Location & dates EMBL Heidelberg, Germany 6 - 7 Nov 2014
Deadlines Registration closed

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Why attend

  • Aims of the event
    The main aim of these joint meetings is to present important areas of life science research in a manner accessible to all, and to promote reflection on their implications. At the same time, they should facilitate a broad dialogue between biologists, behavioral and social scientists, students of all disciplines, and members of the public. 
  • Topics
    • Food, Science and Human Variation
    • The Nature and Nurture of Food Preferences
    • Food and The Metabolic Environment
    • Food, Health and Disease
  • Summary
    The focus of this meeting will be on the impact food has on our body and mind, both from the long-term evolutionary perspective and from the perspective of everyday life. The conference programme will highlight the biological and cultural processes through which food both defines us and transforms us. Metaphorically, as well as literally, in what sense are we what we eat?

    Humans are the only species that cook their food and this unique trait coincided with the evolutionary emergence of our earliest ancestors about two million years ago. Scientists argue that cooking must have had a profound effect on our evolution because it increased food efficiency, which allowed human ancestors to spend less time foraging, chewing, and digesting. Then, as humans spread to every corner of the planet, the availability of diverse food sources caused groups of humans to adapt differently to different environments, and this may have left its mark on their genomes.

    This raises some fascinating questions: How have diets of people in different parts of the world shaped human physiology? How do we acquire our sense of taste and smell? What are the underpinnings of our ability to taste and distinguish so many different flavours? Do genetic differences predispose individuals to perceive the taste of foods differently? How does the sociocultural environment into which we happen to be born, and within which we are raised, shape our food preferences and perception? Are our eating habits imprinted on our faculties of perception?

    Often eating (or not eating) gives rise to health problems. While the world’s food supplies are considered to be plentiful, the World Health Organization cites pervasive malnutrition as the greatest single threat to public health. At the same time, in the more affluent parts of the world, public health and human wellbeing are being compromised by excessive food consumption and successive food scandals. How can we address global food inequality, and what can be done to curb the obesity epidemic?

    What is the relationship between the food we eat and the microorganisms we carry within us? What is known about food and health across cultures? Have gene pools of populations around the world been affected by the nature of their diets? Why does the genetic make-up of some people make them particularly vulnerable to certain foods -  reactions that range from addictive responses to allergic reactions?

    These are some of the questions that will be the focus of our 15th EMBL/EMBO Science and Society conference in Heidelberg.

Who Should Attend

  • Everyone is welcome to attend.

For more information about previous meetings in the series please check the Science and Society Website.