How can we guarantee food for future generations? Manja-Christina Reuter, nutrition researcher at the Leibnitz Institute in Potsdam, says we need to find new protein sources for food, such as mealworms.
You head a project at your institute called "Sustainable Food Production and Healthy Nutrition". Two really big goals. What are the greatest challenges?
The challenge is to bring together health and nutrition and sustainable production of food and feed. And to bring together researchers from both sides and to develop a healthy alternative to, for instance, animal based proteins.
Well you just mentioned animal based proteins, we're going to face a lot of challenges in feeding the world's population in the future, in particular protein. What are some of the options there? Are we going to be eating insects in the future?
Insects are a viable alternative, of course, because they produce protein and they don’t need so much feed, such as cattle for instance. And in many parts of the world they are quite popular. And even in Germany in Hessia we had a maybug soup a few years ago and so that may come back. Or we may consume insect bars instead of chocolate bars, for instance.
Well we know that actually meat is not really sustainable, particularly with the world’s burgeoning population, if everyone wants to eat meat. But there are changes being made now, what changes are being made in the area of meat production?
Yes, there is a more individualized cattle production for instance and we work on smart agricultural solutions, we want to know how the individual animal feels and to get better treatment and get faster treatment of the animal, so we have, this concentration in agriculture of course. We have huge stables and we want to know how can these stables be healthy places where animals feel at home, feel comfortable and then they produce more also.
Well what about genetically modified crops? Where do they fit in? I mean are we going to be able to do without them?
I think there are cultural differences, I think for instance that today in northern America they are more accepted than in Europe and there is genetically modified soy produced in parts of Latin America and consumers here don’t accept it. I think we have to see what our consumer preference is and go from there and work from there on.
Let's talk about health for a minute. I mean one of the biggest problems nowadays is less undernourishment, it’s actually poor nourishment. We’re seeing an explosion of obesity. What are the challenges in getting the population to begin to eat more healthily?
Yes, of course we know more about the impact of certain food on our health and this is changing, we have the nutritional permit, the permit model and we have models now developed on the ecological impact of our food also and that fits quite well together so you have to limit at bit red meat and you have to consume a bit more fish but then there is overfishing is a big issue today so you need to see how to replace this by for instance grain legumes.
With other things.
Or insects. I look forward to trying them for the first time.
(Interview: Derrick Williams)