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Seminar highlights stark issue of food security

February 14, 2011 by  
Filed under News & Business

STARK issues surrounding food security were brought into sharp focus at the Savills annual breakfast seminar.

Jules Pretty, professor of environment and society at Essex University, addressed an audience of 90 farmers and landowners at the Rivenhall Hotel, near Chelmsford, on Friday (11 February).

“At current levels of US consumption, we would need eight planet Earths to satisfy demand if the whole world were able to consume at the same levels,” he said. “At EU levels we’d need six. We only have one.”

Setting out the case for the “sustainable intensification” of agriculture, Prof Pretty said climate change and its effect on water levels had particular resonance for farming enterprises in the east of England.

“We need to get more from the land whilst benefiting the environment,” he said.  Both genetic modification and organic agriculture had a part to play, as did large farms and small.

“We tend to have debates dominated by either/or arguments. That’s not very helpful. Everything has something to offer. We need a bit more both-and.”

Science had a large part to play in finding solutions, from research into plant pheromones to push-and-pull pests, predators and parasites.

The Holy Grail of nitrogen fixation in cereals could be a reality by the 2020s, said Prof Pretty.

“I see a way forward for both agricultural concerns and environmental concerns because, after all, they are the same thing in the end.”

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