Future food crisis

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May East’s claim (“Family farms can fight food crisis”, 20 March), that shifting to small family farms based on organic agriculture would be sustainable, is incorrect. If by some stroke of magic world agriculture were immediately to adopt her proscriptions, such backward views would result in half the world starving to death within a year.

Organic and small-scale agriculture of the kind described is characterised by its extremely poor yield per acre of land compared with the kinds of farming that currently supports Scotland.

Her agricultural recommendations cannot sustain the present world population. Of the current methods of farming that represent the present rather than the long past, no till with integrated pest management ticks all the right boxes on yield, sustainable soil, wildlife maintenance and carbon emissions.

Ideological support for organic and family farm associations derives from those who are inherently pessimistic about mankind’s future, who ignore the obvious creative capacity of mankind to adapt to problems as the need arises.

There is no shortage of resources of agriculture and there won’t be for centuries. With the world population of seven billion rising to probably more than 11 billion by 2100, the need to raise yield per acre is obvious.

Solving that problem will not be achieved by backward steps but only by supporting our best plant scientists in whatever form of solution they generate, and that includes GM technology.

We live in a pluralistic society and that means choice; not proscriptions imposed by governments such as those that listen to ill-informed lobby groups and fail to structure policy grounded on evidence-based knowledge.

(Prof) Tony Trewavas FRS FRSE

Scientific Alliance 
Scotland

Edinburgh