NUS GGS: From Farm to Plate
Functional versus non-functional. Organic versus non-organic. Knowing what you are eating and where your food comes from has become more imperative than ever. Experts addressed some of the pressing questions about the food on our plates at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Greater Good Series event titled: Farm to Plate.
“Food is such a critical pillar of modern societies in Asia that ‘food science’, or the study of food, becomes indispensable,” asserted Professor Zhou Weibiao, Director of Food Science & Technology at the NUS Faculty of Science, and moderator for the event.
So what are functional foods and where can we find them?
“Functional foods are those that give the body additional nutrients with benefits that can prevent chronic illnesses,” shared Dr Ngiam Tong Tau, former CEO and Director-General of the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA).
How can we ensure more functional foods end up on our plates? According to Dr Ngiam, continuing research and development is key. Already, food technology in Singapore is advancing well. In the area of vegetable farming, new developments include an award-winning vertical farming system developed by an engineer at the Sky Urban Solutions Holdings Pte Ltd, where Dr Ngiam is currently the Chairman.
These advancements result in a higher yield while saving on water, energy and labour.
Organic food, on the other hand, is plentiful in supply here. The challenge is in decoding the multitude of organic labels to find the legitimate ones.
Ms Khoo Gek Hoon, the Director of the Post-Harvest Technology Department at AVA, informed that organic agriculture entails a whole production system that sustains the health of the soil, ecosystems and people.
“In order for a food producer to be certified organic, many factors must be in place, such as locating the farm in a less polluted area, adopting crop rotation to promote biodiversity, using organic seeds that are not chemically coated, using biopesticides made from natural products, respecting the environment, observing fair trade rules and supporting the livelihood of the local community. The organic production system needs to adopt these organic standards and be certified,” she states.
Ms Khoo revealed that the International Federation of Organic Movement (IFOAM) is the world authority that defines the principles and sets guidelines for organic standards and accredits the organic certification bodies. Despite these, she admitted that there is still a lot to be done in maintaining the organic integrity in the industry.
With more research and funding, a future with a sustainable source of functional food in Singapore, where one could order vegetables from the urban farm next door, would be conceivable.
The NUS Greater Good Series features talks by leading minds on topics related to philanthropy. These include generosity, giving and service to the community, as well as leadership, personal well-being and mental resilience. The Series aims to raise awareness of philanthropy and its impact on society. The Series was made possible thanks to a generous gift from Newsman Realty Pte Ltd.For further information on the NUS Greater Good Series, contact the Events team at firstname.lastname@example.org.