Agriculture’s challenge to meet the demands of a growing global population are well known, and it is generally accepted that we will need to feed, clothe and grow amenity for an additional 2 billion people within 30 years. To meet this growing demand while conserving biodiversity, recent international studies have suggested that intensive, high-yielding agriculture may be the best way forward.
Over the past 20 years, sales of organic produce have boomed as consumers have bought into the idea that the approach is good not just for their health but for the good of the planet as well. However, researchers from the Cambridge University have found that, contrary to many people’s perceptions, more intensive agriculture that uses less land may also produce fewer pollutants, cause less soil loss and consume less water.
When it comes to organic dairy farming in Europe, the researchers found that to produce the same volume of milk, organic systems took up twice as much land and caused at least one-third more soil loss than conventional dairy farming. While a similar report last year from the US-based National Chicken Council found that a transition by just one third of US producers to a slower growing ‘environmentally friendly’ bird would require an additional one billion gallons of water, and an additional 7.6 million acres of land each year just to grow feed.
Australian agriculture has a social obligation to play its part in meeting this growing demand by continuing to provide affordable, accessible and safe food and fibre for domestic and export consumers. Governments must therefore consider the overseas experience to best develop agriculture to meet environmental and productivity outcomes in the future. Fundamental to this is the adequate protection of the limited, prime agricultural land we have – something the Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) has continually raised. This irreplaceable asset will enable us to sustainably intensify production and ensure Queensland agriculture is part of the solution.