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Questioning future of food with leading agriculture scientists

17 February, 2014

Young Queenslanders will debate the future of the world's food alongside leading agriculture scientists from The University of Queensland and CSIRO, at an upcoming global forum in Brisbane.

The Global Food Forum will be held at St Laurence's College, on Thursday 27 February.

Professor Robert Henry, Director of UQ's Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), and Dr Brian Keating, Director of CSIRO's Sustainable Agriculture Flagship, will address Food in the Future – Opportunities and Challenges as part of a panel discussion with students from years ten, 11 and 12.

Professor Henry and Dr Keating are both UQ graduates.

"The question of how to feed the global population is a challenge that today's young people will inherit from the current generation of agriculture scientists," Professor Henry said.

"However young Australians have a tremendous opportunity to play a major role in determining how the global community addresses these complex problems."

The Global Food Forum is an opportunity for senior secondary students to engage with one of the major challenges of the modern era – feeding nine billion people by the year 2050.

Already two-in-seven people are undernourished and many developed countries are excessively wasteful with food.

Hosted by St Laurence's College, the forum will discuss the issues and opportunities for Australia's agriculture industry that will arise from both the global population growth and the changing dietary habits of an expanding Asian middle-class.

The forum has been designed to support curriculum for students studying science, economics, geography, biology, earth and environmental science. The forum will also address cross-curriculum priorities including 'Sustainability' and 'Australia's engagement with Asia'.

Professor Henry has played a leading role in Australian agriculture research for more than 20 years and is one of the world's most cited agriculture scientists. He was made a fellow of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) in 1993, was Chair of the RACI Cereal Chemistry Division, and received the Guthrie Award in 2000.

UQ awarded Professor Henry a higher doctorate (DSc) for his work on analysis of variation in plants. More recently Professor Henry was made a Fellow of the prestigious Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering.

Dr Brian Keating has 35 years' experience in agricultural and natural resource management research and development. He has authored more than 200 scientific papers covering diverse topics including soil and water management, plant nutrition, soil carbon and nitrogen cycling, crop physiology, farming systems analysis and design, bioenergy, simulation modelling, climatic risk management and food security.

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RogerG | Wednesday, February 19, 2014, 9:50 AM
It seems there is a growing opinion in the Medical field that wheat - and some say all grains - is responsible for many of the medical issues (inflammation, general feeling of being unwell) that many people claim to suffer from today. Dairy products are similarly under fire, as is grain-fed beef and the list goes on. This may all be tosh or may have substance, I don't claim to know. But, whatever the truth, if the idea that most agricultural produce is 'poisoning' us takes hold that will present a great challenge - to grow stuff that will be eaten (in the first world at least!)
Jeremy Nathan | Wednesday, February 19, 2014, 1:28 PM
Roger, as a nutrition enthusiast my understanding is that it's not farmed products in general that cause health issues but rather certain farming practices and post-farming processing methods. Some do believe our bodies are not designed to eat wheat and grains in general, but it's also the over processed nature of what is done with them that is a problem. Our bodies were not designed to ingest the overly processed foods that have only been invented in the last 100 years of our many thousands of years existence. Similarly cows are not designed to eat these things either, but grass fed meat is not thought to be harmful. The organic (no pesticide, antibiotics, growth stimulants) and no GM movement supports the similar theory that our bodies can be harmed by ingesting the poisons used to manage bugs or additives used to boost growth unnaturally. Dairy is a whole other issue. My belief is that Wholefoods (farmed foods as close to their natural state) are good for us and processed or non-organic foods can cause health problems. Grains are just one part of farming. Farmed products are good, we just need good farming practices for optimal health!