Innovation, Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability of the Bioeconomy

In 2021, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development released their report Making Better Policies for Food Systems, which documented that since 1960, global food production increased 390%, while the amount of land used to produce food increased by 10% and food systems account for 21-37% of GHG emissions. The OECD went on to say that agriculture is facing the triple challenge of providing adequate, affordable, safe and nutritious food for the growing population, providing livelihoods all along the food value chain and doing so while increasing the sector’s sustainability and contributing to combatting climate change. Meeting these challenges will require innovations that improve crop productivity, as well as contributing to a circular bioeconomy.

With global agriculture tasked with higher sustainable food production, without lowering profitability, policies to incentivize greater investment into productivity increases will be fundamentally important. Additionally, risk appropriate regulations will be needed to encourage the development of efficient food and bioindustry food chains as well as mitigation and adaptation to climate change. To meet these multiple goals, policies governing the development and spread of innovations will be needed to ensure social benefits are maximized from these innovations, while ensuring excessive regulatory burdens do not constrict innovation pipelines and supply chains. Farmers consistently require access to innovative technologies that increase yields and income, reduce inputs and improve soil health while protecting the environment.

Conference Themes

1. The Role of Productivity Increases
Without agricultural productivity increases, gains in food security and sustainability will be nearly impossible. Thus, evidence from the FAO and USDA’s Economic Research Service documenting declining growth in agricultural productivity is cause for concern. Declining research funding and climate change are two factors that numerous authors have cited as important factors, but how important are they? Does this decline in productivity limit or improve our chances of limiting climate change?
Possible topics include:
  • What factors are contributing to productivity declines?
  • Declining investments in research and extension?
  • Climate change and the environment?
  • Regulations that limit the adoption of new technology?
    • What would the impact be of productivity growth on climate change and the circular bioeconomy?
    • Does agricultural productivity growth contribute to structural transformation in today’s low income countries?
    • How can academia improve measurement of research, innovation and productivity?
2. Technology Availability for Increased Productivity and Climate Change Mitigation
Advances in the biological sciences hold the promise of increasing sustainable productivity with innovations such as gene-edited plants, microbes and animals; biological pest control; and new vaccines for cattle. Digitization and big data are also revolutionizing agriculture as innovations are consistently demonstrating the potential of how artificial intelligence can contribute to mitigating risk, as well as bioeconomy improvement. Biodiversity improvement and sustainability are also heavily reliant on these technology advances. The combination of biological advances and information technology offers the potential for accelerating the rate of innovations to increase productivity, to spread technology to farmers, to mitigate global warming and improve adaptation to climate change. The combination improves research tools such as genomics, phenomics, genetic engineering, conventional plant and animal breeding and improved advice to farmers through apps from public and private organizations.
Possible topics include:
  • How much impact are these research tools and innovations having on productivity and the environment? What impact can we expect in the near future?
  • What public perceptions exist regarding gene editing and increased agricultural digitization?
  • Can these technologies contribute to nutrition and health?
  • What productivity enhancing contributions are possible from AI across supply chains?
  • What data protection measures are justified to ensure use of these technologies is not abused?
3. Policies for Improving Sustainable Food System Growth
Governments are increasingly seeking innovations capable of mitigating climate change, transitioning to greener economies and bolstering biodiversity. Conversely, governments are reducing national and international public sector agricultural research and extension, increasing the regulatory requirements needed to successfully commercialize innovations which can reduce firms’ incentives to invest in research, reduce innovation and raise the cost of the product or process as well as delaying adoption.
Possible topics include:
  • What are feasible options for reversing the declines in national public sector R&D investments as well as funding for international agricultural research institutions such as the CGIAR?
  • Are there possibilities for improving the efficiency and funding of food and agricultural research through adopting the One-Health concept?
  • What policy incentives and regulatory changes are required to increase private sector innovation investments?
  • What policies are needed to encourage development of efficient and innovative supply chains?
  • What policies could complement productivity growth to improve nutrition and health and reduce poverty?
  • What metrics and indicators could contribute to improved quantification of regulatory barriers?
  • What economic and social costs exist from excessive regulatory burdens?

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