Global Food Security
Strategic Plan 2011-2016
Updated November 2013All images used in this report are copyright Thinkstock (2013) except page 21 by Frank Havemann.i
1. Executive summary
Global food security drivers and challenges
5. The Global Food Security programme
i Operating principles
ii Partners and affiliates
iii Added value of working together
iv Programme governance and management
v Delivering impact
vi Monitoring progress
6. Theme 1 Resilience
Theme 2 Sustainable production and supply
Theme 3 Nutrition, health and wellbeing
7. Building on progress
8. Future priorities
Glossary and abbreviations
Global Food Security is a multi-agency programme bringing together the main UK public sector funders of research
and training related to food. For further information and updates see the programme web site:
The challenge of ensuring equitable access to a safe, sufficient and nutritious diet will intensify as the global
population increases to around 9bn over the next 30 years, and demand for food rises with changing diets. This is
an issue that affects us all: in the UK we cannot take food security for granted as it is inextricably linked to global
production, demand and supply. The UK has a small land area and a large population to feed, which requires well-
functioning markets and a vibrant farming and food industry, both of which make a significant contribution to our
There is a key role for the UK’s world-leading expertise and research capacity in helping to address this global
challenge. New science and engineering approaches are needed to help sustainably intensify production, using
less land, water and energy whilst maximising crop and livestock productivity and health. Being able to better
forecast weather events will be enormously valuable across the food supply chain, as will research to help make
sustainable, healthy choices easier for consumers. Threats of volatility in the global food system must also be
addressed to avoid food price spikes, inequality and hunger as well as economic and political instability. Research
supported by the Global Food Security Programme and its translation into policy and practice will be vital.
I welcome this strategy refresh to move the agenda forward. It provides a focus on where the partners in the
Global Food Security Programme can catalyse new activity, through coordination and interdisciplinary research,
to stimulate innovation. This will support resilience of both the UK and global food supply chain in our rapidly
Sir Mark Walport
Government Chief Scientific Adviser
The Global Food Security programme’s Strategic Plan (2011 – 2016) has been updated to reflect the latest research
and programme developments, recognising that the food security challenge is constantly evolving. Key changes
include a focus on three major cross-disciplinary research themes set in the wider context of the food system, and
two additional sections describing progress made to date and future priorities.
The UK’s main public funders of food-related research and training are working together through the Global Food
Security programme. The programme aims to help meet the challenge of providing the world’s growing population
with a sustainable and secure supply of safe, nutritious and affordable high quality food. That food will need to
be produced and supplied from less land and with lower inputs, and in the context of global climate change,
other environmental changes and declining resources. The programme aims to provide evidence to enable food
producers and processors, retailers, consumers and government to respond to and manage the challenges facing
the UK food system and related global issues, including the many challenges confronting the developing world in
the face of environmental and demographic change.
The Global Food Security programme takes interdisciplinary and whole systems approaches to research on UK and
global food supply systems, considering both supply and demand. The scope of the programme includes: food
production and resource management; food economics, markets and trade; food processing, manufacture and
distribution systems; food safety and nutrition; consumption habits and practices; and waste in the food system.
The programme coordinates research supported by the programme partners across government departments, the
devolved administrations, Research Councils and the Technology Strategy Board. It builds on the partners’ existing
activities, aiming to add value to their current and future investments, and complementing rather than replacing
their individual strategies. It brings additional coherence by acting as a focus for joint activities and helping to
ensure alignment of individual activities with shared goals. It also provides a platform for working in partnership
with a wide variety of stakeholders and users, both internationally and in the UK.
The programme comprises three cross-disciplinary themes based on those set out in the UK Cross-Government
Food Research and Innovation Strategy.1 The research themes for the programme are:
1. Resilience – securing a better understanding of how poor environmental and economic resilience leads to
hunger, poverty and environmental degradation across the globe and how this might be addressed
2. Sustainable production and supply – including water, energy, nutrients and other inputs; land use and soils,
with a particular focus on the sustainable use of resources; improving efficiency and reducing waste; farming
systems; food production from crops and animals (including fish); food processing, quality, manufacture and
3. Nutrition, health and wellbeing – including food safety and quality throughout the supply chain, nutrition,
healthy and sustainable diets, consumer behaviour, food choice and accessibility
Our vision is to integrate, coordinate and disseminate research that will be influential in informing policy and
practice and will support food security goals. We will raise the profile of the food security challenge, providing
leadership and coordinating our efforts in this area. We will be dynamic in identifying and responding to current
and future challenges, leveraging existing funding, and co-designing new multidisciplinary research programmes.
We will encourage innovation, help to translate existing knowledge and provide a focus for UK contributions to
wider international efforts.
1 UK Cross-Government Food Research and Innovation Strategy (GO-Science, 2010)
1. Executive Summary2
1. This Strategic Plan summarises the background and context for the programme, outlines how the programme
is organised and managed, and describes its scope and some main objectives for the initial five-year period, 2011 –
2016. The Plan is re-presented here, refreshed at the midway point in this planning period.
2. The UK’s main public sector funders of food-related research and training have joined forces to develop,
design and implement a programme to coordinate research and associated activity on Global Food Security2. It
takes interdisciplinary and whole systems approaches to research on UK and global food supply systems. The
programme is intended to help meet the global challenge of providing the world’s growing population with access
to environmentally, economically and socially sustainable, safe, affordable and nutritious diets, which will need to
be produced and supplied from the same or less land and with lower inputs of finite resources.
3. Meeting the challenges of our future food supply is not just an issue for government: it involves everyone
across the food system. Therefore, the Global Food Security programme will provide knowledge and evidence
for policy development (nationally, regionally and locally) and to enable food producers and processors, retailers,
consumers and civil society to respond to and manage the challenges facing the food system. Food security for the
UK is inextricably linked to global production, demand and supply and must be considered in this broader context.
This programme will address these challenges and will contribute to addressing related global issues, including the
many challenges confronting the developing world in the face of environmental and demographic change.
4. The programme is broad in scope: it will integrate research in topics ranging from food production and
processing to markets and distribution, consumption patterns, human nutrition and all aspects of sustainability
including environmental impact. A key aspect will be adding value to current and future research, through greater
coordination to improve the design, delivery and translation (into policy, regulation and practice) of research across
many disciplines. Translation will involve knowledge exchange and other engagement with a broad range of
stakeholders including the agri-food and all other relevant industrial sectors, for example helping to deliver the UK
government’s Strategy for Agricultural Technologies3.
5. Our vision is to integrate, coordinate and disseminate research that will be influential in informing policy and
practice and will support food security goals. We will raise the profile of the food security challenge, providing
leadership and coordinating our efforts in this area. We will be dynamic in identifying and responding to current
and future challenges, leveraging existing funding, and co-designing new multidisciplinary research programmes.
We will encourage innovation, help to translate existing knowledge and provide a focus for UK contributions to
wider international efforts.
2 For a definition of food security, see paragraph 6
3 A UK Strategy for Agricultural Technologies (HM Government, 2013)
6. This section outlines the context for the programme in terms of the main challenges and drivers, including
both UK and global issues. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has stated4: “Food
security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious
food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” Future generations are
implicitly included in “all people at all times” and this requires food production methodologies to be sustainable.
7. Just under a billion people globally do not have adequate food to meet their basic nutritional needs5. Globally,
sufficient calories are produced to feed the current population, but access to a safe, sufficient and nutritious diet
is unequal around the world. As the global population is expected to grow from about 7 billion (late 2013) to more
than 9 billion by mid-century, there is the potential for the food security crisis to deepen. The FAO has predicted6 that
demand for food will grow by 38% by 2030 and 60% by 2050. The food security challenge, in essence, is to meet
the rising demand for food in ways that are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable, and in the face
of evolving world-wide markets, distribution mechanisms and global climate and demographic changes, and by so
doing provide an acceptable, safe and nutritious diet for all.
8. In future, food supply (including production, processing and distribution) must – as far as possible – use the
same or less land and fewer inputs, produce less waste and have a lower environmental impact7. Food must be
safe, nutritious and affordable, and available to all, with improved equity of distribution, and reflect social and
cultural needs. Pressure on production systems needs to be reduced by helping consumers to make the right food
choices for health and sustainability.
9. Food and soft drinks is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK and 4th largest in the world. The UK food
supply chain represents 7% of GVA (around £96bn) and 3.3 million jobs with around 440,000 people in farming
and 380,000 people in food manufacturing8. Translating research into innovative technologies, practices and
information could enable countries worldwide to meet future food and environmental challenges while also
contributing significantly to UK and global economic growth. Significant parts of the knowledge and evidence
developed within the GFS programme will feed directly into governmental innovation policies including the UK
government’s Strategy for Agricultural Technologies, and the work of the Agri-Tech Leadership Council. The Agri-
Tech strategy aims to ensure that the UK becomes a world leader in agricultural technology, innovation and
sustainability; exploits opportunities to develop and adopt new and existing technologies, products and services to
increase productivity; and thereby contributes to global food security and international development.
10. A number of publications have provided analysis and insight on the Global Food Security challenge and have
helped inform the drivers and challenges in the next section9. Further analysis has been provided more recently by
the Foresight project on Global Food and Farming Futures10.
4 Rome Declaration on World Food Security and World Food Summit Plan of Action. World Food Summit, Rome (FAO, 1996)
5 The State of Food Insecurity in the World (FAO, 2010)
6 World Agriculture Towards 2030/50 (FAO, 2012)
7 This is the notion of sustainable intensification: see Sustainable Intensification in Agriculture: Premises and Policies, Science Vol. 341 no. 6141 pp. 33-34
(Garnett et al 2013)
8 Food statistics pocketbook (Defra, 2013)
9 Note: documents are cited as sources of useful background information and analysis. Some of the UK Government documents cited were published under the
previous administration and do not necessarily reflect the current UK Government’s policy position. Food Matters (Cabinet Office, 2008); Food 2030 (HM Government,
2010); UK Cross-Government Food Research and Innovation Strategy (GO-Science, 2010); UK Food Security Assessment (Defra, 2009 & 2010); Recipe for Success –
Scotland’s National Food and Drink Policy (Scottish Government, 2009); Focus on Food - A Partnership Strategy for the Food Industry in Northern Ireland (Northern
Ireland Executive, 2010); Food for Wales, Food from Wales 2010-2020 (Welsh Assembly Government, 2010); The Neglected Crisis of Under-nutrition: DFID’s strategy
(DFID, 2010); The Bioeconomy to 2030 - Designing a policy agenda (OECD, 2009); Agrimonde: Scenarios and Challenges for Feeding the World in 2050 (INRA &
CIRAD, 2009); The Green Food Project (Defra 2012)
10 Foresight project on Global Food and Farming Futures (BIS 2011) - see www.bis.gov.uk/foresight4
Global food security drivers and challenges
11. Some of the main drivers11 underlying the challenge of ensuring food security (for the UK and globally) are
summarised in brief in the following points.
+ Global population growth, demographic change, and increasing affluence and urbanisation, will lead to
growth in demand for food and changing patterns of demand – rising affluence is associated with increases in
food consumption, especially of meat and dairy products. Much (but not all) of the expansion in population will
occur in developing countries: improving food security (especially affordability and availability) is closely linked
with the need to reduce poverty12. Increasing demand for food from sub-Saharan Africa and Asia will also, via
the globalised supply chain, create economic drivers for developed world agriculture.
+ Global climate and other environmental changes that will have direct or indirect impacts on food production,
fisheries and supplies, including rising carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, leading to rising
temperatures, changing rainfall patterns and increasing incidence of extreme weather events (such as storms,
floods, heat waves and droughts), rising sea levels and ocean acidification. Changing climate may also lead
to changes in the distribution and/or severity of pests and diseases (in crops and animals, including zoonotic
infections where disease organisms transfer from vertebrate animals to humans) and has the potential for
severe impacts on food production and animal welfare. As well as threats, changes in climate may offer new
opportunities for food production in some parts of the world.
+ Environmental impacts of farming, fishing, food processing and manufacture, storage, transport, retail,
consumption and waste disposal: negative impacts can include increasing water and land use, soil erosion
and degradation, loss of biodiversity, as well as greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution. Food
production is ultimately dependent on other ecosystem services so it is essential that these are maintained.
+ Key resources for agriculture are limited, notably land, fresh water and energy, but also sources of other
inputs such as mineral phosphate (an essential plant nutrient). Shortages of resources may be exacerbated by
increasing competition, for example from urban and industrial development, and from food crops grown for
other purposes such as bioenergy.
+ Social drivers include urbanisation, demographic change, issues of land tenure, governance and international
security, changing patterns of consumer needs, preferences, choices, tastes, habits and practices, affecting the
demand for and consumption of different foods and patterns of waste.
+ Economic drivers include issues of trade, land tenure, trends in production and demand and potential for
shocks, food markets and their volatility, supply and distribution, regulation, affordability and availability
(particularly in the developing world) with associated globalisation.
+ Political drivers such as changes in government policy and political instability.
+ There is a need to ensure adequate nutrition, including not only calories but all necessary macro- and micro-
nutrients for healthy and balanced diets for populations throughout the world13. At the same time as increasing
numbers of people globally are inadequately fed, over-consumption14 adds to the rising demand for food, with
all the associated economic, social and environmental impacts.
12. The GFS programme recognises the following important challenges arising from these drivers:
+ The world will need to produce more food while using less land, water, fertiliser, energy and fewer other
inputs, and distribute that food more effectively, efficiently and equitably. As well as increasing food
accessibility, there needs to be a change in trade and retailing policies, and patterns of consumption so that
consumers are better able to make healthy and sustainable food choices.
11 See also reviews of the major drivers of change in the global food system: Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B (Sep 2010), produced by the Foresight project on Global Food and
12 Millennium Development Goals: www.un.org/millenniumgoals/bkgd.shtml
13 See also: The Neglected Crisis of Under-nutrition: Evidence for Action (DFID, 2009, revised 2012)
14 For example, see WHO information+ There is a need to reduce losses and waste, greenhouse gas emissions and other adverse environmental
impacts throughout the food supply chain, from production to consumption, with re-use of waste where
+ Food must be safe, nutritious and affordable, and be supplied and distributed in ways that meet the needs
and aspirations of consumers in different economic, social and cultural contexts around the world.
+ There is a need to balance different uses of land and seas, often with competing priorities. For example,
sustainably increasing food production while maintaining other ecosystem services on which it depends and
that are essential for society15.
+ The threat of future volatility in the global food system needs to be addressed, as it can have adverse effects
on consumers and producers, resulting in food price spikes and increased inequality and hunger as well as
economic and political instability.
+ There is a need to balance sustainable increases in productivity from food producing animals with their
welfare, recognising that preventative medication and high productivity do not always equate with high
welfare standards and outcomes.
13. The complex and inter-related problems outlined above can only be tackled through coordinated and
integrated interdisciplinary research, coupled with its effective translation into practice and policy. A main aim of
the Global Food Security programme is to facilitate that research and its translation, and so help to improve the
resilience, sustainability and security of UK and global food supplies.
14. The challenges range from those with a local, regional or UK national focus to more wide-ranging European
and global issues. Food security for the UK is inextricably linked to global production, demand and supply and
must be considered in this broader context. There is a key role for UK research (which is world-leading in various
relevant fields) in helping to address the global challenges, especially those of developing countries. The benefits
from such research often accrue to both developing and developed countries, for example through new research
insights and opportunities, from mobility of researchers and through exchange of technologies and know-how.
This also offers opportunities for growth, through export of our knowledge or technologies, or through inward
investment from other countries into our research base.
15 See the UK National Ecosystem Assessment (2011)
5i. Operating principles
15. The programme operates under the innovative principles set out in the UK Cross-Government Food Research
and Innovation Strategy 16 – principles that aim to strengthen coordination across funders and enable them to
cooperate more closely. Mechanisms for working together through this programme include:
+ collaborative joint design and delivery of research and joint funding of sub-programmes of research;
+ cooperation in future strategy development so that funders’ own programmes are aligned with shared goals;
+ joint horizon scanning activities, and sharing of knowledge, to identify and respond to emerging challenges
+ collaboration on cross-cutting issues such as provision of training, skills and infrastructure for research, routes
for translation of research, international partnerships, public engagement and dialogue.
16. As part of the process for enhancing coordination, the funding partners explore a range of mechanisms to
bring together researchers with users for mutual benefit. Such mechanisms include interdisciplinary workshops to
encourage academics (including those currently supported by the funders) and others with expertise in different
research topics to work together, as well as building on existing relationships and networks as many of these are
already established. In addition, such mechanisms promote interactions between researchers and relevant users
of research, such as industry, government policy-makers and other stakeholders, in the UK and internationally.
Benefits include improved communication among these groups and helping researchers gain greater awareness
of the context in which their research is used.
ii. Partners and affiliates
17. The Global Food Security programme is jointly developed, designed and implemented by the UK’s main public
sector funders of food-related research and training. The partners and affiliates of the programme are:
+ Six of the UK Research Councils:
• Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
• Economic and Social Research Council
• Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
• Medical Research Council
• Natural Environment Research Council
• Science and Technology Facilities Council (observer)
+ UK government departments and devolved administrations:
• Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
• Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
• Department of Health
• Department for International Development
• Food Standards Agency
• Government Office for Science
• Scottish Government
• Welsh Government
+ Technology Strategy Board
+ Met Office (observer)
+ Wellcome Trust (observer)
16 UK Cross-Government Food Research and Innovation Strategy
(GO-Science, 2010), section 6.4
5. The Global Food Security Programmeiii. Added value of working together
18. The funders recognise the continuing importance of food security as a major global challenge and aspire
to maintain significant support17 for research within the constraints of the overall funding available to them. This
programme is the result of that shared recognition and joint aspiration. The programme does not replace the
partners’ individual goals and priorities; rather, it aims to recognise and complement them and bring additional
coherence by acting as a focus for joint activities and alignment of their individual activities with shared goals.
19. The programme has been designed within the context of complementary multi-partner and multi-disciplinary
programmes18 including those in Energy, Global Uncertainties, Lifelong Health and Wellbeing, and Living with
20. The programme provides added value through:
+ Improved coordination between funders, end users and researchers, ensuring the major UK funders are
more joined-up, with a single shared high-level strategy. This helps to focus research, innovation and training,
and provide greater awareness of opportunities for co-funding, alignment and synergy, whilst avoiding
duplication. It ensures greater efficiency and value for money, with partners working together to achieve the
best value from limited resources. It also ensures a more coordinated approach to knowledge exchange with
+ Increased innovation through novel inter- and multidisciplinary approaches to address the challenges
of delivering sustainable and competitive future food systems, and new products, processes and policy/
regulatory approaches to support and encourage innovation.
+ Greater leadership by acting as a focal point for the diverse research communities, industry, politicians, policy-
makers and consumer groups. This helps to build a more integrated community of researchers and users
(in the UK and overseas); providing a platform to promote wider partnerships, including as a means to lever
additional (non-UK exchequer) funding from the private sector and from international partner organisations.
It also increases UK-international interactions by offering a single port of call for partners who wish to engage
with the major UK public funders and helps to ensure a more coherent UK approach to EU and international
food security activities.
+ Horizon scanning and foresight by providing a platform for partners to identify and respond to emerging
priorities. This helps to maximise opportunities to work together on cutting-edge issues and provides a means
to address gaps in our knowledge.
+ Greater impact through better coordinated dialogue and increased collaboration with wider stakeholders
and users (such as agriculture, the food industry and related sectors, policy-makers, civil society and the
public) for example working with the Agri-Tech Leadership Council19 and the Food Research Partnership20 on
the translation and exploitation of research. The programme provides a mechanism to deliver key elements of
The Future of Food and Farming: Challenges and choices for global sustainability21, the UK Cross-Government
Food Research and Innovation Strategy22, and other relevant government and industry23 strategies. It helps to
maximise the value and impact of food security research across government providing coherent evidence to
support public policy imperatives. It better links research priorities and outcomes to the development agenda,
and G8/G20 commitments. It also ensures consideration of public views, aspirations and concerns around
global food security so that research has the widest possible impact.
17 UK Cross-Government Food Research and Innovation Strategy (GO-Science, 2010): see its Annex 2 for summary information on remit and activities of all the funders
and Annex 4 for detail of research investments
18 RCUK multidisciplinary research themes - see www.rcuk.ac.uk
19 Formed as part of the UK Government’s Strategy for Agricultural Technologies
20 See GO Science website for further information - www.bis.gov.uk/go-science
21 The Future of Food and Farming: Challenges and choices for global sustainability (GO Science 2011)
22 UK Cross-Government Food Research and Innovation Strategy (BIS, 2010)
23 Such as Feeding the Future (2012)
7iv. Programme governance and management
21. The overarching principles for the governance of the programme are that management arrangements should:
+ be simple and transparent;
+ be able to deliver added value from the partners working together;
+ provide clear lines of responsibility, accountability, decision making and reporting;
+ be inclusive and responsive to stakeholder/user needs;
+ allow the programme to be agile and action-orientated.
22. A Programme Coordination Group coordinates activities and maintains awareness of links with other relevant
programmes. This group comprises the UK’s main public funders of food-related research and oversees the
delivery of specific work packages developed under the themes that address key priorities. The group co-opts or
draws on the advice of others to bring in additional scientific, stakeholder or other expertise as required. The group
is responsible for managing risks to the programme and for reporting on key activities.
23. The Global Food Security ‘Champion’ acts as a high-profile ambassador and spokesperson for the
programme and a link between the funders, research community, the public and users of research.
24. A Strategy Advisory Board, drawn from senior representatives of academia, industry and other relevant
stakeholders, provides independent advice and guidance on the strategic direction of the programme and on
technical issues. The Government Chief Scientific Adviser (GCSA) is a member of the Board. The programme is
informed by outputs from the Food Research Partnership and its sub-groups, for example on skills, international
priorities and the translation of research. There is also cross-membership between the SAB and the Agri-Tech
Leadership Council to ensure collaboration and coordination. The programme engages wherever appropriate with
key stakeholders (both national and international and including NGOs) including those with interests in related
areas such as the environment.
v. Delivering impact
25. This section sets out some overall aims and mechanisms for delivering beneficial impacts from the
26. The programme aims to promote and facilitate integrated problem-based research, through encouraging
the research community to develop interdisciplinary collaborations proactively and to seek new partnerships that
will bring different perspectives and take novel approaches. The funders aim to minimise any potential barriers to
supporting such cross-cutting research.
27. Researchers are being encouraged from the outset to consider the potential impact of their research. For
example, the Research Councils have taken steps such as requiring research proposals to include statements on
‘pathways to impact’, setting out what the researchers will do to explore and take forward the wider impact of their
research. Research commissioned by UK government departments is inherently closer to impact since it is intended
to address questions from users. DFID encourages all new projects/initiatives to engage users from the outset. The
Scottish Government’s strategic research portfolio is directed by end-user evidence needs. An overall aim of the
Global Food Security programme is to improve the interactions and communication among the full spectrum of the
research community and with users and policy-makers.
28. Knowledge exchange, innovation and translation: The translation of research outputs into practical use and
application by consumers, the agriculture and food industries, policy-makers and non-governmental organisations
is critically important in meeting the future challenges. The programme partners work closely with users of research
to encourage effective two-way knowledge exchange with researchers and so promote rapid and efficient
translation into practice, thereby helping to deliver maximum impact from that research. One important component
of this involves working in partnership with the Leadership Council to help deliver the UK government’s Strategy for
Agricultural Technologies. The funders have in place a range of schemes to promote knowledge exchange and
to engage with industry, policy-makers and other stakeholders (including links with representative bodies such as
the relevant Knowledge Transfer Networks and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board). The Global
Food Security programme builds on existing mechanisms but additional activity is needed and the programme
actively explores new mechanisms to encourage such interactions. These may include new ways to build effective
partnerships with commercial sectors such as retail, with consumers through novel public engagement, and with
the diverse range of organisations working in the developing world and elsewhere internationally.
29. Meeting the challenges related to global food security means drawing on knowledge and innovations in
a wide variety of research disciplines including animal and plant sciences, agricultural science, environmental
science, chemical engineering, process engineering, mathematics, electronics and a very broad spectrum of
social science disciplines including economics, sociology, psychology, development studies and social policy.
This programme aims to draw on expertise across the entire food supply chain, encompassing businesses in
agriculture, aquaculture and fisheries, food processing and packing, distribution and logistics, and food retailing.
There is significant business strength in these sectors throughout the developed world with many organisations
having a global presence, so innovative technological solutions form an integral part of the strategy with a view to
exploiting them on a worldwide basis.
30. A key issue for the agricultural and food sector is accessing the right information to drive their businesses
forward competitively and sustainably. The Technology Strategy Board is a key partner in the programme and all
the partners work closely with the Board to build on mechanisms already in place to promote interactions with
a range of commercial sectors and to facilitate translation into practice. The programme provides a means for
exploring potential new public-private partnerships.
31. Skills: Addressing the interdisciplinary challenges posed by food security requires a range of high-level skills,
in terms of research itself and its up-take by users. The Food Research Partnership’s report24 on high-level skills
identified a range of key skills ‘gaps’ which have arisen in terms of the absorptive capacity of agri-food companies
and other users to access, and make use of, emerging research findings. An integral part of the programme is to
ensure that public sector funders work together to support partnership across the wide range of bodies involved
in addressing skills needs, such as universities and higher education colleges, agricultural colleges, research
institutes, business and professional/trade bodies25.
24 High-level skills for food (BIS, 2010)
25 One model is the Advanced Training Partnerships scheme (launched by BBSRC in 2010) to bring together consortia of organisations with the aim of addressing the
high-level skills needs of individuals employed in the food sector 32. Infrastructure for research: The UK has world-class facilities and resources which underpin food security
research, and which bring benefits not only to the UK but also internationally. Major facilities and centres
of expertise at Research Council, government and devolved administration sponsored institutes, and within
universities and the private sector26, form key parts of the national capability. The funders aim to adopt a strategic
approach to coordinate support for research facilities and resources, including cooperation with counterpart
organisations in other countries as appropriate.
33. International: Food security requires international collaborations and global responses. The programme
partners actively engage in collaborations with overseas partners wherever appropriate, ensuring we utilise our
excellent UK research base to contribute to global solutions. Interactions at various levels are important, including
among researchers but also among research funding bodies. The UK funders cooperate with appropriate
counterpart organisations in other countries and international programmes, building on the many interactions that
34. Within the European Union, opportunities afforded from the European Commission Framework Programmes
are an important route to addressing common challenges. Between national programmes, the Joint Programming
Initiative on ‘Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change’ (FACCE-JPI)27 – led by INRA (France) and BBSRC – has
developed a shared research agenda and explores options for joint actions for implementation. Likewise, there are
opportunities for cross-talk between the Global Food Security programme and the relevant programmes that are in
development within the Joint Programming Initiative on ‘A Healthy Diet For A Healthy Life’ (led by The Netherlands
with MRC as the UK Research Council partner) and the ERA-Net SUSFOOD looking at sustainable food systems, the
relationship between sustainability and food quality, consumer behaviour, and competitiveness.
35. The Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases28 has been established to help reduce the
emissions intensity of agricultural production. It coordinates research on agricultural emission reductions by linking
existing and new research efforts across a range of sub-sectors and work areas. It looks for opportunities and
gaps in existing research and finds ways to create new collaborations. The heart of the Alliance is its Research
Groups, currently covering three broad areas of croplands, paddy rice and livestock. The Alliance is addressing
two key issues that cut across the Research Groups, namely soil carbon and nitrogen cycling, and inventories and
measurement. The UK membership of the Alliance is led by Defra, and opportunities will be sought to add value to
activities within the Global Food Security programme through this international initiative.
36. Strong links are developing between the UK and Brazil, and particularly Embrapa, the leading Brazilian
agricultural research organisation, which has major domestic and developing world research programmes and a
strong translation capability that is complementary to UK research strengths.
37. Developing countries face many of the most serious challenges. DFID is a key partner in the programme,
and activities take account of the needs of the developing world for sustainable, safe, affordable and healthier
food supplies. Investment in agricultural research is essential if we are to meet the objectives of the post 2015
development framework, which will build upon the Millennium Development Goals. Poverty and hunger are
intimately linked and a significant proportion of the world’s poor will continue to depend on agriculture for their
livelihoods. Continuing to increase agricultural productivity – and doing so sustainably – will be essential. Globally
we need to scale up agricultural research in order to improve animal and plant health and productivity, and
tackle the overarching food security challenges of the developing world: rising food prices, climate and other
environmental change and drastically changing patterns of food consumption are exacerbating problems of
hunger and poverty. The UK is a founding member and among the leading donors of the Consultative Group
on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), a global organisation that aims to harmonise funding for greater
research focus on priority issues of climate change, poverty, food security and nutrition.
26 BBSRC/HEFCE study of land-based facilities and resources (BBSRC/HEFCE, 2009)
27 See www.faccejpi.com
28 See www.globalresearchalliance.org
38. Public engagement and dialogue are an integral part of the programme. Food security raises many different
and often inter-connected issues that are of high public interest in the UK and internationally, not least because it
centres on that most emotive of issues: the food we eat.
39. Topics of public interest within the remit of the Global Food Security programme include production/economics
of farming; use of agrochemicals and new technologies; competing definitions of sustainability; equity and other
ethical issues around access to food; the role of consumer choice, the need for healthy diets and safety of food
supplies, and environmental concerns such as disease, protection of biodiversity, and the wider landscape.
40. The programme has adopted best practice methods to engage a wide range of stakeholder opinion on
the issues. Engagement and dialogue with the public, including representative groups and NGOs, ensures that
researchers can consider public aspirations, concerns and attitudes as they shape the scope and direction of
their projects. Effective engagement and dialogue are essential for building trust and confidence in the work
of researchers by making sure that all interested parties have a voice and are listened to, as well as helping to
indicate important factors in the application of the research outputs.
41. Global Food Security has an integrated programme of communications and public dialogue that is embedded
within its overall governance, and is coordinated with related groups such as the Agri-Tech Leadership Council
and Food Research Partnership to maximise impact. This activity is steered by the Communications and Public
Engagement Group comprising representatives of Global Food Security partners and relevant professional
disciplines, supplemented by representatives of proxies for groups within the public, for example research users
and consumers. Its programme of work is being facilitated and delivered by dedicated resource within the BBSRC
External Relations Unit, working closely with colleagues in the other partner organisations.
vi. Monitoring progress
42. Progress within the programme is monitored and reported regularly, for example through publications and
dissemination events as appropriate.
43. The funding partners keep the operation of the programme (and its various mechanisms for joint working)
under regular review, making adjustments and instigating modified arrangements as necessary. The Strategy
Advisory Board has a key role in maintaining an overview of the programme. It is anticipated that the programme’s
effectiveness will be evaluated prior to continued investment beyond 2016. 12
44. Food security arises from a well-functioning, resilient food system and its associated activities and outcomes.
The food system is highly interconnected and operates across a range of spatial and temporal scales. The interests
of GFS partners and stakeholders span the whole food system. For example, food choice has a direct impact on
primary producers (and their interactions with the associated environment), food manufacturers, processors and
retailers, and on all aspects of sustainability and trade, and cannot be considered in isolation. A food system
perspective helps to identify the many biophysical, social and economic interactions across a range of drivers and
scales that determine food security.
Figure 1. An indicative representation of the food system
45. Research in the programme will be coordinated in themes set in the wider context of the food system.
The themes are based on those in the UK Cross-Government Food Research and Innovation Strategy and are
deliberately interdisciplinary, bringing together complementary research approaches, and cutting across the remits
of the funding partners. Activities within each theme will be mapped against key aspects of the food system to help
identify gaps and overlaps and to develop a systems-level approach to tackling these areas across partners.
46. Since publication of the original Strategic Plan, a light-touch refresh of the themes has been undertaken to
reflect the evolving nature of the challenges being tackled within the programme. Theme 1 has been broadened
from ‘Economic Resilience’ to ‘Resilience’ to reflect environmental shocks to the food system such as severe
weather, alongside those based on economic factors, and the interplay between these. Themes 2 and 3 have
been combined to form a new integrated theme on ‘Sustainable Production and Supply’. Resource efficiency is
an integral part of sustainable production and supply and the two areas are intrinsically linked. Theme 4 has
been broadened from ‘Sustainable Healthy Safe Diets’ to ‘Nutrition, Health and Wellbeing’ to reflect issues around
consumer behaviour and wider wellbeing as well as nutrition and food safety.
47. All the themes are inter-related and synergistic (as summarised in Figure 2, below). All themes will
address cross-cutting issues (indicated by the bars across the bottom of the diagram) such as: innovation and
the translation of research; the provision of skills; infrastructure for research; international collaboration and
cooperation; and user engagement and communication. The UK Cross-Government Food Research and Innovation
Strategy sets out more background on these important issues and some steps being taken to address them.
6. Research themes13
Figure 2. Global Food Security programme research themes
1. Resilience – securing a better understanding of how poor environmental and economic resilience leads to hunger,
poverty and environmental degradation across the globe and how this might be addressed
2. Sustainable production and supply – including water, energy, nutrients and other inputs; land use and soils, with a
particular focus on the sustainable use of resources; improving efficiency and reducing waste; farming systems; food
production from crops and animals (including fish); food processing, quality, manufacture and distribution
3. Nutrition, health and wellbeing – including food safety and quality throughout the supply chain, nutrition, healthy and
sustainable diets, consumer behaviour, food choice and accessibility
Global Food Security programme research themes
48. The themes describe the breadth of research being addressed by partners in the programme and provide a
means of coordinating, influencing and shaping these activities, as well as aligning research agendas to address
emerging challenges. This section sets the wider context for the priorities highlighted in section 8, which specifically
identify key areas where the GFS programme can add value through inter- or multidisciplinary, multi-partner
Theme 1. Resilience
49. As the world becomes more interconnected, the climate increasingly variable and the competition for
resources increases, a range of complex risks will exacerbate the shocks and challenges faced by communities.
These include reduced agricultural output, environmental degradation, population growth, conflict, and food price
50. The notion of resilience encompasses the way that a system responds to shocks: in terms of whether a shock
causes a system response, the magnitude and return time of the response to the original state, and the potential
for moving to another state entirely. Sustainability is strongly linked to resilience: systems that are resilient are likely
to be able to function or adapt under perturbations and thus be sustainable.
51. Shocks to the food system often affect the poor in developing countries the most as they are the least resilient
to changes in food price and availability, with limited economic capacity and infrastructure investment to underpin
recovery. Developing countries have historically suffered (and still suffer) the worst effects of food system shocks
and these are frequently felt in the form of food poverty, hunger and starvation.52. An efficient and equitable food system that delivers the needs of all people in a sustainable way is dependent
upon fit-for-purpose markets, regulatory frameworks and supply chains that are flexible and have the capacity to
respond to and absorb shocks. This theme will seek to understand the causes and impacts of shocks to the global
food production and supply system and identify ways of building resilience at all levels, from local subsistence
producers to global markets. This will help strengthen the capacities of people and communities to adapt to
changing circumstances, manage an increasingly complex risk environment, and cope with shocks they are unable
53. For resilience to be achieved, consideration must be given to economic, environmental and social factors and
the interplay between these at local-to-global levels. Factors might include trade, food markets, competitiveness
of farming and food businesses, food price volatility, food availability (including political factors affecting trade and
availability), severe weather, natural hazards and disasters, sustainable farm practices, and food safety issues.
Research will need to take an integrative and interdisciplinary approach to identify the trade-offs that exist in
relation to these factors; for example, the use of export bans in developed countries as a resilience measure can
have a detrimental effect on the poor through disproportionate increases in food prices.
54. The leading economic models of agricultural markets used by international organisations such as the OECD
and FAO are not always sensitive to analysing short-term price shocks. Given that such fluctuations often push the
world’s poorest people into hunger, further research is needed to better understand within-year price volatility29, its
drivers, mitigation and impact on the food insecure.
55. Research will help provide solutions to enhance trade and develop our understanding of access to reliable
markets, particularly for those in developing countries. This will emphasise the role of infrastructure (and other
public goods), governance, trade and broader economic development that contribute to food security in low-
income countries over the medium term.
56. Further research is needed on resilience to severe weather events, including the potential for better forecasting
and the interaction between weather, farm management, logistics and resilience at multiple scales from field to
globe. Severe weather has an immediate impact on food production and transport, directly affecting livelihoods
through changes in accessibility and affordability. Wider environmental resilience is equally important for soil, water
supply, nutrients, and land use and there is a strong link to theme 2.
57. Over the longer term, it is imperative to improve understanding of the complex interactions between the
changing global climate and agriculture (including land use), the supply chain and markets in order to improve
adaptation and resilience. The frequency and intensity of some disasters such as droughts, floods and storms
could increase, with an adverse impact on livelihoods and food security. It will therefore be important to strengthen
the evidence-base on the most effective approaches to building national and local resilience for better disaster risk
management in the context of food security, building on DFID’s programme on Disaster Risk Reduction.
58. An improved understanding is also needed on contemporary food supply chains in terms of their resilience,
risks and security. This includes the potential for system dysfunction, along the continuum from normal operation
to failure (including to the extremes of food fraud) with specific focus on the implications for food safety and
authenticity, consumer trust and food security.
29 For example, see The 2007/08 Agricultural Price Spikes: Causes and Policy Implications
(HM Government, 2010)
Theme 2. Sustainable Production and Supply
59. Theme 2 covers sustainability in relation to all aspects of food production, including farming systems,
production from crops and animals (including farmed fish), food processing, manufacture and distribution.
It includes water, land, energy, nutrients and other inputs, and the sustainable use of resources; increasing
competitiveness, profitability and efficiency; and reducing waste and pollution. Integrated and whole systems-
based approaches to research will be essential.
60. A sustainable food supply system depends critically on maintaining ecosystem services and preserving
biodiversity. These help ensure (for example) healthy soils that can provide essential nutrients, a sufficient and clean
water supply, pollination services and good air quality. It is imperative that the food system minimises any negative
impacts on such essential services and resources.
61. Sustainable intensification (SI) is a necessary condition for growing more food from the same footprint of land.
Four underlying premises have recently been described30 that will be considered in taking this theme forward:
(i) the need to increase production of nutritious, safe food in an environmentally sustainable way; (ii) increased
production must be met through higher yields because increasing the area of land in agriculture carries major
environmental costs; (iii) food security requires as much attention to increasing environmental sustainability as to
raising productivity (SI does not mean business-as-usual food production moderated by marginal improvements
in sustainability); iv) SI denotes a goal but does not specify a priori how it should be attained or which agricultural
techniques to deploy.
62. Resource efficiency can be achieved through the delivery of competitively priced goods and services that
satisfy demands and bring quality of life, while progressively reducing ecological impacts and resource use
intensity throughout the life-cycle to a level at least in line with the Earth’s estimated carrying capacity. Key aspects
of eco-efficiency include measures on output per unit input, waste, energy consumption, renewable energy usage
and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as external costs (environmental, social and economic) of food transport
and food imports.
30 Sustainable Intensification in Agriculture: Premises and Policies, Science Vol. 341 no. 6141 pp. 33-34 (Garnett et al, 2013)
+ Improving understanding of the critical factors affecting the resilience of households, world trade and global food supply
and how economic, social and environmental drivers affect resilience.
+ Developing and enhancing economic models of trade flows, agriculture and hunger that capture the impacts of within-
+ Modelling the impact of environmental change on agriculture, and agriculture on the environment to improve resilience.
+ Developing evidence to inform policy recommendations around improvements in infrastructure (and other public goods),
governance and broad economic development that contribute to food security.
+ Developing a better understanding of the effects of existing systems, markets and regulatory frameworks with a view to
enhancing their effectiveness, in particular in relation to managing unexpected shocks and perturbations.
+ Developing insights that inform how policy might underpin risk management strategies to help build resilience for
producers and suppliers in the developing world.
Theme 1 Resilience
Example research areas16
+ Enhancing production and productivity of crops, farmed animals and fish while minimising losses and adverse
environmental and social impacts, maintaining high standards of animal welfare and maintaining essential ecosystem
services. In particular:
• increasing crop yields, and the resilience of yields, through genetic improvement, better crop management and
maintaining healthy soils.
• reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ruminant livestock through enhanced understanding of their biological
processes, leading to improved management practices in agriculture.
• developing more sustainable approaches to fish farming, including sustainable sources of fish feed and management
of pests and diseases.
• minimising pre- and post-harvest losses of crops, farmed animals and fish to biotic and abiotic factors.
+ Reducing greenhouse gas and other emissions from the farming and food sectors with more efficient use of resources
and reduced waste.
+ Improving understanding of the interaction between the agricultural system and the wider environment, understanding
and quantifying ‘natural capital’ as it relates to the agricultural system.
+ Optimising the use of resources (e.g., water, land, energy, nutrients and other inputs) while increasing crop and animal
productivity (per unit input) and taking account of climate change.
+ Improving sustainable soil management to deliver agricultural production and other ecosystem services.
+ Understanding how fat, sugar, preservative and salt content of foods could be reduced while ensuring that palatability is
maintained, waste is minimised, and food remains safe and does not spoil.
+ Understanding how the nutritional content and functionality of materials can be optimised to help in the development of
formulation and manufacturing strategies.
+ Improving understanding of the attitudes, habits and practices that affect current patterns of food production and supply
(including resource use and associated waste) in the food system, with a view to embedding more sustainable practices
in the short and long term (including resilience to climate and other environmental change).
Theme 2. Sustainable Production and Supply
Example research areas
63. Research is needed to achieve sustainable increases in overall production and productivity of crops and
farmed animals. This will include research to tackle long-term challenges with the potential to offer a step-change
in both crop and livestock production. In crops, examples could include improving the efficiency of photosynthesis
or other long-term approaches to the sustainable intensification of crop production31. There is also the potential for
major improvements in the efficiency with which crops use water and other resources or exploring the possibilities
for nitrogen fixation in cereals.
64. Much can be done to increase crop productivity and production in the shorter term (in both high and low
income countries) by closing the yield gap, that is, raising actual yields towards the full potential yields that should
be achievable under the prevailing conditions whilst maintaining or improving quality (for example, as achieved
on demonstration farms). Sustainable approaches could include improved crop rotations and improving soil
65. Research will be needed on more efficient use of water and nutrients and on quantifying and reducing
greenhouse gas emissions and waste throughout the food chain. This includes increasing soil availability of
water and nutrients to crop plants while minimising inputs, through for example modified agronomic practices
and reducing water waste. In addition, research should explore ways to enhance carbon storage, especially in
impoverished soils. Approaches could include modified farming practices, optimised management of crop residues
and soils, increased plant root and other biomass in soils, and application of exogenous organic resources such as
composts, sludges and pyrolised material (Biochar).
31 Reaping the benefits: Science and the sustainable intensification of global agriculture (Royal Society, 2009)17
66. There is also a need to understand diffuse water pollution. Research is needed to characterise the relative
contributions of different sources, to understand catchment processes controlling pollutant transport and
attenuation, and to develop approaches to reduce diffuse pollution. In the UK, the Defra-funded Demonstration
Test Catchments provide a platform to host long-term research on pollutant mobilisation, transport, impact and
mitigation at field to catchment scales. The sustainable use of water by agriculture (including the environmental
impact of water abstraction) and the role of embedded water in relation to global water security are also important
67. For livestock, for which demand is increasing rapidly as global incomes rise, examples of research approaches
may include increasing energy and protein conversion efficiency, improving herd health and reproductive efficiency,
lowering maintenance requirements, as well as closed loop management systems. Reducing greenhouse gas
emissions from ruminant livestock is an important and related priority and includes studies of animal nutrition and
gut biology. Increased demand for animal-derived food products is likely to drive more farmers to employ more
intensive farming methods. The specific welfare requirements of animals in new production systems need to be
taken into account to ensure a sustainable food supply without compromising welfare standards, food safety,
nutritional quality or increasing disease risks.
68. Aquaculture is seen as being of increasing importance to food supplies globally, but there is a need to
develop more sustainable approaches to aquaculture, including sustainable fish feed (to reduce dependence of
aquaculture on wild-caught fish), management of fish diseases and pests (notably sea lice) and management of
environmental impacts. Approaches could include sustainable exploitation of other marine sources such as algae,
production of plant-derived fish feeds that provide necessary nutrients, and integrating aquaculture activities with
69. Research is needed to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy use and associated greenhouse gas
emissions throughout the food system, notably in food production, processing, refrigeration, transport, retail and
storage, as well as through waste minimisation and utilisation. This includes flexible manufacturing, energy and
water saving/re-use systems, and new technologies and management systems to reduce energy and water
70. Losses need to be reduced throughout the food system. Research to reduce losses in food production from
crops and farmed animals should aim to enhance resistance and improve prevention and management of pests
and diseases (including exotic and endemic animal infectious diseases, many of which are zoonoses that can
transfer to humans, and mycotoxins that impact on food safety). Research on pest, disease and weed control
for better crop protection would include integrated pest management and other approaches to reduce inputs of
pesticides, as well as studies to understand more fully and mitigate the impacts of pesticide use on ecosystems
associated with agriculture. Approaches such as intercropping can show marked benefits for pest control.
Research should also aim to enhance tolerance to abiotic stresses such as drought, flooding or high temperatures,
and reduce post-harvest losses.
71. Reducing waste in the production, transport, storage, retailing and consumption of food, and the recovery
of resources from waste, would bring multiple benefits including increased food availability, reduced use of
inputs (including energy), reduced greenhouse gas emissions (arising directly from waste food going to landfill
and indirectly from all stages of the supply chain) and financial benefits to producers, retailers and consumers.
Innovative ways are needed to reduce the very large extent of waste in the food system, and to ensure that
improvements are implemented in practice at all stages of the supply chain. This can be achieved through
innovation in crop breeding (such as for improved shelf life) and post-harvest technology (such as information
and communication technologies, robotics and non-invasive sensors) to reduce storage losses and waste and
maximise yield and quality through efficient utilisation of raw materials during processing and social innovation
in practices across the food chain. Innovation in intelligent/smart packaging technology can reduce spoilage and
extend shelf life, including in the home.18
72. Management of agricultural systems can be improved through the development of decision-support and
management systems at a range of scales (farm, catchment, regional) to optimise food production in ways that are
reconciled with the delivery of other critical ecosystem services and maintaining biodiversity. Improvements can also
be made in logistics and management systems for food transport, storage, distribution and retailing.
73. Research is needed to improve our understanding of how markets and social drivers (for example consumer
demand) affect food producers’ methods and technologies, with the aim of developing interventions that will
embed production and process innovation practices that are more economically, environmentally and socially
sustainable in the short and long term. This includes the relationship between food production and nutrition (there
is a strong link to theme 3), with research to enhance the quality of meat, dairy and crops, and explore the potential
for biofortification and reformulation in food manufacturing.
Theme 3. Nutrition, Health and Wellbeing
74. Theme 3 includes food safety and quality throughout the supply chain, and diet, nutrition, health, and
wellbeing as determined by accessibility, consumer behaviour, food choice, cultural and social practice.
75. Ideally, food should be produced, processed, distributed, retailed and consumed in a society where people
can access a safe, healthy diet and are able to make informed choices about what they eat, the origins of their
food, its nutritional quality and sustainability. A reliable, safe food supply, which is accessible and affordable, needs
to be developed, maintained and secured, with consumers having confidence in the safety and quality of the food
available to them.
76. The interconnectedness of global food systems and value chains, economies and environments is increasingly
evident and food system policies made in one world region will have impacts on economic, health and
environmental outcomes in other parts of the world. The shifts in national and regional dietary patterns resulting
from factors such as economic development, health seeking behaviours, concerns for the environment, and
resource scarcity can lead to complex interactions.
77. This theme will help develop an improved understanding of the link between dietary health, sustainable
food production and consumer behaviour, to improve population-level nutrition outcomes and the environmental,
social and economic sustainability of habitual diets globally. Further research is needed on what constitutes an
acceptable, nutritious, healthy and sustainable diet and how this differs across the globe; how factors such as
equity, preference, habit and social practice shape diets of different populations; and the short and long-term
implications of dietary practices on health.
78. A better understanding is needed on the drivers of food choice, the scope for positive interventions and the
role of different actors across the food supply chain in both developed and developing countries. The nutrition
transition that often occurs during economic development and leads to a shift in consumption patterns towards
diets that contain more sugar, salt and fat is associated with the rapidly rising incidence of non-communicable
diseases such as obesity and diabetes. Understanding the drivers of food and nutrition security including food
availability, supply, affordability, utilisation and food choice, and the scope for positive agriculture and food system
interventions for health is critical.
79. Biofortification could have a positive effect on nutrition outcomes and changes to the nutritional composition
of foods may have benefits for health. Further research is needed on novel and functional foods and consumer
80. To provide safe and nutritious food for a growing world population, it is important to reduce the incidence of
food poisoning. This requires a better understanding of how novel, emerging and re-emerging pathogens can
be prevented, detected and controlled rapidly to enhance food security. For example, Campylobacter species are
responsible for more than 300,000 cases of food poisoning a year in England and Wales and partners are working
together to fund research on Campylobacter and how best to control it, following the publication of a joint research
32 UK Research and Innovation Strategy for Campylobacter in the food chain 2010-2015 (BBSRC, Defra, FSA, SG and DARD, 2010; refreshed 2013)19
81. It is expected that much of the research in Theme 3 will be driven by developments under the other themes,
and this might include issues around governance of the food system. For example, if research generates a new
high-yielding crop, the effects of its incorporation into the diet on health will need to be assessed. Likewise, its
introduction may have effects on food safety (is it resistant or sensitive to fungal contamination, does it introduce
new allergenic potential?) and on wider aspects of sustainability of the diet. Issues around food price and food
supply may give rise to concerns about increased drivers for food fraud with potential impacts on food safety, which
may require further investigation. Theme 3 is therefore likely to be the most responsive of the themes.
82. A major objective of this theme is to ensure that, when changes in the food system are made in response
to a range of drivers, the effects of those changes on safety and health within a sustainable food system are not
83. Major programmes of research33 are in place outside Global Food Security to address topics such as diet and
health, food safety and sustainability. It is anticipated that research in these related programmes will be valuable in
informing developments in this theme and the Global Food Security programme more widely.
+ Microbial and chemical food safety and food intolerance – including current priorities of reducing the incidence of key
food-borne pathogens throughout the food supply chain (notably Campylobacter); identifying and addressing emerging
and re-emerging food safety risks; and the challenges and opportunities (technological, social and economic) arising
from the proposed application of emerging technologies.
+ Nutrition and malnutrition – including improved understanding of how foods interact with the body; micronutrient
requirements; and the differing nutritional needs of various groups who are subject to the challenges posed by food
+ Developing a better understanding of what a healthy, sustainable and safe diet is and how this can be achieved in the
context of variable consumer access to resources and limited ranges of food stuffs.
+ Responsible innovation34 in the development of emerging technologies.
+ Improved understanding of the following with a view to understanding which interventions work best to help people
achieve safe, healthier, diets within a sustainable food system:
• Individual/group behaviour throughout the global food supply chain (from producers to consumption and waste
management) in the context of a broad range of food security drivers, such as environmental change, government
intervention and technology development.
• Food choice as determined by social and contextual factors (for example attitudes, values and cultural influence;
demographic profile; the role of preference, habit and social practice; public understanding, advertising and marketing
strategies), economic factors such as affordability, and biological factors (for example cognitive; food-reward
mechanisms; satiety; palatability; and preference).
Theme 3. Nutrition, Health and Wellbeing
Example research areas
33 Examples include:
MRC Human Nutrition Research, Cambridge
MRC International Nutrition Group, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Scottish Government healthy safe diets research
FSA food-borne illness research and chemical contaminants research
BBSRC Institute of Food Research, Norwich; Diet and Health Research Industry Club (DRINC)
34 Responsible innovation describes the process that helps researchers understand the benefits and risks of emerging technologies early on in the innovation
process. It includes public engagement, risk management, life cycle analysis, ethical approval and regulation.20
84. Since its launch in February 2011, the GFS programme has made significant progress in a number of key areas
which we will build on in future. Some examples are highlighted here.
Improved coordination and increased innovation
85. GFS has played a central role in the coordination of activities across partners, ensuring greater alignment
and joint working. A strong driver throughout these activities has been maximising impact through innovation and
86. In its development phase, the programme helped facilitate wider partner engagement in the Campylobacter
research strategy38 across BBSRC, FSA, Defra, Scottish Govt, and DARD which was followed by a multi-partner call
for proposals39. GFS has helped ensure a multi-partner approach to the Nutrition for Life calls40 41, funded by TSB,
BBSRC, EPSRC and MRC (with Defra and FSA on a case-by-case basis), which encouraged collaboration between
academia and the food industry to develop innovative processes and technologies aimed at providing healthy
and safe food and drink. The second phase of the diet and health research industry club (DRINC)42, supported by
BBSRC, EPSRC, ESRC and MRC and aligned with GFS aims, will also fund research to underpin the needs of the food
industry, designing foods to improve health, understanding the relationship between food processing and nutrition,
and understanding food choice.
87. A sustainable intensification R&D platform43, led by Defra, is being coordinated under the GFS programme
and will act as a hub for current and future partner activities. This will support multi-disciplinary and translational
research aimed at improving the productivity and environmental performance of UK agriculture. It will bring
together a community of academics and land management stakeholders to provide an umbrella for current and
future research activities in this area. This will also build on research activities relevant to sustainable intensification
that are part of the current Scottish Government strategic research portfolio.
35 The top 100 questions of importance to the future of global agriculture (Pretty et al, 2010)
36 Priority Research Questions for the UK Food System (GFS 2013); See Food Security,
Volume 5, Issue 5, pp 617-636 (Ingram et al, 2013)
37 What do we need to know to enhance the environmental sustainability of agriculture?
A prioritisation of knowledge needs for the UK food system Sustainability 5, 3095-3115
(Dicks et al, 2013)
38 UK Research and Innovation Strategy for Campylobacter in the food chain 2010-2015
(BBSRC, Defra, FSA, SG and DARD, 2010; refreshed 2013)
39 Tackling Campylobacter in the food chain (2011)
40 Nutrition for Life (2011)
41 Nutrition for Life 2 (2013)
42 Diet and health research industry club (DRINC)
43 Sustainable Intensification R&D Platform (Defra 2013)
7. Building on progress
100 Questions Activities
In setting the programme’s initial priorities, a joint
GFS-Foresight workshop was held with the Global Food
and Farming Futures lead expert group and wider
stakeholders, building on the findings of their report
and a paper35 on the top 100 questions of importance to
the future of global agriculture. A further exercise was
undertaken more recently on GFS Priority Questions for
the UK Food System36 with a wide variety of stakeholders
to help develop and further refine our priorities. A
key aim was to identify the top questions for different
stakeholders and use this as a way of prioritising
our activities. GFS also provided input into a further
100 Questions exercise that was focused on defining
priorities for sustainable agriculture37. 21
Soil Science Programme
GFS has developed a coordinated and strategic
approach to soil science, co-designed and funded by
BBSRC, NERC and Defra46. The first stage of this approach
is a BBSRC-led call for proposals on soil and rhizosphere
interactions for sustainable agri-ecosystems focusing
on the laboratory to field scale. The second stage will
be a NERC-led programme focusing on the landscape
to earth-system scale. Defra will aim to build on the
BBSRC and NERC programmes through linked activities to
translate emerging findings for policy and practical soil
88. Aligned activities include the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Innovation Club (SARIC)44 funded by BBSRC
and NERC and the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Innovation Platform (SAF-IP)45 both of which aim to support
collaborative research with industry to address key challenges on sustainable agriculture. The SAF-IP, which was
funded by TSB, BBSRC, Defra and the Scottish Govt, has had five calls to date on crop protection, sustainable protein
production, processing and manufacturing efficiency, measurement technologies, and engineering solutions to
enhance agri-food production.
89. A multi-partner approach to a call for proposals on Zoonoses and Emerging Livestock Systems (ZELS)47 was
coordinated under GFS and funded by BBSRC, ESRC, MRC, NERC, DFID and DSTL. This was aimed at minimising
the health risks associated with the rapidly changing nature of livestock systems in developing countries. A similar
multi-partner approach was taken to research on UK droughts and water scarcity (which included agriculture)48,
with a call for proposals funded by AHRC, BBSRC, EPSRC, ESRC, and NERC.
90. The MRC and the FSA developed an initiative to bring together researchers from their respective communities,
to understand the relevant immunological processes associated with food allergy/tolerance. This was aimed at
pump-priming the field and providing a platform of expertise and knowledge that will support relevant aspects of
the Global Food Security programme; for example, when considering how changes in the food supply might impact
on human health, and the development of strategies on how to recognise and mitigate such changes should they
91. Raising the profile of Global Food Security has contributed to the research community self-organising around
the challenge with the development of new cross-HEI networks and centres, in many cases across different
disciplines. Examples include the Reading University food security centre, the Liverpool University food security
network, the Scottish Food Security Alliance for Crops, and the Food Security Land Research Alliance between the
Universities of Exeter, Bristol, Bath, Cardiff and Rothamsted Research. These have helped tackle the food security
challenge in a multidisciplinary way by considering all aspects of the food system.
44 Sustainable Agriculture Research and Innovation Club (SARIC)
45 Sustainable Agriculture and Food Innovation Platform (SAF-IP)
46 Funding to help understand soil’s key role in global food security (GFS, 2013)
47 Zoonoses and Emerging Livestock Systems (2013)
48 UK droughts and water scarcity (2013)Food Security and Land Use Change
92. Professor Tim Benton was appointed as GFS Champion in November 2011, and provides a key link between
partners and stakeholders, as well as being a high profile ambassador for the programme. Professor Benton has
given over 150 talks at meetings and events involving a wide range of GFS stakeholders.
93. In implementing the GFS Communications and Public Engagement Strategy, we have engaged with a wide
range of stakeholders through a programme overseen by an expert Communications and Public Engagement
Group, with representation from the partners and different professional and remit disciplines.
94. GFS has been successfully positioned as an authoritative voice on food security, and specifically food security
research issues in the media. A community of the communicators in the food security research area has been built
through the work of GFS communications and at a workshop organised in October 2012. GFS communications has
been underpinned by a digital approach focused on the GFS website, with regular guest blogs from the sector, a
monthly email newsletter49 with a growing subscriber base and a popular Twitter50 feed.
Horizon scanning and foresight
95. GFS has had a strong role in horizon scanning and scoping emerging priorities across the food system,
working with key stakeholders to identify knowledge gaps for future research. For example, the programme
has recently commissioned a literature review on food waste51 and set up a sub-group of interested partners to
determine the next steps. As well as identifying areas for joint working (see section on improved coordination
above), this has helped in the development of priorities within individual partner organisations.
96. GFS has had an important role in ensuring evidence from research feeds into policy-making, not least through
the strong engagement in the programme from government partners. Evidence-based policy-making has also
been informed through GFS Champion attendance at meetings of the Green Food Project, the Food Research
Partnership, Defra and Scottish Government Advisory Councils, and the G20 meeting of Agricultural Chief Scientists.
97. In addition to the 100 questions workshops described above, stakeholder workshops have also been held
on engineering for agriculture, and on the interaction between dietary health, sustainable food production and
consumer behaviour, which have helped shape the thinking in these areas. GFS has published reports on Global
food systems and UK imports: resilience, safety, security52, and Severe weather and UK food resilience53.
98. GFS has also helped to shape the UK government’s Strategy for Agricultural Technologies54, ensuring that
significant parts of the knowledge and evidence developed within the GFS programme have a clear pathway to
49 Sign up for the newsletter - www.foodsecurity.ac.uk
50 @FoodSecurityUK Twitter page
51 Food waste within global food systems - A Global Food Security report (GFS, 2013)
52 Global food systems and UK imports: resilience, safety, security (GFS 2013)
53 Severe weather and UK food resilience (GFS 2012)
54 A UK Strategy for Agricultural Technologies (HM Government, 2013)
GFS has had a strong role in influencing and coordinating
funding for the Belmont Forum and FACCE-JPI collective
research announcement (CRA) on food security and land
use change. The CRA will be funded by BBSRC, ESRC and
NERC and will have a focus on the ways in which land
use affects food systems and food system dynamics, and
is a driver for land use change.23
99. The GFS programme has developed a strategic approach to international engagement55, which focuses on
exploring opportunities to work with international partners to help deliver our priority areas. Alongside this, GFS
has provided input into an FRP international report on wider opportunities for international engagement beyond
research and innovation.
100. GFS has provided coordinated UK input into the Joint Programming Initiatives on agriculture, food security and
climate change (FACCE-JPI)56 and a healthy diet for a healthy life (HDHL)57, and has coordinated joint funding of the
first FACCE-JPI pilot action58 on climate change and food security from BBSRC and the Scottish Govt. The programme
has also led on the scoping activities for a new OECD temperate agriculture network and provided input into the
initiative on Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition59.
101. GFS has worked with the National Text Mining Centre60 to analyse research funded across programme
partners. This has helped inform our priorities by understanding the level of research being undertaken in key
areas and where this research is taking place. Building on this analysis and the breadth of existing knowledge, the
programme has developed and published the first in a series of practice and policy notes called GFS Insight. These
aim to provide cutting-edge research in an easily accessible format for use by policy-makers and practitioners,
helping to maximise the potential for impact. The first note is entitled The importance of agricultural soils in ensuring
food security and provides an overview of current threats to agricultural soils.61
102. In addition to the attitudinal survey and public discussion workshops (see case study), the programme has
engaged the public with a touring exhibition. The ‘Field to Fork’ exhibit was launched in March 2012 and has
visited venues including country shows, research open days and museums. The exhibit is designed to support and
encourage public interaction with researchers. GFS has also sought to engage schools and young people through
the development of educational resources, including a science debate kit on food security. These are also available
at the exhibition to the general public.
55 Global Food Security - Opportunities for International Engagement (GFS, 2013)
56 Joint Programming Initiative on agriculture, food security and climate change (FACCE-JPI)
57 Joint Programming Initiative on a healthy diet for a healthy life (HDHL)
58 FACCE-JPI pilot action (2012)
59 Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN, 2013)
60 National Text Mining Centre - see www.nactem.ac.uk
61 The importance of agricultural soils in ensuring food security (GFS, 2013)
62 GFS Public Dialogue: Exploring Public Views and A Survey of Public Attitudes (GFS, 2012)
Under the GFS programme, research was commissioned
to help consider public views, aspirations and concerns
around global food security62. Over 1200 people were
surveyed as part of the work and nearly 50 people
were involved in in-depth discussions that took place
across the country and over many weeks. The research
revealed a range of insights around food waste, price,
the global nature of food supply and other issues. The
work also exposed how the public frame the challenges
of food security which has influenced the framing of this
refreshed strategic plan. 24
103. Significant research and evidence gathering is being taken forward across all programme partners to help
address the food security challenge, and GFS adds value by coordinating, aligning, integrating, influencing and
shaping these activities.
104. Alongside coordination, GFS has a strong role in taking forward priority areas that would benefit from an inter-
or multidisciplinary, multi-partner approach, and that would complement individual partner activities. A number of
these areas are captured below and have been developed through the 100 questions workshops (see section 7),
advice from our Strategy Advisory Board, the GFS Champion’s stakeholder engagement activities and in response
to new and emerging issues.
105. Over the remaining planning period, GFS will continue to add value by:
+ Continuing to influence, shape and align existing and new activities across partners and stakeholders to
maximise impact and value for money. We will also continue to horizon scan to identify emerging priorities,
exploiting opportunities to address gaps in our knowledge.
+ Taking forward the development of the following priority areas that have scope for innovation through an inter-
or multidisciplinary, multi-partner approach:
• Resilience of the food supply chain, improving our ability to predict and respond to shocks to the food
system. GFS will build on its report on Severe weather and UK food resilience and explore opportunities
for economic resilience and climate-resilient agriculture, through for example better seasonal/weather
forecasting. GFS will also build on its report on Global food systems and UK imports: resilience, safety,
security to understand the challenges of the food system, public perceptions of the food chain, and
differential impacts of food system vulnerabilities on consumers, helping to mitigate risks to the food system
and increase resilience and security.
• International food systems, helping to address poverty by understanding the link between commodity
and food prices – GFS will develop research to understand the impact of changes in global benchmark
agricultural prices on poverty outcomes, including through global food modelling. This will compare existing
models aimed at integrating environmental impacts (including climate change) with global agricultural
production and international food security over the longer term.
• Food and water, helping to improve water use efficiency, minimise water pollution and contribute to water
security across the globe – GFS will lead on the food and farming subgroup of the UKWRIP, focusing on
irrigation, farming’s impact on water, and embedded water in imported food.
• Engineering for agriculture, building on the UK’s world class engineering base to provide novel solutions to
sustainable intensification – GFS will build on the workshop and develop a coordinated approach to research
in this area.
• Aquaculture, helping to ensure sustainable stocks of fish in the future – GFS will work with stakeholders to
understand the evidence gaps and develop a joint approach across partners to address these.
• Food waste, minimising the third of food produced that is wasted globally – GFS will build on the findings of
the food waste report and explore multidisciplinary approaches to addressing the evidence gaps.
• Food safety, building on the refresh of the Joint Research Strategy on Campylobacter with further
coordinated calls. The potential for developing a cross-funder programme on the use of next generation
sequencing and associated bioinformatics to tackle issues relating to food-borne pathogens will also be
8. Future priorities25
• Food allergy and intolerance, advancing our understanding in key areas with a view to helping individuals
better manage their conditions and make safer food choices.
• Nutrition, helping to optimise nutrient intake for health – GFS will build on the workshop and current activities
in this area and explore activities on the optimal level of nutrients for health for different demographic groups
• Consumer behaviour and food choice, understanding the many factors that drive food choice to improve
health and sustainability – GFS will build on the workshop and existing knowledge to develop research to
better understand the biological, psychological, economic, cultural and social drivers of food choice and
scope for positive interventions.
+ Working with international partners to help deliver the research priorities above, identifying opportunities to
work with food exporting nations, emerging economies and developing countries. GFS will also help to develop
and implement the OECD temperate agriculture network and initiative on Global Open Data for Agriculture and
+ Continuing to provide leadership and raising the profile of the GFS programme through the GFS Champion
and communications activities. GFS will continue to ensure that the GFS website is an authoritative source of
information and that research underpinning food security is communicated through the Champion and other
+ Working with the Agri-Tech Leadership Council, Strategy Advisory Board, Food Research Partnership and
other similar groups to maximise the impact of our collective investments through innovation and knowledge
exchange. Significant parts of the knowledge and evidence developed within the GFS programme will
feed directly into governmental innovation policies, including the UK government’s Strategy for Agricultural
+ Continuing to raise awareness of evidence from research to inform stakeholder activities, including policy and
practice. In support of this aim, GFS will publish a set of GFS Insight practice and policy notes in key areas.
+ Delivering against the GFS public engagement strategy, building on the public dialogue and ensuring that
public views, aspirations and concerns around global food security are factored into our activities.GFS Programme Partners and Affiliates
RCUK Research Councils UK
BBSRC Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
ESRC Economic and Social Research Council
EPSRC Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
MRC Medical Research Council
NERC Natural Environment Research Council
STFC Science and Technology Facilities Council (observer)
BIS Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Defra Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
DH Department of Health
DFID Department for International Development
FSA Food Standards Agency
GO-Science Government Office for Science
SG Scottish Government
WG Welsh Government
TSB Technology Strategy Board
Met Office (observer)
Wellcome Trust (observer)
FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
GFS Global Food Security (multi-funder programme)
HEI Higher Education Institutions
INRA French National Institute for Agricultural Research
NGO Non-governmental organisation
OECD Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
UK United Kingdom
UKWRIP UK Water Research and Innovation Partnership
WHO World Health Organization
Glossary and abbreviations
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