Leibniz Research Alliance „Food and Nutrition”

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Protein Paradoxes Project Kick- Off Event

The Protein Paradoxes Kick-Off Event took place at the Leibniz Association Headquarters at the 01.12.2016, this marks the start of the project. The four year project will – in phase 1 - encourage the growth, strengthening and development of Post-Doctoral networks through meetings and podium discussions with researchers and the upcoming ‘Grand Challenge Workshops’. Phase 2 will focus on the publication of the workshop results, as well as future directions and projects and the development of proposals for joint projects of the partners. There will be an overlap between phase 1 and phase 2.

 

Prof. Dr. Christa Kühn, co-speaker for protein research of the LFV, presented the three main goals of the project, all of which carry the overarching task of Post-doc promotion. The goals aim to improve understanding of global protein production in the frame of climate change and future sustainability measures, healthy protein consumption throughout human development and the intelligent design and innovative technologies of protein production systems.

Three key paradoxes of protein consumption and production are outlined. Each of these critical paradoxes will be explored in a respective WU during Phase 1.

 1.  Competition over Agricultural Land Use and the Future Effects of Climate Change:

  • WU 1: Protein food security under the conditions of climate change.

 2. Global Imbalance of Protein Consumption:

  • WU 2: Nutrition and health aspects, and consumer preferences for protein-based food.

 3. Contradictions between humans, animals and environment:

  • WU 3: Smart protein production and functional food.

Prof. Dr. Harry Aiking from the Institute for Environmental Studies at the Free University of Amsterdam held a guest lecture at the Kick-Off Event.  Prof. Dr. Aiking talked about the major dual challenge of sustainable food security, doubling food production while quartering impacts by 2050. The complexity of future food sustainability, a term which shifts with temporal and contextual aspects, increases with the rising demand and affluence of global populations. Thus, the ‘Big Picture’ calls for interdisciplinary work, the involvement of all stakeholders and integrated consumer policies.

The mounting crisis is underestimated, even with slowing yield increases and economic estimates of extreme global food prices hikes. Climate change and reducing natural capacities increase the urgency, exemplified through the quantification and transgression of the planets’ limits. These surpassed limits; biodiversity loss, the nitrogen cycle and climate change, are not independent of current protein production. For example, excessive nitrogen outputs from agricultural practices and fertilisers leads to ammonia emissions and ecological disasters like the Dead Zones in the Baltic Sea. 

Experts must focus on resource efficiency across the chain, as only roughly 15% of protein production outputs are actually reaching the human mouth. Direct protein supply through alternative analogues is one method to cut consumption, though cultural and national aspects of eating patterns must be considered.  Critically, as with sustainable diets, meat analogues tend to be healthier and more nutritious and thus are critical for a sustainable future. Prof. Dr. Aiking concluded a sustainable protein supply is crucial for food security, human health and the planet’s carrying capacity.

After the presentation of Prof. Dr. Aiking the Participants divided into four groups to discuss and develop concrete themes for workshops topics and for possible grant applications. During the intense discussion the workshop issues were developed and a valuable exchange of experiences took place. Everybody was encouraged to spread the word about the project and the opportunities within their institutes and to invite their postdocs to contribute and participate in the project.