Plant science critical to planet under pressure

UN experts have called for a transformation of the global economy, based on an ’evergreen revolution’ which will double agricultural productivity while reducing resource use and avoiding further biodiversity losses.

In response, the UK Crop Protection Association is urging EU leaders to recognise the critical role of plant science innovation in boosting crop yields, preventing harvest losses and enabling more efficient use of key resources such as land, energy and water.

The United Nations’ high-level panel on global sustainability warned this week that the world is running out of time to make sure there is enough food, water and energy to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population.

Current efforts towards sustainable development lack political will and are neither fast enough nor deep enough, the panel said in its major new report ’Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A future worth choosing’.

CPA chief executive Dominic Dyer said this latest UN report should serve as a warning against complacency among EU decision-makers:

’The EU-27 is one of the world’s major food producing economies, yet current policies on issues such as CAP reform, research investment and access to agricultural innovation do not reflect the pressing global need to produce more food.

’Even by 2030, less than 20 years away, this latest UN report estimates that the world will need 50% more food, 45% more energy and 30% more water. However much we strive to reduce waste, improve distribution or change consumption patterns, there is no escaping the urgent need to boost agricultural productivity ’ especially in regions expected to be less vulnerable to the production-limiting effects of climate change, such as northern Europe.

’Innovation in plant science ’ from agricultural biotechnology to novel crop protection products ’ offers major opportunities for Europe’s farmers to deliver sustainable yield gains, protection of biodiversity and more efficient use of inputs. Yet such advances are discouraged by an anti-science EU policy agenda which remains firmly rooted in the prejudices of the past.

’European agriculture can be a key player in the new political economy called for by the UN’s high-level panel - but only if EU leaders wake up to the urgent need to embrace developments in agricultural science and innovation,’ warned Mr Dyer.