There is no doubt in my mind that we need to invest now in science, technology and innovation policies and activities when faced with a much more complex and challenging future.
The future of agriculture as a biomass producing system will be even more complex as we face more challenges from increased climate change variability, increased urbanization and population growth, changes in human diets, decreased availability of water and soil for production, increasing environmental concerns including the need to protect fragile eco-systems, amongst many other challenges.
The future is now. For the first time in many decades, we have consumed more food than we are producing, three years in a row. This is just a reflection of declining production and productivity performance for most major crops and animal production systems, but also a reflection of the other demand factors which are affecting the biomass production system.
I see with great preoccupation, multiple attempts by different stakeholders pushing to reduce the standard of excellence for science, peer review and broadening the definition of how can one define an “expert” in a specific issue.
These same forces seem to be pushing taking science, technology and innovation out of the sustainable development equation – in some cases making it the enemy of such process- and to focus on an allegedly “simpler” production approaches that border on the older pastoral arguments that agriculture exists in an idealized bucolic state of nature, as if one approach would suffice to feed the world.
Nothing can be farther from the truth. We cannot and should not focus on one approach, rather we need to take a pragmatic approach where we carefully evaluate what works and discard what doesn’t. We cannot rely on ideology, rather we need -now more than ever- science, technology and innovation to help us separate the chaff from the wheat using robust assessment and analytical approaches.
We have to think in terms of integration and in many cases co-existence, so that we make agriculture as intelligent and innovative as possible, using as many knowledge tools as we can get a hold.
The new agricultural knowledge frontier starts with the farmer, the person who makes the productive decisions and ends with the consumer, who decides what to buy. Our past focus on farmers
only, will likely fail as this is a new environment.
I reiterate my support for science, technology and innovation policies and investments focused on solving the problems of hunger and poverty