Forum: Shift to unconventional options is key to food security

The current pandemic has raised questions about Singapore's food security, especially in view of climate change (S'pore boosting production of food locally amid Covid-19, Nov 30).

Singapore is a small nation with limited land resources where a small percentage is used as agricultural land and 90 per cent of the food supply is imported. In this scenario, the dream of attaining self-sufficiency in food production seems far-fetched but is not impossible.

Focus must be on three food S's: security, self-sufficiency and sustainability.

The Government plans to increase food self-sufficiency to 30 per cent by 2030. This will be achieved primarily through fishery and aquaculture, as well as by employing urban, high-tech, innovative farming methods.

However, given space constraints and the fluctuating world food supply, unconventional and alternative food options will have to be explored. This need for disruption paves the way for alternative food choices such as cultured meat (lab-grown meats), imitation meats (non-meat products that mimic meat's texture, taste and appearance) and highly nutritious foods (which include algae such as spirulina and chlorella).

The benefit of these food options is that they require much less land and have lower carbon footprints. Spirulina, for example, is rich in protein, vitamins and minerals. It requires little land and little water.

Another area of focus could be locally grown alternative protein-rich fish feed for local fish farms, which is safer for marine ecosystems and is sustainable.

Shifts in diet and consumption habits take time. However, the good news is that millennials are more open to changes. A recent collaboration between a Singapore-based start-up and a hotel group introduced spirulina pasta that was quite well received. There has also been a positive response to lab-grown seafood.

Changes in consumer behaviour and dietary habits take time and effort, but when combined with food waste reduction, it can lead to a sustainable food system, healthier food habits and greater food security for Singapore.

Snigdha Sharma (Dr)

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