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Edinburgh 27-30 May 2012
Climate change and population growth major challenges for potato industryThe 2012 World Potato Congress opened in Edinburgh, Scotland on Monday 27th May 2012. The congress was opened by Allan Stevenson, Chairman of the Potato Council. He paid tribute to Great Britain's Agriculture and it's world leadership in sustainable production, noting in particular the potato sector which is at the forefront of technology. Referring to the wettest drought in history and challenges on his own farm, he said that the sector was responding well to a changing climate.
World Potato Congress Inc (WPC Inc) President, Allan Parker (L) and Potato Council Chairman Allan Stevenson
800 delegates from 50 countries were in Edinburgh to see for themselves how the sector was responding to consumers, Stevenson said, "There is great diversity in global consumer needs and this is a feature of the congress. I would invite you all to visit some of our quality retailers and see what our consumer offering looks like as we start our new fresh potato season.'
Allan Parker, President of the World Potato Congress, took the stand to welcome the delegates to the congress. Parker has, for the last 15 years been an adviser to a potato producer in Russia, where he has seen the Autumn harvest extended by 2-3 weeks a very positive development, but he also set the scene for the congress by addressing the effect which climate change is having on the potato sector.
Sir John Beddington, UK Chief Scientific Adviser, spoke about population growth and the challenge to food security, more food produced on less land with less water and using less energy. He described the effect that the expected increase in extreme weather would have on food prices in the future and based on research on past food price rises, the likelihood of this causing increased civil unrest throughout the globe.
70% of the world's water is used for agriculture and in the coming decades this will be in deficit. Beddington also said that prolonged rain would lead to an increase in late blight, which already causes $10 billion of loss in the developed world.
In Beddington's view GM potatoes should be used if they can solve problems. The world needs to intensify production, this has been happening over the last 50 years. Beddington sees the discovery of the potato gnome as a huge step forward, which has massive potential to creating "smart agriculture"
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