Our Daily Bread

Our Daily Bread

Food businesses and universities must work together to meet the challenges ahead.

‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ is an extraordinarily profound part of the Lord’s Prayer. Through repetition, this plea has become commonplace, but in context it ranks not just physical nourishment, but the certainty of its provision alongside deep spiritual needs for forgiveness and deliverance from evil. Christ’s entreaty that a God who behaves like a Father must ensure the physical health of his children reflects our most primitive survival needs.

"Food businesses and universities must work together to meet these extraordinary and breathtaking challenges."

If our physical needs are important in religion, how much more so should they be for science? We have been refining the knowledge of how to provide our daily bread since the cultivation of cereals over twenty thousand years ago, and the domestication of animals in the Neolithic. And with the ever-pressing needs of a rising population and the understandable desire of an enriched population in developing world for a varied diet, we rely on our scientist to develop novel technologies, solutions, and inventions to keep pace with these inexorable changes.

And yet as Christ’s prayer reminds us, questions of morality are seldom far from the surface even in such apparently mundane things as the production of our daily diet. It would be the crassest form of Malthusianism to suggest that the planet cannot sustain its people, and food science has time and again stepped in to stop hunger and deprivation, but the ethics of production must be as central to the debate as the science.

Food businesses and universities must work together to meet these extraordinary and breathtaking challenges. And so, the National Centre for Universities and Business has assembled a Task Force of business leaders and senior academics – including Justin King, the CEO of Sainsbury’s and Quintin McKellar, the VC of Hertfordshire, to review the current relationships between the two sectors and make a number of recommendations for improvement. We can’t leave it to prayer.

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David Docherty is Chief Executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business. You can follow him on Twitter @DavidDocherty1.

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