Microorganisms and their Impact on Food Security
There is already a food security crisis in parts of the world, but with more people, less water and land and fewer inputs, we have to find a way to give the growing global population access to safe, nutritious and affordable food. There will be no one solution to the food security challenge. It demands a broad-spectrum approach, and microbiology has a key and central role to play in this. Food security is not just about increasing food productivity; it is also about wasting less. Furthermore, supplying safe, nutritious foods must be achieved in a sustainable manner with minimal impact on the environment and animal welfare.
Microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoa, algae and archaea) and their activities are involved at every step of the food chain. Understanding the role of microbes at all steps in the process of plant and animal production, soil and water management, and harvesting, storage and processing of agricultural products is necessary. History records that microbiological research has delivered major advances in food security and safety. Important milestones include:
Identifying and applying of safe processes for food preservation, such as canning and pasteurization, and understanding the biology of pathogenic and spoilage microbes to reduce their transmission in the food chain, leading to developments of safer foods with a longer shelf life.
Exploiting antimicrobial substances produced by naturally occurring microbes as weapons against plant and animal pathogens.
Developing vaccines to improve the health of livestock and reduce transmission of animal pathogens to humans.
Exploiting microbial processes to manage or reduce waste.
Producing novel food products, including probiotics and nutritionally enhanced foods, through fermentation.
This thematic discussion was led by FAO and WFP in collaboration with “The World We Want”.
The consultation was facilitated by the Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)