UK has “moral duty” to grow more food by 2050

July 21, 2009 at 3:16 pm Leave a comment

A committee of MPs has said increasing global demand for food will require “a fundamental shift in thinking about food, on the part of governments and consumers.”

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee reports that the UK has “a moral obligation” to contribute to the global challenge of securing future food supplies.”

“The world faces what one of our witnesses described as “an unprecedented double challenge” the committee said.

“It needs to produce more food, but in a way that does not degrade the natural resources on which agricultural depends, and which decreases the food chain’s reliance on fossil fuels and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

“The UK has a choice about how to respond, both to secure its own food supplies and to increase the security of global supplies.

“We have considered the options and believe that the UK has a moral duty to make the most of its position in the globe and its natural advantages for producing certain types of food.

“The UK should not attempt to be totally self-sufficient, but it should aim to increase its production of those fruit, vegetables and cereals that are suited to being grown here.

“It is essential that this increase in production is carried out sustainably.”

Michael Jack MP, chair of the committee, said:

“If people go hungry then political stability goes out of the window.

“This is a key lesson that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) must learn from last year’s food price hike when some countries ran short of food.

“What happened showed just how fine the line is between full supermarket shelves and empty stomachs.

“The UK can play a leading role both in Europe and globally in making sure that our farmers and food industry can contribute effectively towards meeting the challenge of a world that will need to double its food output by 2050, whilst coping with the pressures of climate change as well as global plant and animal diseases.

“Every region of the UK has a contribution to make.”

The committee drew attention to two projections from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s “World Food Security” conference in June 2008.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, announced that food production would need to increase by 50% by 2030 to meet rising demand.

The Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, Jacques Diouf, stated that food production would need to double by 2050 to feed a world population of 9 billion.

“It is important to bear in mind that these are projections rather than targets,” the committee said.

“They are a useful way of focusing attention on food production.

“However, they should also be used to draw attention to population growth, diet and waste at all stages of the food chain, and the need for policy responses in these areas.

“More information is needed about future patterns of consumption: what will be required is not simply an increase in production across the world, but an increase in the production of particular commodities to meet demand in particular parts of the world.”

Chairman of the Committee, Michael Jack MP, said:

“The long-term securing of the UK’s food supplies is a fundamental responsibility of Government.

“In addressing this challenge DEFRA must ensure that the nation’s farmers have the support and resources they need to secure long-term sustainable increases in agricultural production.

“This challenge will not be met unless DEFRA properly safeguards our world-class agricultural science base.

“It must heed the words of Professor Kell, the Chief Executive of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, and put in an extra £100 million.

“A clear plan of action is needed now, not the formation of ever more Government-run committees.

“DEFRA must show real leadership in ensuring that all parts of Government play their role in meeting this challenge.

“It will take national, European and global co-operation – not confrontation – if the world is to feed itself sustainably in the future.”


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