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We face a truly challenging task to achieve an acceptable level of food security in the future. Food supplies have kept pace with, and at times and in places, outstripped an increase in population from 3 billion to 6 billion in fifty years. Not only has the amount of food kept pace but the quality of the diet has improved. Greater labour productivity on the farm has been possible because jobs that were once done within the farm boundary are now the business of external suppliers. Globally the most productive land is already in use and increased area, where it is possible, will not lead to proportionate increases in output. The food chain is a major user of fossil fuels and water. Contemporary farming can also damage water, soil, biodiversity and is a significant contributor to global warming. The CAP is still needed if non-market public goods are to be authentically taken into account as markets become open to competition but there is little sign of new thinking in the latest proposals. Globally policy failure exacerbates problems rather than relieves them. There is no reason to believe that we have reached the end of productivity increasing technology. If we are to benefit from investment in research we need applied scientists as well as those engaged in more fundamental, pure research. We also need means of bringing new technology into action. Our ability to capture and apply new science depends on society accepting changes that may be uncomfortable and to some seem potentially threatening. New technologies involve risks, some known and others not yet recognized, but less readily recognized are the risks involved in not taking action. Pressure groups, who claim to speak for the public, occupy an important place in assessing and interpreting new technology but they also have agendas of their own.


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