Reaping the benefits: science and the sustainable intensification of global agriculture
Food security is a major challenge in global health. Agriculture will need a significant boost if we are to feed the expected global population of nine billion people in 2050. This detailed report outlines the case for 'sustainable intensification'.
Climate change is already putting pressure on existing agricultural systems and will likely continue to alter rainfall patterns, temperatures and soil quality. But climate change isn't the only culprit — agricultural output has also fallen through growing pesticide resistance and low crop diversity.
The report argues that crop management must take these biological factors into account. But to be sustainable it must also support poor farmers and rural populations. This will require technological approaches underpinned by robust science, says the report.
The authors provide a detailed overview of how climate change will affect food production and the latest genetic techniques available to boost output. No single approach is going to work, and splitting agriculture into different camps — genetically modified or not, for example — will have no traction. The key is to consider the problem holistically and see how different approaches could be combined for the best results.
The report calls for agricultural sciences to be placed at the forefront of innovation, and supports its position in university courses, arguing that if agriculture is to see a revolution, it will need talented scientists.