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ISCN 2016: Session 1: Food Sustainability at the Micro and Macro Level


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Sophie Laurie, Associate Director Innovation & Translation, National Environment Research Council (NERC)

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ISCN 2016: Session 1: Food Sustainability at the Micro and Macro Level

  1. 1. Food Security and Climate Change Sophie Laurie Natural Environment Research Council Tim Benton RCUK Global Food Security Champion
  2. 2. All the four Dimensions of Food Security are Affected by Climate Change Tim Wheeler and Joachim von Braun Climate change impacts on global food security. Science 134, 508 (2013) doi 10.1126/science.1239402 1. Food availability: the availability of sufficient quantities of food of appropriate quality, supplied through domestic production or imports. 2. Food access: access by individuals to adequate resources (entitlements) for acquiring appropriate foods for a nutritious diet. 3. Food utilization: Utilization of food through adequate diet, clean water, sanitation and health care to reach a state of nutritional well- being where all physiological needs are met. 4. Stability of the food system: To be food secure, a population, household or individual must have access to adequate food at all times.
  3. 3. Global Food Security Programme • We foster a systems’ view across all major public funders of research “Food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture must remain a priority on the political agenda, to be addressed through a cross-cutting and inclusive approach, relevant to all stakeholders at global, regional and national level.” [G8 statement July 2009] Stakeholders in: Academia Industries Civil Society The Public
  5. 5. More people on the planet 5 N.Am 352 mln S.Am 563 mln Asia 4299 mln Europe 733 mln Africa 1033 mln +34% +21% +29% +132% -2% 20 50 20 13 data: +30% Oceania (38mln) MOOC: Growing our Future Food: Crops
  6. 6. Income creates demand Tilman et al., 2011 (PNAS) 2000: 60% middle class “western” vs 20% “eastern” 2050: 12% vs 68% income Phosphorusdemand
  7. 7. Supply chain logistics: risks and resilience
  9. 9. 2010200019901980197019601950194019301920 35 34 33 32 31 30 29 28 27 26 jul Midwest: July max temp Increasing extremes likely to make yields increasingly variable (as well as reducing average yields) Challinor NCC 2014
  10. 10. Increasing extremes likely to make yields increasingly variable (as well as reducing average yields) Challinor NCC 2014 1983-86 2009-12 PNAS, online Aug 2012
  11. 11. From Wheeler & Von Braun (2013) after World Bank (2010) Foley et al 2011
  12. 12. THE CHALLENGES OF SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE 1. Paradoxically sustainability requires intensification
  13. 13. Outputs have to rise per unit area to keep pace with per capita demand 15 gallons
  14. 14. Outputs have to rise per unit area to keep pace with per capita demand 15 gallons
  15. 15. Need to improve yields via breeding Fig 1. Time series data on wheat yields per ha for an area in Scotland, dating back to 1700. The data are the red points, with a “smoother” (a spline curve, with smoothness fitted using cross-validation) shown in black, with the standard error of the fit being shown by dotted lines). (a) shows the whole time series, (b) shows from 1940 onwards, with the smoother projected forwards to 2050. Since about 1985, the rate of annual increase in yield has declined.
  16. 16. Natural land is under pressure Grassini et al., 2013
  17. 17. Innovation space • Manage soils better • Efficiency of resource use, using new and best knowledge – Best practice (perhaps especially) in low input systems – More research needed in different farming systems (e.g. extensive & vertical) – “Precision” Farming – Pest control – Fertilisers and their efficiency – ICT/forecasting/sensing etc • New genetics (crops and livestock) Robotic weeding: Weed recognition through machine vision (26 species); applies Glyphosphate only to the leaf of the weed (~1 g per hectare cf 720 g/ha) Simon Blackmore, Harper Adams Stockbridge Technology Centre’s LED Blockhouse
  18. 18. But intensification not needed equally everywhere.
  19. 19. THE CHALLENGES OF SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE 2. Understanding sustainability
  20. 20. £29.52 £95.87 £40.18 £70.20 £2.63 £95.22 Environmental Cost: GHGs from Production Environmental Cost: GHGs from Application Health cost: Air Quality Provisioning Cost: Water Quality Recreation Cost: Fishing Biodiversity Cost: Wetlands/Aquatic Total Environmental Cost ~ £333.61 For comparison p ha costs for wheat are ~£700 and gross income ~£1400 = £900 (less rent etc) Environmental cost estimates per hectare based on application of fertiliser at 190 kg N per hectare
  21. 21. Water use efficiency Nitrogen use efficiency Phosphorus use efficiency Yield quantity Yield quality Soil N content Soil P content Soil carbon Soil K content Soil compactness Soil erosion Soil biodiversity Total weeds Annual weeds Perennial weeds Pest abundance Natural enemy abundance Water flow control CO2 emissions CH4 emissions N2O emissions Animal welfare Worker welfare Profit Costs Plant richness Invertebrate richness Vertebrate richness Plant abundance Invertebrate abundance Vertebrate abundance Soil moisture Pollination Energy use efficiencyWater N load Water P load Water pesticide load Plants Invertebrates Vertebrates Pollination Soil carbon Water flow Nutrientuse efficiency Water use efficiency Energy use efficiency GHG emissions Welfare Biodiversity Yield Water use efficiency Pollination Welfare Nutrientuse efficiency Energy use efficiency GHG emissions Yield Profit Costs Water quality Weeds Animal pests Soil nutrients Soil biodiversity Soil physical structure Pest regulation Soil fertility Hydrology Profit Costs Aspects of Sustainability Quantitative review of studies assessing “sustainable agriculture” (German, Thompson & Benton, in prep)
  22. 22. There is no recipe for “sustainable agriculture” High yielding organic agriculture can impact on ecology in similar ways to conventional farming Gabriel et al 2013 J appl ecology
  23. 23. THE CHALLENGES OF SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE 3. The spatial scale is important
  24. 24. What does land do? Given the competition for land: need to ensure land used more efficiently: whether it is producing water, biodiversity or food
  25. 25. Smarter landscapes are possible • It is possible to “design” landscapes better to deliver a range of goods • Governance issues abound
  26. 26. THE CHALLENGES OF SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE 4. Changing demand to make space for sustainability
  27. 27. IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT PRODUCTION Global food losses/waste is estimated to be 1.3 billion tonnes per annum (pa), equating to approximately one third of edible food intended for human consumption The total food production of sub-Saharan Africa = EU+N Am food waste (230mt). Need to recycle “from farm to flush”
  28. 28. Diet, nutrition and health: • Diabetes UK cost ~£30bn • >50% of adult Chinese are pre- diabetic • over-consumption associated with >20% of deaths globally; • Malnutrition & micronutrients JAMA. 2013;310(9):948-958. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.168118 The twin burdens of obesity and malnutrition
  29. 29. Who wins, who loses? • Access to food, price and nutrition – Poorest’s food nutritionally bad • Agriculture and land use – Private gains vs public losses? – GM and attitudes to risk
  31. 31. Changing our attitude to food? • We want abundant, cheap, safe, nutritious, high-welfare and sustainable food – but we can’t have it all
  32. 32. If we carry on as we are… • We need to produce more food by 2050 than we have done in human history • This will require 120% more water; 42% more cropland and loss of 14% more forest • This will emit enough carbon dioxide to create 2 degrees of global warming • We’ll lose much of the world’s biodiversity • Food will increasingly be associated with early deaths NCC 2014
  33. 33. Changing diets: • Eat less • Eat more healthily (e.g. more vegetables) • Eat novel foods
  34. 34. Conclusions • We can grow more food and reduce its environmental impact • There is no “magic bullet” but scope for many innovations in many areas • Unlikely we can grow enough food to meet demand as it is currently projected (without significant inequality and unsustainability) • Social change therefore as important as scientific innovation • Challenges require significant research investment, important to protect budgets
  35. 35. Thank you!
  36. 36. Economic growth is only one outcome • Increasing food production will not create a sustainable agri-food system with food security