Science key to global food future

SCIENCE will be the key to feeding the global population as demand for food begins to outstrip supply, the head of an international agricultural group said in Canberra on Tuesday.

Dr Frank Rijsberman, chief executive of international agriculture research group CGIAR, said science drove the green revolution in developing new varieties of wheat and rise in the 1960s and 70s, and science would be needed to drive a similar boom in food production.

He said any future boom in food production would have to come from existing land already being used for agriculture.

"It wasn't just poor countries and farmers that benefited from the step-change through science," he said.

"Australia ranks among the top 10 wheat-producing countries in the world and 98% of the area sown to wheat in Australia uses varieties developed by CIMMYT, estimated to have increased the value of outputs from the Australian wheat industry by at least $750 million," he said.

In terms of the developing world, Dr Rijsberman said agricultural science was already having a powerful impact, in many cases with Australia's help, and more could be done.

"Each year, we add another 75 million or so people to our planet, most residing in the developing world, especially in Asia and Africa. To feed all those people, we will need to increase food production by 70%," he said.

"So we have to use the land more productively and judiciously."

Dr Rijsberman said much of the additional food would have to be grown by small-scale farmers in developing countries, where poverty means such people spend 80% to 90% of their household budget on food alone, and people were more vulnerable to price rises.

He said in light of the combined effect of rising populations, climate change and less land available to grow food, commitment was needed from the whole globe to increase food production.

Topics:  agriculture farming food population science wheat

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