia was presented with this prestigious award in Halifax, Canada during the ISVEE – the International Symposium of Veterinary Epidemiology and Economics – which meets every three years.

One of the biggest challenges in relation to food is managing loss and waste, not just in homes, but throughout the food system from pre-production to consumption. In August, Kew Gardens hosted a panel discussion as part of its ‘Food Forever’ series of evening talks, on how food loss and waste relates to the way we live in the 21st century, and what can be done to combat it.

It is estimated that 10% of the world’s population rely on cassava as a staple food. Cassava is one of the world’s most versatile crops, with uses for both food and industry –for example, it can be used to make animal feed, ethanol, or adhesives. As a food, although cassava is probably the most energy-dense of all staples, it is lacking in micronutrients.

Like many endangered species worldwide, orangutan populations are facing multiple threats from habitat loss, poaching and illegal trade. Conflicts with humans also arise, as competition between the two species increases due to the shrinking of land and natural resources.

Over the last 15 years, there has been a significant expansion of private-sector agricultural investments in low- and middle-income countries. Too often, such investments have led to dispossessions, forced resettlements, lost livelihoods and human rights abuses for smallholders and local communities, with few real beneficiaries.

Gender equity may not immediately come to mind when thinking about crop breeding. However, the influence of gender roles and social relationships on crop breeding is considerable, particularly with root, tuber and banana (RTB) crops which are vital for people’s food and income across sub-Saharan Africa.

The sustainable development agenda is a response to a new class of challenges that call into question current patterns of human activity in relation to production and consumption, access and distribution of resources, and the way these processes and patterns of human activity are governed and directed.

Every year, viral diseases wreak havoc worldwide on tomato and cucurbit crops (squash, pumpkin, courgette), causing huge yield losses ranging from 15% to 100%, accounting for losses of around €3.5 billion in Europe alone. The emergence of new and devastating plant viruses is fuelled by a combination of climate change, rising global trade and more interconnected agricultural sectors.

Walking through a field of sorghum, your vision might be drawn upwards to the plant’s impressively tall stalks, its waxy green leaves or its large panicles. You may be unaware of what is happening to the crops under your feet. A cereal species of the grass family (Poaceae), sorghum is an important crop worldwide.

Wine connoisseurs might describe the taste of a wine as earthy, round, robust, crisp, mellow, oaky, or any number of specialist terms. Much of the taste is attributed to its terroir – a term encompassing the complete natural environment in which a particular crop is produced, including factors such as the soil, topography, and climate.

Valerie Nelson and Adrienne Martin |

How can we change corporate behaviour to stop the harm it causes to workers, Indigenous Peoples, local communities and environments in low- and middle-income countries? Corporate power has grown through globalisation, and state power to curb corporate impacts has decreased. Voluntary initiatives are widely promoted as a responsible business solution to international supply chain challenges.

Forests are critically important – they encompass vast terrestrial biodiversity, they are culturally, spiritually and economically significant to millions of local communities, Indigenous Peoples and producers. Because of their role as carbon sinks, the protection and restoration of forests is central to any of humanity’s efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change.