Farming technologies – challenges and opportunities

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Presentation by Sir Mark Walport at the National Farmers Union Conference on 26 February 2014.

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  • The five challenges from the foresight report were:
    Balancing future demand and supply sustainably
    Addressing the threat of future volatility in the food system
    Ending Hunger
    Meeting the challenges of a low emissions world
    Maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services
  • Existing slide:
    While the world population is rising year on year, the arable land available worldwide remains practically the same. This means that the per capita area available for safeguarding the supply of food is constantly decreasing. As a consequence, significant increases in yields are needed to ensure that an adequate food supply can be maintained in the future.
    Here’s a sobering factoid: the amount of arable land has not changed appreciably for more than half a century. This looks like a big increase, but it’s only 10%. Meanwhile, the population has doubled, which means we’ve gone from about an acre of arable land per person to half an acre. And despite pockets here and there, the overall amount of arable land is not likely to increase much in the future because we’re losing it to urbanization, salinization, and desertification as fast as we’re adding it.
    Desertification: Shortage of farmland China now has more than 2.62 million square kilometres of land under desertification, twice the amount of the total available farmland in China.
    Agriculture currently consumes 70% of total global water withdrawals from rivers and aquifers, many are overexploited
    Of 11.5 billion ha of vegetated land on earth, around 24% has undergone human induced soil degradation
    Agriculture directly contributes 10-12% of GHG emissions
    We need a transition to sustainable agriculture which is:
    Productive and generates income
    Resilient
    Resource efficient (including land),
    Protects the environment
    Maintains ecosystem services
    but at the same time
    Adapts to climate change
    Reduces GHG emissions
  • Include some warning of GM publication?
  • Safety
    Economics
    Sustainability
  • Farming technologies – challenges and opportunities

    1. 1. Farming Technologies – Challenges and Opportunities Sir Mark Walport Chief Scientific Adviser to HM Government
    2. 2. 2 National Farmer’s Union Conference 2014 – Science Session • Knowledge translated to economic advantage • Infrastructure resilience • Underpinning policy with evidence • Science for emergencies • Advocacy and leadership for science Government Chief Scientific Adviser Credit: iStockphoto
    3. 3. 3 National Farmer’s Union Conference 2014 – Science Session This is what I do Pesticide risks and resistance Demographic change Animal Health Faced with challenges, my role is to:- •Draw in experts •Encourage cross-silo thinking •Make connections between different areas of science •Question existing ideas Climate change Credit: Thoursie, sxc.hu Credit: Josh Landis, NSFCredit: iStockphoto Credit: iStockphoto
    4. 4. Science in Emergencies - Ashes to Ashes 4 National Farmer’s Union Conference 2014 – Science Session Credit: @dyntr (CC-BY-ND-2.0) Credit: V. Queloz, ETH Zurich
    5. 5. Resilience – Flooding on the Somerset Levels COBR Meetings 5 National Farmer’s Union Conference 2014 – Science Session Credit: Matt Cardy/Getty Images
    6. 6. 6 National Farmer’s Union Conference 2014 – Science Session Immediate Challenges to UK Farming • Public confidence in food supply • Spread of Bovine TB • Withdrawal of pesticides ??Credit: iStockphoto Credit: iStockphoto Credit: iStockphoto
    7. 7. Granitic rock Photosynthesis Sea-spray Fertiliser Meteorological variation 7 National Farmer’s Union Conference 2014 – Science Session Food Provenance – Geographical Origin Isotope Approach Confirm Authenticity 2 H 15 N 13 C 34 S 87 Sr Geological variation Metabolism
    8. 8. Spread of Bovine TB 8 National Farmer’s Union Conference 2014 – Science Session
    9. 9. Distinguishing Risk and Hazard - Pesticides 9 National Farmer’s Union Conference 2014 – Science Session Credit: S_E, Shutterstock Credit: iStockphoto
    10. 10. Future Challenges to UK Farming • Land and Population • Price Volatility • Climate • Balancing Biodiversity, Ecosystems & Food Production • The UK and European Competitive Environment 10 National Farmer’s Union Conference 2014 – Science Session
    11. 11. Land and Population - Future supply and demand 11 National Farmer’s Union Conference 2014 – Science Session Credit: vauvau (CC-BY-2.0)
    12. 12. •Crop productivity will be affected by higher temperatures and changes to water availability •Higher temperatures will also increase stress upon cattle •Disease patterns will also change as the migration patterns of carriers of plant, animal and human diseases will change, posing risks to both human health but also agricultural productivity •Warmer oceans and ocean acidification will also impact food security At lower levels of temperature rise there may be some positive benefits for crop production at higher latitudes, but at higher levels of temperature rise the net effect of climate change is expected to be negative Climate change 12 National Farmer’s Union Conference 2014 – Science Session Credit: CraneStation, Flickr
    13. 13. Life Science Research – Raise profile of agricultural research? • Strategy for UK Life Sciences • Big Data Revolution • Prime Minister’s dementia challenge • 100,000 Genome Project • July 2013 first ever Agri- Tech Strategy (£160M) 13 National Farmer’s Union Conference 2014 – Science Session Credit: Shutterstock Credit: David Hares Credit: Grand Trend
    14. 14. GMOs • What organism? • What gene? • What purpose? • The specific application – not the generic technology New Technologies - Managing risk, not ducking it 14 National Farmer’s Union Conference 2014 – Science Session Credit: IRRI (CC-BY-2.0) Credit: Rosalee Yagihara (CC-BY-2.0)
    15. 15. The policy challenge: Viewing difficult issues through lenses 1. Biannual Public Attitudes Tracker, Wave 7, November 2013 (Food Standards Agency) 2. British Beekeepers Association, Winter Survival Survey, June 2013 3. http://www.croplifeamerica.org/crop-protection/pesticide-facts Respondents concerned about use of pesticides to grow food1 Use of crop protection products increase crop productivity by 20 – 50%3 Bee colony losses in 2012/13 reported by British Beekeepers Association2 34% 25% 15 National Farmer’s Union Conference 2014 – Science Session Credit: Thomas Shahan (CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0)
    16. 16. 16 National Farmer’s Union Conference 2014 – Science Session Solutions Involve all Tools Technology transfer International collaboration/ investment Public dialogue YouTube: Fair use Credit: Bananastock Credit: OJO Images
    17. 17. 17 National Farmer’s Union Conference 2014 – Science Session Conclusions • Get evidence base right • Economic importance of agricultural industry (7% GVA) • ONE Health, ONE Team • Partnerships with industry and research

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