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BGU’s Prof. Itzik Mizrahi and Colleagues Lead 5 Year International Coalition to Promote Environmentally Friendly Food Security Research Grants

by Rhonda Spivak, March 2, 2021

Most of the world is still unaware of a microscopic universe called the microbiome that thrives in the guts of humans and animals. BGU's Prof. Itzik Mizrahi (pictured here) is convinced that one of the keys to mitigating climate change and promoting food security lies in engineering that microbiome for the benefit of cleaner, healthier air and food. 

Food security, as defined by the United Nations' Committee on World Food Security, means that all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life. 

Cows' microbiomes can be tweaked to produce less methane from their flatulence. Fish can be made healthier to serve as the basis for aquaculture to feed human beings in this century. Prof. Mizrahi is part of two projects that just won significant European Union grants under their Horizon 2020 funding scheme to continue researching the microbiome: HoloRuminant and 3D'omics. 

The grants are the middle of the story, however. It begins five years ago with Prof. Mizrahi and his colleagues' convictions that scientists needed to understand and control the microbiome sooner rather than later as food crises began to loom on the horizon. 

“The research potential was clear to us. However, it was not a field that received significant EU funding," says Prof. Mizrahi of BGU's Department of Life Sciences in the Faculty of Natural Sciences. He is also a member of the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Desert (NIBN)?

So, Prof. Mizrahi set out to organize with his colleagues all over the world to lobby the EU to add millions of euros in funding for agricultural microbiome research. There were setbacks, several calls for proposals that did not include their field. Nevertheless, five years after he set out, the latest EU call for proposals included two multi-million Euro grants to study the microbiome. 

“There is much much more to be done, but I am gratified that international research bodies are recognizing the importance of our field to the health of the planet," says Prof. Mizrahi. 

As one of the recipients of both grants, Prof. Mizrahi will continue to be at the forefront of research, making methodical progress, one eye on the microscope, but the other on the future and the big picture.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.