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Chapter 6

Balancing the Environmental Consequences of Agriculture with the Need for Food Security

The UK Government's Foresight Report on The Future of Food and Farming stressed that environmental sustainability was an essential component of any changes in the global food system directed towards the pressing requirement to scale-up levels of productivity significantly. This paper examines in a historical and contemporary context what some of the issues are in attempting to achieve a balance between producing more food and the fact that agricultural systems have environmental impacts, and always have had. Impacts on biodiversity, water and climate change through the emissions of greenhouse gases are the primary issues confronted. A primarily UK-centric approach is taken to exploring the concept of “Sustainable Intensification” as it might assist in addressing biodiversity conservation and the need to mitigate global climate change by reducing net greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural systems. The need for more data and less dogma in addressing the complex of issues associated with the environmental impact of food production systems is stressed, as is the need to adopt a systems-based approach to land use which seeks to identify, quantify and contextualise the extent to which trade-offs are required. In seeking to establish a better carbon balance from land-based activities, an alternative is suggested to the rather unimaginative and one dimensional approach of setting targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Print publication date: 16 Jul 2012
Copyright year: 2012
Print ISBN: 978-1-84973-385-4
PDF eISBN: 978-1-84973-497-4