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Protecting Ecosystems While Producing Food

Protecting Ecosystems While Producing Food

01 October 2013

UK - Crop protection systems, declining water resources and the increased use of machinery and technology will all have an increasing bearing on the way the agricultural sector manages the land and feeds an increasing population, writes Chris Harris.

Speaking at the opening of the British Crop Production Council congress in Brighton, Prof Loraine Maltby from the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences at the University of Sheffield said that managing landscapes to optimise the delivery of a range of ecosystem services including food production must be the focus for the agricultural sector and legislators alike.

Prof Maltby said that there is a need to integrate food production with other services and aspects of conservation such as biodiversity.

And she added that the benefits of the one ecosystem service such as crop and food production has to be weighed against the potential losses it may cause to other ecosystem services.

She warned that increased production over the recent decades by increasing the use of land meant that the land had been taken from other areas and functions.

Land is also more and more being used for urbanisation, housing, water usages, building infrastructures and energy use, all of which is competing with agriculture and food production.

“There is not enough land and we have to use the land we have got and use it more wisely,” said Prof Maltby.

She said that EU regulation and new guidelines being produced by the European Food Safety Authority on the use of chemicals and pesticides are aimed to balance the potential harm to ecosystems through food production and the preservation of biodiversity.

She said that the Foresight report had marked out that “a sustainable food system would not erode the natural capital of the agro-ecosystem, limit the release of substances that may compromise ecosystem services from other habitats or prevent the further loss of biodiversity”.

She added that ecosystems provide multiple benefits to people but many are under threat and that an increased population and increased urbanisation will mean that there is a need to produce more food with less land and it will also mean using more pesticides.

However, she added that protection goals focussing on specific ecosystem services can be used to quantify and communicate trade-offs that are implicit in different options for managing land use and food production.

While the EU has produce new regulations and is publishing guidelines for their implementation over the use of pesticides and chemicals on the land, designed to produce a harmonised approach across the EU, the congress also heard that there is unease in the industry over the way the new rules are being implemented.

Concerns are being raised over the hazard approach to the framing of the regulation and the use of a precautionary approach to risk.

And according to Julia Suaer, the manager of public and government affairs for Europe at Bayer Crop Science, the industry is concerned that political interests are taking over from the clear scientific evidence and the scientific approach.

The two-day BCPC congress in Brighton this week is focusing on the new EU regulations on the use of pesticides and the management of ecosystems.

Chris Harris

Chris Harris

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