Symposium: Global Views of New Agriculture: Food, energy, and the environment
During the 2009 annual meeting of the Poultry Science Association, a symposium entitled “Global Views of New Agriculture: Food, Energy, and the Environment” was held that focused on several major issues affecting agriculture. Issues included future funding for basic agricultural research, sustainability, bioenergy, and their effects on global food markets. In many ways, a subtitle for the symposium could have been “Agriculture—Why What We Do Matters.” It matters because of the fiscal and physical realities the planet will face in the coming decades relative to human population growth and the increasing demands to feed a hungry world. The challenges are daunting and the technologies to address them will require us to reevaluate the structure and policies we have established relative to agricultural research. In this case, change is all the more difficult because the traditional model of agricultural research has been so successful. One only needs to note the remarkable increases in productivity of the past half century of commodities such as corn and soybeans or feed efficiencies among broilers, laying hens, and turkeys to recognize the significant advancements that have been achieved. However, these historic gains have frequently required increased inputs, most notably fossil fuels. Food production in the future will likely be confronted with concerns involving energy, water, climate change, and the threat of agroterrorism. For example, we will need to develop crops that are more drought-resistant and more tolerant to a wider range of salinities as access to fresh water becomes more problematic. Animal agriculture will also need to adapt to diets composed of atypical feedstuffs. Whether future generations will inherit a world described by Paul Roberts in his books The End of Oil and The End of Food will be in part determined by the research model we adopt in the near term.
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27 October 2010
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