Could climate change affect the food on our plate?

Could climate change affect the food on our plate?

Researchers are today (Thursday, November 19) debating whether measures to curb climate change could impact on the food on our plate.

The possibility that tackling global warming might mean a rethink of food production is one of the areas being discussed at the seminar Future Food: the global challenge organised bythe University of Aberdeen.

Experts in obesity, nutrition, rural development and social science are speaking at the University of Aberdeen event which has the keynote speaker Professor Phillip James, Director of the International Obesity Task Force.

Delegates from organisations like the Carbon Centre, Food Standards Agency and the Scottish Government are also attending.

Drs Jennie Macdiarmid and Geraldine McNeill, from the University’s Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, and Professor Christopher Fynsk, Director of the University’s Centre for Modern Thought, have organised the seminar taking place at the Suttie Centre for Teaching and Learning in Healthcare.

Dr Macdiarmid said: “Climate change and diet and health, in particular obesity, are high on the political agenda, and what we are trying to do is bring the two areas of research together.

“Our seminar is getting researchers from across Scotland - including experts from the University of Aberdeen and the Macaulay Institute - in the same room discussing health and nutrition, climate change and socio-economic issues that are likely to influence our future food supply.

“For example if we look at ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and this means reducing car use, this could be a good thing if it is leads to people do more physical activity.

“But if reducing emissions means looking at where our food comes from, and perhaps looking at whether we should be flying in fruit and vegetables from abroad, then that throws up all sorts of issues, particularly when we are not eating enough fruit and vegetables at the moment.

“Are we reducing our carbon footprint by not importing tomatoes that are not in season locally if we are growing them here in heated greenhouses?

“Or if we stop flying green beans in from Africa are we harming their local economy? Perhaps we are already causing problems if local farmers are using up much needed water by looking after crops destined for the UK.

“There are many complex issues that need to be explored and what we are hoping is that our seminar will lead to research collaborations to tackle these big questions.”

Professor Philip James talk is titled climate change: interrelationships with diet and physical activity.

The three other speakers are Professor Bill Slee, Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, who is discussing Future Food Supplies: socio-economics and climate change; Dr Geraldine McNeill, University of Aberdeen is speaking about Dietary changes needed for future health and Dr Tony Craig, Macaulay Institute, is discussing Behaviour change: conflicts and trade offs

Professor Maggie Gill, Chief Scientific Adviser for Rural Affairs and the Environment at the Scottish Government will give her concluding thoughts on the topic at the end of the meeting.