Skip to content


John Innes Centre Friday seminar series

This is a jointly hosted seminar with the John Innes Centre and the NISD.


Professor Tim Benton – Research Director, Emerging Risks; Director, Environment and Society Programme, Chatham House.

All welcome



There is much debate about the need to transform food systems to get better outcomes for people and the planet, but there are deeply contested visions about what is a sustainable food system and how to deliver it. The caricatural contrasts are between a “land sparing plus sustainable intensification” vs “land sharing and agro-ecological vision” but proponents of each make differing assumptions about the future – for example, the role of markets and regulation, land governance and personal freedom, and the extent to which dietary choice should be modified for the public good. Ultimately, the debate rests more on ideology than science.

In this seminar I will examine some of the assumptions made and discuss plausible scenarios for what a sustainable agriculture might look like that fulfils human needs. The range of plausible futures is large and it obviously influences the research agenda. Given the uncertainty of the future (e.g. globalisation vs deglobalisation, changing great power politics, technological developments, the impacts of environmental change, social change etc) how should the research community think about the underpinning challenges to address future food security: what should be grown, where, how much and how are as important as productivity growth.


Professor Tim Benton is a research professor at University of Leeds. He leads the Environment and Society Programme at Chatham House. He joined Chatham House in 2016 as a distinguished visiting fellow, at which time he was also dean of strategic research initiatives at the University of Leeds.

From 2011-2016 he was the ‘champion’ of the UK’s Global Food Security programme which was a multi-agency partnership of the UK’s public bodies (government departments, devolved governments and research councils) with an interest in the challenges around food.

He has worked with UK governments, the EU and G20. He has been a global agenda steward of the World Economic Forum, and is an author of the IPCC’s Special Report on Food, Land and Climate (2019), and the UK’s Climate Change Risk Assessment (2017, 2022).

He has published more than 150 academic papers, many tackling how systems respond to environmental change. His work on sustainability leadership has been recognized with an honorary fellowship of the UK’s Society for the Environment, and a doctorate honoris causa from the Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium.

JIC Friday seminar series

Attending in person in the auditorium

  • Please register to book your seat in the auditorium
  • All attendees are asked to maintain social distancing where possible and wear a mask
  • Questions will be run using roving microphones.  You may remove your mask when asking a question.

Attending online via Zoom

  • You will receive the Zoom link via email on registering.
    In order to ask a question when attending on Zoom, you will need to type the full question into the chat box to be asked by the Jonathan Jones in the auditorium
    Attendees on Zoom will not be able to unmute.
  • If you have any problems or questions, please email:

You can find the full list of John Innes Friday seminars here.


Event partners 


Share this article