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Food, Science & Society: Growing Population and Food Scarcity.

  • Jun 16, 2014 · 6:30 PM
  • Wilson room

Alan Whitehead MP has agreed to host a meeting in the House of Commons as part of our developing project on Science Matters. Alan will host a meeting on Food, Science & Society.

The purpose of the meeting will be to debate the differing scientific views around global food scarcity focusing on the high technology solutions such as genetically modified foods and the approach of alternative technology particularly through agro ecology.

Often people take political positions and then look to science to back them up. So what is the science and what the politics. And what is the balance between politics and science in shaping our future.

In this meeting we will be working with both the British Council and collaboration with  Famelab a project of young scientists and Practical Action who have been heavily influenced by the work of Fritz Schumacher.and his small is beautiful approach to development. Scientists have championed both sides of these approaches to scarcity.

Alan Whitehead is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Southampton Test since 1997.  He went to Isleworth Grammar School and then studied Politics and Philosophy at the University of Southampton, was President of Southampton University Students' Union and holds a PhD in Political Science. From[masked] he was Director of OUTSET, then from[masked] he worked for BIIT, being Director, both being charities. Before becoming an MP, Dr Whitehead was the Leader of Southampton City Council from 1984 to 1992 and a Professor of Public Policy at Southampton Institute.

Simon Watt will commence this meeting with a stand up routine. Simon uses comedy as one way to engage audiences in science. He is a biologist, writer, science communicator and TV presenter. He runs “Ready Steady Science”, a science communication company committed to making information interesting and takes science-based performances into schools, museums, theatres and festivals.  He is MC/president for life of the “Ugly Animal Preservation Society” which is a comedy night with a conservation twist.

Johnjoe McFadden  is an Irish scientist, academic and writer and Professor of Molecular Genetics at the University of Surrey, United Kingdom. For more than a decade, Prof McFadden has researched the genetics of microbes such as the agents of tuberculosis and meningitis and invented a test for the diagnosis of meningitis. He has published more than 100 articles in scientific journals on subjects as wide-ranging as bacterial genetics, tuberculosis, idiopathic diseases and computer modelling of evolution. He has contributed to more than a dozen books and has edited a book on the genetics of mycobacteria. He produced a widely reported artificial life computer model which modelled evolution in organisms. He has lectured extensively in the UK, Europe, the US and Japan and his work has been featured in radio, television and national newspaper articles particularly for the Guardian.

Chris Henderson is the Senior Policy and Practice Advisor in Agriculture for Practical Action. He provides technical advice and support on agriculture development policy for their national and regional offices in Africa, Asia and Latin America, as well as for the organisation in UK. He is currently leading the development of Practical Action’s position and strategies in Food Security and Agriculture with special focus on Making Agriculture work for Small Holder Farmers in a Changing Climate.

The British Council creates international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide.

Practical Action works alongside communities to find practical solutions to the poverty they face. They see technology as a vital contributor to people’s livelihoods.

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  • rachels42

    Also on the subject of population, have a watch of this. Some very insightful analysis

    June 17, 2014

  • Amanda R.
    On the population question, I saw this graph this morning and thought it would of interest

    June 17, 2014

  • Jeremy

    I do enjoy the GlobalNet21 debates and this is a very interesting subject. However, some of the audience were not asking questions, simply ranting on about their beliefs on the subject. Aside from those individuals there were indeed some good questions.

    2 · June 17, 2014

  • Peter F.

    As Francis mentioned last night, the time issue can be addressed by some further meetings on the topics raised that need their own airing. The coming "water wars" come to mind, which may be a good application for renewable energy to be used to distill seawater in the sense that it doesn't matter if no clean water is created during the dark hours provided that a lot is made during daylight.

    June 17, 2014

  • Derek

    The principal point was missed; there's too many humans in the world and the overall number is increasing. If some sort of universal birth control isn't introduced soon, then only disease, wars, climatological and/or geological events will "deal" with the problem ! ("Too many" = 'that increasing number which is causing concern as to how 'the hell' they are all going to be fed, watered and accommodated in the future without occupying every square unit area of land 'shoulder-to-shoulder'.)

    June 17, 2014

  • Eva

    Excellent but not enough time given

    June 17, 2014

  • Eva

    Very interesting event but pity we did not have more time to carry on with this debate and hear more from the audience

    June 17, 2014

  • Steve R.

    Wonderful meeting, and thank you to everyone involved

    June 17, 2014

  • terence f.

    There was a wide ranging discussion extending the introductory papers - just as well though. The range of aspects introduced by questioners showed the meeting was too short. So many aspects not addressed!!

    June 17, 2014

  • Zizi S.

    Brilliantly organised discussion.

    2 · June 17, 2014

  • Francis S.

    Interesting GlobalNet21 debate last night on population growth and food scarcity. Is the future for food supplies in high tech scientific solutions such as genetically modified foods or is it through developing more sustainable agriculture by a greater understanding of ecology. That was one major aspect to the discussion last night. See more at

    1 · June 17, 2014

  • Ed

    Deep apologies - completely overlooked this amongst myriad minor crises.

    June 17, 2014

  • Andria

    I ended up across the road at Westminster Central Hall, as there was a "Let'sTalkAboutFracking" gathering going on. Jon Snow chaired, and Vivienne Westwood and her son have taken the lead on this , which is just as well cos some folks need to..

    1 · June 16, 2014

  • Nikki

    It was interesting to see the direction this event took - it could have gone so many ways. Just a pity we had to stop when we did. Brilliantly organised.

    June 16, 2014

  • Saj

    Hello, will there be a transcript or podcast or video of the debate for those who are interested but (for whatever reason) are not attending? Thank you.

    June 16, 2014

    • Charles D.

      I would be interested in some sort of recording of this event also. I was unable to attend for health reasons.

      June 16, 2014

  • Eva

    Really looking forward to it

    June 16, 2014

  • Francis S.

    Just to remind you that our meeting on “Food, Science & Society: Growing Population and Food Scarcity” is today at 6.30pm in the House of Commons on. Alan Whitehead MP is hosting the meeting

    1 · June 16, 2014

    • Zizi S.

      Hi francis, just read aboit annual membership. I havent done it yet! Can i still attend and where is the link?

      June 16, 2014

    • Francis S.

      Yes of course you can attend and we will sort the membership out after.

      1 · June 16, 2014

  • Joe C.

    I was invited to join your meetup group- I do not live at the coordinates for the meeting. Will there be skype access (would need skype address) or webinar for this (need connect info if there is).

    June 16, 2014

  • Lydia T.

    Sorry can't come, will be out of the country till Aug.
    May I just add that it will be a very different world in 2050 .The Food/Water equitable distribution will have to change way before then ! Do not forget Water, our bodies are approx 70-80% water. Most waters on the planet are contaminated. And many Springs are now monopolised by Nestle (ie in Egypt) .

    June 12, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    My quest is of the similar nature as Pamela's (see the next post please), with a slight difference, i.e. I live in Lahore, Pakistan, and any attempt at getting a UK visa here usually takes very long.

    May 28, 2014

  • Pamela R.

    I am interested in the House of Commons events. I will see if I can make it as I will have to rush to it straight from work. But firstly, how do I pay for the membership of the GlobalNet21 site and how much is it?

    May 28, 2014

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