Simulation models predict that by 2050, the world will need to produce at least 60 percent more food to adequately feed the population. FAO officials offered a more complete view of the challenge when they stated, “ …we need to improve people’s access to food in their communities, increase production by 60 per cent by 2050, drastically reduce huge losses and waste of food and manage our natural resources sustainably, so that [the earth] flourishes for future generations.” The challenge is to increase production without sacrificing natural ecosystems and resources that support food production, and while providing appropriate nutrition, employment, and economic growth. All this must be done while creating production systems and equipping producers (which will refer to farmers, ranchers, and fishers throughout this report) that are resilient in the face of climate change, increasing weather-related shocks, global trade policies, and water and energy constraints.
To engage in this challenge, public research universities must account for animal health and welfare, as well as the social, cultural, and ethical considerations of applying genetic tools to improve production and resilience of crops and animals. Methods of production, harvesting, and distribution must become more efficient while minimizing environmental impacts. In the long term, the total costs of production (e.g., water, land, labor, fertilizer, machinery, and livestock) and their impacts, especially on the loss of ecosystem elements (e.g., healthy soils, clean water, increased biodiversity, and sequestered carbon) integrate with food and production systems. With some minor exceptions, most agricultural sectors (including aquaculture and fisheries), the total global factor productivity growth has not kept pace to meet projected demands, particularly in low-income countries. Focusing on local production would create opportunities for engaging untapped resources, human and physical, in both urban and rural communities. In other words, sustainable agriculture is key.