Monthly Archives: January 2015

Symposium Provisional Programme Now Available

This is the provisional programme for our upcoming symposium, timings are subject to change. The final programme will soon be made avilable to those registered to attend the symposium. You can register to attend the symposium here.

Symposium 2015: The Diversity of Food Research

Wednesday 4th of February 2015  .  9:30 – 17:00  .  University of Brighton, Falmer campus, Checkland Building room D222


Registration, tea/coffee
9:45-9:55 Welcome
9:55-10:45 Keynote Speech – Chair: Peter Senker
Prof. Erik Millstone – SPRU, University of Sussex

The Evolution of Food Research and Policy Agendas

10:45-11:00 Tea/coffee break
11:00-12:20 Session 1 – Chair: Carol Williams
Robert Babak Madadi Howard – School of the Environment, University of Brighton

NATO and the challenges of Gulf States (GCC) food security

Fiona Marshall – SPRU, University of Sussex

Urban food security and the peri-urban interface in India – opportunities and challenges for integrating ecosystem services and poverty alleviation approaches into planning for sustainable cities

Andre Viljoen – College of Arts and Humanities, University of Brighton

Urban Transformations through Urban Agriculture: Pathways from practice to policy.

Harvey Ells – School of Sport and Service Management, University of Brighton

Defining UK Food Street Markets

12:20-13:10 Lunch
13:10-14:00 Session 2 – Chair: Rachael Taylor
Global Food Nexus, Local Realities

Live conversation with farmers in Northern Ghana comparing the realities of farming at a local scale in the UK and Ghana.

Contributions from:

Farmers partnered with Trax Ghana – Non-governmental organisation

Mikey Tomkins – Hunt Institute, Southern Methodist University

Collette Haynes – Ashurst Organics

14:00-15:20 Session 3 – Chair: Robert Babak Madadi Howard
Julie Doyle – School of Art, Design and Media, University of Brighton

The politics of being vegan: celebrities, ethics, ecology and feminism

Dipak Sarker – School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, University of Brighton

Functional food and Food Functionalisation

Anne Boddington – College of Arts and Humanities, University of Brighton

Douglas McMaster – SILO

We are what we make and eat: Pre and post industrial food and the problems of problem solving.

Abigail Wincott – College of Arts and Humanities, University of Brighton

Past tense or present perfect? Diverging accounts of endangerment, conservation and ‘heritage’ vegetables in the media.

15:20-15:35 Tea/coffee break
15:35-16:40 Session 4 – Chair: Caroline Hodges
Carol Williams – School of Health Sciences, University of Brighton

What counts towards 5-a day? : Consumer food research and the interface with public health guidance.

Lauren Shukru – School of Health Sciences, University of Brighton

What do young people aged 16-18 in further education think about healthy eating, and what does this mean for health promotion?

Ruth Segal – SPRU, University of Sussex

Contested framings of ‘Agricultural Research for Development’

Rachael Taylor – SPRU, University of Sussex

Farmers as Producers…of Data: Participation and Visual Ethnography

16:40-17:00 Sum up and close



Keynote Announcement: The Evolution of Food Research and Policy Agendas

We are delighted to announce that Professor Erik Millstone, SPRU (Science Policy Research Unit), University of Sussex, will be giving the keynote speech at the BSUFN Symposium next month.

Erik will be talking on the subject ‘The Evolution of Food Research and Policy Agendas‘.

Professor Erik Millstone has been researching scientific and technological change in the food and agricultural sectors for over 40 years. He has undertaken extensive research in food safety policy which more recently has included agricultural policy in developing countries. His experience will provide engaging insight into temporal changes in the agenda for food-related research and policy.

Erik is a Professor of Science Policy at SPRU and also co-directs the Agriculture and Food research domain at the STEPS Centre.

You can read more about Erik’s research interests and expertise here.

You can find further details about the BSUFN Symposium on the 4th of February 2015 here. If you want to attend the symposium you can register online free of charge here.

Announcing an International Conversation: Global Food Nexus and Local Realities

BSUFN are excited to be able to announce that during our second symposium: The Diversity of Food Research there will be a live conversation with farmers in Ghana thanks to partnership with Trax Ghana, a local non-governmental organisation in Ghana.

This exciting and innovative session will bring together farmers in Northern Ghana, researchers from the UK, and practitioners locally and internationally. The conversation will enable sharing of grassroots knowledge and comparison of priorities for farmers at a local level in the UK and Ghana. The session will involve questions and answers from both sides of the conversation.

The global food nexus is the theme of one of BSUFN’s special interest groups which considers global food systems and the food-water-energy-land nexus. This interactive session will consider the realities of these issues at a local scale, bringing the global focus through the inter-continental conversation.

Logo with Trax GhanaAs well as this international conversation, the symposium will include a keynote speech and research presentations from a wide diversity of disciplines throughout the Universities of Brighton and Sussex. For more details and information of how to register click here.

Plant Proteins in Human Nutrition—Myths and Realities

Posted by Caroline Hodges on 14/1/2015

I am rather surprised to find many textbooks on nutrition and biochemistry still using phrases to describe vegetarian and vegan diets as lacking in ‘essential’ or ‘complete amino acids’. As far back as 1994, Young published the information listed below, but the majority of nutrition sites or textbooks still use the word ‘incomplete’ to describe proteins from vegetable sources, and I am wondering why.

This may be appropriate in some cases where dietary sources of protein are limited, but it is not so in most developed Western countries.

Furthermore if might also be worth considering that to the best of my knowledge, none of the current recommendations for protein intake allows for, or considers, the environmental impact of meat consumption in the West.

Myth Reality
Plant proteins are not complete; they lack certain amino acids Most dietary combinations of proteins are complete; certain food proteins may be low in specific amino acids.
Plant proteins are lower in quality than animal proteins. Protein quality depends not only on the source but also on the dietary mixture of plant proteins; plant proteins can be as high in quality as animal proteins.
Proteins from different plant foods must be carefully mixed and eaten together in the same meal. Proteins do not have to been eaten at the same meal; the mixture over a day is important for nutritional value.
Animal procedures can provide good indices of the human nutritional value of food proteins. Animal procedures may underestimate plant protein quality for humans and have overestimated human requirements
Plant proteins are difficult to digest. Depending on the source and method of food preparation, plant proteins can be easy to digest.
People cannot meet protein needs with plant proteins alone. Plant protein or animal protein can provide adequate protein for human needs.
Plant proteins are lacking in nutritional value because they are not balanced. Plant proteins do not create a practical problem in terms of balance; possible imbalances are observed in amino acid supplementation.

*Studies show the average requirement = 0.66 g /kg body weight

Safe and adequate level of intake = 0.825 g /kg body weight (UK average = 1.2)

Safe and adequate level of intake = 8% of energy intake (UK average = 15)

Table adapted from:

Young VR, Pellett PL. Plant proteins in relation to human protein and amino acid nutrition. Am J Clin Nutr. 1994; 59(suppl):1203S–1212S.


The 2009 American Dietetic Association’s Position Paper on Vegetarian Diets says:

“Plant protein can meet requirements when a variety of plant foods is consumed and energy needs are met. Research indicates that an assortment of plant foods eaten over the course of a day can provide all essential amino acids and ensure adequate nitrogen retention and use in healthy adults, thus complementary proteins do not need to be consumed at the same meal.”

If you go to the USDA Database Standard Reference 25 and look up the analysis of any one whole plant food, you will see that all the amino acids exist in the food.

I would appreciate anyone’s feedback please.

A Misleading Name and Confused Assumptions: Questioning the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Africa

Originally posted by Rachael Taylor on 18/11/2014

In 2012 the G8 launched a new initiative in Africa: The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. Ten African countries have signed up to this and have pledged to commit to passing over 200 conditions into law in the coming years.

The New Alliance is intended to accelerate crop production in Africa, thus increasing food security. The agreements under the New Alliance also aim to make it easier for international companies to trade with Africa countries.

I am questioning what the New Alliance means by ‘food security’ and the assumptions that underlie their goals.

A Misleading Title for Agricultural Growth

The most widely recognised definition of ‘food security’ is that of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). They define ‘food security’ as:

“A situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Based on this definition, four food security dimensions can be identified: food availability, economic and physical access to food, food utilization and stability over time.” (FAO, 2014)

It seems that the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition are not using this definition of ‘food security’ because this understanding of the term includes nutrition so the Alliance would not need to specify this separately to food security.

In fact, the New Alliance website doesn’t specify what it does consider ‘food security’ to mean. However, they do repeatedly state that the goals of the New Alliance are to bring 50 million people in Africa out of poverty by 2022 and to end hunger (New Alliance, undated). Neither of these goals necessarily improves food security or nutrition.

The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition is in fact a new alliance for agricultural-led growth – it is about increasing economic growth through agricultural production and explicitly states so. It’s also questionable whether this alliance is really new as the concept seems to echo the intentions behind existing and historical initiatives to support socio-economic development in Africa.

Assumptions Create Confusion

The New Alliance makes a number of assumptions: 1) that increasing investment in agriculture in Africa will increase production; 2) that adding or revising national laws will support and increase agricultural production; 3) that the increased income from any such increase in agricultural production will go to those who are currently living in poverty; 4) that the increased income from any such increase in agricultural production will be spent on food and thus increase food security; 5) that any such food purchased with increased income will be more nutritious than is available in existing diets; and 6) that the same approach to increasing agricultural production will work throughout a huge, extremely diverse continent.

If the objective of the New Alliance is to improve trade with Africa, then it is implied that the increased produce from agriculture will be exported through these improved trade links, with the income from these international sales being the increased income that will reduce poverty. Having spent quite a lot of time talking to smallholder farmers in one of the New Alliance partner countries this year, I have learned from them that the best way to ensure increased food security is to allow farmers to use any increased crop production to feed their families and communities with.

Many smallholder farmers are subsistence farmers, they grow food to eat rather than to sell. This is a generalization but smallholders are commonly the poorest farmers and the most food insecure, thus the group of people an alliance that aims to increase food security should most directly target. From my knowledge of the New Alliance combined with what I have learned from farmers in Africa, I suggest that the New Alliance is not targeting support at the people who are most in need and any ways that New Alliance initiatives will impact poor, rural smallholders (such as changes in law) will likely have a negative impact on them.


FAO (2014) Hunger: Basic definitions: Food security [online] [Accessed on 17-11-14]

New Alliance (undated) About: Overview and Goals [online] [Accessed on 17-11-14]