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Conference - Towards sustainable agriculture for developing countries: options from life sciences and biotechnologies
Last update: 27/02/2003 Element graphique Element graphique
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Using science for sustainable agriculture

Global population currently stands at 6 billion and estimates point to that figure rising to 7.5 billion by 2020.

Almost all population growth over this period will be in developing countries and these changes will put even more pressure on ecosystems as people try to find ways to increase food production levels. The challenge is to produce more food without stripping the Earth of its resources as, realistically, there is very little new land available that can be turned over to farming. Most increases in production must be found from land that is currently used for agricultural purposes, while avoiding the problems caused by overuse of pesticides, soil degradation, and inefficient use of water supplies.

Improvements in efficiency will come from better management practices and by optimising the use of land and aquatic resources so they fit as well as possible with local climate, terroir and need. Science can also help as advances in life sciences and biotechnologies can be used in many different ways to improve production levels and to solve problems that hamper sustainable farming and fishing activities. At the very least, they can shed new light on the global consequences of anthropomorphic practices in a systematic perspective.

Projects for change

While the conference examines the future use of these sciences and how they can help the developing world, this catalogue already offers some excellent examples of success.

The chosen projects meet at least one of the seven challenges chosen for debate at the conference:

Element graphique What could life sciences and technologies do to improve the health and nutrition of the poor, thus fostering social and economic development, without compromising food safety and the environment?
Element graphique How could life sciences improve the economic viability of food production?
Element graphique How can life sciences contribute to the production of food under marginal conditions?
Element graphique How can life sciences contribute to income generation in particular by creating new markets in developing countries?
Element graphique How can developing countries become ‘actors’ in the genome revolution?
Element graphique How can life sciences contribute to a reduction in the use of pesticides?
Element graphique How can life sciences provide added value from agrobiodiversity?

All the projects are part-run or part-funded by the European Union (EU), with the active involvement of a number of Directorates-General. Many of the projects come under the wing of the Research DG’s international co-operation (INCO) programmes, but other Directorates-General are also heavily involved such as Development DG and EuropeAid.