Despite significant growth in food production over the past 50 years, it has been estimated the world needs to produce 70-100% more food to meet expected demand without significant increases in prices.
But the solution to this complex issue is not simply about maximising productivity. With additional challenges from climate change, water stresses, energy insecurity and dietary shifts, global agricultural and food systems will have to change substantially to meet the challenge of feeding the world.
A new paper published in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability identifies the top 100 questions for the future of global agriculture.
A multi-disciplinary team of 55 agricultural and food experts from the world's major agricultural organisations, professional scientific societies and academic institutions was appointed to identify the top 100 questions for global agriculture and food. They were drawn from 23 countries and work in universities, UN agencies, CG research institutes, NGOs, private companies, foundations and regional research secretariats.
An initial list of 618 key questions was, over the course of a year, whittled down by the team to the top 100.
If addressed and answered, it is anticipated these questions will have a significant impact on global agricultural practices worldwide. They offer policy and funding organisations an agenda for change. The questions are wide-ranging, are designed to be answerable and capable of realistic research design, and cover 13 themes identified as priority to global agriculture (see Notes).
Lead author, Professor Jules Pretty, of the University of Essex, said: "The challenges facing world agriculture are unprecedented and are likely to magnify with pressures on resources and increasing consumption.
"What is unique here is that experts from many countries, institutions and disciplines have agreed on the top 100 questions that need answering if agriculture is to succeed this century. These questions now form the potential for driving research systems, private sector investments, NGO priorities, and UN projects and programmes."
Professor Sir John Beddington, Government Chief Scientific Advisor and Head of the Government's Foresight programme, said,
"This paper and its lead author Jules Pretty have provided an important contribution to the Foresight project on Global Food and Farming Futures. This study poses the central question, how can a future global population of nine billion people be fed sustainably, healthily and equitably. The project will publish its findings in January 2011."
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