Food is an essential part of our everyday lives, providing the nutrients we need to grow and keep our bodies alive. Biologists play an important role in food safety, food development and ensuring we all have enough food to live.
Follow a career in biology and you can make a difference. You could help to feed the world.
The world’s population is growing rapidly (and predicted to be 9 billion by 2050). More people on the planet means more food is needed to feed everyone. However, the amount of land available for growing crops is decreasing, and the effects of climate change are affecting where crops can grow. These factors will lead to a shortage of food in parts of the world. Producing enough food to feed our expanding population has been recognised as one of the greatest challenges facing mankind.
Biologists are helping to solve the problem by developing crops that can cope with difficult growing conditions. For example, biochemists and geneticists are researching ways to genetically modify crops to give them new properties so they can grow in harsh conditions or so they are more beneficial to people who eat them. These include:
Food scientists are developing new technologies for storing, preserving, packaging and transporting food and stopping or slowing food spoilage and wastage. Environmental scientists are studying how safe and nutritious food can be produced in a sustainable manner with minimal impact on the environment and animal welfare.
Biologists play a key role in producing food and drinks and developing new products.
Biotechnologists design the manufacturing processes and machinery used to produce food and drink. This allows products with a consistent flavour, colour and texture to be produced in large quantities. They also work with existing and newly discovered ingredients to invent novel recipes (for example modifying foods to create fat-free products or ready meals) and develop foods to boost our immune system, protect against disease and even make us smarter.
Microbiologists have a role in food development. Microbes are used in some of the fermentation processes that produce food such as bread, chocolate and cheese, as well as drinks like wine and beer. Others make products that are used as ingredients – for example, thickening agents in jam. And some microbes (usually bacteria) are probiotics – these are similar to the beneficial, or “friendly”, bacteria found in your gut. Probiotics can be introduced into foods like yoghurt, and may help to relieve and treat gut and intestinal disorders. Microbiologists study these organisms and advise on their use in the food industry.
Biologists in the food sector can work in a variety of settings – including the food industry, government or local authority research departments, research institutes, universities or quality inspection and control on production lines. Their work may involve building relationships with suppliers and customers, working with other scientists and engineers, and ensuring products are safe and profitable.
There are also jobs that involve communicating issues related to food security and safety and new developments in food technology to the public, school students, journalists and the government.
Biotechnologist, food technologist, epidemiologist, microbiologist, biochemist, geneticist, botanist, toxicologist, horticulturalist, consumer scientist, plant scientist, wine maker, environmental health officer, product developer, quality control, quality assurance, dietician, nutritionist.
Food science, ecology, botany, immunology, microbiology, biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, pharmacology, animal science, agricultural science, crop science, plant science, aquaculture, nutritional science , molecular gastronomy.
Becoming a Biologist – Degrees and Careers in Biology (Royal Society of Biology)
Food safety (Food Standards Agency)
Food security (Global Food Security)
Food technologist (Prospects)
Plant breeder/geneticist (Prospects)
Agricultural Consultant (Prospects)
Food and Drink Industry (Food and Drink Federation)