19. Foods for the Future
FOODS FOR THE FUTURE
prof. Ing. Jaroslav Doležel, DrSc.
Institute of Experimental Botany of the Czech Academy of Sciences
The goal of the Foods for the Future research programme is to contribute to securing sufficient amounts of quality food and healthy nutrition. This will be achieved by accelerating the transfer of results from fundamental research into practice, providing relevant information to political representatives, the state administration, and the wider public, and also by supporting cooperation between the institutes of the Czech Academy of Sciences (CAS). The programme’s core consists of ten associated and complementary research topics.
The programme’s main objectives:
- The use of newly-acquired knowledge on the structure and function of hereditary plant information, the isolation of important genes, and the development of new breeding technologies using tools of molecular biology and genomics. The operation of an Applied Laboratory for Agricultural Research.
- The development and implementation of new procedures for the modification of hereditary information in plants and micro-organisms and methods that enable the creation of organisms with advantageous properties. The establishment of an Application Laboratory for Plant Biotechnology.
- The issue of the reduction of organic mass in agricultural soil, the reduction of diversity in agricultural soil and the influence of substances with antibiotic effects on the soil and the food chain.
- The evaluation of the effects of climate change on agricultural crops with an emphasis on food production to enable an effective focus on adaptive measures.
- The isolation of new strains of micro-algae, the development of methods for modifying the hereditary information of algae and methods of algae production. The operation of an Application Laboratory for Algae Biotechnology.
- The issue of non-traditional crops (plant materials) for the preparation of gluten-free foods and the clarification of mechanisms through which food affects the composition and function of microbiome.
- The use of physical-chemical methods with the objective of acquiring products from residual biomass for the preparation of food supplements, fertilisers, and biodegradable materials for packaging.
- The use of research findings on animal products for the supply of high-quality foods and influencing the composition of gut microbiota in animals.
- Investigations into the paths of local foods from producers to consumers, a case study of a selected region. Cooperation with domestic and international experts.
- Public opinion polling on the topic of food waste in order to collect valuable data that are currently not available in the Czech Republic. Investigations into the causes of food waste and related global contexts.
Participating CAS Institutes
- Institute of Biophysics
- Biology Centre
- Institute of Microbiology
- Institute of Sociology
- Institute of Experimental Botany
- Institute of Geonics
- Institute of Chemical Process Fundamentals
- Global Change Research Institute
- Institute of Animal Physiology and Genetics
Other participating partners
- Research and Breeding Institute of Pomology Holovousy s. r. o., Prague
- Moravoseed CZ a.s., Mikulov
- International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda
- Fort Science Interactive Science Centre of Palacký University Olomouc
- NA MYSLI, z. ú., Prague
- Mendel University in Brno
- Mendel Museum of Masaryk University, Brno
- Hop Research Institute, Žatec
- Jarošovice Composting Plant
- State Institute for Drug Control, Prague
- Crop Research Institute, Prague
- Central Institute for Supervising and Testing in Agriculture, Brno
- Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research, Germany
- University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice
- South Bohemian Science and Technology Park, České Budějovice
- ALGAMO s.r.o., Prague
- Phycom, Veenendaal, the Netherlands
- University of Applied Science of Upper Austria, Wels, Austria
- Chamber of the Food Industry of the Czech Republic, Prague
- Third Faculty of Medicine at Charles University, Prague
- Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Prague
- Celiac Association of the Czech Republic, Prague
- Perník s.r.o., Těchlovice
- Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague
- Silva Tarouca Research Institute for Landscape and Ornamental Gardening, Průhonice
- Rabbit, a.s., Trhový Štěpánov
- VAPO spol., s.r.o., Podbořany
- Milcom a.s., Prague
- Masaryk University in Brno
- Jan Evangelista Purkyně University in Ústí nad Labem
- University of Florence, Italy
- Zachraň jídlo, z. s., Prague
At the national level, the Foods for the Future research programme aims to contribute to securing sufficient amounts of quality food. At the global level, it strives to use the potential of Czech science to help developing countries. The programme responds to one of the most important challenges of the present, i.e. securing enough food for an ever-increasing world population.
Increasing agricultural production under ecologically sustainable conditions without damaging the environment will require the cultivation of new types of crops that are resistant to diseases and pests and provide higher yields under changing climate conditions without any negative impacts on the nutritional quality. The effectiveness of crop improvement can be increased by using methods of molecular biology and genomics, which can identify plants bearing the required genes in the early growth stage so that there is no need to wait for expensive and time-consuming field trials.
Intensive agricultural production has resulted in the worsening of the condition of agricultural soil and in its degradation. If the production is to remain unthreatened, it is necessary to quickly analyse the current situation and propose the necessary measures. Another step necessary to guarantee sufficient amounts of food involves limiting losses throughout the chain - from production through distribution and on to the consumer, and also limiting food waste in general. Food production by consumers themselves may also play an important role. As far as the production of foods of animal origin is concerned, molecular methods will make it possible to breed farm animals with new characteristics. Some have already achieved a better level of protection against serious illnesses and stress, and generally have greater resilience.
A growing part of human population reacts negatively to some components of traditional food, such as some cereal storage proteins. It is important to find alternative crops for this segment of population and stimulate their use during the production of affordable alternative food products. There is an increasing amount of information that shows the significant role played by gut microbiota, which is directly associated with the health of an individual, including mental health. A suitable diet has a direct impact on the condition of the microbiota, whose composition can also be influenced by probiotics and prebiotics as food supplements.
In addition to traditional agricultural crops, which will continue to be the main source of energy and necessary nutrients, the use of microalgae also has great potential. Their advantage lies in the fact that they are easy to culture and provide a wide range of health-promoting substances for a full nutrition diet.
The large-scale agricultural and industrial production of food is also associated with the production of unused biomass, which often contains large amounts of valuable substances, yet it is still dumped or incinerated without any further use. An alternative lies in the use of chemical and physical methods that enable the isolation of valuable substances that can support healthy nutrition or be used for the production of food supplements. This is a direction that will play an important role in the system of ecologically-sustainable agriculture and food production.
The Foods for the Future programme places a great emphasis on the practical application of the latest scientific findings. The main activity therefore involves the operation of application laboratories, specifically the Application Laboratory for Agricultural Research in Olomouc and the Application Laboratory for Algae Biotechnology in Třeboň. One of the important goals of the programme also is to open an Application Laboratory for Plant Biotechnology in Brno.