H. CHARLES J. GODFRAY: What would it take to close the “yield gap”?

iNTERVIEW BY GREG BREINING

H. CHARLES J. GODFRAY, professor of zoology at the University of Oxford

What would it take to close the yield gap? There’s the skills base, economic and physical infrastructure, and finally the global governance of the food system.

One is a lack of a skills base—the lack of human capital, the lack of knowledge among food producers. What it would take to close the yield gap? I think it would take a reinvention of what we used to have—the extension service, teaching farmers not only basic agronomy, but also the skills required to farm sustainably and the business skills today’s food producers need.

Secondly, in low-income countries, there are many areas where the food system is divorced from markets, to a certain extent due to physical infrastructure. The roads aren’t there. The links to ports aren’t there. But also because the economic infrastructure isn’t there. They don’t have well-functioning markets. So I think that is the other thing that is required to close the yield gap—investment in the physical and economic infrastructure.

Finally, is the governance of the global system appropriate for increasing food production throughout the world? Both in Europe and the States, tariffs, subsidies and import controls have a distorting effect on food production elsewhere in the world. It’s legitimate for a rich country to want to support its rural community. But there are ways of doing it that do not distort the food system.

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