Online course in Nature & Environment

Future Food: Sustainable Food Systems for the 21st Century

Find out what sustainability means for food and explore the challenges of our journey towards a more sustainable food future.

Future Food: Sustainable Food Systems for the 21st Century

  • Duration 4 weeks
  • Weekly study 3 hours
  • Learn Free
  • Extra benefits From $44 Find out more

Learn how culture, sustainability, and technology is changing the food system

Food production has transformed our planet. 40% of the land’s surface is used for agriculture, soils and freshwater are under threat, and fisheries are over-exploited.

Millions of smallholders face economic uncertainty, whilst four transnationals control the global grain supply.

And, by 2050, we must feed 9 billion in the face of a changing climate.

On this course, you’ll learn about these challenges in detail and discover potential solutions.

You’ll consider the global food system as a whole, as you explore everything from individual food choice to the impact of agriculture on climate change.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 secondsHi, I'm Dr. Dan Bebber from the Department of Biosciences, University of Exeter. And I am Natalia Lawrence, Associate Professor in psychology. And we're the academic leads for this future food MOOC. Currently, agriculture uses about half the world's land surface to produce food, and that's a huge impact on global biodiversity and ecosystem services. By the year 2050, we're going to have to feed an extra 3 billion people, and we'll have to do that sustainably without wrecking the planet and in a changing climate. In this four-week course, my colleagues and I will guide you through some of the huge challenges we face feeding the growing population healthily and unsustainably.

Skip to 0 minutes and 45 secondsYou'll learn not only some of the great challenges we face, but the solutions being developed to address them. We are joined by Exeter University experts in psychology, nutrition, anthropology, geography, agriculture, biology, economics, and policy. This course really takes a multidisciplinary perspective on the subject of future food. This is an exciting opportunity to find out how we can make a difference from the food choices we make as individuals to the impacts of agriculture on the environment. You'll have the chance to analyse the issues and debate possible solutions with fellow students. Here's a flavour of some of the big questions we'll be asking. Should we support organic farming? Can meat be produced sustainably? Should governments subsidise farming?

Skip to 1 minute and 31 secondsAnd should we produce genetically modified foods? Experts agree that the food system requires a revolution to avoid disaster in the near future. But fortunately, change is happening. So come and join us to find out more and be part of the change.

What topics will you cover?

Diets and Health

  • Changing food cultures
  • Diets for personal and planetary health
  • The drivers of eating behaviour

Impacts of Production

  • How crops have changed the planet
  • Over-fishing and fisheries
  • Livestock farming and the environment

Food Security

  • Adapting to climate change
  • Conserving our soils
  • Novel technologies

Food Governance

  • Empowering farmers and smallholders
  • Food as a commodity
  • Ecosystem services

When would you like to start?

Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts. Find out more

  • Available now
    This course started 14 Oct 2019

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Investigate global patterns and trends of food consumption and production
  • Discuss what sustainability means with reference to food
  • Explain where and how to find reliable information about food
  • Debate the main issues related to food
  • Discuss how individuals choose their food and what effects this has
  • Explore how technological advances are changing the food system

Who is the course for?

The course is designed for anyone interested in food sustainability.

Who will you learn with?

Natalia  Lawrence

Natalia Lawrence

I am an Associate Professor in Psychology who studies human eating behaviour and develops novel interventions to help people eat more healthily and sustainably.

Dan Bebber

Dan Bebber

Dr Dan Bebber is an ecologist with an interest in the impacts of climate change on diseases of agricultural crops. His current research focuses on diseases of tropical crops like bananas and coffee.

Bethan Stagg

Bethan Stagg

I am a botanist and science educator. I work for a project developing diverse pastures on UK farms. I'm also a keen allotment grower.

Who developed the course?

The University of Exeter is a Russell Group university. It combines world-class research with very high levels of student satisfaction.

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