Knowledge for better food systems

Wilton Park conference proceedings - Global land use: policies for the future

In September, Wilton Park hosted a conference on ‘Global Land Use: Policies for the future’. The conference was the second in a series on ‘Agriculture, food and land use: the international policy challenges’.

The conference considered the world’s uneven distribution of arable land; the state and benefits of its soils; the role of ecosystems services; the impacts of biofuel production on land use patterns; technologies such as genetic modification and hydroponics to improve yields and/or reduce the need for land; and investment in land abroad for food production and speculative purposes. It explored the international and national policy responses necessary to encourage sustainable and multi-functional land use.

Key conclusions of the meeting include:

  • Policies concerning land must take account of geographical diversity.  Links between food production and ecosystems need to be made in policy terms;

  • The sustainable intensification of food production can be achieved through both high- and low-tech solutions. Policies must be context specific;

  • Investment in Africa is welcome but attention is needed to ensure that local populations are among the beneficiaries;

  • A reduction in consumption in developed countries would have significant impacts on land use around the world.  However, this is thought to be an unpalatable message, which governments are unlikely to endorse; and

  • Future research agendas need to consider the use of both traditional and modern technologies to enhance the efficient use of energy, nutrients and water, and to increase research into soils.

You can download the report here, or more directly here.

You can listen to the conference on podcast from here.

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While some of the food system challenges facing humanity are local, in an interconnected world, adopting a global perspective is essential. Many environmental issues, such as climate change, need supranational commitments and action to be addressed effectively. Due to ever increasing global trade flows, prices of commodities are connected through space; a drought in Romania may thus increase the price of wheat in Zimbabwe.

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