City's new science centre aims to solve 'critical' world food problems

Prof Nitya Rao is director for the new Norwich Institute for Sustainable Development

Prof Nitya Rao is director for the new Norwich Institute for Sustainable Development, based at Norwich Research Park - Credit: UEA

A "landmark" new science centre has been created on the Norwich Research Park to solve the "critical" issue of global food security amid the growing threat of climate change.  

The Norwich Institute for Sustainable Development will aim to find ways to help farmers all over the world to become more resilient to increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather events, from flooding to droughts.

The new institute was launched with £750,000 of funding from the John Innes Foundation, and is the first formal partnership of the internationally-recognised expertise in plant science from the John Innes Centre and the social sciences from UEA’s School of International Development. 

It will be based at Norwich Research Park and also involves researchers from the Quadram Institute, Earlham Institute and The Sainsbury Laboratory. 

It is hoped the combined expertise of the city's scientific community can help counteract stark predictions that yields of major staple foods like grains, fruits and vegetables could decrease by between 3pc and 10pc per degree of warming as global temperatures continue to rise.

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Prof Nitya Rao, director for the new institute, said communities all over the globe are impacted by food shortages and rising prices, but poorer less-developed countries often experience a greater impact from nutritional deficits.

"This is the most critical issue facing the world today," she said. "If we don’t act now crop yields will continue to reduce and become more unreliable over time.

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"People in the UK and across the world could soon see everyday foods like bread, cereals and tomatoes becoming more scarce and more expensive. This will affect those who are most vulnerable who may be unable to access adequate, nutritious and affordable food for themselves and their families.

"It’s not all bad news though, as researchers have made considerable progress over the last 50 years, with technologies now available for dealing with pests, diseases and water scarcity, alongside attention to what people actually need.

"So a key focus for us is to change the way we work – to make sure that innovations meet farmers’ needs around the world, supporting farming communities to make agriculture more resilient and supporting the world’s food supply."

Aerial view of Norwich Research Park

The new Norwich Institute for Sustainable Development will be based at Norwich Research Park - Credit: UEA

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