Addressing China’s grand challenge of achieving food security while ensuring environmental sustainability

Science Advances  20 Feb 2015:
Vol. 1, no. 1, e1400039
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1400039

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China’s increasingly urbanized and wealthy population is driving a growing and changing demand for food, which might not be met without significant increase in agricultural productivity and sustainable use of natural resources. Given the past relationship between lack of access to affordable food and political instability, food security has to be given a high priority on national political agendas in the context of globalization. The drive for increased food production has had a significant impact on the environment, and the deterioration in ecosystem quality due to historic and current levels of pollution will potentially compromise the food production system in China. We discuss the grand challenges of not only producing more food but also producing it sustainably and without environmental degradation. In addressing these challenges, food production should be considered as part of an environmental system (soil, air, water, and biodiversity) and not independent from it. It is imperative that new ways of meeting the demand for food are developed while safeguarding the natural resources upon which food production is based. We present a holistic approach to both science and policy to ensure future food security while embracing the ambition of achieving environmental sustainability in China. It is a unique opportunity for China to be a role model as a new global player, especially for other emerging economies.

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