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Global Food Security, Reactive Use-By Labels, Origins of the Potato

Dr Adam Rutherford and guests discuss Global Food Security, a fungal threat to wheat, a novel reactive use-by label and the origins and future of the potato.

On the day that the UK government launches a year long “food-to-Fork” review of food production in the UK, we present a food themed special edition.

Global Food Security
Maia Elliot is an analyst and writer for Global Food Security, who recently held a competition for young food researchers to present their work in a compelling way in less than 3 minutes. Maia and the winner, Claire Kanja of Rothamstead Research discuss with Adam the broader issues “Food Security” seeks to address, and also how best to communicate often esoteric specialized interest to a broader audience that includes food-consuming tax-payers.

A Threat to Wheat
Claire’s work is looking into a threat to world wheat harvests known as Fusarium Head (or Ear) Blight. She is trying to categorize the proteins that the fungus uses firstly to evade Wheat’s defences, and then to kill the plant cells for its own food.

Food Freshness Sensor
Meanwhile, at Imperial College, Hannah Fisher reports on new work to make cheap-as-chips gas sensitive food labels that could detect levels of gases inside a food packet that indicate it is gone off or decayed. You could even read them with the NFC chip in most smartphones.

The Origins and Adaptations of the European Potato
Talking of chips, published this week is a genetic history of the cultivated European potato. Using DNA from museum specimens going back centuries, the authors describe a very complicated to-and-froing between continents that enables modern varieties to avoid certain blights and even to form decent sized potatoes when growing in different day-lengths. Sandy Knapp of the Natural History Museum in London was one of the authors.

Presenter: Adam Rutherford
Producer: Alex Mansfield

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32 minutes

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