There are significant concerns about the long term security and sufficiency of global food-crop production due to the potential impact of many factors including climate change, population growth, changing consumption patterns and competing demands for land. The Royal Society is to study the extent to which the biological and related sciences can contribute to enhancing global food-crop production over the next 30 years within the context of changing global and regional demand during this period.
The study aims to:
– Identify and assess challenges to food-crop production in the developed and developing world.
– Evaluate targets and mechanisms for potential improvement of food-crop production including through increasing yields, enhancing nutritional value, minimising waste, increasing resource-use efficiency and reducing reliance on non-renewable inputs.
– Identify and assess biological approaches for enhancing food-crop production. These may include biotechnological approaches to the optimisation of the genetic make-up of crops and other biological and agroecological methods such as biocontrol.
– Consider possible positive and negative impacts of crop production technologies and practices on, for example, the environment, human health and economies.
Identify and assess any barriers to the effective introduction and use of biological approaches for enhancing food-crop production. Such limitations may include regulatory hurdles, the adequacy of the skills base and research infrastructure, knowledge and technology transfer and intellectual property rights.
The study will be chaired by the molecular biologist Prof David Baulcombe.
International civil society organisations, including Practical Action. Action Aid UK, Christian Aid, Friends of the Earth International, Pesticides Action Network international and the Third World Network have written to Dr Baulcombe and expressed their concern that this research will at best duplicate the work of the International Agriculture Assessment (IAASTD). They suggest instead that the premise of the study group is faulty and that the real concerns around food sufficiency are more related to trade, social issues, sustainability and an over-emphasis on technological solutions. What the working group might more usefully focus on, they suggest, should be implementing the findings of the IAASTD.