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[Symposium] Breath and nourishment: urgent challenges for health

On June 7, 2019, during the international symposium on sustainable development hosted by l'X, Shenggen Fan, Marion Guillou, Markus Amann and Matthieu Coutière will discuss the effect of the growth of global population on ressources and ecosystems.

From 1950 to the present day, the global population has grown from 2.5 billion to over 7 billion. Humans have drawn heavily on agricultural resources to support this population explosion, achieving huge productivity gains, particularly due to the mechanization and application of fertilizers and pesticides. The resulting increase in resources improved the global food situation up until the beginning of the 21st century. However, the pressure on ecosystems is now so great that we may need to question the sustainability of the progress we have made.

In addition, the 2008 financial and economic crisis sparked rising tensions around food prices, which led in 2010 to the return of significant global malnutrition. Over 800 million people worldwide are malnourished, representing 12% of the population, with 500 million in Asia and over 220 million in sub-Saharan Africa.

The virtuous circle that was supposed to keep our diet in sync with the Earth’s ecosystem has long since been broken. High-yield agriculture and intensive livestock farming are contributing to deforestation and the resultant loss of biodiversity. On top of this, these activities release a cocktail of pollutants and effluents with abnormally high concentrations of various harmful substances directly into the air we breathe and the water that irrigates our soil. The impact of this damage on the ecosystem is so severe that it interferes with human activity.

Fish is the main source of protein for 2.6 billion human beings, with the number of people working in fishing-related occupations reaching 200 million. But according to FAO, 58% of fish species are caught to the maximum of their biological capacity in order to replenish stocks, and 31% are either overexploited, depleted or recovering from depletion.

Depending on the species, it takes between 4 and 50 kg of plants to produce 1 kg of meat. This means that 4 to 50 times more agricultural land must be used to produce 1 kg of meat, when these plants could be directly consumed by humans.With the world’s population likely to reach 9 billion in 2050, how can we make all this data more consistent? How can we break the vicious circle between productivism and ecological impact? What are the alternatives?

Friday, June 7, 2019 - from 2:30 pm to 3:30 pm

>Find out more on the symposium, here

Shenggen Fan
Director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) since 2009, he is a member of the Lead Group for the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, and is one of the Champions of Target 12.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. He serves as advisor to many national governments, including China and Vietnam, on agriculture, food security and nutrition. Dr. Fan received a PhD in applied economics from the University of Minnesota and bachelor’s and master’sdegrees from Nanjing Agricultural University in China.

Marion Guillou
Marion Guillou is Conseiller d’État on extraordinary service, and the Chairperson of Agreenium, the French Agricultural, Veterinary and Forestry Institute. She is a member of the French High Council for the Climate under the Prime Minister. She completed her PhD on the physico-chemistry of biological processes at the University of Nantes, and is an alum of École Polytechnique (Year of Entry: 1973) and an engineer in the Corps of Rural Engineering, Waters and Forests (IGREF). Guillou was Head of the French Directorate General for Food (DGAL) from 1996 to 2000. She has also held positions as President of École Polytechnique and President and Managing Director of INRA from 2004 to 2012. She is currently a member of the boards of directors of two international research centers, Bioversity and CIAT.

Markus Amann
Markus Amann is Program Director of the Air Quality and Greenhouse Gases (AIR) Program and co-leader of IIASA’s Greenhouse Gas Initiative. He is also Head of the Centre for Integrated Assessment Modelling (CIAM) of the European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP). He is lead author for the Working Group III report of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). His research interests include the interface between science and policy and methods for the integrated assessment of environmental issues.

Matthieu Coutière
École Polytechnique graduate Matthieu Coutière (Year of Entry: 1991) has consistently sought to convert technological innovations into products that benefit the general public. He is the CEO of the start-up Air Serenity, which develops air purification technology that presents an optimal balance between energy consumption and user health. This technology was developed and patented at École Polytechnique. He previously directed Alcatel-Lucent’s global branch, offering one-stop solutions for smart cities, and worked a strategy consultant with Mars & Co and subsequently with Vivendi. Matthieu Coutière began his career as CTO for the European launch of the American start-up, Akamai Technologies.