World Food Day is celebrated on 16 October every year around the world. This year's theme is water. Water is essential to life in many ways, but on World Food Day we want to pay special attention to drinking water and seafood.
Drinking water is our most important food
The water we use to provide clean drinking water comes from various water systems, including lakes. This is an environment that receives chemicals that we use in our daily lives. The amount of chemicals has continued to increase in recent decades and it is therefore important that we know which chemicals are in the water, how they affect their surroundings and how we can remove any harmful substances.
At SLU there is a lot of exciting research in this area. For example, researchers have conducted a thorough review of all antibacterial transformation products reported to occur in surface water around the world, which we describe in the news article: New overview of antibiotic-resistant substances in water. Thanks to this research, there is a better understanding of the risks of these substances and further opportunities to reduce the development of antibiotic resistance.
PFAS is another example of important research related to drinking water. One of the reasons this research is so important is that PFASs degrade very slowly in the environment, if at all. This means that when animals and humans ingest it, it stays in the body. Secondly, we know that there are strong reasons for considering some PFASs to be harmful to health. The state of knowledge on the research on PFAS in water is presented in the popular science knowledge bank article: Stop the amount of PFAS in circulation.
Securing sustainable access to aquatic foods
Global nutrition needs are increasing and aquatic foods have recently been identified as crucial in addressing many of the world’s urgent challenges, including hunger and malnutrition. Aquatic foods provide micronutrient-rich foods for 3.3 billion people and support the livelihoods of more than 800 million people. However, capturing wild fish and aquaculture production is not always sustainable, and access to these foods may be unequal.
Research on aquatic foods worldwide
To elevate the profile of aquatic food systems, and the millions of small-scale actors involved in these systems, researchers at SLU and WorldFish have produced a synthesis report: Securing sustainable access to aquatic foods. The report highlights how fisheries regulations, co-management and restoration initiatives can assist in ways forward to secure sustainable fisheries. For aquaculture, the importance of alternative fish feeds and more focus on non-predatory species is stressed in order to prevent competition with aquatic food for human consumption. Moreover, partnerships and stakeholder collaboration are concluded to be keys to success. The bottom-up approach achieves consensus and equips communities to own the interventions to protect, restore and better manage fisheries and aquaculture resources securing sustainable access to aquatic foods in the future.
Research on fish farming in Swedish waters
In Sweden, the majority of fish farming takes place in open-cage systems in low-temperature, nutrient-poor freshwaters. Knowledge of the environmental impact of fish farming is inadequate for these types of waters, and in particular, there has been a lack of knowledge about how farmed fish affect the aquatic environment, and how it recovers after the fish farming ends. At SLU, researchers are dedicated to increasing knowledge within this area to support sustainable fish farming.
Some of the main conclusions from the report The Environmental Effects of Cage Farming – a popular science summary (in Swedish) are; that the environmental effects of fish farm waste affect the environment in the vicinity of the farm; that waste from fish farms can have both positive and negative effects, and; that different parts of the food chain can be affected by fish farming in different ways.
Another exciting example of ongoing initiatives and research in the area is the potential of farming fish in hydropower dams in Norrland, Sweden. Researchers from SLU and Umeå University, with competencies ranging from economics/social sciences to ecology and aquatic environment, with extensive experience of the northern landscape and its socio-economic conditions, collaborate with the common goal of understanding how the considerably changed environment created by the regulation of the rivers in the future can form the basis for a growing and climate-smart entrepreneurship. More information on the state of knowledge about fish farming in the north can be found in the report: Fish farming in the north, a food production with environmental potential (in Swedish).
The initiative has led to a five-year research programme in collaboration between SLU and the producer organisation Matfiskodlarna. The programme will examine how char and rainbow trout can be farmed in a sustainable way in hydropower dams, from a biological, ecological and economic perspective. Read more about the programme in this news article: SLU invests in sustainable fish farming with support from the Kamprad Family Foundation.