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The University of Southampton

Food security public lecture  Event

Food security
13 September 2017
The Royal Society, London

Event details

The second event in our environment public lecture series took place on Wednesday 13 September at the Royal Society, London and focused on food security. Keynote lectures from Professor Guy Poppy, Professor Sir Charles Godfray CBE FRS and Professor Christine Williams OBE were preceded by a panel discussion.

Food security is one of the greatest challenges facing mankind in the 21st century.

In these talks, we considered the world’s food system and the issues involved in ensuring food security. While specific issues relating to particular pillars of food security will be presented, discussions will focus on holistic approaches to address the nexus of the perfect storm rather than solutions that involve working in siloes.

Ensuring food security links to most of the other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed by the UN and it is often said that getting food right will enable many of the other challenges facing mankind to be addressed too.

In his term as the UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir John Beddington coined the term ‘the Perfect Storm’ highlighting the nexus of food, water and energy, all of which needed increasing by 30–50 per cent by 2030 in order to stop events such as mass migration and conflict from occurring.

The series of protests and demonstrations across the Middle East and North Africa in 2010 known as the Arab Spring have been attributed to food price hikes, increasingly intensified agriculture associated with reductions in biodiversity, contributions to climate change and much environmental degradation.

An increasing population, changes in dietary demands associated with wealth and other socio-economic factors, means we currently have approaching one billion people malnourished and a similar number suffering from nutritional related issues such as obesity.

The concepts of Sustainable Intensification and Climate Smart Agriculture are often proposed as ways to address increasing demand and thus production, but to be food secure one needs access and an ability to utilise food to have a healthy and appropriate diet.


Keynote speakers

Professor Guy Poppy
Professor Guy Poppy is Chief Scientific Adviser to the Food Standards Agency (UK Govt) and is a Professor of Ecology in Biological Sciences at the University of Southampton. Guy gained his DPhil from Oxford University and conducts research in many areas relating to environmental sciences. He was the head of Biological Sciences at the University of Southampton and managed the move of this large school into a new £45 million Life Sciences Building in 2010. He has published over 100 peer-reviewed papers in journals including Nature and PNAS which have received over 7000 citations. Many have become citation classics which have also influenced environmental policies across the world. He was the university director of interdisciplinary research from 2011-2014 overseeing 11 university strategic research groups addressing grand challenges, as well as the development of interdisciplinary Institutes such as Life Sciences and Web sciences. He is currently on secondment as the Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government’s Food Standards Agency where he is part of the Government’s circle of CSA’s led by the Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Mark Walport. His personal research involves leading a large interdisciplinary team researching ecosystem services with a particular focus on securing food supplies without affecting the quality of the environment. This includes projects in Africa, South Asia and South America where conservation versus agriculture is a major issue of direct relevance to delivering global food security and to several of the Millenium Development Goals. He was a panel member for the REF2014 and is the UK scientific representative for European COST actions alongside advising/sitting on food security initiatives across the World. He has regularly participated in the public understanding of science and is passionate about educating the next generation about science and the environment. Achieving food security is important for everyone and something we should all be interested in delivering.

Professor Sir Charles Godfray CBE FRS
Professor Sir Charles Godfray is a population biologist with broad interests in science and the interplay of science and policy. He has spent his career at Oxford University and Imperial College and is currently Hope Professor of Entomology and Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food at Oxford. His research involves experimental and theoretical studies in population and community ecology, epidemiology and evolutionary biology. The two main current projects in his laboratory involve experimental studies of the interactions between aphids and their food plants, natural enemies and symbionts, and the control of malaria vectoring mosquitoes using novel genetic interventions. He is particularly interested in food security and chaired the Lead Expert Group of the UK Government Office of Science’s Foresight project on the Future of Food and Farming and is currently chair of Defra’s Science Advisory Council. He was elected FRS in 2001 and became CBE in 2011.

Professor Christine Williams OBE
Professor Christine Williams took up her role as External Director Food Agriculture and Health at the University of Reading in 2015 following the end of her six year term as Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research & Innovation) at the University. She is the current Chair of the BBSRC Agriculture and Food Security Advisory Panel. Her own research is primarily concerned with understanding the impact of dietary fats on human health, particularly in relation to cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance; since 1976 she has published over 200 peer reviewed publications. She was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Honours list in 2013 for her contribution to Higher Education and nutritional sciences. Between 1998 and 2001 she was the President of the UK Nutrition Society and chaired the BBSRC Agri-Food Committee (2003-2006). She is a Fellow of the Society of Biology, of the Association for Nutrition and was elected a Fellow of International Union of Nutritional Sciences in 2013.

Joining our Keynote Speakers for a Panel Discussion will be;

Professor Barrie Margetts, Emeritus Professor within Medicine at the University of Southampton

Professor Tiina Roose, Professor of Biological and Environmental Modelling, Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Southampton

Professor Nyovani Madise, Professor of Demography & Social Statistics, Co-Director Centre for Global Health, Population, Poverty and Policy at the University of Southampton

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