A broad range of issues were tackled in the very lively Question Time session at NFU Conference 2012. Cathy started the session by asking the panel what they thought the priorities were for farming which according to Sean Rickard is to increase productivity, increase the scale of production, embrace science and start to remove the reliance on subsidies.
Alistair Driver reports in Farmers Guardian, Promoting organic farming as a solution to the food security problem is ‘morally impossible’, outspoken consultant Sean Rickard told the CropWorld Global 2011 conference. He claimed the organic movement, which accounts for 1.4 per cent of food sales in the UK, was having a disproportionate and damaging influence over how farmers operate in the UK and Europe. In the UK we consume as much cat food as organic food. Yet a small minority are holding back science and technology, which is surely what the whole industry depends on.
Friday 11 November 2011 saw an excellent turn out for the CESA Conference with a packed programme that opened with a look at the economic outlook for the food sector by Sean Rickard. Delegates would have welcomed good news – perhaps his view that the Eurozone will not collapse qualifies – but a key message was ‘adapt to survive’ when food prices are rising, driven by world population growth, and consumers’ income is constrained by inflation and slow economic recovery that forces them to look carefully at cost and quality.
Sean Rickard explained that by 2050 more than a third of the global population will live in just two of the world’s countries; China and India. In just 40 years, India alone will increase by more than the current number of people living within the entire European Union. With the population rising fastest in countries already struggling to feed their people, how to feed the world must be addressed as a global problem, not a national one. Sean Rickard went on to say that “we need to stop well fed consumers in rich countries believing new organic systems will feed the world”, the world must address the basic right for people to be well fed, and he believes this can only be achieved if farmers increase productivity using sustainable high production systems.
This was the prediction of Sean Riackard speaking at the British Potato 2007 conference in Harrogate. Biotechnology is the next big technology driver in the world and the only way we can respond to the challenges of climate change is through GM. It is of our government that we now lag behind the rest of the world. But the government has not dismissed the technology completely and public acceptance is increasing. In the next two or three years consumers will be prepared to experiment with GM and once the stances of consumers and supermarket change things will move rapidly.
Speaking at the GrowHow conference in Peterborough Sean Rickard said industrialisation had brought us high living standards and agriculture was no different. “Industrialisation is a good thing,” he said. Mr Rickard said when the current recession ended the world would have to focus on longer-term problems. “We will then realise is we are still in a world where there is a potential shortage of food. We are now in an era of higher prices.”
Sean was one of four experts that took part in The Great Debate held during The Alltech 28th Annual International Symposium in Lexington, Kentucky, USA. The debate cut through the hyperbole to get to the heart of what really matters when trying to feed a population of 9 billion people by 2050. Sean explained that a key driver of meeting the world’s demand for food was the ability of getting science and farmers together.