BBC World News' Horizons returns to explore how science is aiming to combat malnutrition

We are now trying to grow a hamburger and we are taking stem cells from skeletal muscles from cows. We grow that into strips of meat and strips of fat then we combine that into a patty and eventually that will be the hamburger."Professor Mark Post, Professor of Vascular Physiology, Maastricht University
Date: 14.09.2012     Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 17.49
Category: BBC World News
In the eleventh episode of the Horizons series, presenters Adam Shaw and Saima Mohsin visit the Netherlands and Brazil to see how scientists are developing new ways to combat malnutrition, such as laboratory-grown meat and insect protein.

Over the next four decades it is estimated that production of livestock and cereal grains will need to increase dramatically to keep up with a rapidly growing population. Modern technologies and approaches to the nutrition industry are now pointing to a 21st century of new foods, new practices and perhaps new opportunities for our diet.

In the Netherlands, Saima visits Maastricht University where they are working on growing meat in the laboratory. The first laboratory grown hamburger will cost 250,000 Euros and will have a very bland flavour. Eventually the costs will come down as production and resources are scaled up, and the flavour will become more palatable as the team continues to develop it further.

Professor Mark Post, Professor of Vascular Physiology, Maastricht University said: “We are now trying to grow a hamburger and we are taking stem cells from skeletal muscles from cows. We grow that into strips of meat and strips of fat then we combine that into a patty and eventually that will be the hamburger.”

Over at Wageningen University, one of the leading centres for the study of food science and technology in the world, they are looking at another source of protein - grasshoppers and crickets. In much of the developing world insects are already a common source of protein where meat is unavailable or unaffordable, but it’s an under-used resource in Europe and North America. However one supermarket chain in the Netherlands is giving consumers the opportunity to decide for themselves and buy bugs.

Arnold van Huis, Professor of Tropical Entomology, Wageningen University said: “In 2050 we are going to have nine billion people and already 70 percent of all the agricultural land is occupied by livestock. So we need an alternative if the meat demand is going to double - we cannot just continue eating our conventional meat. We need to change our diet.”

Adam Shaw is in Brazil checking out Embrapa, a government funded agricultural research centre involved with Bio-fortification. This is a method of breeding together different varieties of crops to increase their mineral and vitamin content.

This project is unique in that it aims to fortify all the crops that are already a major part of the diet in Brazil providing more nutritious varieties without requiring changes in public consumption habits.

Jailson Barboza Coelho, Secretary of Environment, Agriculture & Fisheries, Itagui Municipality said: “Based on our experience we are now also looking at exporting the systems and the products to other areas of the world where people are starving. Brazilians are more aware that Brazil has become a very strong industrial country, but they have also never lost sight of the importance of being an agriculturally self-sufficient country as well.”

Jessica Culshaw - Jessica.Culshaw@bbc.co.uk | +44 20 843 33340