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Meaty issues - experts debate the future of food

Posted on 2 June 2015

The York Festival of Ideas will launch the first World Meat Free Day campaign by hosting an alternative meat free breakfast for staff and students on 15 June.

The Festival will then host a series of panel discussions and keynote talks by a range of international scientists, policy experts and food writers.  They will examine the complex inter-relationship between food production and security, sustainability and climate change and how the food choices that consumers are making have a major impact on the global availability of food in the future and affecting our health right now.

Compelling evidence exists of the need to shift diets away from meat to help address climate change, promote public health and help feed the world more fairly.

A range of the leading food related organisations including The Eating Better alliance, Compassion in World Farming and Quorn™ have joined forces to raise awareness of the advantages of meat reduction.

The figures are startling: a growing population (estimated to be 9 billion by 2050) will mean that farmers would need to increase food production by an estimated 60% by 2050.

Average global meat consumption has almost doubled in the past 50 years with the average UK consumption twice the global average.

Dr Tara Garnett, from Oxford University, will give the keynote speech on The Future of Food:  the ticking time bomb, followed by a panel discussion including Christopher Ritson from the Food Ethics Council and Joyce D’Silva from Compassion in World Farming.

Later in the day,  Tim Spector, author of The Diet Myth, will give the keynote speech for You Are What You Eat.  Professor Paul Gately, an expert in childhood obesity at Leeds Beckett University, will also participate in a panel discussion alongside Professor Paul Bissell and will provide stark evidence that rising levels of obesity in our children are health nightmare waiting to happen.

The series of debates will be rounded off by Sue Dibb, from the Eating Better alliance, who will lead a discussion with renowned food writer and campaigning journalist Alex Renton on food, consumer behaviour and diet change. Geoff Tansey who led the Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty will also explore the complex relationship between poverty, food choice and influencing consumer behaviour change.

Professor Sue Hartley, Director of the York Environmental Sustainability Institute, said: “The festival has attracted a superb line-up of interesting speakers to debate the global challenge we currently face: how to provide sufficient, safe and nutritious food for a growing population in a sustainable way. 

“We are facing a ‘perfect storm’ of increasing demands for food, water and energy, at a time when our climate is changing and we need to reduce our environmental impact. 

“How to address these challenges is sure to be a fascinating discussion for our panellists and members of the public alike.

“Here at the University of York, the York Environmental Sustainability Institute is combining the talents of researchers across the social, natural and physical sciences to provide sustainable solutions to global environmental problems, such as food security.

“Solving this challenge will require innovative thinking, unprecedented global cooperation and a willingness to cross boundaries between academic disciplines.”

Now in its fifth year, the festival was established in 2011 with just 24 events over nine days. Now an annual highlight on York’s cultural calendar, audiences of over 30,000 were reached in 2014 through a mix of performances, exhibitions, talks, focus days, tours, panel discussions and workshops.

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