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The debate over sustainable intensification

Abstract

Sustainable intensification is a process designed to achieve higher agricultural yields whilst simultaneously reducing the negative impact of farming on the environment. It is an idea that has had much prominence over the last decade, but which has also raised considerable concerns among a number of different stakeholders. In particular, there are worries that it might be used to justify intensification per se and the accelerated adoption of particular forms of high-input and hi-tech agriculture. Here, some of the issues surrounding the concept of sustainable intensification are explored including: how the term itself has become a centre of debate, how it has been appropriated to support different worldviews, and how it might evolve to help the food system respond to the environmental and food security challenges ahead.

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Acknowledgments

I am grateful to John Beddington, Ian Crute, Gordon Conway, Tara Garnett, Lawrence Haddad, the late Jim Muir, Jules Pretty, Sherman Robinson and Camilla Toulmin for valuable discussion. This paper was part of a workshop sponsored by the OECD Co-operative Research Programme on Biological Resource Management for Sustainable Agricultural Systems.

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Correspondence to H. Charles J. Godfray.

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Godfray, H.C.J. The debate over sustainable intensification. Food Sec. 7, 199–208 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12571-015-0424-2

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Keywords

  • Sustainable intensification
  • Agriculture
  • Yields
  • Environment
  • Ecosystem services
  • Genetic modification
  • Animal welfare