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Biological Approaches to Enhance Food-crop Production: Call for Evidence

The Royal Society has launched a study on biological approaches to enhance food-crop production.
The study aims to provide a balanced assessment of the challenges to world food-crop yields, the different biological approaches that could be used to enhance supplies and their likely consequences and impacts. 

We are seeking the views of agriculturalists, bioscientists, academics, policy-makers, industrialists and other interested parties to inform our study. Organisations and individuals are invited to contribute to the study by responding to our call for evidence by Monday 06 October 2008 .

The Royal Society has set up a working group to examine the evidence received, and consider the different biological approaches which could be used to enhance food- crop supplies.  The group is expected to report on its findings in the summer of 2009.

Terms of Reference

There are significant and growing concerns about the long term security and sufficiency of global food-crop production due to the potential impact of many factors including climate change, population growth and changing consumption patterns, increasing urbanisation and prosperity, and competing demands for land. This study will assess the extent to which the biological and related sciences can contribute to enhancing global food-crop production over the next 30 years within the context of changing global and regional demand during this period. The study will be aimed primarily at policy makers, including those in UK Government, EU and further afield (for example, developing countries where appropriate). This work should also be of interest to other stakeholders, for example non-governmental organisations with interests in agriculture and food-crop production and it is anticipated that it will help inform the media about the contribution of science to food-crop production.

The study aims to:  
- Identify and assess challenges to food-crop production in the developed and developing world.
- Evaluate targets and mechanisms for potential improvement of food-crop production including through increasing yields, enhancing nutritional value, minimising waste, increasing resource-use efficiency and reducing reliance on non-renewable inputs.
- Identify and assess biological approaches for enhancing food-crop production. These may include biotechnological approaches to the optimisation of the genetic make-up of crops and other biological and agroecological methods such as biocontrol.
- Consider possible positive and negative impacts of crop production technologies and practices on, for example, the environment, human health and economies. 
- Identify and assess any barriers to the effective introduction and use of biological approaches for enhancing food-crop production. Such limitations may include regulatory hurdles, the adequacy of the skills base and research infrastructure, knowledge and technology transfer and intellectual property rights.

The study will not directly consider non-food crops (such as biofuels) or dairy, livestock and fish production. Within this project, use of the term food-crop' covers crops grown for both human and animal consumption. Horticultural crop production methods and technologies are included within the scope of this project.

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