Sustainability of food production, an international perspective



I had a fabulous time with the Nutrition Science first year students of MMU last week when I was invited to give a guest lecture during #gogreenweek


The students are having a series of sustainability lectures over this term and for their assignment, they will look at how they can make their own diets more sustainable.

Sustainability Bingo


Surprisingly, they hadn’t already played sustainability bingo! I have attended so many lectures on food systems, sustainability and how we will feed the world’s population that it would be rude not to include an example bingo card of what you should be able to tick off in any sustainability lecture, worth its salt.

Sustainability BINGO

Of course, the students all knew that by 2050, the world’s population will be 9.5 billion so that was an easy one, however, I went on to tell them about the 6 countries I visited during the Nuffield Global Focus Programme last year.

The tour focused on Japan but went via Singapore, Indonesia and from Japan onto Israel, the UK and USA. I explained to the students how each country has its challenges and strengths, from Singapore, a net importer of 100% of its fruit and vegetables but a significant player in import and export of food in the ASEAN region. Indonesia, with its young population, 20% annual economic growth and examples of sustainable mixed farming systems alongside mono-cropped palm oil production which compared with rapeseed and soybean, yields more efficiently.

We discussed the ageing population of Japan and how young people are being encouraged into farming with new technology but compared to Israel who are ranked number 4 in the world for start-up businesses, the Japanese have some way to go. Consumption of locally grown food was a practice that impressed me from a sustainable point of view in both countries.

I focussed on technology when talking about protected crop production in the UK where some businesses use Combined Heat Power plants to generate electricity and CO2 for their crops. The introduction of anaerobic digesters throws up the question ‘is it better to grow crops just for human food or is growing crops for energy production a sustainable use of land?

The USA was the final leg of my tour and I talked about the efficiency of large scale cheap food production as well as the inability of the poorest people to be able to afford food.

The students have some new information to be able to make some more informed choices about sustainable diets and I was very impressed that the nutrition science programme takes a broad view of food systems and encourages thinking in this way.


Thanks to Haleh Moravej, Senior Lecturer at MMU for facilitating



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