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Challenges for Agricultural Research

image of Challenges for Agricultural Research

As the world has changed during the past 50 years, so has agriculture. And so has agricultural research, which continues to confront new challenges, from food security to ecological concerns to land use issues. Indeed, as Guy Paillotin, the former president of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) has noted, agricultural research “has reached new heights in biology and is exploring other disciplines. It is forever changing, as are the needs of the society”.

The changing challenges faced by agricultural research were examined in depth at a conference organised by the OECD’s Co-operative Research Programme on Biological Resource Management for Sustainable Agricultural Systems, together with the Czech Republic’s Ministry of Agriculture. Participants came from all agricultural sectors and included farmers, industry, scientists and decision makers, as well as other stake holders.

This publication presents the twenty papers delivered at the conference. They highlight recent major progress in agricultural research outcomes and address the challenges that lie ahead.

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Genetic Technology, Sustainable Animal Agriculture and Global Climate Change

World food demand is expected to more than double in the next 50 years. During this time, our planet will likely undergo dramatic climate change that will impose new challenges on our capacity to maintain even current levels of food production let alone meet the anticipated demand. All of us at this conference were born and raised during the last century when the globe experienced a doubling of the human population. Little did we know then how our lives would depend on the remarkable increase in global food production that characterises that century, an increase underwritten by astonishing advances in genetics and agricultural science. Nor did we realise that the 20th century expansion of the global larder came at such great environmental cost, a cost born largely by the conversion of natural ecosystems to agriculture with the resulting destruction of the essential services those ecosystems provide. Genetics has always been the currency for assuring population success in changing environments. Although technology alone will be insufficient, the development and application of new advanced genetic technologies will be absolutely necessary to feed the world our children and grandchildren will know as their own. The EnviropigTM represents a model of environmental-genetic innovation with the potential to dramatically enhance the sustainability of animal agriculture in an increasingly hungry world intoxicated by its own waste.

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