There’s a new goal post for agriculture: it’s nutrition

By Shenggen Fan, Sivan Yosef, and Rajul Pandya-Lorch

Agriculture is the single most important innovation in human history. Over the course of thousands of years, it has staved off hunger, allowed populations to leave their hunter-gatherer lives behind, and freed up time for other pursuits (like inventing writing and the wheel!) that have propelled societies forward. As recently as the 1970s the Green Revolution – a global push to improve and produce more wheat and rice – brought India back from the brink of mass famine. The Green Revolution improved the lives of one billion people around the world. This number is all the more impressive when considering that the world population was four billion at the time.

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A global push to produce more rice brought India back from the brink of famine in the 1970s.

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National Meadows Day 2018

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British wildflower meadows are a hive of biological diversity but have largely been lost due to conversion to agriculture. CC0 Couleur via Pixabay

 

National meadows day is an annual awareness event focussed around the first Saturday of July, but up and down the country activities took over the whole weekend. Traditionally managed British meadows are characterised by low soil fertility and actively managed cutting or grazing, supporting a range of colourful flowering species including the oxeye daisies seen in the picture above. These species rich meadows, which used to cover much of England’s countryside, were traditionally generated by farmers managing for hay and pasture. Ironically these important habitats have now largely been eradicated by modern agriculture. In recognition of this fact there are now numerous conservation projects and financial incentives in place to encourage the maintenance and regeneration of British Meadows. But with so many environmental schemes and species vying for position in British conservation why are meadows so important and how can agriculture help? Continue reading

To bee or not to bee

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Honeybee on apple blossom. Image Credit: Myriams-Fotos via Pixabay (CC0)

This Sunday the UK celebrated World Bee Day (May 20th); the first year of the now to be annual UN awareness event aimed at increasing our sensitivity to the global importance and increasing struggle of pollinators. Whilst the event hopes to increase understanding of pollinators generally, including butterflies, moths, birds and bats, the focus is strongly on wild and managed bees for their economic importance. And justly so; bees visit over 70 crops in the UK alone and are worth billions worldwide in the pollination service they provide. However, it would be difficult to miss the worryingly-frequent headlines warning of bee decline both in the UK and globally as a result of human activities.

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How Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) Enter the Food Chain in non-GMO Producing Countries

The use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in livestock and crops, as well as trade and consumption of GMOs are highly controversial topics.

Proponents of genetic engineering argue that GMOs represent the only viable solution to food shortages in an ever-growing global population. They claim that the use of GMOs in agriculture and their consumption have caused no harm to livestock or humans so far. Heated debate also persists over GMO food labelling, with food manufacturers in the USA arguing that mandatory GMO labelling hinders the development of agricultural biotechnology, and may also “exacerbate the misconception” that GMOs endanger human health. Continue reading

Capitalising on Africa’s agriculture to achieve ‘zero hunger’

 

 

It’s a sobering fact that, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), nearly 233 million children, women and men in Africa went to bed each night hungry in 2014-16.

CABI Board Member and 2017 Africa Food Prize winner Professor Ruth Oniang’o has devoted her career helping farmers grow nutritious and healthy crops, to not only help reduce hunger but to achieve sustainable and profitable livelihoods.

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How can we inspire young people to pursue careers in agriculture?

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Recently I had the opportunity to return to my old university – The University of Sheffield – and take part in a networking event for early career researchers in plant physiology. The event was fully booked and attended by people soon to finish their undergraduate degrees, through to those with a good few years of post-doctoral research experience under their belts. Many were carrying out research that would feed directly into improving agriculture, particularly plant breeding. Others were working on more diverse topics such as Arctic browning but accumulating numerous field skills that would be applicable to the agricultural sector.

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One Health: free online course from FutureLearn features CABI authors

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One Health is about connectedness: "the collaborative efforts of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally, and globally to attain optimal health for people, animals, plants and our environment”.

On One Health Day, November 3rd 2016, CABI's editors held a One Health (#OneHealth) Blogathon to focus attention, contributing a total of 6 blogs to Handpicked… and Carefully Sorted, each written from the viewpoint of a different sector.   Our Plantwise Blog contributed One Health: Plantwise’s ambition to improve the health of people, plants and animals.

We hope you found them informative but your learning need not be confined to our blogs!

Sign up to a free online One Health course from FutureLearn: starts November 7th 2016, runs for 6 weeks. Lecturers are the CABI authors Esther Schelling,  Jakob Zinsstag and Bassirou Bonfoh of Swiss Tropical & Public Health Institute.

Esther, Jakob  and Bassirou are all authors of chapters in CABI’s  book One Health: The Theory and Practice of Integrated Health Approaches [2015].  Indeed Esther and Jakob are also co-editors.

FutureLearn  courses are easy to follow and well-paced: you get one unit per week.  I speak from experience as because of my interest in evidence-based medicine, in October 2015, I took "Informed Health Consumer: Making Sense of Evidence". 

I hope you can make use of this One Health course.

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