18 November 2011

The Professor of Food Policy at City University in London, Professor Tim Lang, visited UQ this month to share his research and vision around food security issues.

Professor Tim Lang is a world food expert with long involvement in policy development with the British government, the European Commission and the World Health Organisation.

He was the keynote speaker at a food security seminar hosted by The Australian Sociology Association (TASA) and The Global Change Institute at UQ.

Seminar organiser and Lecturer in Studies in Religion at UQ, Dr Sylvie Shaw, said food security involved an understanding of the interactions between agriculture, food distribution, transport, fuel, community food growing, local food production, impact of climate change and a whole range of other issues.

During the seminar Professor Lang argued that food policy worldwide needed to move towards greater food democracy - “safe, justly produced, sustainable food for all.”

Professor Lang also highlighted the difficulty of producing enough food into the future to meet the growth of the world’s population and to maintain both human and environmental health.

He argued that “sustainable diets will have to be in line with health and planetary capacities.”

Professor Lang is also the inventor of the concept of "food miles", which refers to the distance food is transported from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer.

“Food miles are an important factor used when assessing the environmental impact of food, including food production’s impact upon global warming,” Dr Shaw said.

Dr Shaw used the January flood in Queensland as an example to explain the way the health of people and the planet are linked.

“In food security, we need to examine what happens when fresh food is not available for a period of time. Is there a local food growing capacity even in urban areas?”

Professor of Sociology in the UQ School of Social Science, Geoffrey Lawrence - who is also involved with UQ’s Global Change Institute - discussed productivity-driven agriculture and food security in Australia.

Professor Lawrence argued that pursuing higher volumes of output, and greater efficiency, would continue to place pressures on a fragile environment.

“Present agricultural production is not environmentally sustainable,” Professor Lawrence said.

Professor Helen Ross from the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences at UQ discussed food security and resilience within Australian social-ecological systems.

Dr Shaw said there was "an incredibly positive response" from the UQ academics and postgraduate students who attended the event.

“Those who attended found the seminar very insightful and opened up possibilities for change,” Dr Shaw said.

Media: Ariel Ho on 3365 1163 or l.ho@uq.edu.au