Caroline Spelman’s speech to the Soil Association, “The future of food”

Hello, and I'm very sorry not to be with you in person today.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Rt Hon Caroline Spelman

Hello, and I’m very sorry not to be with you in person today. Congratulations to the Soil Association on a drawing together a fascinating group of speakers and panellists, and a programme that asks some of the most burning questions we’re facing today.

So what is the future of food? The Foresight Report makes a strong case for this being the most urgent question facing this generation.

Across the world, farmers need to grow more food, using less water, less fossil fuel and less land, while at the same time adapting to climate change. This challenge is so great that it needs a flexible response, one that explores all approaches, finds the synergies and makes the connections.

Although the Foresight Report concluded that organic agriculture is not the cure-all for the global food system, it has a significant part to play to sustainable food production.

Here in the UK, increasing the competitiveness, resilience and sustainability of the whole food chain is a vital part of building a new, green economy.

Organic farmers are the pioneers of sustainable farming, and have valuable lessons to pass on to the rest of the sector. We want to make sure this connection happens.

As farmers connect with each other, consumers need to connect with food.

There’s already a lot of excellent work being done. I’d like in particular to commend the Soil Association’s Food for Life partnership, connecting schools and communities with the growing, cooking and enjoying of food.

Work like this, including, of course, the dedicated efforts of celebrity chefs and farmers, means shoppers are becoming more and more interested in where there food comes from and how it’s been produced. Which in turn means that local, regional and organic produce is making an increasing contribution to the economy.

We want this sector to grow and flourish. We want to support rural-based food businesses through Local Enterprise Partnerships, and encourage the creation of local food hubs, bringing growers, processors and small food businesses together.

Organically produced food will always have a place on consumers’ plates. Including the government’s plate.

As part of our work to be the greenest government ever we are developing Government Buying Standards for food procurement, to both sustainability and good nutrition. The proposed standards include a requirement for all departments to procure a proportion of food from organic and other higher environmental farming systems.

I’d like to wish you all a day of productive debate and fruitful connections. Thank you for listening. And I look forward to listening to you soon.

Thank you.

Published 9 February 2011