Posted on May 06, 2015
Prof John Taylor of the Department of Food Science, a research theme leader in the Institute for Food, Nutrition and Well-being, has been elected as Honorary President of the International Association for Cereal Science and Technology (ICC). He was awarded this life presidency in recognition of his exceptional and meritorious service to the ICC since 1986, and for his contributions in the field of international cereal science and technology.
The highlights of Prof Taylor’s involvement with the ICC include his chairmanship of the scientific committee of the ICC International Cereals Symposium held in Pretoria in 1993, which was one of first international conferences held in post-apartheid South Africa. Between 2009 and 2010 he served as President of the ICC and from 2011 to 2012 as Chair of the Association’s Governing Committee. He has been particularly active in organising meetings about cereal production in developing countries, for example in India in 2012 and in Brazil in 2015.
The ICC is an international organisation of experts from around the world who specialise in the milling of wheat and other cereals, bread-making and the production of different cereal-based foods. This independent, apolitical forum also focuses on improving food quality, food safety and food security.
The ICC actively promotes international cooperation at the international, national and regional levels, and as its Honorary President one of Prof Taylor’s main objectives will be to create a unified body to oversee cereal science and technology. Although the American Association of Cereal Chemists International (AACCI) works independently from the ICC, he hopes to bring these two associations together in order to give them a stronger voice when it comes to shaping global and government policies. This will be a challenging task, but the benefits that can be derived from such an amalgamation cannot be underestimated.
He recognises the contributions that can be made by scientists from developing countries and is dedicated to bringing more scientists from across the world on board as ICC members. By bringing scientists together to work on common themes, a clearer and better understanding of controversial issues can be developed.
In a world where food security is threatened by the constantly growing human population, the importance of cereal production requires urgent attention. Factors such as the massive increase in urbanisation and the changes in communities’ dietary preferences put major strain on food producers and the availability of food. As developing countries become more developed, demands for specific foods also increase. People are eating foods that require the availability of more land, for example, for every kilogram of beef consumed, seven kilograms of grain have to be produced. South Africa used to export food, but today it is forced to import up to 40% of the wheat it requires. This can, to some extent, be attributed to the huge paradigm shifts in present-day agricultural industries. Another cause for concern is that mining activities have taken over land that was traditionally used for agriculture, which also affects food security. Taylor highlights the reality that every year the world has to produce at least two per cent more food than the previous year in order to provide for the increasing population and rising standards of living, which will not be sustainable in the long term.
More needs to be done, but in fact South Africa is now training fewer young food scientists than in years gone by. Tertiary institutions need to extend their focus beyond simply generating knowledge. ‘If academics do not apply their knowledge, it has little value,’ Taylor said.
One thing remains certain, and that is that cereal science and technology have a very important role to play in future food security. Prof Taylor hopes that by bringing food scientists from across the world together to tackle some of the threatening challenges the world is facing, the ICC and the AACCI will become a strong and unifying force that will be able to fill some of the important gaps currently evident in food security.
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