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We Must Value Resources as Well as Innovate, Top Scientist to Say

16 April 2013

UK - Faced with massive population growth, increasing prosperity and extreme weather events brought by climate change that raise the risk of pests and diseases, the challenge to feed all calls for a great deal more than the accepted necessary advances in science and innovation.

That will be the message from Professor Ian Crute, Chief Scientist with the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) at this week’s spring conference of the Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST).

In his keynote speech at the John Innes Centre, Norwich (9.45am, Thursday, 18 April), Professor Crute will say that land/water use and management holds the key to sustainable productivity. This applies not just to the need to increase food production but also conserving biodiversity, adapting to climate change, preserving valued landscapes, producing renewable energy, providing clean water, reducing GHG emissions and protecting livelihoods.

Citing the fact that equivalent crop production in 2009 required only 35 per cent of the land needed in 1961, he will emphasise ‘land sparing’ as a key component of sustainability.

“Producing as efficiently as possible on the smallest footprint of land capable of meeting demand for food is both the ‘greenest’ and usually the most profitable way to farm,” he will argue, stressing the need for sustainable intensification.

The AHDB scientific expert will also call for the short-term costs, as well as the long-term benefits, of sustainable production to be shared across the food chain: “Reconciling the need for food security with the environmental consequences of agriculture poses a challenge that can only be resolved through a shared food chain responsibility, in addition to continuing investment in science and innovation,” he will claim.

Suggesting that the days of plentiful, cheap food enjoyed over the last 20 years are nearing an end, possibly for good, Professor Crute will outline how food and agriculture has been placed at the centre of a contemporary world stage, where tomorrow’s connected issues of environment, energy, emerging technologies, human health, global politics and economics have been thrust forward to today.

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