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Cambridge Global Food Security

An Interdisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Cambridge

A seminar series organised in association with the University of Cambridge Strategic Initiative in Global Food Security aimed for undergraduate students and early career researchers.

The Food Futures in the World Seminar Series starts this month:

Wednesday 18 February 2015 

Professor Andrew Balmford
Professor of Conservation Science, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge
Feeding the world without costing the earth

Wednesday 4 March 2015
Dr Tim Fox
Head of Energy and Environment, Institute of Mechanical Engineers
Food Wastage and Global Food Security
Wednesday 11 March 2015
Dr Astley Hastings
Research Fellow, The School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen
Resource competition: Supporting a growing population whilst reducing greenhouse gas emissions

All seminars are at 1.00 pm in the Biffen Lecture Theatre, Department of Genetics, Downing Site. (

Abstracts for the seminars are included below.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Jacquelyne Poon, Luke Braidwood and Claire Agius

Department of Plant Sciences


Professor Andrew Balmford, Feeding the world without costing the earth

Opinions over how to limit the immense impact of agriculture on the rest of biodiversity are divided: is it better to retain on-farm wildlife but at the cost of lowering yields, or to increase yields, limit the area needed for farming and thereby retain larger areas under natural habitats – or indeed something between the two?  Professor Andrew Balmford will introduce a model designed to answer this question, and review the empirical evidence to date. He will conclude that this largely supports the second, so-called land-sparing approach to reconciling agriculture and farming, but that important questions remain: over the generality of these findings for different biota and for ecosystem services, over how best to increase yields while limiting environmental externalities, and over how to couple yield growth to habitat retention and restoration.

Dr Tim Fox, Food Wastage and Global Food Security

Today, we produce about four billion metric tonnes of food per annum. Yet due to poor practices in harvesting, storage and transportation leading to losses, as well as market and consumer waste, it is estimated that 30–50% (or 1.2–2 billion tonnes) of all food produced never reaches a human stomach. Furthermore, this figure does not reflect the fact that large amounts of water, energy and land are used unnecessarily in the production of foodstuffs which simply end up as wastage. This level of resource waste is a tragedy that cannot continue if we are to succeed in the challenge of sustainably meeting human needs in the 21st Century. Dr Tim Fox will present the findings of the Institution's two recent reports in this area, 'Global Food: Waste Not, Want Not' and 'A Tank of Cold: Cleantech Leapfrog to a More Food Secure World' and consider what engineers, governments, businesses and the public need to do to reduce food wastage and thereby help underpin international food security.

Dr Astley Hastings, Resource competition: Supporting a growing population whilst reducing greenhouse gas emissions

The numbers of humans on living on Mother Earth is rapidly increasing from the 7.2 billion today who are currently consuming the output of more than one planet. Improvements in agriculture has provided a more plentiful and richer diet and advances in medical science and its practice has reduced infant and maternal mortality and increased longevity.  This reduction in mortality and current fertility rates has locked in population growth rate of around 1% per year that will lead to a population of between 9-10 billion by 2050 and over 11 billion by 2100. These technological and scientific advances are made possible by consuming energy, to make chemicals and products and power machinery to do work for us. This energy is mainly derived from coal, oil and natural gas, whose energy release emits greenhouse gasses that warms the climate and threatens the environment in which we live. The existing population with its current economic activity is already challenging the availability of resources or water, land, minerals and energy. However, adding an extra 30% of humans and satisfying their living standard aspirations whilst reduce greenhouse gas emissions will cause an intense completion for these resources. This presentation will explore this competition and the apparent dichotomy between economic activity and greenhouse gas emission reduction.

Wednesday, 18 February, 2015 - 13:00 to Wednesday, 11 March, 2015 - 13:00
Contact name: 
Jacquelyne Poon
Contact email: 
Event location: 
Biffen Lecture Theatre, Department of Genetics, Downing Site