INDEX of notes on food security, sustainability and food production
population growth, food production and farming sustainability issues,
applications of biotechnology, pest control, hydroponics
Doc Brown's biology exam revision study notes
This page will help you answer questions
such as ...
How is food security defined? How can we increase food production? How can be devise sustainable
agriculture? Can GM crops help?
Why are GM crops
controversial? Are there alternatives to GM crops? What are the problems in
increasing food production?
Sub-index for this section on food
security and sustainable food production
Thoughts on the world's
population, need for increased food production and energy
What is food security? (UN
What threatens food security?
What threatens increasing necessary food production?
tackling food production to avoid food insecurity (index to pages
4a to 4j)
engineering: uses - including GM crops
Keeping healthy - diet and exercise, diabetes, body/mass/hip indexes
Food tests for reducing sugars, starch, proteins and
lipids (fats and oils)
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Learning objectives for this
section on food security and food production
Know and understand that at each stage in a food
chain, less material and less energy are contained in the biomass of the
Realise that this means that the efficiency of food production can be improved
by reducing the number of stages in food chains.
As you move up a food chain, at
every stage you lose biomass and therefore energy, so the greater the number
of stages in food chain from producer to final consumer, the food production
becomes less and less efficient.
Because of the fewer stages in
the food chain, it is more efficient to produce food by growing crops than
raising herds of animals if you compare the efficiencies of equal areas of
However a healthy diet should be
varied diet, so meat or meat substitutes are important, but it is possible
to grow cereal crops with a higher protein content.
Also, not all land is suitable
for growing crops and poor quality land in upland areas of wild moorland may
be more suitable for sheep for mutton and deer for venison.
Know and understand that he efficiency of food
production can also be improved by restricting energy loss from food animals
by limiting their movement and by controlling the temperature of their
Intensive farming, where animals
are constrained in large 'sheds' with limited movement and kept in a warmer
environment, does improve efficiency of meat production making it cheaper
for the farmer to produce food by reducing production costs.
This makes cheaper food for us
via our local shops and supermarkets and supermarkets have a powerful
influence on the cost of food but are increasingly being pressured to source
from farmers who adhere to strict standards of animal husbandry - but this
is not the case in all countries.
Less energy is wasted as body
heat and animals grow fatter on less food, and animal feed is becoming
increasingly costly, but, at what cost to the quality of existence of these
factory farmed animals?
There are also disadvantages to
intensive farming eg the over-crowded conditions are ideal for the spread of
disease eg avian flu in chickens, foot-and-mouth-disease in cows. To combat
these diseases by treating the animals with antibiotics increases production
costs and introduces these same antibiotics into the food chain, so
potentially weakening our own immune system if we become infected.
But, these 'factory farming'
methods means the lives of the quality of life of these animals is much
reduced compared to living out in open fields with plenty of space to move
about freely, fresh air and sunlight, hence consumer demand for organic meat
from animals not intensively farmed.
Know and understand that fish stocks in the oceans are
Know that it is important to maintain fish stocks at a level where breeding
continues or certain species may disappear altogether in some areas.
Fish stocks of popular varieties
are becoming alarmingly low in many regions of our seas and oceans due to
over-fishing, which itself derives from the food demands of increasing
Know and understand that net
size and fishing quotas play an important role in conservation of fish
Fishing quotas are all about
controlling the number of fish caught and the size of the fishes allowed to
be caught e.g. fishing boat catches are carefully monitored and recorded and
fishing nets inspected to check that the mesh spacing in the nets is not too
small so that too many small immature fish (who can breed later) are not
caught and hopefully unwanted species of fish or other marine creatures (eg
crustaceans like crabs, lobsters, crayfish) can escape!
Understand that this is an
example of sustainable food production, so that the numerical catch rate can
match the numerical growth rate of the fish species we like to eat.
Such methods are needed because
food chains are being disrupted and species may die out from particular
oceanic regions from intensive fishing from huge trawlers and factory ships.
Know and understand that the fungus Fusarium is useful for producing
mycoprotein, a protein-rich food suitable for
vegetarians and is a meat substitute eg like the commercial product 'Quorn'
(though it does need tasting up a bit!).
Know that the fungus is grown on glucose
syrup (supplies energy for the process as well as the carbon, hydrogen and
oxygen for the protein molecules), in aerobic conditions (air containing
oxygen needed), with a source of nitrogen eg ammonia or ammonia compounds
(nitrogen is the other important element in amino acids and proteins).
Fungi grow rapidly in moist warm
conditions so production rates are quite efficient and it doesn't require as
much land - though do need sufficient land to the maize from which the
glucose syrup is made. When the raw materials have been consumed by the
Fusarium fungi the biomass is
harvested and purified to be used in various food products.
The glucose syrup is made from
breaking down maize starch with the appropriate enzyme containing
microorganism, though in the mycoprotein production it is important that
only the correct microorganism is present to ensure the right biochemistry
happens and other microorganisms start multiplying. Therefore all
ingredients must be heated and sterilised to kill all microorganisms and the
air filtered to remove airborne microorganisms, before the mycoprotein
forming fungi are introduced into the fermenter - which itself must be first
sterilised with very hot steam.
In poor third world countries
mycoprotein might be a good efficient substitute for inefficient meat
production from animals grazing on large areas of relatively barren
infertile land, but is the source of nitrogen from ammonia cheap? I don't
Know and understand that humans often upset the balance
of different populations in natural ecosystems, or change the environment so
that some species find it difficult to survive.
Know and understand that with so many people in the
world, there is a serious danger of causing permanent damage not just to the
local environments but also to the global environment unless our overall
effect is managed carefully.
Know and understand that humans rely on ecosystems for
food, water and shelter.
You should be able to use your skills, knowledge and understanding to:
analyse and interpret scientific data concerning
evaluate methods used to collect environmental data
and consider their validity and reliability as evidence for environmental
There is a considerable amount
of climate data being collected around the world every day and many weather
records go back tens and even hundreds of years.
Thermometers provide temperature
data of the air and oceans, water collectors for rainfall, snowfall records,
glacier size and their rates of melting, satellites can map rain clouds,
storm patterns, glacier areas etc.
So, we are not short on data,
and the consensus is that the Earth is warming, and by 1-2oC over
that past 100-150 years. It doesn't sound much, but a 1oC rise
does represent a huge amount of extra energy in our global weather system!
It is important that the data
record is as long and accurate as possible. Computer modelling of the
climate and trying to make predictions is not easy because there are so many
variables and many not very predictable.
evaluate the methods being used to feed and provide water to an
increasing human population, both in terms of short term and long term
evaluate the use of biogas generators,
You should have considered a number of biogas
generator designs ranging from third-world generators
supplying a single family to commercial generators,
you should understand how the
output from a biogas generator might be affected by climatic conditions,
evaluate the positive and
negative effects of managing food production and distribution, and be able
to recognise that practical solutions for human needs may require compromise
between competing priorities,
You should consider:
the differences in efficiency between producing food
from animals and plants,
the pros and cons of factory farming of animals,
the implications of ‘food miles’
- some food imports have come from thousands of miles away from the source
of food production.
There are several issues which
makes this an undesirable situation It adds extra costs to the consumer.
The transport costs increase the
price of the food.
There is environmental damage
from burning more fossil fuels - carbon dioxide -global warming - climate
These food imports often
originate from third world countries where this is pressure to increase the
national income from selling cash crops to foreign countries, BUT, many of
the people in these exporting countries do not access to good food supplies
- its the richer important countries who often benefit the most.
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