Forget mass intensification of crop and livestock systems, farmers have to switch to more sustainable forms of agriculture with reduced supply chains, if they are to help curtail the effects of climate change whilst also improving the health and well being of human, animal and plant life.

That was the stark warning from Professor Tim Benton, Chantham House, who was speaking at an Agri-Epicentre webinar that attracted in excess of 2000 people from across the world.

Professor Benton, research director of emerging risks and director of the energy, environment and resources programme at Chatham House, said the intensification of agriculture has not only resulted in cheap food in many parts of the world, but has not encouraged obesity which in turn has resulted in malnutrition, poor health and more cancers.

"The faster productivity increases the more we drive climate change and the negative impacts of it which spill over in multiple dimensions.

"And, the more large scale farming we have with fewer specialist cropping, the less resilient our farming systems become."

He added that at present, 50% of the calories eaten throughout the world are derived from maize, rice and wheat and the monoculture of such crops has led to an increased supply of food at cheaper prices, which in turn encourages increased waste.

Instead, the professor highlighted the need for a much more diversified agriculture with shorter supply chains, based on mulit-functional landscapes and more resilient countrysides.

On a more positive note, he said the Covid-19 pandemic had witnessed a growth in protectionism and nationalism with people looking to support local food producers and eat healthier food.

"There needs to be greater focus on the efficiency of food systems to feed people that will cause minimal damage to the environment. Food is not just a commodity – it needs to be valued for everyone's health and well being, with less waste produced," he concluded.