Science role in food is ‘urgent’, claims tech body

Delivering sustainable nutrition through new farming and manufacturing technologies is a key theme

There is a “clear and urgent” need for science and technology to play a role in sustainable food and food security, according to a report by the Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST).

Identifying six key areas in which to build a sustainable food system, the institute warned that increasing pressure on environmental resources, namely water, soil, air, and biodiversity – within the context of climate change – would lead to “subsequent social and economic changes that will impact the way we live and interact with our environment”.

Through its ‘Sustainable Food System Framework: A Focus on Food Sustainability’ report, the IFST said it was able to develop guidance for the food industry to mitigate its first theme, resource risks and pressures.

Need for healthy, sustainable diets

In its second theme, the IFST argued that there was a need for the food system to deliver healthy, sustainable diets, adding that it could help develop best practice guidance on how to incorporate sustainability into the assessment of new processes and products.

The report claimed that the current economic model of “take-produce-consume-discard” was unsustainable.

In its third theme, it advocated the need for a circular economy and sustainable manufacturing, suggesting it was in a position to support and promote industry efforts to increase resource efficiency through reducing energy, waste and water.

It also claimed there were opportunities with novel production systems and ingredients for developing new farming and manufacturing technologies to help achieve its fourth theme – delivering sustainable nutrition.

Livelihoods and working conditions

Further themes included how the livelihoods and working conditions of the 1bn-plus people who work in the food system needed to be improved; and how new software and data could help drive improvements in food system sustainability and strengthen consumer trust.

“The Sustainable Food System Framework is intended as a beginning rather than a standalone piece of work, to guide the development of further, more specific outcomes that IFST can drive or support,” said John Bassett, policy and scientific development director at the IFST.

“We aim to provide practical support for those looking to implement sustainable practices, and proactive messaging to encourage joined up, evidence-based policy and strategy development by UK government and food system stakeholders.”

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