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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

UC Davis opens new World Food Center

Members weigh on center goals, plans and why Davis is the perfect

place to host it

As one of the highest-ranking universities in the world for agriculture, UC Davis has launched its very own World Food Center with the hopes of finding sustainable ways to feed an ever-growing planet.

Composed of an experienced group of individuals from various backgrounds in the agricultural and medicinal fields, the World Food Center aims to generate economic development locally by expanding the university’s economic connections with environmental businesses.

“UC Davis is one of the best places in the world with respect to those seeking an education in agriculture, food sciences and nutrition,” said Josette Lewis, a UC Davis alumna and associate director of the World Food Center. “The goal of the World Food Center is to really leverage and build on that incredible intellectual base that already exists, and position the university to be more influential in shaping how the non-academic community understands and makes decisions on policy and strategy surrounding agriculture and food.”

Dr. Bruce German, who is also on the advisory committee for the new center, has been a professor in the Department of Food Science at UC Davis since 1988.

“The challenges of innovation in agriculture and food go way beyond the simple science of genetics or microbiology,” German said. “People are wildly enthusiastic in innovations in communication and entertainment, but with agriculture and food that’s a very different proposition. People get very nervous, and even though guiding the genetic changes in agriculture and important crop plants is a very simple technology to execute, it is a global issue.”

The World Food Center was formed to find solutions to major global problems, including population growth, malnutrition, food security and supply.

“If you’re going to have a place that’s going to get engaged in global food issues then it should certainly incorporate Davis,” said plant sciences professor Dr. Kent Bradford. “I’m really glad to see that this campus is stepping up and taking a leadership role, saying we have the resources and the talent, we want to work with diverse groups to put that to work and solve these problems.”

Bradford, a member of the advisory committee for the World Food Center and former director of the UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center, has been engaged in agricultural discussions on-campus for many years.

“On one end [the World Food Center] is interested in maintaining the system that we have, but also looking at the challenges that we have in feeding another 2 billion people in another 30 to 40 years,” Bradford said. “I think the World Food Center wants to be a focus for all this diverse talent and expertise that we have and then bring it into focus on specific problems, and I think it’ll be a focal point to put those groups in contact with our faculty and scientists and students and try to work out solutions.”

Lewis, who completed her masters degree in genetics at UC Davis in 1988 and then worked for the U.S. government, said that her international agriculture career has helped her understand how important of a role the Davis community plays in combating issues involving food and agriculture.

“[UC] has an enormous contribution in our food system,” Lewis said. “I think there’s such an incredible richness in our food system right now and people are really interested. We’ve got to put the pieces together and realize that a lot of that traces back to the outstanding work of our campus and the students that come out of our campus.”

According to Lewis, the World Food Center should serve to help students understand agricultural and health-related issues from other angles, while also improving their knowledge of the complexities surrounding the food system.

“The UC Davis community really is an amazing intellectual powerhouse on these issues,” Lewis said. “There’s also a renewed interest in agriculture and food from people interested in understanding more about where their food comes from, to more concerns about the health implications about what we’re eating and diets, and the impacts of choices we’re making about food and environmental and social issues like poverty and hunger.”

Over the past few years, the advisory committee has been meeting with executive director Roger Beachy and associate director Lewis in order to collaborate with various corporations and government agencies to discuss moving forward with future plans.

“For one thing, it’s nice to know you’re at what’s considered the world’s best,” German said. “Everyone is involved in food, and so however distant you may think you are from the practice of it, we’re all involved in it everyday.”

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