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Reflecting on the European Science Open Forum

One week on from the conclusion of the European Science Open Forum, it is time to reflect on the event. Overall, it was a great success and addressed the issues of the sustainability of the planet, the global food situation and whether or not we can eradicate hunger.

The event brought together a large number of world-class scientists, including five Nobel Prize winners, to discuss leading-edge scientific ideas.  

Making a difference

On 13 July, I chaired the keynote address given by Bob Geldof on “Making a Difference.”  Bob delivered a motivating talk that raised basic questions about the sustainability of the planet and the current economic model. A number of people told me afterwards that they found his talk and the issues he raised highly thought-provoking and one of the highlights of the meeting.

Addressing global hunger

The other two sessions I was involved in dealt with the global food situation and how the world can meet the challenge of providing enough food to feed 9 billion people by 2050 with a shrinking supply of land, water and other natural resources.

The first of these sessions was sponsored by Teagasc and had been due to feature Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government Professor John Beddington. However, he was unable to attend and Irish broadcaster Leo Enright delivered the paper on his behalf. I was on a panel, which also included my good friend Matt Dempsey, editor of the Irish Farmers Journal, to discuss this most impressive paper.

Can we eradicate hunger?

My final involvement was to address the issue: “can we feed 9 billion people or will we starve?” Our panel consisted of three distinguished UK scientists, Chris Leaver, Bill Davies, Johnathan Jones and myself. My fellow panellists addressed how progress in different fields of science will be necessary if the question is to be answered in the affirmative. 

Global resource efficiency

I spoke about the political changes and policy measures necessary if that goal is to be achieved. Can it be done? Probably, yes. But only if we find a much more efficient way of using our global resources to produce a lot more with a lot less. 

Global Hunger Index 2012

Suggesting practical ways to do this will be at the heart of the 2012 Global Hunger Index. We are working with IFPRI and WeltHungerHilfe to produce this document and expect it to be published in October. It is certainly a document that will be well worth waiting for.