A prospective study on this subject, entitled Agrimonde (Agricultures et alimentations du monde en 2035), will attempt to foresee the role of French and European agriculture within the context of different global change scenarios, and pinpoint the fundamental issues with which agricultural research will be faced.
The study, which will run over the next two years, is a co-operation between INRA (Institut Nationale de la Recherche Agronomique) and CIRAD (la Recherche Agronomique aux Services des Pays du Sud).
Based in France, both INRA and CIRAD conduct research on issues linked to agriculture, food and food safety, the environment and territorial management, with particular emphasis on sustainable development.
This is an issue that is attracting growing scientific concern. The EC for example recently published prospects for agriculture markets and income from 2006 to 2013. The publication provides a picture of the likely medium-term developments of agricultural markets, based on a certain number of assumptions and on the statistical information available in the beginning of June 2006.
"If the overall outlook for EU agricultural markets and income over the next seven years appears relatively favourable, it clearly remains subject to some important uncertainties," said the commission.
In any case, the medium-term projections depict an outlook for the EU cereal markets that would appear moderately positive for most EU cereals thanks to the expansion of domestic consumption (growth in the livestock industries and the emerging bioethanol and biomass demand) and cereal exports.
The INRA / CIRAD exercise is designed to build on such schemes and give scientists the means to forecast and prepare for the future in terms of public research systems and priorities as well as of their strategic position on an international level.
INRA and CIRAD are both commissioners and joint project managers. The head of the INRA prospective studies unit is in charge of the operation, which will be conducted by a mixed CIRAD-INRA team. A committee of experts, consisting of around twenty people chosen for their expertise, will provide scientific and methodological advice.
Both INRA and CIRAD suggest that managing to preserve the world's resources, while alleviating poverty and inequality, will be the major issue for sustainable development, along with the management of relations between industrialised and developing countries.
The results of the work are due to be published in 2008.