A team of scientists have revealed that a policy known as 'sustainable intensification' could help meet the challenges of increasing demands for food from a growing global population.
Dr Tara Garnett and Professor Charles Godfray from the University of Oxford said that the goal of this policy is to increase food production from existing farmland. They say this would minimize the pressure on the environment in a world falling short of land, water, and energy supply, highlighting that the environment is often overexploited and used unsustainably.
The article stresses that it is equally important for farmers of the world to produce more food as well as for policy makers to act on diets, waste and how the food system is governed.
The authors are concerned that converting uncultivated land would lead to major emissions of greenhouse gases and cause significant losses of biodiversity.
Godfray said that achieving a sustainable food system will require regulatory changes to improve the efficiency and resilience of the food system.
The authors argued that increasing productivity does not always mean using more fertilizers and agrochemicals as these technologies frequently carry unacceptable environmental costs. They say that a range of techniques, both old and new, should be employed to develop ways of farming that keep environmental damage to a minimum.
The authors of the paper accept that the intensification of agriculture will have some implications for other important policy goals, such as preserving biodiversity, animal welfare, human nutrition, protecting rural economies and sustainable development. Policy makers will need to find a way to navigate through the conflicting priorities on occasion.
Lead author Garnett said that around two billion people worldwide are thought to be deficient in micronutrients. 'We need to intensify the quality of the food we produce in ways that improve the nutritional value of people's diets, preferably through diversifying the range of foods produced and available but also, in the short term, by improving the nutrient content of commonly produced crops.'
Dr Michael Appleby of the World Society for the Protection of Animals said policies to achieve the right balance between animal and crop production will benefit animals, people and the planet.
Agriculture is a potent sector for economic growth and rural development in many countries across Africa, Asia and South America.