Author: Professor Sir John Marsh

Systems, scientific strategy and sustainability

Professor Sir John Marsh
Much scientific effort is devoted to decompressing identified objects or phenomena into component pieces. This has given rise to technologies that act on quite small parts of a whole to produce significant changes within it. GM technology, revered or hated, provides a growing contemporary example. Such insights are immensely important but they only become effective within systems of which they are a part. There are multiple systems but two of them form the basis for the paper by Zhao, …


Adapting Agriculture to Changing Climate in South Asia

Professor Sir John Marsh
The paper by Khatri-Chhetri and Aggrawal explores a range of approaches to cope with the problems of adaptation to climate change in S E Asia. Many of the adaptation strategies have relevance to agriculture in other areas. Understanding them and the forces that determine their application may prove critical in the ability of agriculture to cope with the changes that lie ahead, An issue that emerges is the importance of the structure of the food and agricultural sector in the applicati…


Afforestation, food production and poverty- a conflict of interests?

Professor Sir John Marsh
Negotiations about the control of climate change have centred on human activities that increase emissions and on strategies that can reduce the amount of greenhouse gases.  The imperatives of raising income and alleviating poverty imply increased economic activity and higher levels of emission. To some degree these can be countered by improved technologies that depend less on fossil fuel and clean up emissions to the atmosphere and water.  However, given rising global …


The Market, the Managed, or the Mixed Economy. Which should it be in the North v South China Affair?

Professor Sir John Marsh
1. Market economies provide a means by which resources are distributed to secure maximum returns to their owners. Owners and users are assumed seek maximum profit.  Owners sell them at the highest price available and users, ultimately consumers, buy at the lowest price they can find.  All participants in the market, buyers and sellers have perfect knowledge about what prices are available. 2. Given this restricted model resources move to secure the greatest value possible, given the …


Some notes on the politics of survival

Professor Sir John Marsh
1. We can only make policies that have the consent of the power brokers a. In a democracy such as the UK, power lies with those who win votes. b. The Brexit debate has shown how voters disregard expert views but accept uncritically populist statements from pressure groups. 2. The need to reduce fossil fuel use implies unwanted changes in lifestyles. a. The public response is likely to be fashioned by pressure groups who offer ‘easy’ options – anti-austerity for example. …


Current Chinese agricultural reform

Professor Sir John Marsh
See Status, problem and strategy of capital farmland development in China,  Dr.Tang Huaizhi et al . this issue This evidence is of immense importance – there is a growing gap between what can be produced and what is demanded, there is too a history of damaging uses of technology that have led to desertification of major formerly productive areas, to add to this there are major calls for good land to be used for urban development and the overarching impact of Climate Change.  …


Biotech for food, acceptance and rejection Has the day of Agribiotec arrived?

Professor Sir John Marsh
Murphy’s paper, which reports on The FAO Symposium on agbiotech, February 2016, provides evidence of changes in the use of agricultural biotechnology, reports on a number of case studies in the use of GM in developing countries and discusses the future role of this unfolding technology and the contribution it may make to secure food supplies. The substance of the discussion is that the traditional model of GM as a tool by which big transnational companies dominated the world is clearly …


Weak international institutions prevent the full benefits of science based innovation being secured for consumers or the environment

Professor Sir John Marsh
Solutions and confrontations Two of the papers in this edition shed light on assertions commonly made by pressure groups.  Murphy, contrary to their claims, shows that expanding plantation palm oil production gives a smaller environmental footprint than traditional small-scale production.   Haslam et al., explain the inability of capture fisheries to sustain the level of demand for long chain Omega 3 fatty acids, necessary to meet the nutritional needs of farmed fish of which there …


New Technology and Climate Change In China: A Global Problem

Professor Sir John Marsh
This edition contains articles on the expected effects of climate change on agricultural production in China and on the role of plant breeding in adapting to the evolving situation.   Preparing to live in a world where there is a substantial change in climate is one of the most important tasks for researchers, policy makers and those who invest in agriculture and food production. China accounts for 19% of the world population. As recently as 2002 China had a small net export balance …


Problems of ‘Scaling up’ new crop cultivars: thoughts of an agricultural economist on wider issues in this interconnected world

Professor Sir John Marsh
This paper deals with a critical issue in the uptake of technology in the developing world.   New technologies are essential to ensure the increased production and reduced environmental impact agriculture needs to achieve. Initiation of a new technology often arises from the recognition of changes in an area wholly unrelated to the problems of a specific industry – for example the uptake of IT in farming, marketing and monitoring outcomes.   A current example is the wish of some UK …


Policy And New Technology – Common Policy Problems

Professor Sir John Marsh
This edition of WA includes a paper by Powlson and colleagues that looks in depth at the use of Nitrogenous fertiliser in China. Its conclusions are of immediate relevance to improving both the efficiency of Chinese agriculture and its impact on the environment. The paper also illustrates some general problems that apply to agricultural policy in China and in Europe. Subsidies and the creation of a dependent clientele. Fertiliser subsidies seem a good way to encourage its use, …


Conflicting Perspectives On GM – Science And Persuasion

Professor Sir John Marsh
On January 17th 2014 a demonstration took place outside the Greenpeace offices in Hamburg.   It was led by a group of scientists who were protesting against Greenpeace’s opposition to Golden Rice.  This is genetically modified rice that provides a rich source of Vitamin A (as ß-carotene), essential for human health but not sufficiently available in the diets of many poor people whose staple food is rice. Greenpeace’s resistance to genetically modified food has taken the form of …


Thoughts on GM crops

Robert Cook,
Professor Sir John Marsh
In our last issue we published two articles which provided evidence of agronomic and environmental benefits from the use of GM crops. These demonstrated significant cost savings to growers and that those financial benefits were greatest for farmers in the developing world. A role of this journal is to provide evidence based information into the public domain to help decision makers and practitioners reach rational decision, driven by facts rather than emotion. With that in mind we …


New Technologies, New Problems but Essential

Professor Sir John Marsh
Few new technologies have generated the level of anxiety that has greeted genetic modification. So great has been the concern that, in Europe, legislation limiting the use of the seeds produced by genetic modification has become so stringent as to frustrate its widespread use. The articles in this edition of World Agriculture provide an opportunity to explore some of the causes of alarm. Anxiety about the social consequences of using genetically modified seed has taken three main …


Sustainable intensification

Professor Sir John Marsh
Summary There is the prospect of a global population of 9 billion by mid 21st Century. Rising real levels of income, growing constraints on food production from climate change and alternative land use together with an accelerating rate of consumption of non-renewable natural resources in all sectors are likely to restrict food production. This has led commentators to say that the only way to feed the future population is a move towards sustainable intensification. However, this is …


Economics of GM crops in developing and developed economies

Professor Sir John Marsh
This journal exists because the world community faces a growing challenge to increase food supply at a rate that matches the demands of a growing and richer population. Three articles in this edition of World Agriculture address important aspects of this problem. Two deal with the role of biotechnology in increasing productivity whilst protecting the environment; the third demonstrates how increased population pressure leads to the degradation of fragile farming areas. Areal and …


The economics of agriculture as viewed from the perspectives of the NFU, the UK, the EU and the world

Professor Sir John Marsh
Every person is affected by how we use our natural resources. There are competing claims but none is more significant than the need to provide an adequate, reliable food supply. This edition includes a substantial article from the viewpoint of the National Farmers Union of the UK. This paper will generate interest across the whole community of those who share a concern with the issues. We look forward to hearing their response. The authors’ perception of the challenges and …


The Foresight Report, The Future of Food and Farming: Challenges and choices for global sustainability

Professor Sir John Marsh
The Future of Food and Farming: Challenges and choices for future sustainablity, (Foresight Report, London, UK Government, Office for Science. WEB: January, 2011) This is a very good report. It does address the issue of food security in a global context, it looks at the industry as a whole, not just food production on the farm, it recognises that this industry can only be understood within the economic system of which it forms part, it reflects what is the current consensus on some key …