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Sustainable agriculture: is it optional, and can it feed the world?


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Presentation by Prof Robert Watson to IFAD on 30 March 2010

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Sustainable agriculture: is it optional, and can it feed the world?

  1. 1. <ul><li>Sustainable Agriculture: </li></ul><ul><li>Is it optional, and can it feed the world? </li></ul><ul><li>Bob Watson </li></ul><ul><li>Chief Scientific Advisor, UK Defra </li></ul><ul><li>Director of the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and technology for Development (IAASTD) </li></ul><ul><li>IFAD </li></ul><ul><li>Rome </li></ul><ul><li>30 March, 2010 </li></ul>
  2. 2. Current Situation and Future Challenges <ul><ul><li>Current Situation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Future Challenges </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Current Situation and Future Challenges <ul><ul><li>Current Situation </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Current situation <ul><ul><li>More than one billion people go to bed hungry every day </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>People have benefited unevenly from these yield increases across regions, in part because of different institutional and policy environments – rural development, market and trade policy failures </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Emphasis on increasing yields and productivity has in some cases had negative consequences on environmental sustainability – soils, water, biodiversity, climate change </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Uneven production gains
  6. 6. <ul><li>Sub-title here </li></ul><ul><li>Bullet text here </li></ul><ul><li>Bullet text here </li></ul><ul><li>Bullet text here </li></ul><ul><li>Bullet text here </li></ul>Agriculture and Environmental Degradation Can GHG emissions be reduced without impacting productivity How will the loss of genetic diversity affect future agriculture? Can soil and water degradation be reversed and productivity enhanced? Can crop, animal and fish traits be improved to address the projected changes in climate – what are the roles of traditional breeding and modern forms of biotechnology – genomics?
  7. 7. Underlying causes of recent food price increases <ul><ul><li>Poor harvests due to variable weather - possibly related to human-induced climate change </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>High energy prices, hence fertilizer prices </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Low stocks </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Export bans from some large exporting countries </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Increased demand and changing diets from rapidly developing countries </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Increased use of biofuels, e.g., US maize for bio-ethanol </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Speculation on the commodity markets </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Value of the US dollar </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Key question is how to address these factors in the future? </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Current Challenges <ul><ul><ul><li>Access to current technologies </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Access to best seeds, </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Inputs – irrigation and agro-chemicals </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Knowledge about agro-ecological practices – INRM, IPM </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Rural development </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Extension services </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Financing </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Roads – access to markets </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Trade reform </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Eliminate OECD production subsidies </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Eliminate tariff escalation on processed products </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Recognize the special needs of the least developed countries through non- reciprocal market access </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Multi-functional Agriculture
  10. 10. Current situation and Future Challenges <ul><ul><li>Future Challenges </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Future Challenges <ul><ul><li>The demand for food will double within the next 25-50 years, primarily in developing countries, and the type and nutritional quality of food demanded will change </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We need sustained growth in the agricultural sector (crops, livestock, fisheries, forests, biomass, and commodities): </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>to feed the world </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>to enhance rural livelihoods </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>to stimulate economic growth </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Meet food safety standards </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>environmentally and socially sustainable manner </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. The Context - Limitations <ul><li>Less labor - diseases and rural to urban migration </li></ul><ul><li>Less water – competition from other sectors </li></ul><ul><li>Yield increases are slowing dramatically </li></ul><ul><li>Less arable land – competition, e.g., bio-energy </li></ul><ul><li>Increasing land policy conflicts </li></ul><ul><li>Loss of biodiversity: genetic, species and ecosystem </li></ul><ul><li>Increasing levels of pollution – ozone and acid deposition </li></ul><ul><li>A changing climate </li></ul>
  13. 13. Cereal Yield Increases
  14. 14. Fisheries Collapse
  15. 15. Can 1 st Generation Biofuels be Sustainable? <ul><li>Two major sources of biofuels </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Bioethanol from sugar and maize </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Biodiesel from palm oil, soy and rapeseed </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Rarely economic - normally heavily subsidized – issue of co-products key </li></ul><ul><li>Serious questions regarding environmental sustainability </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Greenhouse gas emissions - direct and indirect emissions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Loss of biodiversity, soil and water degradation </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Serious Questions regarding social sustainability </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Competition for land - food price increases </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Involuntary displacement of small-scale farmers by large-scale plantations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Need enforceable sustainability criteria for first generation biofuels and an aggressive R&D program in second and third generation biofuels to assess their economic, environmental and social sustainability </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Unprecedented change: Ecosystems
  17. 17. Changes in crop land and forest area under MA Scenarios Crop Land Forest Area
  18. 18. Changes in ecosystem services under MA Scenarios <ul><ul><li>Demand for food crops is projected to grow by 70–85% by 2050, and water withdrawals by 30-85% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Food security is not achieved by 2050, and child under-nutrition would be difficult to eradicate (and is projected to increase in some regions in some MA scenarios) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Globally, the equilibrium number of plant species is projected to be reduced by roughly 10–15% as the result of habitat loss over the period of 1970 to 2050 </li></ul></ul>Child undernourishment in 2050 under MA Scenarios
  19. 20. Agricultural emissions are significant in developing countries
  20. 21. Surface Temperature Projections
  21. 22. Precipitation Projections
  22. 23. Percent change in runoff by 2050 <ul><li>Many of the major “food-bowls” of the world are projected to become significantly drier </li></ul>
  23. 24. Water withdrawal for agriculture
  24. 25. Climate induced percentage change in production in 2050: Irrigated Wheat Global production = -42% NCAR A2
  25. 26. Climate induced percentage change in production in 2050: Rainfed Wheat Global production = -28% NCAR A2
  26. 27. Impact on Wheat Production Page
  27. 28. Impact on Childhood Malnutrition
  28. 29. Climate Change likely to increase the spread of animal diseases <ul><li>Ectoparasite infections </li></ul><ul><li>Arthropod vector-borne diseases </li></ul><ul><li>Diseases caused by anaerobic spore-forming bacteria </li></ul><ul><li>Avian diseases    </li></ul><ul><li>Liver flukes and parasites </li></ul>
  29. 30. Agriculture and climate change: adaptation and mitigation <ul><li>Reduce the vulnerability and increase resilience to increased incidence of extreme events and greater climate variability </li></ul><ul><li>Breed new varieties (temperature, drought, pest, salinity tolerant traits) </li></ul><ul><li>Water harvesting, irrigation </li></ul><ul><li>Agricultural practices, e.g., change </li></ul><ul><li>crops and planting times </li></ul>Adaptation Mitigation <ul><li>Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from especially methane and nitrous oxide </li></ul><ul><li>Non exceedance of crop N requirements </li></ul><ul><li>Appropriate timing/conditions for manure application </li></ul><ul><li>Increase livestock nutrient use efficiency </li></ul><ul><li>Anaerobic digestion technology for manures/slurries </li></ul><ul><li>Nitrification inhibitors </li></ul><ul><li>Feed supplements </li></ul>
  30. 31. <ul><li>Agricultural S&T Challenges </li></ul><ul><li>to produce, by region, the diversified array of crops, livestock, fish, forests, biomass (for energy) and commodities needed over the next 50 years in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner </li></ul><ul><ul><li>to address water deficit problems, e.g., through improved drought tolerant crops, irrigation technologies, etc </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>to address soil fertility and salinzation of soils </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>to improve the nutritional quality of food </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>to improve the temperature tolerance of crops </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>to combat new or emerging agricultural pests or diseases </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>to reduce external and energy-intensive inputs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>to reduce post harvest losses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>to improve nutrient cycling </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>to improve food safety </li></ul></ul>
  31. 32. <ul><li>Agricultural Knowledge, Science </li></ul><ul><li>and Technology </li></ul>
  32. 33. Options to increase production <ul><li>Today’s hunger problems can be addressed with appropriate use of current technologies, emphasizing agro-ecological practices (e.g., no/low till, IPM, INRM), coupled with decreased post-harvest losses </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Small-scale farmers need access to the best seeds, financing and access to markets </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Advances in S&T are always a needed but cannot be fully utlilzed without rural development, institutional and governance reform </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Advanced biotechnologies (genomics) may be needed to address future demands for increased productivity and emerging issues such as climate change and new plant and animal pests – but the risks and benefits must be fully understood </li></ul>
  33. 34. <ul><li>Biotechnology </li></ul>
  34. 35. <ul><li>Genomics is the basis of improved crop traits – classical plant breeding and GM </li></ul><ul><li>Potential to improve productivity, drought, temperature and pest tolerance and enhanced nitrogen use efficiency </li></ul><ul><li>Insertion of genes is continuing to cause concern for some consumers and governments even though GM plants undergo extensive testing </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Health risks – little evidence, robust EU safety processes in place </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Environmental risks – need to understand gene transfer and manage </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Role of companies – some lack consumer trust </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Potential negative impact on poor farmers in developing countries – reliance on large multi-nationals </li></ul></ul>Role of Genomics and GM
  35. 36. Maize C 4 Rice (C 3 C 4 ) Genes Climate Change, ©JES © IRRI © IRRI Adaptation to Climate Change
  36. 37. Climate Change, ©JES C 4 and C 3 comparison for current CO 2 conditions. WUE (transpiration) is water-use efficiency, RUE is radiation-use efficiency, PNUE is photosynthetic nitrogen-use effectiveness Maize is C 4 --- Rice is C 3
  37. 38. Basis for Policy <ul><li>Safety must be the top priority </li></ul><ul><li>Evidence-based approach and case-by-case assessment </li></ul><ul><li>Open to the potential benefits – therefore research, coupled with open and transparent field trials, is needed to assess the potential risks and benefits </li></ul><ul><li>Support proportionate and enforceable GM labelling rules to facilitate consumer choice </li></ul><ul><li>Need to develop measures to manage the coexistence of GM and non-GM crops to minimise unwanted GM cross-pollination </li></ul><ul><li>Consumers will need to see real benefits before they are accepted – at least in Europe </li></ul>
  38. 39. The small-scale farmer
  39. 40. AKST Investments
  40. 41. In Summary: Options for Action <ul><li>Embed economic, environmental and social sustainability into agricultural policies, practices and technologies </li></ul><ul><li>Address today’s hunger problems with appropriate use of current technologies, emphasizing agro-ecological practices (e.g., no/low till, IPM and INRM), coupled with decreased post-harvest losses </li></ul><ul><li>Advanced biotechnologies may be needed to address future demands for increased productivity and emerging issues such as climate change and new plant and animal pests – but the risks and benefits must be fully understood </li></ul><ul><li>Provide payments to the farmer for maintaining and enhancing ecosystem services </li></ul>
  41. 42. In Summary: Options for Action <ul><li>Reform international trade, e.g., eliminate OECD production subsidies, eliminate tariff escalation on processed products, recognize the special needs of the least developed countries through non-reciprocal market access </li></ul><ul><li>Increase public and private sector investment in research and development, extension services, and weather and market information </li></ul><ul><li>Improve public-private-CSO involvement in AKST with accountability for social and environmental outcomes </li></ul><ul><li>Build and reform AKST skill base (basic sciences, social, political and legal knowledge) and innovation capacities of rural communities and consumers </li></ul>
  42. 43. Thorny Issues <ul><li>How do we assess risks and benefits – who decides what is an acceptable risk, e.g., GM (an American, European, a sub-Saharan African) – what is our perception of risk </li></ul><ul><li>How do we trade off development/food security/poverty alleviation for environmental damage or social disruption </li></ul><ul><li>Should we care about future generations – how do we discount the future – do we have an ethical obligation to future generations when we do not seem to care about equity within our current generation – we have not solved the inequalities of poverty, access to food, water, modern energy, healthcare, education </li></ul>
  43. 44. Conclusions <ul><li>Food availability needs double in the next 25-50 years to alleviate hunger and poverty </li></ul><ul><li>Global food security is achievable but business-as-usual policies, practices and technologies will not work </li></ul><ul><li>Climate change poses challenges to the agricultural sector – reducing GHG emissions and adapting to climate change </li></ul><ul><li>Innovation along the whole food chain, involving all relevant stakeholders, is critical </li></ul><ul><li>The farmer must be in the middle – especially the small-scale farmer – participatory processes are critical </li></ul><ul><li>Science and technology is critical – the risks and benefits of all technologies must be evaluated </li></ul>