Eco-functional Intensification and Food Security: Synergy or Compromise?
- Niels Halberg
- P. Panneerselvam
- Sebastien Treyer
There is an increased understanding that the challenges of producing enough food and biomass while preserving soil, water and biodiversity necessary for ecosystem services can not be solved by prevalent types of conventional agriculture and that agro-ecological approaches and ecological intensification is fundamental for our future food production. FAO has stated that “Ecosystem services sustain agricultural productivity and resilience” and advocates production intensification through ecosystem management. Terminologies such as agro-ecology and ecological/ eco-functional/sustainable intensification are being proposed for agricultural development, which builds on higher input of knowledge, observation skills and management and improved use of agro-ecological methods. Contrary, increased global demand for food, and non-food biomass has increased the pressure for intensifying land use and increasing crop yields based on conventional inputs, while still aiming at reducing environmental impact. There is a battle of discourse between these approaches in competition for – among others – research and development funding. The examples of improved local food security from introducing agro-ecological and low external input agriculture practices among smallholder farmers are many. However, upscaling remains a challenge and the ability of such eco-functional intensification to feed the increased urban populations in emerging economies remains an open question. A broader view of what is organic and conventional farming is necessary and the use of new understandings from ecology and molecular biology will be needed to create and profit from synergies between preserving and building on eco-systems services and providing increased food and biomass.
- Joan LeeEditorial Assistant