17 February 2011
As the world's population grows, competition for food, water and energy will increase. Food prices will rise, more people will go hungry, and migrants will flee the worst-affected regions. That was the simple idea at the heart of a warning from John Beddington, the UK government’s chief scientific adviser back in 2009, the year of our last Outlook Conference.
Specifically, he pointed to research indicating that by 2030 ‘a whole series of events come together’:
Now, in 2011 we are already seeing many of these factors affecting the market our farm businesses operate in. The warning of this "perfect storm" was partly intended to focus attention on the positive role that science can play, a subject that provides the core to this year’s Conference discussions.
Modern agricultural achievements are the result of technological advances, new management techniques and new chemical treatments that have made it possible to feed 6.7 billion mouths. There's a lot being written at present about the relative benefits of different forms of agricultural production, but one key fact often gets missed. If farmers' yields were still as low as those of the 1950s, we would need nearly three times as much cultivated land to feed today's global population.
It is obvious that further innovative agricultural practices are required to increase the amount of grains, fruit and vegetables that we produce. Consequently, today’s speakers will discuss current challenges facing our industry, the future opportunities and how we must adapt ourselves and our businesses to gain the greatest benefits.
BASIS Points: 4
NRoSO Points: 3