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Food security: will a mix of policy, investment and biotech feed the world? (The Guardian)
The following article was posted on April 24, 2013, by The Guardian as part of the Sustainability24 series in partnership with GHI member Accenture. Read the excerpt below and click the link for more.
Food security: will a mix of policy, investment and biotech feed the world?
Agricultural policy and research investment may not be sexy, but they could be key to feeding the growing population
By Oliver Balch
Three letters keep cropping up whenever Margaret Zeigler talks about growing food to feed the world – TFP. It’s an unprepossessing acronym, but the head of the business-led Global Harvest Initiative (GHI) is convinced that ‘total factor productivity’ is where the future lies.
The agricultural x-factor
There’s only one hitch. Turns out that TFP isn’t so easy to define. Read almost any textbook on agricultural productivity and it will focus on inputs. Better seeds, better machinery, better land, better gadgetry. Get those in place, farmers are told, and the outputs – higher yields, basically – will promptly follow. TFP defies this logic. Zeigler describes the term as “that mysterious increase in output” that can’t be explained by the sum of inputs.
So what else is there to add into the mix? Well, nothing. Although mix is actually an apposite word. According to Zeigler, what counts isn’t so much what you put in, but how you use what you already have. “We don’t want to emphasise just one or two simple technologies,” she says. “It’s about getting the right mix of policies, investments and practices in place.”