Safe, nutritious food for all - the challenge of food security in the 21st century

12 March 2014

For the first time in history there are more overweight than underweight people on the planet.

But more than 850 million of us still go to bed hungry each night.

On 17 March the University of Sydney will hold a public event, Good Food, Good Health: Delivering the Benefits of Food Security in Australia and Beyond, to explore this contradiction and the many complex challenges to achieving global food security.

More than 20 food security experts from government, industry, non-government organisations, media and professional associations, the University of Sydney, and overseas universities will be presenting.

"Food security is a global priority which needs a multi-pronged approach. It is not just about producing more food but more nutritious food," said Associate Professor Robyn Alders, convenor of the conference, from the University's Faculty of Veterinary Science.

"This is demonstrated by the fact that despite increases in agricultural production over the past two decades, malnutrition rates in children have not diminished significantly in many developing countries.

"We also have to address the issue that the mass, industrialised production of food increases has bought with it new risks in terms of food safety."

Topics to be covered at the conference include sustainable food production in Australia, international food production and the role of aid programs, food safety systems, the role of gender in food security and the benefits of international agriculture research to Australian agriculture.

The conference is a collaborative event from the University's Charles Perkins Centre, Sydney Southeast Asia Centre and Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity.

Keynote speaker, author and science communicator Julian Cribb, believes we need to rethink food itself and how we produce it.

Costa Georgiadis, environment educator and ABC Gardening Australia host, will discuss how there can be no long term national food security without an emphasis on local and, in turn, regional food security.

Nutritional ecologist Professor David Raubenheimer, from the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney, will reflect on the burden of obesity in Australia and how the tension between under-nutrition and over-nutrition now plays out at an individual level.

Professor Richard Whittington, from the University of Sydney's Faculty of Veterinary Science will discuss Australia's international aid program in aquaculture, the fastest growing animal protein production sector worldwide.

Associate Professor Robyn Alders, also from the Faculty of Veterinary Science, will outline the One Health approach to food security, which brings together animal, crop and human health specialists, economists, ecologists and social scientists to work with communities to boost efficiency of production, sustainability and the nutrient value of food.

Associate Professor Robyn McConchie, from the University's Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, will discuss initiatives being undertaken at the University to improve food safety systems in Australia and in Africa.

Associate Professer Bill Pritchard, from the Faculty of Science at the University of Sydney, will address human rights issues associated with food security.

Nagothu Udaya Sekhar, a director at the Norwegian Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Research, will trace the trajectory of food security as a concept, from its emergence in the 1970s through its evolution to include how the legal, technological, social and political conditions of a community influence their access to, and use of, food.

Other presenters include Angus Gidley-Baird, NSW Policy Director, NSW Farmers' Association; Jim Woodhill, Food Security and Rural Development at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Richard Kock, Chair in Wildlife Health and Emerging Diseases, University of London; Associate Professor Helen Scott-Orr, NSW Coordinator of the Crawford Fund and Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney; Dr Brigitte Bagnol, Social Anthropology Department, University of the Witwatersrand.

Contact: Verity Leatherdale

Phone: 02 9351 4312

Email: 113c3a22043b6623090520202a39302c070f244a320058244a053d143b695344