Chief scientist calls for radical food overhaul

Global food production needs to be radically redesigned with a shift towards “climate smart” agriculture, a leading government scientist has claimed.

Sir John Beddington, the government’s chief scientific advisor, said current food production systems were “untenable” and failing humanity.

Speaking to the British Chamber of Commerce on 30 March, Prof Beddington said farmers needed to be incentivised to adapt their practices to improve productivity while fixing nitrogen in the soil and improving biodiversity.

As about a quarter of the 11.5bn ha of cultivated land across the globe had experienced man-made soil degradation, there needed to be greater understanding of the value of ecosystem services provided by farmers, he said

Calling for greater investment in research and development, he said farmers across the world also needed to be educated in the best way to “sustainably intensify” their farming practices, Prof Beddington added.

International governments needed to place food production higher up the political agenda, he said, while they should scrap production-based subsidies to encourage “pro-poor and pro-sustainability international trade policies”.

Prof Beddington said the appointment of an EU chief scientific adviser would be “advantageous” to inform European policy.

Commission president, José Barroso. said last week he was “actively looking for the very best candidate” for the role.