Under the weight of a burgeoning global population, changing climate, rising food prices, emerging pathogens, and concerns over environmental integrity and food safety, agriculture faces a period of transition as it is challenged to respond rapidly at local, regional, and global levels to the complex dimensions of food security. Agricultural biotechnology, as a promising way forward, looks to play a key role in the development of technologies that will help feed the world, yet substantial debate remains on how to best capitalize on its benefits while mitigating its risks.
The conference focus on food security emphasized safety, chiefly from the perspectives of contamination and terrorism rather than on global food adequacy by 2050.
There are differences between food security, safety, defense and protection. Security may be defined as supply sufficiency, whereas safety implies system reliability. Defense, on the other hand, implies system resiliency and protection is defined as the continuum of safety and defense. Emerging intentional threats are based in food-system drivers—public-health surveillance systems; system complexity, and globalization.
Plant diseases have significant impact on food security. Our vulnerability resides principally on the fact that we grow, for the most part, monocultures that could be wiped out in a single season by a new pathogen. The potato famine in Ireland in 1880 is a historical example. A current one is a relatively new race of the wheat stem-rust pathogen that has spread beyond its area of origin.Most currently grown wheat varieties lack resistance to it. Accordingly, the task is to identify resistant varieties and incorporate that resistance into cultivated genotypes. Plant-disease impacts on food security and social stability can be significant, and in the last few years plants have been the sources of foodborne diseases by consumption of contaminated fresh produce.
A practical example of Food Fraud is the adulteration of milk with water to increase its value at sale. Once milk was sold based on protein content, its adulteration with water was eliminated. However, in more recent times, it has been adulterated with melamine because protein content is often assayed with non-specific technologies which measure total nitrogen. Factors that motivate EMA are the rising prices of agricultural raw materials, the complexity of supply chains, and the complex compositions of food products. Many times, adulteration has had significant public-health consequences.
Each year, one out of six American are thought to become sick with a foodborne illness, and 3,000 die.” By this measure, foodborne illnesses are quite common, hence emphasis is being placed on prevention and surveillance. A national network of public-health and food-regulatory agency laboratories coordinated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been developed. All collaborators perform standardized molecular fingerprinting of foodborne-disease-causing microorganisms by pulse field gel electrophoresis (PFGE).
Robert Buchanan discussed factors affecting the emergence and reemergence of foodborne diseases, research needs, and the role of biotechnology innovation in assessing and preventing foodborne diseases. The drivers that cause disease emergence are global demographics, global food chains, processing technologies, and gene transfer that causes pathogen variation.