Ruff to Food Scientists: Help Solve Global Hunger Issues
IFT President-Elect John Ruff issued a passionate challenge to food scientists: Use your skills and expertise to help solve the pressing problem of food insecurity. By 2050, the world’s population will reach nine billion, and scientific innovation is the key to ensuring a safe and abundant food supply for all, said Ruff in a speech delivered Monday evening during the annual Awards Celebration held in the convention center.
“Around the world, more than 15% of the population—or up to a billion people—are chronically undernourished. One-third of the children in developing countries are affected by malnutrition. Hunger in a world of plenty is not only shameful, but also economically costly,” said Ruff.
The problem of food insecurity isn’t limited to foreign shores. “Here in the U.S.A., 5% of the population doesn’t get enough food to eat,” said Ruff. “Hunger compromises the productivity of individuals, and in some cases, whole economies. Science and technology can provide the solutions we need to feed a growing population in a sustainable way, but we must invest in research and education,” said Ruff.
“To meet the food demand of the future, scientific and technological advancements must be accelerated and applied in both the developed and developing world,” said Ruff. “We have to find ways to reduce the 30% of the world’s food that is eaten by pests, spoiled on the way to market, or thrown away unused.”
He pointed out that up to half of the food grown and harvested in developing countries never gets consumed. “That’s due in part to poor handling, processing, packaging, and distribution,” said Ruff. “We’ll need to develop packaging and shipping methods close to food production sites in less developed areas to stop the waste.”
“We have to grow more food and manufacture it in a more efficient manner, using less water and energy, reducing waste, and producing foods that last longer,” Ruff continued. “We will need more protein, provided in a sustainable way. We’ll need to increase the nutritional value of food. We must make food accessible and affordable for all people, and we must meet these needs in a sustainable, environmentally friendly way.”
Ruff is optimistic about the opportunities available through science and technology. “The mapping of the human genome will allow for an era of personalized nutrition—diets can be individualized. Agricultural biotechnology will offer more efficient and cost-effective ways to produce products. Biotechnology and nanotechnology have the potential to increase food production, improve food quality and nutrition, reduce the need for chemicals, and lower the cost of production in an environmentally sustainable way.”
“All of us—scientists, educators, farmers, regulators, manufacturers, distributors, and consumers—we’re all in this together,” said Ruff. “Feeding the world is everybody’s business. Accelerating scientific innovation is necessary to feed the world, and it is critical to success in the food profession.
“The world may be getting smaller,” Ruff summarized, “but it’s also getting more crowded, and it will take the next generation of food scientists to figure how to feed the world of the future.”