Poster Competition draws attention to global food security

December 2012

Geneviève talking about her research at the Conference

Genevieve Metson’s poster “Human diet affects phosphorous demand around the world” took first prize at the recent Fifth McGill Conference on Global Food Security.   The theme of the highly successful conference, which was held in October, was Food Prices and Political Instability.

Metson is a third-year PhD candidate in the Department of Natural Resource Sciences under the supervision of Professor Elena Bennett.

“There is a finite supply of mined phosphorous in the world and peak production will occur in the next 30 to 300 years. The finite supply of P is a key concern because there are no substitutes for it and we cannot produce more than exists on Earth. To identify strategies that mitigate the losses of P and to extend the lifetime of existing P resources, researchers have examined increasing P use efficiency and increasing P recycling. However, little previous work has quantified the role of diet in sustainable P management.

“Our results show that dietary shifts are an important component of the recent amplification of the global P cycle. These dietary trends present a potentially important challenge for sustainable P management and thus food security, as P fertilizer prices have a significant impact on the cost of producing food. The relationship between high P requirements and meat production holds true for other inputs such as energy, land, water and other nutrients. Diet mitigation, in addition to agricultural practices and food chain management, can help ensure future food security.”

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