Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems

Eursafe event focuses on transforming food systems

International meeting considers challenges of sustainably feeding the world’s growing population.

Researchers from across Europe and beyond met in Edinburgh to share the latest thinking on the ethical, societal and policy issues around agriculture, agricultural biotechnologies, aquaculture, animal use, food and the food supply chain.

More than 90 presentations at the European Society for Agricultural and Food Ethics (EurSafe) conference, on 7-10 September, focused on the need to transform food systems effectively, ethically and sustainably to meet the multiple challenges of feeding a growing population without exacerbating the climate emergency.

A series of pre-conference workshops featured discussion of topics such as the ethics of eating insects, food and social responsibility, and justice in food system transformation.

At the opening reception at the University of Edinburgh’s Old College, Mairi Gougeon, Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, emphasised the importance of maintaining high standards of animal welfare.

She highlighted the need to consider the social, environmental, and economic impacts of the proposed solutions to achieve transformative systemic changes to mitigate the current health, energy and climate crises.

Growing population

Plenary sessions included a presentation by Professor Geoff Simm, Director of the Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems, entitled: ‘How will we feed 11 billion people sustainably and ethically?’

He proposed a raft of solutions to accelerate the systemic change required. These include farming system innovations such as vertical, precision, and circular farming, novel foods and feeds and lower impact livestock, as well as social, economic and political innovations and interventions.

In a separate plenary session, Professor Bruce Whitelaw, Director of the Roslin Institute, spoke about the opportunities that new technologies offer for improving the sustainability of the food supply.

In addition to describing some examples, such as using genetic technologies to generate pigs that are resistant to Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS), he talked of the need for honest, transparent dialogue, based on knowledge and inclusive of all stakeholders, to manage the risks and benefits that such technologies afford.

Topics covered elsewhere at the conference included research on food governance, animal ethics, land ethics, novel foods and genome editing.

Among the themes that were explored were the generation of local food identities, ways to ensure the inclusion of missing voices in the debate of planetary boundaries, the acceptability of novel foods and their nutritional value. 

The conference also covered sessions on animal breeding, supply chains, food waste and veterinary education and practice, and further ethical aspects of transforming food systems, including the use of antimicrobials and rewilding.

Related links

Publication: Transforming food systems: ethics, innovation and responsibility

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Eursafe 2022

Image credit: iStock