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/ Food Futures
/ Food Futures

Which crops might feed the world in 2050?

For decades, the global food system has evolved around a small number of plants and animals. 75% of our calories now come from just five animals and 12 crops.    

But as the world becomes more insecure, and the climate crisis worsens, the risk of relying on a small number of crops rises.  

And the risks are not just around the crops, they are around the geography of the system. We are all seeing that now, as the war in Ukraine causes global issues in food price and supply.

So the food system needs to adapt and change; we should be growing different crops in different places.

The good news is, our world is full of incredible, edible things. There are thousands of plants which can give us what we need, and which are not currently being eaten at scale. 

Within that diversity, surely there are plants which could become new global or regional staples, which could resist drought, which could make us healthier.

In this episode of the Food Matters Live podcast, our panel of experts look at what the diet of the future might be like and ask whether the food system is adaptable enough to get us there.

Marybel Soto Gomez, Project Manager, Kew Gardens

Marybel’s research interests lay at the interface of plant evolution, systematics, crop wild relatives, and agrobiodiversity.

At Kew, she is responsible for managing a project on the sustainable use and conservation of Ethiopia’s rich plant bioresources for enhancing local food security and socio-economic development.

She is additionally leading phylogenomic studies to (i) resolve the contentious evolutionary history of the monocot order Dioscoreales, and (ii) identify crop wild relatives of the major yam crop, Dioscorea alata.

Richard Ellis, Professor of Crop Production, University of Reading

As Professor of Crop Production, teaching and research in seed and crop physiology and production in relation to agriculture, horticulture and biodiversity conservation

Rihcard’s research covers reproductive crop plant biology and the effect of environment on seeds, plants and crops.

Research on seeds includes seed quality development, seed storage (including the seed viability equation), seed dormancy and germination (including seed testing and crop establishment), and these interests in anhydrous biology extend to related aspects in fungal spores and pollen.

The application of much of the seed research has been within the international networks of gene-banks; i.e. long-term seed stores for plant genetic resources conservation (one element of biodiversity conservation).

Research on flowering has been concerned ultimately with crop adaptation, by determining the quantitative effects of temperature and photoperiod on flowering.

Dorothy Shaver, ​​Global Sustainability Director, Unilever

Dorothy is a Registered Dietitian working in food sustainability with unique experience in and passion for driving behaviour change for positive health and environmental outcomes.

Over the past fifteen years she has worked across media, retail, health care, and the fitness industry championing food choices to enable personal and planetary health.

Her most recent piece of work is theKnorrFuture 50 Foods report, which is a collaborative thought leadership report in which food system issues are outlined and nutrient dense foods that promote agrobiodiversity and reduce the negative environmental impact of food are identified.

Dorothy’s recent work has been featured in over 6,000 national, international and social media pieces with features in far reaching credible channels across 95 countries.

She has been a long-term spokesperson for sustainable nutrition and has spoken at well-known conferences and events including the International Festival of Creativity In Cannes, France and at the EAT Forum in Stockholm, Sweden.

In addition to this, Dorothy has written various pieces as a guest blogger, news contributor, and guest food writer. Her expertise has brought her all over the world, joining forces with renowned experts and partners to achieve measurable change.

Share this episode:

Marybel Soto Gomez

Contributor

Project Manager, Kew Gardens

We shouldn't put all our eggs in one basket. We need to massively expand the range of foods we eat so we can have a steady food supply even if there are foods that become suddenly unavailable.

Marybel Soto Gomez

Richard Ellis

Contributor

Professor of Crop Production, University of Reading

A large number of people would argue the food system isn't working very well. Globally, there's considerable malnutrition and price inflation.

Richard Ellis

Dorothy Shaver

Contributor

Global Sustainability Lead - Knorr

Unilever

We need to grow the right foods, in the right places, in the right ways and in the right amounts.

Dorothy Shaver