A major study into how Britain’s entire food system must change to keep food affordable without destroying nature, at a time of soaring world population growth, was unveiled by Farming Minister Jim Paice today.
For the first time, Government has brought together representatives of farmers, manufacturers, retailers, caterers, environmentalists and scientists to work out how to reconcile the competing demands of producing more food and improving the environment.
Launched today at the Great Yorkshire Show, the initial report of the Green Food Project sets out the first steps on the road to: using less energy and water in food production; increasing crop yields; introducing more innovative technology; improving conservation management; and boosting numbers of talented, entrepreneurial young people making careers in the food industry.
Jim Paice said:
“With our increasingly hungry world every country must play its part to produce more food and improve the environment. Britain already punches above its weight, but we’re a small island with limited space, so we’ve got to show leadership and play to our strengths more efficiently.
“We’re not talking about setting Soviet-style targets but an overall approach in which the whole food chain pulls together. Whether it means embracing new farming technology or people wasting less, we’ve got to become more sustainable.”
The project follows predictions that a sharp rise in population, obesity, and western diets over coming decades will bring unprecedented demand for food and pressure on land and water.
The Government’s Foresight report into food security, published in January 2011, estimated that by 2050 the world’s population will increase to nine billion - up from seven billion today - and food production will need to increase by 70 per cent. It also estimated that between 30 to 50 per cent of all food grown worldwide may be wasted.
The Green Food Project examined how production and consumption could change in the future in five different sectors - wheat, dairy, bread, curry, and geographical areas. On bread, for example, experts suggested that significant amounts of energy could be saved if new more energy efficient toasters are invented. Or on curry, experts suggested that Britain’s farmers could grow more herbs and spices as the UK’s climate changes, or chickpeas for roti-bread flour.
Leading project members include the National Farmers Union, Country Land and Business Association, National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs, Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, WWF-UK, Linking Environment and Farming, British Retail Consortium, Food and Drink Federation, Business Services Association, British Hospitality Association, and Defra.
In line with the Government’s new approach to develop policy jointly with industry and civil society at a much earlier stage, the steering group will now meet regularly to bring about change.
Mr Paice added:
“There are already many examples of cutting edge innovations in all sectors, but these are the exception rather than the rule. We are talking about the need for a culture change across the entire food chain and this is the first step in a long-term plan to make that happen.”