FOCUS ON SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE & NUTRITION SECURITY
SCIENCE CLUSTER UPDATE
AGRICULTURAL SUSTAINABILITY & NUTRITION SECURITY SCIENCE CLUSTER IN 2016
Since 2013, ILSI as a global organization has identified four key thematic areas that will help guide the organization in responding to and raising awareness on pressing issues facing societies around the world. These four thematic areas include food and water safety; toxicology and risk science; nutrition, health and well-being; and sustainable agriculture and nutrition security. In line with this global strategic direction, ILSI Southeast Asia Region will be establishing a new Science Cluster on Agricultural Sustainability and Nutrition Security beginning in 2016. The new Science Cluster will aim to serve as a platform to discuss and address emerging scientific concerns within the ASEAN region relating to sustainable agriculture and nutrition security. Such issues could include the adoption of new and sustainable food production technologies to improve agricultural production, as well as science-based strategies to mitigate agri-food production and supply risks arising from climate change and other phenomena.
NEWS AND RESEARCH
Impact of Agricultural Research on Nutrition and Health Outcomes
A Special Issue on ‘Strengthening the link between nutrition and health outcomes and agricultural research’ has been published in the June 2015 issue of the journal Food Security. The issue captures some of the topics of discussion held at the Joint Workshop on Nutrition by the Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) and the Independent Science and Partnership Council (ISPC) programs of the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), which itself follows the 2013 Science Forum on ‘Nutrition and Health Outcomes: Targets for agricultural research’ organized by the ISPC. Among the key findings from the Joint 4ANH/ISPC workshop include the need for agricultural research to identify suitable agricultural interventions that focus on improving diet quality and to develop associated indicators to measure the resulting impact. Additionally, an important concern relates to enabling access to nutrition and safe foods at affordable prices, which could involve increasing the participation of smallholder in markets and expansion of existing value chains. Presentation from the Joint A4NH/ISPC workshop can be found here and a summary of the 2013 Science Forum can be found here.
The Role of Public-Private Partnerships in Food and Nutrition Research, Sustainable Agriculture and Nutrition Security
ILSI has long been at the forefront of harnessing the strength of public-private partnerships in advancing science in the areas of food and nutrition. Recognizing the importance of establishing clear and transparent principles as being the key to achieving successful public-private partnerships in the area of food and nutrition research, ILSI North America commissioned work to establish principles for building such public-private partnerships by reviewing and analyzing existing public-private partnership guidelines described both in peer-reviewed literature and by non-governmental organizations, as well as interviewing experienced, senior level individuals from academia, government, industry, foundations and non-governmental organization. This work culminated in the establishment of 12 potential principles that could guide the establishment of public-private partnerships in food and nutrition research, which were published in 2013 in Nutrition Reviews (available here). Following this, a meeting was convened in December 2014 that included representatives from a number of eminent food-, nutrition-, and health-related scientific societies and organizations, food industry scientists, government agencies including the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Center for Disease Control (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and National Institute of Health (NIH), to reach an agreement on these 12 principles. A summary of the discussion of this meeting has been published in the June 2015 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and can be accessed here.
In the field of sustainable agriculture and nutrition security, the ILSI Research Foundation established the Center for Integrated Modeling of Sustainable Agriculture and Nutrition Security (CIMSANS) in 2012, to further foster public-private partnerships in the application of sound science to address issues related to this field. In particular, CIMSANS aims to help develop and support the implementation of integrated modelling of food systems, which could be applied to better inform adaptation responses to the impacts of climate change and resource scarcity on sustainable nutrition security. Since its establishment, CIMSANS has published a white paper on “Assessing Sustainable Nutrition Security: The Role of Systems” in 2014 to identify and develop appropriate metrics for assessing sustainable nutrition security, which was co-authored by both public sector and public sector scientists. This was followed-up by a workshop in March 2015 that aimed to gather various stakeholder inputs on seven novel food system metrics and how they should be quantified, which could be used to assess agricultural sustainability and nutrition security within food systems.
Climate Change – Impact on Food Security in Southeast Asia and Food Safety Globally
Climate change and its potential impacts to the food system is a continuing concern, particularly in Southeast Asia, which is a major food producing region. To address some of the questions arising from such concerns, a team of researchers from the Food Security Research Programme (FSRP) of the Centre of Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, recently published a policy brief on “Impact of Climate Change on Food Production: Options for Importing Countries”. The brief outlines some of the potential implications of climate change disturbances to crop and livestock production over the next several decades, as well as provides relevant recommendations for how food importing countries could deal with these developments over the medium to longer terms.
There is also keen interest among scientists to understand the impact of climate change on food safety worldwide. A special issue on “Impacts of climate change on food safety” was published in the February 2015 issue of the Journal Food Research International, sharing research and literature reviews on the possible impact of climate change on food safety-related issues, including on the use of agricultural pesticides, occurrence of mycotoxins, paralytic shellfish poisoning incidences resulting from algal blooms, prevalence of foodborne diseases, as well as transmission of foodborne parasites. Additionally, a series of review papers were also published in the July 2015 issue of Trends in Food Science and Technology, which outlined some of the possible impacts of climate change on agriculture and food safety in Ireland, in relation to microbial threats across the food chain and veterinary medicinal residues in livestock produce.
ILSI Initiatives on Safety Assessment of GE Crops
On June 26-28, 2013, recognizing the importance of a harmonized approach towards the safety assessment of genetically engineered crops, ILSI Argentina in collaboration with the AgriFood Health and Quality National Service (SENASA, Ministry of Agriculture, Argentina), hosted an international workshop comprising regulators and risk assessors from major exporting and importing countries of GE crops to discuss current approaches and emerging issues in relation to the safety assessment of GE crops. The workshop also discussed the potential for harmonization of risk assessment approaches, data sharing, joint reviews, and managed to identify some of the key challenges and areas for future work. The recommendations from the workshop have since been published in the February 2015 issue of the Journal GM Crops & Food. Presentations and a summary report of the 2013 workshop can also be accessed here.
ILSI Southeast Asia Region also organized a series of seminars and workshops on the issue of stacking of two or more transgenes into GE plants in Indonesia and Malaysia on February 3 & 5, 2015 respectively. The meetings shared the application of gene stacking as a plant breeding tool for crop improvement, as well as some of the scientific considerations for the safety assessment of such products. A short report on the event can be found in the April 2015 issue of ILSI Sotheast Asia's Science InSight here.
Scientific Perspectives from the US National Academy of Sciences on Food Systems, Animal Science Research and Genetically Engineered Crops
Recognizing that the modern food system is becoming increasingly complex, the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources of the National Research Council (NRC) convened a joint committee to develop an analytical framework to assess the health, environmental, social and economic aspects of the United States food system, which could be used to help policymakers in making informed decisions. The report on “A Framework for Assessing Effects of the Food System” was published in 2015 and is available here.
Additionally, the NRC also convened Committee on Considerations for the Future of Animal Science Research in March 2014, which addressed some of the challenges relating to animal agriculture in relation to global food security, its impact on existing natural resources and the environment, as well as factors affecting the ability of animal agriculture to meet the global demand for animal products. The committee also identified and provided recommendations on critical areas of research and development, technologies and resource needs in animal sciences that could help to meet these challenges. The final report on “Critical Role of Animal Science Research in Food Security and Sustainability” was published in April 2015 and can be found here, with a brief video explaining the background and content of the report also available here.
Most recently, the NRC has commissioned a new project for a “Study on Genetically Engineered Crops: Past Experience and Future Prospects”. The study will aim to critically assess the current evidence relating to claims and research extolling both the benefits and risks of using genetically engineered crops in agriculture. The study will build upon some of the existing research already conducted by the NRC on issues related to genetically engineered crops, including its regulation, safety, environmental effects and impact on farm sustainability. The new study will be published in 2016. A video explaining the study project can be found here.