A senior agricultural advisor told a Norwich conference that arable areas like Norfolk must take a global view of their duties in helping to feed a burgeoning world population.

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Prof Tim Benton, the UK’s champion for Global Food Security, was invited by the East of England Co-operative Society to give a public lecture at the Curve auditorium in the Forum last night.

He outlined the vast scale of the challenge, with the global population expected to increase to nine billion by 2050, with no more land available for agriculture and the global demand for food expected to rise by 70pc in the next 40 years.

Prof Benton said the difficulty of feeding these people sustainably was amplified by the impact of climate change threatening crop yields, regulatory pressures and increasing competition for land and water.

He said tough choices needed to be made in agricultural areas like East Anglia, where he argued that areas of intensively-farmed land could be managed alongside non-cropped plots to allow maximum food production while maintaining the environment for wildlife. But he said the admirable ideals of growing organic produce and sourcing food locally would only reduce yields from productive land, and “export” the ecological impact to poorer countries.

Prof Benton said: “In so many dimensions, we are heading for a breakdown in global systems and the costs, particularly in the developing world, will be too much to bear.

“The idea of becoming self-sufficient as a local society is not a viable end-point. I would love to live in a pristine world where we had organic food and slow-grown animals who live a happy life. But we cannot have everything we want.”

Prof Benton said while it is important to reduce food wastage, stop over-consumption and re-think our “risk-aversion” regarding pesticides and genetically-modified (GM) foods, the complete solution must include the “sustainable intensification” of farming.

For more on this story, see the Farm and Country section in Saturday’s EDP.

3 comments

  • Prof.Benton could try to think more systemically about the nature of the "problem" and stop using selected parts of the story to support his tired argument about population, food supply and the imperative to maximise yields using "modern" technologies. There are other ways to achieve food security and there is plenty of evidence, both published and out there with millions of farmers.

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    Sustagric

    Monday, October 29, 2012

  • hogwash. "...if we are farming East Anglia hard... maybe we can leave parts of Cornwall or the Lake District" says Prof Benton. to use another agricultural metaphor - tripe. there IS no shortage of food - it is lack of ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE food which is the problem - 40% of global cereal production goes to feeding cattle!!!! "sustainable intensification" is a contradiction in terms. "we in Europe are living in the bread basket of the world" Prof Benton presses on: he should get out more. When are we going to see what George Freeman MP called for months ago (Why it's time for a new debate to get to the root of GM crop issue. EDP p10 Thursday May 31 2012). We need a new, BALANCED, debate on GM in agriculture, and for that we need an informed account of what is at the root of global food insecurity... and that includes poverty alongside hedge fund managers treating agricultural raw materials, staple foodstuffs and commodities as gambling chips in their search for fast bucks. The EDP says "our first job is to be fair and balanced" (Nigel Pickover Sat Sept 15 2012 p8). He was referring specifically to the 'incinerator' debate. The principle holds true for any topic, surely? Let's have a fair, balanced and objective debate in the pages of the EDP about GMOs in agriculture and the REAL nature of the problems besetting global food security - not a monologue conducted by so-called experts and the bio-sciences and agribusiness industries.

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    martin wallis

    Saturday, October 27, 2012

  • Would be a lot less to worry about if people were fed on a vegetarian diet...its the insatiable desire for increasing meat consumption that is a significant cause of the current crisis...just sayin'...

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    merrydancer

    Thursday, October 25, 2012

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