Global Challenges for the 21st Century: the Role and Strategy of the Agri-Food Sector
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Human activity is having an increasing global impact on the environment, geology and ecosystems. There is an 80% probability that world population will increase to between 9.6 billion and 12.3 billion by 2100 and could even reach 10 billion by 2056, 6 years earlier than projected. Historically, global production of food has outpaced consumption growth. This is evidenced by falling real prices of food, however this is now slowing, caused by constraints on supply and continued growth of demand. Paradoxically, as billions suffer food insecurity through lack of food, more than 2 billion people, approximately 30% of the world's population, are overweight or obese and this percentage continues to grow. It is also estimated that the world will need to close a significant food-gap by 2050, primarily because of continued population growth and changing diets. Increases in temperature of over two degrees Celsius are projected to have a negative impact on global yields of major crops. Agri-food production, including manufacture, food preparation and cooking, accounts for approximately 30% of all greenhouse-gas emissions and livestock production accounts for approximately 50% of this. The agricultural sector will increasingly be driven by these global changes, including a rising world population, rapid development of emerging economies, with western lifestyle aspirations, growing geopolitical instability around shortages of land, water and energy and 'one health' issues. However, a technological revolution is taking place, including breakthroughs in nutrition, genetics, informatics, satellite imaging, remote sensing, meteorology, precision farming and low impact agriculture. These changes will hopefully continue to drive major global investment in agricultural technologies. It is of vital importance that countries around the world recognize fully the opportunities and challenges and provide the appropriate framework support, investment and infrastructure. In this regard, increasing high quality livestock research will be essential to help address the looming food and environmental challenges and is a message that animal scientists and veterinarians around the world need to be making to governments and funding agencies. Farming practices globally will continue to change because of competing demands. Hence it is essential that the livestock sector benefits fully, both from continued improvements of current reproductive technologies and in the application of future reproductive technologies to meet these global challenges.