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Current Position:Home » News » Food Technology » Topic

Unlocking the potential of microbiomes in food production systems

Zoom in font  Zoom out font Published: 2019-01-04  Views: 10
Core Tip: As the world population increases and the global climate is changing, the supply of food will become a growing problem.
As the world population increases and the global climate is changing, the supply of food will become a growing problem. Worldwide, the demand for food and agricultural produce is predicted to increase by up to 70 percent by 2050. There is an urgent need to create and develop new food production systems which meet this growing demand for food. A new project funded by the EU is set to explore the potential of exploiting microorganisms in plants and animals to improve food security and promote sustainable food production.

The project, SIMBA (Sustainable Innovation of Microbiome Applications in Food System), aims to tackle the growing challenge of supplying food to a growing global population amid the climate change crisis, through innovative activities around food systems using microorganisms.

The project marks the beginning of a plan that will explore the value and potential of microbiomes in food production systems. Microbiomes are a community of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses that inhabit a particular environment. These communities play a vital role in the productivity and health of plants and animals. Exploitation of the communities in species used as food sources could then lead to the creation of healthier, more stable and secure crops and livestock.

At the recent meeting in Helsinki in mid-December, SIMBA Project Coordinator and Principal Scientist Anne Pihlanto from LUKE, Natural Resources Institute Finland, said: “Recent research has indicated the huge impact microbiomes have on our lives. This makes SIMBA a very exciting project to be involved in. The project will have far-reaching impacts, not only contributing to improved food security, but the development of sustainable diets and novel fermented products are also expected to function as a cure for type 2 diabetes potentially.”

SIMBA will focus on two interconnected food chains: crop production and aquaculture. Microbial soil fertility and plant defense will be studied, especially for dry areas susceptible to erosion. The potential of marine microbiomes to boost algal biomass, to facilitate natural feed production and to reduce considerable use of antibiotics will be studied. Exploration and exploitation of microbiomes are instrumental for the development of new healthier food and feed products. Microbes can also be applied as ingredients to food to improve gut microflora and to ensure a better uptake of nutrients.

SIMBA’s approach will add to a growing body of research aimed at stimulating food production not only in Europe but in global regions where food insecurity has been an ongoing issue. These regions, as well as those who are beginning to feel these negative impacts, are expected to benefit from the project’s findings.

Climate change is a hot topic for the food industry with many key players setting ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, cut down on waste, use energy efficiently and streamline strategies to tackle what is a profound challenge with direct implications on food safety, supply chains and raw materials.

The notion of how big business will contribute to the fight against climate change is one of the key issues being debated after a leading body of experts, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), issued stark warnings last October. The study says that a rise of more than 1.5°C is risking the plant’s livability and this could be exceeded by 2030 unless drastic steps are taken now. With clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems, limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C could go hand in hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society but this would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society, according to the report.

In November, some of the world’s leading science academies said that global food systems are failing and urgently need to be turned around to avoid catastrophic climate change. An in-depth report from the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) calls for a total transformation of how systems operate as agriculture and consumer choices are major factors driving “disastrous climate change.” Key themes include the type of food produced and how to mitigate impacts through “climate-smart” food systems as well as dietary changes such as cutting down on meat.

 
 
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