Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Food & Beverage Analysis
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

The Future of UK Farming: GM Crops on Organic Farms Fertilised by Human Excrement

Published: Monday, July 22, 2013
Last Updated: Monday, July 22, 2013
Bookmark and Share
According to scientists at the University of Sheffield, society will have to rethink its attitudes to GM technology and accept an inevitable role for human excrement in the food chain.

A team led by Dr Duncan Cameron and Dr Jurriaan Ton believes that UK farming’s inevitable future will be a combination of genetically modified crops on organic farms fertilized by human waste.   Analysis by the University of Sheffield team has found that the UK’s available soil has just 100 seasons of nutrients left in it.  

Dr Duncan Cameron from the University of Sheffield said:   “Safeguarding food security for future generations is one of the biggest challenges for the 21st century. In a time of rapid environmental change we need new ways to intensify sustainable production and protect food crops.  This isn’t optional.  Like it or not, the sh*t is going to hit the fan.”

The challenges of modern day agriculture are numerous: climate change, soil degradation, water shortages and growing demand. Phosphorous and nitrogen are limiting nutrients, essential to the growing process and both are found in human waste which the scientists believe could be used more efficiently.  People produce an average of 1.5 tonnes of faeces and urine each year. The University of Sheffield team believe that this will provide 20 kg of elemental PNK fertilizer, enough to grow 200 kg of cereal.

The work is part of Project Sunshine, an initiative led by the Faculty of Science at the University of Sheffield that aims to unite scientists working in both pure and applied sciences to harness the power of the Sun and tackle the challenges of meeting the food and energy needs of the world's population in the context of an uncertain climate and global environment change. 

The careful cross breeding of plant characteristics during the so-called “green revolution” between the 1940s and the 1970s resulted in highly productive crops and, according to estimates, saved more than a billion people from starvation.  The process, though, has not been not without consequence. Plants today are heavily reliant on fertilizers and many have lost the important natural traits that enable them to interact with beneficial bacteria and fungi in the soil.  

Today scientists are capable of identifying the exact genes that were lost during breeding programmes.  By applying modern day GM technologies, these ‘lost genes’ can be put back and crops returned to their more communicative nature.  

The University of Sheffield’s scientists say a sustainable farming future also has to be more reliant on organic farming that relies heavily on the natural breakdown of organic matter to replace nutrients taken from the soil by previous crops.  

Human waste is already deployed in some developing countries, driven by water shortages and escalating fertilizer costs.  All health risks can be eliminated from human excrement by proper composting.

Dr Duncan Cameron, from the University of Sheffield, added: “We need to break the cycle that has led to many crops requiring the agricultural equivalent of spoon feeding, with chemical fertilisers and industrial irrigation.  Whilst seemingly efficient, we are mollycoddling nature and this will lead to substantial yield losses due to pests and diseases.”  

Global crop losses by diseases and pests have been estimated to amount up to one third of its potential production, whereas abiotic stresses cause further substantial crop losses annually.   

The University of Sheffield team is developing new methods that enable these functions to be restored in combination with more sustainable management of agricultural land.


Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,500+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 5,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.


Scientific News
Antibiotic Resistance Can Occur Naturally in Soil Bacteria
Scientists have found natural anti-biotic resistant bacteria in soils with little to no human exposure.
Eggs from Small Flocks More Likely to Contain Salmonella
Penn State study suggests that eggs from small local enterprises are not safer to eat than “commercially produced” eggs.
Using X-rays to Figure Out Fats
Scientists trying to replace food fats with non-saturated versions are looking to x-rays to aid them.
Feeding Babies Egg and Peanut May Prevent Food Allergy
The new analysis pools all existing data, and suggests introducing egg and peanut at an early age may prevent the development of allergy.
EFSA Completes Food Colour Re-evaulation
The re-evaluation of titanium dioxide marks the completion of the EFSA's re-evaluation of all food colours permitted for use in the EU before 2009.
Risks in Your Food
Researchers have developed a method to reliably detect allergenic substances in foods.
Dietary Selenium Content Linked to Cancer
Researchers have shown higher blood selenium levels are associated with reduced liver cancer risk.
Sensor Could Help Fight Bacterial Infections
The sensor can detect E.coli bacteria in 15-20 minutes over a wide temperature range, offering a fast and cost effective tests.
Chemical in Plastics Linked to Genital Abnormalities
Researchers have linked an endocrine-disrupting chemical to reproductive organ abnormalities in children.
Sharks Contain High Levels of Neurotoxins Linked to Alzheimer’s
Research team suggests restricting shark consumption to protect human health as shark fins & meat contain high levels of neurotoxins.
SELECTBIO

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,500+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
5,000+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!