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Science Honours Academy

Activities

Report second Interdisciplinary Symposium 2015-2016: Future of Food

The subject of the December symposium was the Future of Food. We felt honoured that the head of the Future Food Utrecht focus area of Utrecht University, Rens Voeseneck, agreed to speak in the beginning of the evening. He is very enthusiastic of this department and he was not afraid to show it. His philosophy is to give Utrecht University a field to be renown for. Since nutrition is one of the basic necessities of life and since it is an increasingly difficult task to provide it to a population that is heading towards 10 billion, it is indeed a very relevant topic. Voesenek provided us with an overview of how all faculties are relevant in the future of food and told us about the three key points of the department: sustainable innovations, healthy food and smart decisions.

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Rens Voesenek (UU), opening the symposium with an informative talk about the UU Future Food Programme

Dennis Oonincx was the second speaker. He is a teacher from Wageningen University with a PhD in research of insects as a possible source of food. Although this field is relatively new, he could provide us with semi quantitative data of research conducted thus far. Insects, with their incredible 20 million different species, make other animal types seem like outcasts of the planet. Reasons they could be useful as a food source are their high rate reproduction, the sustainability of their production and their high feed to food conversion efficiency.

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Dennis Oonincx (Laboratory of Entomology, WUR) giving a presentation about eating insects

Guido van den Ackerveken’s talk was about the genetic modification of organisms that can supply food, especially about plants as he is an expert in that area. He first gave an introduction about the history of genetic modification with a list of the ways to induce such genetic modifications. After that he gave some examples of food that was improved in different ways with some different tools. He also said something about the rules in using, producing and selling genetic modified food and the differences between these rules in the USA and Europe. As the highlight of the talk he explained the newest technique for us; CRISPR-Cas. With this technique scientists are able to safely, cheaply and accurately modify the genome of organisms and thus provide a new way to improve food, even in Europe.

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Guido van den Ackerveken (Institute for Environmental Biology, UU) presenting his research on genetic modification of plants

The last talk by Cor van der Weele was about in vitro grown meat and especially about the ethics and usability in our society. She explained the principles of the in vitro growing of meat very briefly and after that she continued to talk about the current progress in the scientific research and the promotion by the people. In the main part of the talk she laid out some ethical difficulties that we will face in the future: What are our responsibilities when the technique is productive enough to sell the meat?  Is the meat still an animal?  How can we make the people accept this new sort of meat?  She ended with a hopeful and prospective portrait of the meat of the future.
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The last speaker, Cor van der Weele (Philosophy Group, WUR), receiving a token of thanks after her presentation on in vitro