My core message, I guess,
to you today is that technology plays a very key role in food yields, but not the only role;
certainly, it's not sufficient.
We need changes at the social level as well.
But, technology plays a very important role in helping us
to navigate the pressures that we're placing on the environment.
This chart plots the expansion of agricultural output in Africa and Asia,
respectively, and you can see that on both continents
there was a two and a half fold increase in output,
but it's being delivered in very different ways.
So, in Africa, that's basically an increase in
an area that has doubled its increase in overall output.
Whereas in Asia, the area under cultivation is relatively similar to when it was in 1961,
which is the white box.
You can compare that to the green box, which represents 2001.
But, technology and the application of fertilizers and other approaches to
increase in yield has meant that we haven't needed to increase
the pressure on land to deliver those increases in output.
There is a lot more that could be said there, by food experts and
agricultural economists and I would be opening a can of worms just to close it again.
But, the point is that technology can play
a very important part in reducing the pressure on land,
and it's the pressure on land that is causing trouble to biodiversity and to ecosystems.
So, another example of
technology potentially helping to solve some of these problems is the work
that's currently underway on artificial meat and alternative ways of delivering protein.
As you probably know,
if you're listening to a talk like this, meat,
particularly beef is a very natural environment intensive way
of delivering protein to people.
It's caused a lot of damage to the natural environment
and to the climate and it's land-intensive.
So, if we can find ways of delivering the protein that people need
with the taste that people like that is less damaging to the environment,
then we'll be in much better shape.
Of course, this isn't simply a question of technology.
I mean, artificial meat is a good example of where
multiple dimensions come together because you need
peoples' culture and values to be such that they're happy eating meats,
and they see them as really clean, environmentally friendly,
tasty versions of something that otherwise would come out of
an abattoir and is a bit of a vector of disease, rather than some Franken-made concepts.
So, the social dimensions of technology really matter to
whether we will be able to introduce clean technologies and be successful here.