There is reason for optimism, however. Over the last century, developments such as the Haber-Bosch nitrogen fixation process, advances in fertilisers, mechanisation and innovative breeding techniques have significantly improved agricultural yield. Developments in gene manipulation technologies have already transformed many aspects of agriculture, resulting in crops with genetic traits that boost yields, nutritional value, drought resistance and more. This technology is relatively young, and with the rise of gene-editing technologies, the stage is set for rapid advances in this arena.
There are new issues to resolve. The daily consumption of calories is increasing globally, and a growing middle class — especially in developing countries — is increasing demand for animal protein, which is perceived as being of higher quality. However, there is also a growing awareness that we can find protein alternatives and reduce our consumption of meat to curb the greenhouse emissions of livestock. A growing range of alternative proteins have a role to play here, from plant-based sources to cell-cultured beef.
Resolving issues with food waste will also help. Currently, around 40 per cent of globally produced food is wasted. This is enough to support a significant amount of the global population if we manage to prevent the loss and maintain this in the food chain through novel, innovative processes.
We can also improve global health through food. Changes in food consumption — the increase in daily calories and the ways we process and prepare food, for example — have had a big impact on the state of metabolic health globally; these lifestyle and diet changes have driven obesity and diabetes to the level of a global pandemic. This can be turned around by moving from producing calories to producing valuable, healthy food using food as an important factor to maintain and improve health. For a significant proportion of the global population, basic access to nutrition is the priority. But for many lucky enough to live in wealthier nations, the emphasis will move towards personalised nutrition for increased health and quality of life, fuelled by advances in consumer technology.
SELECTION OF GESDA BEST READS AND KEY REPORTS:
Published in January 2023, The use of silkworm pupae (Bombyx mori) meal as an alternative protein source for poultry, by a team of researchers from Egypt, India and Saudi Arabia illuminates the horizon of sustainable poultry nutrition. The research unravels the game-changing potential of silkworm pupae meal, highlighting its nutritious properties that greatly benefit poultry performance. In May, two Chinese researchers highlighted the intersection of agro-ecological sustainability and the transformative power of modern genetic techniques in Advancing agro-ecological sustainability through emerging genetic approaches in crop improvement for plants. The paper underscores the necessity for robust regulatory systems and increased global investments, especially in developing nations, to leverage these genetic breakthroughs for sustainable agriculture. Priority areas for investment in more sustainable and climate-resilient livestock systems was published in June by an international research effort. It bridges adaptation and mitigation goals, shining a light on priority zones across 132 LMICs, spotlighting countries such as India, Brazil, China, Pakistan, and Sudan as prime candidates for investment in a sustainable livestock transformation.