My name is Simon Coveney, I am the Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine and I am here at the Oxford Farming Conference today with a very clear message about the importance of the linkage between science and agriculture and the agri food industry generally.
The reality is that we have an enormous challenge but also an enormous opportunity for this sector over the next 10-50 years because globally we have to find a way of producing significantly more food from the same in fact less natural resources as we see the availability of agricultural land shrink by about a percentage a year and at the same time we see the consumption demand for food dramatically increasing so in a nut shell what we are facing between now and 2030 which is less than two decades is we have to find a way to produce about 50% more food in volume terms than is currently being produced while at the same time reducing the emissions coming from the agri-food sector from a climate change perspective, managing water in a way we have never had to manage before because agriculture uses 70% of water usage internationally and at current trends we will have to find 50% more water to produce 50% more food that is simply not an option and of course we need to protect biodiversity and the environment more generally.
So the only way that can happen is that we find ways of producing more with less and that means innovation it means science, it means new breeding programmes, it means new grazing programmes, it means a new approach to feed conversation efficiency in animals, it means more ambitious use of sexed semen technology where farmers are able to choose whether they want female or male calves in the future, it means more ambitious use age of genomics to ensure that we are actually breeding appropriate animals with other appropriate animals to maximise hyper vigour in terms of performance and so other many areas.
It means taking, it means having an open mind towards GM, which I know is very controversial for many consumes and politicians, I think we need to be careful with that but we can’t simply discount it out of principal and so there is a whole series of areas where science will have to provide a solutions to how we produce food sustainably in the future.
Anybody who thinks we solve our environmental problems by simply producing less food per hector is totally ignoring the global realities of food security and the demands of a growing population and a growing middle class population internationally.
So the only way forward here is for the European Union, for Britain, for Ireland to actually find better and newer ways of producing more food while at the same time protecting the environment and the natural resources that produce that food and that means science and without that we are not going to be able to meet the huge challenges and demands of future populations.