The chief scientist of the British government pointed out that the UK is facing a "perfect storm" caused by water and food shortages. Moreover, climate change, crop and animal epidemics and other factors will make the problem more serious. In this regard, the scientific community is making every effort to find solutions. Last year, Australia suffered a severe drought in wheat planting. However, this ecological disaster in the southern hemisphere has had an important impact on the whole world. As a result, food prices in all countries on the planet have soared. The global wheat price rose by 130%, and the British monthly bill rose by 15% as a result.
Even today, one year later, the cost of food has not fallen back to the previous level. More alarming is the warning from scientists that the future will be much worse than it is now. Government Chief Scientist John? Professor John Beddington pointed out that the 'perfect storm' caused by the shortage of food and drinking water is likely to cause public insecurity and social conflict in the next 20 years.
British farmers have felt the impact of climate change induced temperature rise and precipitation turbulence on agriculture. At the same time, the global food shortage has raised the price of imported goods, which will force the domestic food price in Britain to rise further. He said in a speech at a seminar earlier this year: "If we do not take action, we will face serious social unrest. Not only will social conflicts increase, but also because people will be forced to move because of food and drinking water shortages, we will also face the problem of international migration that may have a significant impact."
At one time, people took adequate and reliable food supply for granted, but now it has become a major problem that arouses the vigilance of politicians and scientists. Next month, several British research institutions, together with the Ministry of Food Standards, the Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Ministry of International Development, will announce the establishment of a joint working group. The mission of the group is to organize and manage the various efforts made by Britain to ensure the food supply of its people, and to study how to play a greater role in preventing famine in other countries. Dr. Janet Allen of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) summarized the essence of the problem: "In the future, we must plant more food on less land, with less water and fertilizer, and emit less greenhouse gases." Mike? Professor Mike Bevan is the acting director of the John Innes Centre in Norfolk. He pointed out that although people know that science cannot easily solve this problem, the complexity of such an unprecedented problem is still unexpected. "We will have to produce as much food in the next 50 years as we did in the past 5000 years," he said
This is an incredible goal, which highlights the seriousness of the food safety crisis facing Britain and the world. In the next 40 years, Britain's population will rise from 60 million to 75 million, and the world's total population will rise from 6.8 billion to 9 billion. Feeding such a large population means that human wisdom must reach its limit. The output of crops must be greatly increased in the adverse environment of the global climate anomaly. At the same time, many auxiliary means that agricultural workers once relied on, especially chemical fertilizers, will no longer exist.
"People have not realized the seriousness of the problem," said Beiwen. "This is one of the most serious problems facing science." The lives of hundreds of thousands of British people will be threatened by food shortage, and tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of people will be affected worldwide.
We only consider the problem encountered by one crop: wheat. It is the most widely cultivated grain in Britain. British farmers are ahead of the world in wheat planting technology. Today, the average yield of wheat per mu in Britain is 8 to 10 tons per hectare, which is one of the highest in the world. Only 50 years ago, Britain's wheat production was only 4-5 tons per hectare.
The green revolution in the 1960s produced new crop varieties, improved the utilization rate of agricultural chemical products, and changed agricultural planting methods, which doubled agricultural output by the 1980s. Food scientists pointed out that we are in urgent need of an agricultural revolution with the same scale and far-reaching impact
"We can certainly do this, despite all kinds of difficulties," said Beiwen. As the beginning of this revolution, agricultural workers must increase their output on the premise of greatly reducing the use of chemical fertilizers, because the production of chemical fertilizers is an energy intensive production process, which consumes 3% of the world's energy. In the post Copenhagen era, the use of renewable energy will be dominant. High carbon operations such as chemical fertilizer production are likely to be banned by countries. "We need to implement a number of major scientific research projects to develop new crop varieties, which can provide fertilizer for themselves, resist various diseases, and have better drought resistance and heat resistance." Beiwen said.
As one of several measures to ensure food safety, the British government will plan to implement a wheat variety improvement plan next year. The program uses the most advanced genetic technology to accelerate the ongoing wheat research projects to develop new varieties that are more drought tolerant and less dependent on chemical fertilizers. Of course, this means making new GM products. "At present, the wheat we are using is a hybrid variety, which was cultivated by ancient farmers 10000 years ago," Beiwen said. "We are returning to these most primitive crops and improving these varieties to create new hybrid varieties."
The importance of developing new varieties is also apparent because of another factor that threatens food production, namely, new crop diseases. For example, in 1999, a new wheat disease, wheat stem black rust (Ug99), appeared in Uganda. Since its discovery, Ug99 has spread to Africa and Asia, resulting in no wheat harvest and the plight of millions of people. However, scientists have recently discovered a new wheat variety called Sharon grass, which can resist Ug99, which brings hope for successfully preventing the spread of disease. Allen pointed out: "If we want to feed all the people in the world, it will be crucial to develop new varieties of food crops."
Tomorrow's agricultural workers will not only work hard to increase production under the requirement of reducing the use of chemical fertilizers, but also must be more alert to the impact of the rising temperature of the earth and the spread of more and more deadly viruses and fungal variants across the globe. Britain is not immune.
Bluetongue disease is a classic case. It can infect cattle, sheep, goats, deer and other animals through mosquito transmission. Sheep are most vulnerable to infection, and once infected, the mortality rate is as high as 30%. The disease did not appear in northwest Europe until 2006, and spread to neighboring countries due to the outbreak in the Netherlands. Bluetongue disease was introduced into the UK in 2007, but its further spread was prevented only by the timely action of the agricultural management department. In the future, such effect will be more and more difficult to achieve.
Dr. Chris Ola of the Newbury Institute of Animal Health pointed out: "As the temperature rises, the life activity of the virus accelerates, which is the problem. The higher the temperature is, the more infectious the virus is." Bluetongue may make a comeback. More importantly, there are many strange threats such as bluetongue that have potential lethality to animals.
Ola said: "Bluetongue disease appears suddenly. This situation will occur again. For example, deer epidemic hemorrhagic fever (EHD), African horse diseases, etc. These viruses can also be transmitted by mosquitoes, threatening Europe and the United Kingdom."
However, global warming is not the only factor causing the increased risk of animal epidemics. Globalization itself means the possibility of epidemic transmission. Ola said that an extremely important and worrying example is the epidemic of swine flu in Africa. "Just like its name, this disease can infect pigs. At present, there is no treatment for this virus and no vaccine. Once infected, animals will die. This disease recently appeared in Mozambique and spread to central Asia along the coast of Africa by sea route. If it is introduced to the UK, the result will be very serious. If it is introduced to China, which consumes a huge amount of pork, it will be a disaster. Except that people's lives will be affected The price of pork products will also rise sharply. " British pork farmers will certainly make profits, but consumers will see a sharp rise in the price of a basic commodity.
The key to prevent this situation is science. "At the beginning, we used the right vaccine to prevent bluetongue from entering the UK. Now, we need to develop vaccines that can deal with EHD and African swine flu, so that the virus can be controlled long before it reaches the UK coast." This is another important task facing researchers.
The changes people face are not only from exotic viruses. Due to the impact of climate change, the life cycle of common pests in many British fields is likely to be prolonged. Aphids are a good example. "Aphids are a major pest in the UK, and they cause economic losses of up to 100 million pounds to cereal crops every year," said Richard E? Harrington said, "However, as the weather is getting warmer and warmer, aphids appear in the crops much earlier than before, which is bad news. Because the crops in early spring are still small, they are more vulnerable to the destruction of aphids, and will also be affected by the viruses carried by aphids. Unless we find a new way to deal with aphid infection, this double strike will make crops no longer produce."
One option is to increase the use of pesticides. However, the effect of this method is greatly reduced due to the enhancement of locust resistance. Moreover, due to its potential toxic side effects, the use of pesticides has fallen out of favor in the European Union. "One thing is very clear: we must take a more sustainable approach to controlling crop pests." Harrington added.
A clever way is to plant nettles around the wheat fields. Nettles can attract aphids, while parasitic wasps live on aphids. They will settle down in the nettles and feed on the aphids. In this way, when the wheat near the nettle cluster starts to grow and the aphids are about to spread, there are enough natural enemies against aphids around the wheat field.
Dr Tom Hooper of the Rosamst Agricultural Research Center said: "40% of British crops are vulnerable to weeds, fungi and pests. If we want to maintain and increase food production in the future, we must find a sustainable way to prevent this situation."
Of course, the solution to the future food safety crisis will involve political and economic issues. The disappearance of cheap goods in supermarkets, restrictions on water use, and changes in agricultural farming methods, many similar views have been vigorously promoted. For example, in terms of improving farming methods, economists have always believed that small-scale farming should be merged by large farms because of its low efficiency. However, the owners of small farms are opposed to doing so.
Indeed, economic and political change is indispensable if Britain is to face the challenges ahead. However, in terms of overcoming the future food safety crisis in Britain, people generally believe that science is the most important weapon. It is unclear whether scientific research can obtain the necessary funds to play its role. Last week, UK research funding was just cut by 600 million pounds. Judging from the war to win the food shortage, such a start is not a good omen.