Water pollution regulation is devolved in the UK. Surface, coastal and ground waters in England suffer from significant pollution problems: 78% of surface and groundwater bodies fail to meet the ‘good’ ecological status prescribed by the EU Water Frameworks Directive. Pollution increases water treatment costs and adversely affects wildlife. Compared to treatment, preventing water pollution at source can have a cost-benefit ratio as high as 1:65. This POSTnote describes the contribution of agriculture to water pollution, and measures that can be taken to reduce it.

World food security is dependent on phosphate fertilisers manufactured from finite deposits of phosphate ore. The majority of remaining reserves are restricted to a limited number of countries raising geopolitical risks. This POSTnote describes the uses of phosphate and summarises ways in which dependence on mineral reserves could be reduced.

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    National and European regulations have improved UK ambient air quality. However, current air pollution levels continue to harm human health and the environment. This POSTnote summarises the evidence for effects of air pollutants and policies to address them

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    Pollination by insects enables the reproduction of flowering plants and is critical to UK agriculture. Insect pollinators have declined globally, with implications for food security and wild habitats. This POSTnote summarises the causes for the recent trends, gaps in knowledge and possible strategies for reversing pollinator decline.

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    The use of genetically modified (GM) plants to produce pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines is an emerging technology that offers a low-cost, large-scale alternative to current methods. This POSTnote looks at recent advances in, and the benefits of, the technology, and analyses the associated biosafety and regulatory issues.

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    The availability of water resources is fundamental for society and economic activities. This POSTnote describes the reasons for uncertainties in water resource availability for future supply and demand and possible responses to managing these risks in the medium term.

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    This POSTnote explores two approaches to managing land for balancing nature conservation with sustainable food production. Land sharing integrates the objectives of agriculture and benefits to wildlife on the same land. Land sparing on the other hand separates intensive farming areas from protected natural habitats at larger scales.

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    Almost 2 billion people suffer from chronic hunger and malnutrition in developing countries. The UK funds research into genetic modification (GM) as one option for agricultural development. This POSTnote examines the potential benefits and challenges of using genetically modified crops to improve food security in developing countries.

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    Bioenergy is the use of renewable natural material for power, heat and liquid fuels. Currently, the UK sources approximately 3% of its primary energy from bioenergy feedstocks. This POSTnote considers the opportunities and challenges of producing bioenergy sustainably to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets.

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    Natural flood management, defined here as the alteration, restoration or use of landscape features, is being promoted as a novel way of reducing flood risk. This POSTnote reviews the policy drivers of this approach, as well as the scientific basis, and implementation, of inland natural flood management strategies.