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Food Studies Scholars Advocate Eco-Friendly Changes

By Ike J. Park, Crimson Staff Writer

Scholars from the greater Boston area came together Friday to present research on the global food system, with many arguing for a more environmentally friendly approach to agriculture and food consumption.

“Global Food+ 2017,” hosted by Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, featured four hours of presentations from 24 researchers discussing the intersections of “food, agriculture, health, society and the environment” from social, natural, and life science perspectives.

William C. Clark, a professor of public policy at the Kennedy School who organized the event, remarked on the rationale behind the symposium.

“It is an effort to celebrate the quite phenomenal research activity going on in the Greater Boston area by whole range of institutions, by researchers from almost every imaginable discipline, most of whom don’t talk to each other most of the time,” he said.

Kennedy School adjunct professor Kenneth M. Strzepek highlighted the trade-off between energy and food, and cautioned against the dangers associated with the application of free-market principles to agricultural markets.

“It becomes a value judgement—renewable energy versus food. If we try to go to biofuel. In almost all cases, we find that, it is going to have an impact on food security,” he said. “If we let the market come in, it's another threat to agriculture.”

Another speaker, Elizabeth M. Wolkovich, an assistant professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard, predicted that due to climate change, wine makers will no longer be able to produce wine in many parts of the world.

“Under business usual scenario...large parts of Italy will no longer be able to grow wine grapes, much of Spain and some regions of France, including Bordeaux,” Wolkovich said.

The conference closed with a keynote address by Shenggan Fan, Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute, who emphasized the critical role this multidimensional research plays in policy going forward.

Meredith T. Niles, an assistant professor at University of Vermont who spoke at the event on climate change and agriculture, said she supported the event’s format.

“It actually forced me to condense and carefully think about what is critically important to communicate and to communicate to the broader public and to different types of scientists,” Niles said. “It makes for a better afternoon.”

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