POST - Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

Novel Food Production

Published Friday, June 12, 2015

Food production systems worldwide may have to adapt radically to meet the rising global demand for food. Emerging approaches in the food sector include controlled-environment farming, alternative animal feeds, edible insects, and lab-cultured meat. This POSTnote considers these new technologies and summarises their respective advantages and limitations.

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Food security – where all people at all times have access to safe, sufficient and nutritious food – is a global priority. Food security is multifaceted, incorporating issues of production, distribution, stability, dietary preference and economic access. Although the transition to a secure and sustainable food system will require reducing food waste and influencing consumer behaviour, global food production may also need to increase. Projections suggest it may need to increase by 60% between 2007 and 2050 to meet the demand of a growing population. This will be challenging as agricultural productivity is being restricted by the increase in water scarcity (POSTnote 385), the availability and cost of mineral phosphate for fertilisers (POSTnote 477), the widespread decline in soil fertility, the limited land remaining for cultivation, and the impacts of climate change.

This POSTnote summarises three key areas of current food production innovation, controlled-environment farming, alternative animal feeds and novel protein sources, which could contribute to a more sustainable food system:

  • Controlled-environment farming can increase the yield of some crops and decrease resource use, but is not suited to staple crops like maize and wheat.
  • Sustainable sources of animal feed such as insects and algae could reduce the dependence on feed derived from wild fish or soy from tropical rain forest areas.
  • For humans, edible insects are a nutritious and resource efficient food source, but cultural aversion to insects as food may be a significant barrier.
  • Lab-cultured meat could provide a resource-efficient alternative protein source, but must overcome multiple technical challenges.
  • If novel food products are to be accepted by the public, their development should consider societal preferences and behaviours.

 

POSTnotes POST-PN-0499

Authors: Jonathan Wentworth; Stephanie Osborne

Topics: Agriculture and environment, Food

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The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology produces independent, balanced and accessible briefings on public policy issues related to science and technology.