Programme / Thematic Sessions II. e. Sustainable Agriculture‹ back to Programme lister
Thursday / 21 NOV
17:00 - 18:30
Christiane Diehl (Executive Director of the European Academies Science Advisory Council, EASAC) opened the session by briefly introducing EASAC and its major aims along with InterAcademy Partnership (IAP). She then gave the floor to Ervin Balázs (member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and organiser of this event), who shared some facts, thoughts and questions about whether we can one day reach sustainable development goals in agriculture. The first speaker, Sheryl Hendriks (University of Pretoria, South Africa), critically reviewed the most important areas and challenges for sustainable agriculture, with an emphasis on examples and problems in Africa. She referenced the reports of EASAC and IAP and outlined the globalisation of diet (increased demand for non-local and non-seasonal agricultural products, leading to increased processing and transportation), climate change (extreme drought periods as well as flooding, potentially leading to food insecurity, starvation and migration) and food safety and food waste issues as major threats to sustainable agriculture. As for solutions, among others, she proposed providing more information both to policy makers and farmers on the overuse of agrochemicals, on better and more dynamic seed distribution methods, on aquaculture (to link plant cultivation and, for example, fish cultures), as well as on food safety regulations and methods to prevent plant diseases in developing countries. The second speaker, Paulo Artaxo (University of São Paulo, Brazil), started his presentation with the biggest question in sustainable agriculture: How can we feed 10 billion people and at the same time keep the average global temperature increase below 2°C? He recalled that the 2°C value represents only an average temperature rise, but several continental regions of tropical countries are expected to see a much higher increase (4-5°C), which would have a strong negative impact on their agricultural productivity, further increasing global economic differences. In addition, agriculture is responsible for 37% of global CO2 emissions, which cannot be fully minimised. He emphasised that deforestation should be stopped and replaced by reforestation and afforestation. The production of sustainable bioenergy or crops with better photosynthetic performance and thus yield are challenges to be solved. Due to limited soil and water resources, humans also should probably change their eating habits (for example, by decreasing meat consumption in developed countries). József Popp (Szent István University, Hungary) agreed with the previous speaker in that we should eat less, especially dairy and meat products. He also underlined that 1.3 billion people are overweight worldwide, while 800 million people are undernourished (that is, are not able to satisfy their daily necessary calorie intake needs), and 2 billion people are affected by hidden hunger (that is, eating calorie-rich food lacking essential ions and nutrients). In his opinion high water, energy and food losses from agriculture may also be regarded as technological challenges, while food waste is also a personal choice. After these interesting and inspiring presentations, a very active discussion started amongst the lecturers and audience (researchers from different countries including Romania, India, Serbia and Hungary) on the potential use, regulation and deregulation of genetically modified organisms as well as on precision farming to achieve sustainable development goals in agriculture. Closing remarks and a summary of the session were provided briefly by Robin Fears (Biosciences Programme Director, EASAC).
- Sheryl Hendriks, Head of Department, University of Pretoria, Department of Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development
- Paulo Artaxo, Professor of Environmental Physics, Institute of Physics, University of São Paulo
- József Popp, University Professor, Dean, Corresponding Member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Szent István University, Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences
- Robin Fears, Biosciences Programme Director, EASAC