Café Scientifique – “Our food in 2020: challenges facing society”

British Science Association RedTractor

Tonight I went along to one of the monthly Café Scientifique events at the Déjà vu Bar, a presentation by David Gregory entitled “Our food in 2020: challenges facing society”. The rest of my family was otherwise occupied so the evening was my own to use as I wished.

Monday night is pretty quiet in Reading so taking over the establishment didn’t conflict much with the usual clientele. In front of the bar was set up a podium with mike stand; arranged around were a number of comfy chairs between the podium and dining tables. Ample space for the 20+ that turned up.

David chatted at reasonable length about the challenges to society around providing food in the future. 2020 was just chosen after he heard FaceBook was 8 years old which showed how things can appear from nowhere and become part of day-to-day life in a relatively short period of time. Being able to listen to someone that actually knows what they’re talking about rather than having to read newspaper articles written by journalists that don’t was quite refreshing.

Just a few of the many points of interest

  • Fresh fruit and obesity – people are moving up the sugar scale on the fruit they eat; grapes are the most popular at the moment (16-17% sugar) replacing banana (12% sugar), the old favourite, and apples (11% sugar). I’ve taken my data from the Sugar Stacks website where strawberries are the healthiest fruit on their list. Seems counter-intuitive that eating more (of some) fruit may not be as good for you as you’d think.
  • Nearly all research and investment is in the pre-harvest period of food creation (generating new disease-resistant crops, etc.) and maybe 5% in post-harvest where there is so much waste – crops taking too long to get to market, inadequate storage, etc. Of course, that brings its own problems – refrigeration units, for example, require a lot of energy which poorer areas don’t have.
  • A big difference can be made by raising the performance of underachieving farms by a few per cent – not necessarily by the use of fertilisers but through more basic assistance such as education on farm management.

David Gregory’s CV

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