Policy ForumFood Security: COVID-19

COVID-19 risks to global food security

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Science  31 Jul 2020:
Vol. 369, Issue 6503, pp. 500-502
DOI: 10.1126/science.abc4765

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  • Exploring Artificial Intelligence for the Future of Food Security
    • Mohamed Helmy, Senior Bioinformatics Specialist, Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation (SIFBI), Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR),Singapore
    • Other Contributors:
      • Kumar Selvarajoo*, Senior Research Scientist, Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation (SIFBI), Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR),Singapore

    Corresponding author: Kumar Selvarajoo
    Email: Kumar_Selvarajoo (at) sifbi.a-star.edu.sg

    With the growing world population, food security remains a major challenge facing mankind. Furthermore, in a recent policy forum “COVID-19 risks to global food security” (31 Jul, p.500-502) Laborde et al highlighted the importance of food security during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic (1). Unlike other pandemics that we have seen/read from history, this unique situation seems to prolong with a flaring indication during the second wave that we are now witnessing around the world (2, 3). Therefore, in times of crises such as pandemics, there is an imminent need to find alternative sources of food.
    One current research development to supplement conventional food and ingredients stock is the adaptation of carefully engineered generally recognized as safe (GRAS) microorganisms, such as bacteria (e.g. Escherichia coli) and yeast (e.g. Saccharomyces cerevisiae), for the production of food compounds (e.g. animal/plant protein, alcohol or vitamins) by optimizing the growth conditions, or the genetics through metabolic engineering techniques (4, 5). However, this involves highly laborious and mostly ‘trial-and-error’ processes. More recent works have included interdisciplinary systems biology approaches linking mathematics, computational science and physics with metabolic engineering (6, 7). These approaches are showing potential, however, the evaluation of complex data across -...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Preservation of the healthy food chain to protect against COVID-19 and heart diseases
    • Robert C. van de Graaf, Addiction and Lifestyle Medicine Specialist, Addiction Care Northern Netherlands, Groningen, The Netherlands
    • Other Contributors:
      • Jagat Narula, Chief of Cardiology and Dean of Global Affairs at Mount-Sinai, Mount Sinai, New York, USA
      • Leonard Hofstra, Professor of Cardiology, in Preventive Medicine and Designer of Evidence-Based Health Campaigns, Department of Cardiology, Amsterdam University Medical Center, The Netherlands

    Dear Editor,

    Laborde et al. describe the impact of COVID-19 on food security [1]. They point out that agricultural production and supply to the population of fruits and vegetables in low to middle-income countries (LMICs) relies heavily on manual labor, which might be jeopardized by social distancing measures to combat COVID-19 [1]. What the authors fail to point out is that insufficient intake of fruits and vegetables may make individuals more at risk for COVID-19. For instance an experimental study published in this journal showed that the level of the Interferon Type I, which has strong anti-viral properties, goes up substantially in response to the microbial conversion of flavonoids to desaminotyrosine, resulting in better survival [2]. Flavonoids are present in high doses in fruits and green leafy vegetables. Similarly, it was demonstrated that microbial conversion of dietary fibers into short-chain fatty acids resulted in reduction of immune-associated pathology in the lung and increased CD8+ T cell effector function, resulting in increased survival of Influenza infected animals [3]. Moreover, large population-based studies have shown a strong association between the reduction of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and the intake of flavonoids [4]. A meta-analysis on the intake of fiber showed a 9% drop in the risk of cardiovascular disease with every 7 grams extra intake of fiber [5]. Knowing that at least 75% of all cardiovascular diseases occur in LMICs [6], and...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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