What technologies could sustainably replace pesticides, without compromising on yield or quality? The Global Food Security (GFS) programme’s David O’Gorman reviews a recent GFS workshop on the topic.
What would happen if we could no longer use pesticides? Well, there would be significant yield losses, food price increases, greater food insecurity and potentially political unrest and instability. There may well be reduced ecological impacts, but with loss of yield would come expansion of agricultural land, with release of GHGs and loss of biodiversity.
We are heavily reliant on pesticides to maximise crop yields and put food on our tables. Even with the use of pesticides, a third of food (PDF) produced for human consumption is lost or wasted – what might the figure be with a dramatic increase in pre-harvest losses following reduced pesticide use?
Continue reading How would we cope with a post-pesticide world?
What innovations really have the potential to transform the food-producing landscape? Head of the Global Food Security programme Riaz Bhunnoo takes a whistle-stop tour.
In just a 35 year period the Earth is being tasked with producing more food than it has in the last 2000 years combined. We either need to find very clever ways of sustainably producing more on the same area of land, or we need to demand less. In reality we need to do both, and cutting-edge technologies will have a key role to play.
Continue reading Game-changing technologies in agriculture
We need to share high- and low-tech technologies to diversify production, says Tyler Reed.
- a limitation or restriction.
“the availability of water is the main constraint on food production”
An internet search for the word constraint returned this definition. The example usage is surprisingly apropos considering the nature of this post, because water is certainly a constraint on food production. Traditional farming techniques, with plants growing in open plots of soil, can require substantial amounts of water while other techniques require less.
Continue reading Open source solutions for food security
Adisa Azapagic unpacks the carbon footprint of her evening meal and reveals how you can too with a smartphone app.
You know the feeling – the end of a hard day at work, no time (and, in my case, no inclination) to cook. So you do what 30 per cent of Brits normally do: stop at a supermarket on your way home and buy a ready meal. Tonight I fancy lamb curry. Mmmm… looking forward to it!
But because of my research on environmental impacts of food, I know my lamb curry has the total carbon footprint from farm to plate of around 6 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 eq.) per person*. It may be tasty and convenient, but by choosing and eating this curry I will have contributed to climate change, through the greenhouse gases emitted on its journey to my plate.
Continue reading Fancy a curry?
Geoff Tansey unravels the rhetoric at a food security conference at the Royal Institute for International Affairs, Chatham House.
The meeting in London on 10-11 December 2012 was held under the Chatham House Rule, which forbids identification of speakers, so you may find this a rather frustrating blog.
One speaker asked participants the key question: why was the meeting talking about the sustainable intensification of agricultural production when the world already produces enough for everyone; when one third of all food produced ends up as waste; when an estimated 40% of corn in the US in 2013 is going to biofuel; and up to 90% of soya produced globally is used for animals not humans?
Continue reading Sustainable intensification – miracle or mirage?
Improving post-harvest technologies will enhance food security and health, says Asgar Ali.
In the midst of a perpetual population boom and conscious awareness of the limited and diminishing resources such as land, fertilizers and water availability, how will governments, organizations and people respond? And how should they respond?
Significant effort has been dedicated at increasing agricultural productivity. But is it time to focus more on protetcing these gains from post-harvest losses?
Continue reading Grow not waste not
Concerted and coordinated action can bring success in the field and enhance food security, says John Anderson.
We now believe rinderpest has been eradicated from the world. When finally confirmed in 2011, rinderpest eradication will be the only disease conquered after smallpox back in the 1970s.
Rinderpest was one of the most devastating virus diseases of livestock known to man. Closely related to measles in humans, rinderpest (from the German ‘cattle plague’) has probably been around since before the birth of Christ and devastated European powers in the 17th century.
Continue reading Lessons learned from global rinderpest eradication
There has never been a more urgent need to train scientists in the food security disciplines, says Christopher Thornton.
Publication of the Royal Society report Reaping the benefits: Science and the sustainable intensification of global agriculture in October 2009 provided the clearest evidence yet of the immense challenge of ensuring global food security over the next 50 years.
Crop yields need to rise significantly, but in a manner that requires much lower energy inputs and less dependency on chemical intervention and fertilisers.
Continue reading Generation X and agricultural education
At the launch of the book Science and Innovation for Development on 19 January, co-author Sir Gordon Conway said: “It doesn’t matter where the technology comes from, it matters that it is appropriate.”
Too often international development researchers, policy makers and practitioners get caught up in the source of a technology, and use this as the metric for whether it will be successful.
Continue reading What is an appropriate technology?