It was George Bernard Shaw who said that England and America are two countries separated by a common language.

On the other hand, both the Brits and Americans are ingenious at creating memorable phrases that capture the understanding of the industry or bureaucrats but fail to move the public.

I'm thinking of the term "sustainable intensification," which was a key focus of the United Kingdom's report called "Foresight: The Future of Food and Farming." The report was the result of a two-year study involving 400 experts from 35 countries by the UK government's think tank.

The USDA FAS has coverage of the Foresight report here.

From the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, a description of some of the report's conclusions:

Support for new technologies is upfront, as need to promote sustainable intensification of production, and for developed economies to consider managing their meat consumption. The contribution of the organic sector is duly noted, while also indicating its limitations in sustainably feeding a growing population.

Growing more food, on the same land, at less cost to the environment is by now a familiar theme, but this report calls for policy makers across the globe to act now and muster strength to take what may be very difficult decisions.


The report suggests that action is needed on all of the following four fronts simultaneously:

* More food must be produced sustainably through the spread and implementation of existing knowledge, technology and best practice, and by investment in new science and innovation and the social infrastructure that enables food producers to benefit from all of these.

* Demand for the most resource-intensive types of food must be contained.

* Waste in all areas of the food system must be minimized.

* The political and economic governance of the food system must be improved to increase food system productivity and sustainability.



The entire Foresight report can be found here.

The Foresight report was published in January and it encouraged some UK agriculture advocates that it would lead the way to greater consumer acceptance of biotechnology.

But coverage in the Farmers Guardian web site indicated the concept of "sustainable intensification" has some work to do in the court of public opinion. From Farmers Guardian coverage:


At the heart of the document is the concept of ‘sustainable intensification’ - how maximizing production on the best quality land by making best use of inputs and utilizing technologies like GM can be the most efficient and environmentally-friendly way of producing food.

But while the concept has gained support within the industry and scientific community and has the backing of some MPs, the biggest barrier to wider adoption in the UK will be public opposition the meeting agreed.

Arguably the most salient point was made by a member of the audience, who noted that while the industry was very good at having these discussions amongst itself, is was less effective at communicating with the wider public.


TK: So true, the industry is better talking about the industry's issues with members of the industry rather than with the general public. Actually trying to define a term like "sustainable intensification" to a consumer is prone to produce only quizzical stares. Breaking the phrase down to bite-sized portions is the better approach. And it is best probably not to mention either "sustainable" or "intensification" in the communication process.