What will be on our dinner plates in 50 years’ time? In October, Horizon examines how science is shaping the future of food.
As the pressure to feed more people grows alongside the urgency of reducing our environmental footprint, we talk to the scientists attempting to maximise our crop yields without increasing our environmental impact.
We look at how genetic screening could lead to an era of personalised nutritional advice, with people advised to follow diets specifically tailored to their own biology. We also find out how technology is transforming food packaging, and what impact cryopreservation could have on the way we store our food.
Finally, we find out how EU researchers are developing ways to enhance the healthy ingredients found in foods, making them even better for us.
Cryopreservation, in which organic material is stored at extremely low temperatures, may not yet have reached the science fiction dream of placing people in suspended animation, but technology inspired by hard-to-freeze fish is helping make it an effective way of preserving genetic plant material for future use.
‘I would like to show that when one uses novel concepts or thinks outside the box, there is no limit to yield ... the limit is just in our head,’ according to Professor Dani Zamir from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.
This month, Horizon explores the global challenge of biodiversity loss. Many experts believe we are in the midst of a sixth mass extinction, where human-caused factors such as land use and pollution are causing a decline in biodiversity – something that threatens the future of our own species. We speak to British ecologist Professor Georgina Mace about how bad the situation is and what we can do about it. We explore marine ecosystems, where species relocation outpaces that of terrestrial populations, and examine how we can help these environments adapt. We also look into the link between food insecurity and biodiversity degradation, and find out what’s in store for bees – our pollinators. Finally, we investigate the services nature provides for people – from cleaning our water to acting as a carbon sink – and ask whether putting a value on natural capital could help save it.
Fifty years after humans first set foot on the moon, Earth’s only permanent natural satellite is back in the news with China’s successful landing on the moon’s as-yet-unexplored far side. This month, Horizon looks at how Europe is contributing to moon research. We hear from the European Space Agency’s director of human and robotic exploration about their plans to send a robot and then humans to the lunar surface in the 2020s, and speak to the scientists trying to fill the holes in our understanding of how the moon was formed. We also hear how we could solve the puzzle of where water on Earth originated by analysing volatile substances from the moon, and take a look at the methods and facilities being developed to protect precious extra-terrestrial samples from human contamination.
Nature provides people with everything from food and water to timber, textiles, medicinal resources and pollination of crops. Now, a new approach aims to measure exactly what a specific ecosystem supplies in order to incentivise decision-makers and businesses to help combat biodiversity loss.
Europe’s position on privacy, regulation and competition could be a key way to attract entrepreneurs who share those values but there is still some work to do in encouraging ambition, according to Nicklas Bergman, a Swedish entrepreneur and technology investor. Over the past two years, he and other entrepreneurs have advised the European Commission on the design of the European Innovation Council (EIC), an initiative to support companies, researchers and entrepreneurs hoping to start their own business or scale up their projects internationally. The second phase of the pilot was launched on 18 March 2019.
To protect species, we need to speak the language of business, say experts.
He has advised the EU on its new European Innovation Council.
Species loss needs urgent international action, says Prof. Georgina Mace.