Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Science and background

16 March 2020

This report outlines the 2019 activities of the Centre for Food Policy at City, University of London. 

10 March 2020

The Cultivated Meat Modeling Consortium, an interdisciplinary group applying computing techniques to the cultivated meat sector, has released a white paper based on the Consortium’s first meeting. The paper sets out ways in which modelling might be able to optimise cultivated meat manufacturing, including assessing different bioreactor designs, designing experiments with different growth media, and generating databases of the characteristics of the cell types (e.g. animal species) that are most likely to be used in cultivated meat.

3 March 2020

This article in the San Francisco Chronicle discusses three synthetic (or “molecular”) alcoholic drinks produced by US startup Endless West: wine, whiskey and sake. The drinks are produced by mixing plain alcohol (from corn) with natural flavourings (e.g. from plants or yeasts) rather than traditional distillation methods (e.g. fermenting grapes to make wine). 

Image: United Soybean Board, Agronomist & Farmer Inspecting Weeds, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
24 February 2020

This paper addresses the concept of co-production of actionable knowledge - where researchers and decision makers interact iteratively to produce knowledge that can be acted on, instead of a one-way flow of information from researchers to decision makers - in relation to research on environmental sustainability. 

13 January 2020

In the documentary Apocalypse Cow, environmentalist and writer George Monbiot argues that much of the current farming system (except for fruit and vegetable production) will be replaced by food from microbes, freeing up large areas of land for rewilding and carbon sequestration. He also calls for fruit and vegetable farming to be reformed, e.g. by using deep-rooted cover crops to build soil fertility.

Image: Rebecca Kahn, Broad Bean Seedlings, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
19 November 2019

This commentary argues that there is scientific consensus on the need to build soil organic carbon because of benefits such as resistance to soil erosion, higher fertility and resilience to drought. The authors note that these benefits of building soil carbon are being obscured by high-profile disagreements on the separate question of whether or not building soil carbon may help to mitigate climate change.

Image: Berkshire Community College Bioscience Image Library, cross section: smooth muscle magnification: 400x, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication
16 July 2019

This paper, co-authored by FCRN member Alexandra Sexton (who is part of Oxford’s Livestock, Environment and People project), identifies key moments in the field of cellular agriculture from the past two decades. The first wave of largely university-based research lasted until the 2013 presentation of the cultured burger created at Maastricht University, while the second wave has seen the emergence of a start-up culture.

Image: Marco Verch, Close Up on the Red and Green Apples, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
9 July 2019

This narrative review paper explores how understanding of nutrition and public health have changed over time, influenced by developments in science, social changes and policy-making. The paper identifies some major paradigm shifts, such as the identification of vitamins in the early 20th century, and the recognition of the link between dietary patterns and some chronic diseases in the late 20th century.

Image: Eva Decker, Moss bioreactor, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 1.0 Generic
11 June 2019

This opinion article suggests that microbial biomass from bacteria, yeasts, or fungi could be used as human food and animal feed, with the advantage of using less land compared to conventional crop production, particularly if feedstocks were derived directly from atmospheric carbon dioxide.

13 May 2019

This free e-book, by Ahmed Khan of CellAgri, gives an overview of the field of cellular agriculture, including the basics of the concept, key terms, challenges in scaling up the technology, cellular agriculture products and regulatory aspects.

8 May 2019

This report by the World Health Organisation calls for urgent action on the global and growing antimicrobial resistance crisis. It reports that “[a]larming levels of resistance have been reported in countries of all income levels, with the result that common diseases are becoming untreatable, and lifesaving medical procedures riskier to perform.”

Image: Daniel Schwen, Tobacco Hornworm, found in Urbana, Illinois, USA, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
29 April 2019

This paper explores the possibility of producing food by growing insect cells in the laboratory using cell culture techniques. It suggests that it may be easier to overcome certain technical challenges to cell culture by using insect cells rather than (say) beef, pork or chicken cells.

24 April 2019

This book by David McClements discusses scientific and technological advances (such as gene editing, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence) in the food system, and outlines both potential benefits to people and the environment and concerns over how the technologies might be used.

8 October 2018

A new lab-grown meat startup, Meatable, claims that it has overcome a key technical barrier - the use of serum from unborn animals to grow cells. Meatable’s meat-growing process allegedly does not need serum, because it uses pluripotent stem cells (avoided by other startups because they are hard to control). Meatable also claims their process only needs to take one cell from an animal (as opposed to a larger piece of tissue).

Image: Rory MacLeod, 195.365, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
2 October 2018

A traditional variety of corn grown by people from Sierra Mixe in southern Mexico can thrive in poor soils without needing much extra fertiliser. A group of researchers have shown that the plant is able to draw nitrogen from the air through mucus-laden aerial roots on its stems. It’s hoped that the trait can eventually be bred into commercial corn strains.

Image: Nick Saltmarsh, Pig, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
2 October 2018

Startup New Age Meats has served the world’s first lab-grown pork sausages to journalists. The fat and muscle cells were allegedly grown from pork cells extracted from a live pig - in contrast to the world’s first lab-grown burger, showcased in 2013, where the initial cell samples came from slaughtered cattle.

2 October 2018

This book, edited by Shakeel Ahmed, showcases the latest research and applications in bio-based food packaging materials.

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