Some say the world's population will swell to 9 billion people by 2030 and that will present significant challenges for agriculture to provide enough food to meet demand, says University of Idaho animal scientist Rod Hill.
Hill and Larry Branen, a University of Idaho food scientist, organized a symposium during the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting Sunday to explore ways biotechnology could provide healthy and plentiful animal-based foods to meet future demands.
Synthetic biology, nanotechnology, genetic engineering and other applications of biotechnology – and the public's role in determining their acceptable uses -- were all addressed by panelists during the session.
The goal for the session, which was part of the nation's largest and most prestigious general science meeting held annually, was to encourage a dialogue among scientists and the public, said Hill, a Moscow-based molecular physiologist who studies muscle growth in cattle.
"There will be a significant challenge for agriculture and the science that will be required to provide a healthy, nutritious and adequate food supply in coming decades for a rapidly growing population," Hill said.
A key question, he said, is whether the Earth can continue to provide enough food without technological support. The history of civilization and agriculture during the last 10,000 years suggests otherwise.
"Unaided food production is an unattainable ideal – current society is irrevocably grounded in the technological interventions underpinning the agricultural revolution that now strives to feed the world," Hill said.
Branen serves as the university's Coeur d'Alene-based associate vice president for northern Idaho. He also remains active as a researcher working with nanotechnology in a variety of ways, including uses as biological sensors to detect disease or spoilage.
Nanoparticles may be used to target certain genes and thus play a role in genetic engineering of food animals. Branen said, "There's also no question that nanomaterials may help increase the shelf stability of food products and assure their safety."
Other panelists include University of Missouri Prof. Kevin Wells who believes genetically modified animals will have a future place on humanity's tables, just as genetically modified plants do now.
Panelist Hongda Chen serves as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's national program leader for bioprocessing engineering and nanotechnology. He will explore how scientific methods like nanotechnology may be applied to help meet the world's growing demand for safe and healthy food.
Synthetic biology, the use of novel methods to create genes or chromosomes, will be explored by panelist Michele Garfinkel, a policy analyst for the J. Craig Venter Institute, which pioneered the sequencing of the human genome.
The public's acceptance or rejection of new technologies that could determine future food supplies will be the domain of Susanna Priest, a professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. A communications researcher, she has argued that public debate is essential to public attitudes toward such technologies.
For Idaho's Branen, the panel provides an opportunity to advance that public discussion.
"I think that's essential," he said. "We've seen lots of technologies where we didn't get adoption because we didn't get consumer acceptance and understanding. Irradiation of food has been possible for over 50 years but we still haven't gotten to general use because there is still a fear and lack of understanding of it." Branen added, "To me everything we're doing today requires an extensive discussion and an interdisciplinary approach. We can't just focus on the technology but must look at the social and political aspects of the technology as well."
About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state's flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university's student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 130 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. The university is home to the Vandals, the 2009 Roady's Humanitarian Bowl champions. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu
Media Contacts: Rod Hill, University of Idaho associate professor of physiology, (208) 885-2088, firstname.lastname@example.org; Larry Branen, University of Idaho associate vice president for northern Idaho, (208) 292-2540, email@example.com; or Bill Loftus, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, (208) 301-3566, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill Loftus | EurekAlert!
New 3-D model predicts best planting practices for farmers
26.06.2017 | Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Fighting a destructive crop disease with mathematics
21.06.2017 | University of Cambridge
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
27.06.2017 | Information Technology
27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy