“As I see it, we have just 13 harvests before we have 500M more people needing food in Africa alone,” said Kendall. “The UK’s cross-government food research and innovation strategy quotes lag periods of 15 to 25 years between research expenditures and widespread implementation at farm level. We must not underestimate that task. The time for just talking has run out.”
To meet the global food challenge, Kendall said: “We need to see more investment in science R&D [including GM technology], and essentially more emphasis on this work being transferred into tangible products, technologies and practices that benefit farmers and growers in the field.”
He also highlighted the need for “a better functioning marketplace where all of the players in the supply chain share the risks – and the rewards”.
Burdensome red tape
Kendall stressed too the need for “an effective regulation and policy frameworks that free-up its true potential rather than hinder it with burdensome red tape”.
NFU chief science adviser Dr Andrea Graham said the world needed to use the latest science – including GM techniques – to feed a global population predicted to reach 9bn by 2050.
“To achieve this we will need every single tool in our toolbox – and that includes GM crops that have been adapted to cope in dry conditions, need fewer pesticides or offer nutritional benefits,” said Graham.
“Of course there needs to be a strong legal framework for approvals and effective co-existence measures to allow GM and non-GM systems to operate successfully together but these must be proportional to the need so that growers can retain their markets, and must be based on sound science.”
Kendall argued that focusing on long-term horizons had allowed governments and other organisations to put off the big and sometimes difficult decisions that needed making today.
“Sustainable intensification isn’t a new concept and from speaking to farmers from around the world we know and understand that this is where our challenge lies,” said Kendall. “Put simply, we need to produce more and impact less.”
Earlier this week Kendall said that the UK needed super farms to stop food prices rising and to maintain high animal welfare standards.
Rejecting criticism of so-called mega farms, Kendall told the Guardian newspaper the government should allow some farms to keep several thousand animals.
“The challenge of feeding everybody with the constraints of climate change and weather shocks is so great we need a complete rethink,” he said.