Food waste a driver in the need for production increases

CLIMATE change will place the biggest constraint on future production increases and it cannot be ignored, the 2013 Sentry Conference heard.

Professor Tim Benton, UK champion for global food security and professor of population ecology at the University of Leeds, told delegates: “It (climate change) is happening, it is with us and we have to adapt.”

However, there were many ‘win:win solutions’ which would help build in resilience in production, he said.

These include managing soils for better fertility, reducing erosion, reducing waste, using new technology such as precision farming and chemical innovations, making better use of natural enemies and use of new crops and varieties.  There was also a role for genetic modification, said Prof Benton.

Growing demand

The food sector was the world’s biggest industry, the biggest land and water user - and polluter too, he said.

Demand for food is growing fast and, as demand grows, the type of food demanded is changing also. But as the urban population grows, so does food waste, as people are less connected with food production and appreciate it less.

“About 25 per cent of food is thrown away, but even if we reduce waste and over-consumption it is difficult to imagine behaviour changes sufficient enough so we don’t need significant increases in production.”

There was a limited opportunity to increase the amount of land devoted to food production, and other constraints on production, including regulation and competition for water, would continue to increase, Prof Benton told the conference.

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