Commentary of Food 2030
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Sustainable Food
Commentary on Government's Food 2030, August 2009
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DEFRA's Food for the Future - Food 2030

UK's first food security assessment discussed "issues ranging from how we can create a sustainable food system locally and globally, to the challenges of rising global demand for food and the ways in which food contributes to greenhouse gas emissions." Join DEFRAs Discussion of Food 2030. Food 2030 is also the starting point for the development of indicators for a sustainable food system (pdf), which provides a set of useful questions, according to themes, including training & skills.

This UK government consultation was in response to the EFRA Select Committee (Our Commentary) the previous week, which said we need to produce "more food, more sustainably", and the Sustainable Development Commission report that said the week before that sustainability and security are "a perfect fit".

Secretary of State for the Environment Hilary Benn, introducing the consultation, said that: " “We need a radical rethink of how we produce and consume our food”.. "If the UK does not become self-sustainable then we will have to pay largely inflated prices for food from abroad or will go hungry. And as the global environment changes, the ability to grow certain crops in certain parts of the world will change with it". Benn wants the UK to source more of it's food from home soil rather than importing it.


"UK to head Food Revolution" BBC , ITV Newspapers...

Rations - Times Online

Bogoff Bogof: Daily Mail (Blythman), Times, Guardian (along with food waste), and Telegraph

Genetic Modification: Mirror picks up on GM, as does FT, Independent, Telegraph SNP say no to GM in Scotland. Our take on GM

Land: Telegraph picks up on land issues

Food Security: Wales Online, EDIE and Frank Field in New Stateman argues we need a new Securities Department for both fighting terrorism and guaranteeing our food and energy supplies in the future.

Google collection of Online Comments and Analysis

Thanks to my mate Richard hooper for this graphic

(thanks to my mate Richard Hooper for this graphic..)


(Charlie was Specialist Adviser to EFRA Select Committee Report "Securing UK Food Supplies up to 2050" pdf p1)

This is a remarkable change and hopefully the start of a long debate, followed by action. For the last 150 years (ever since the Repeal of the Corn Laws), the mantra has been for cheap food - at the cost of eveything else. Now, many other issues are coming into play - particularly sustainablity and security. Can we guarantee food supplies over next 2-30 years and how does food and farming reduce greenhouse gases in line with the rest of industry? This debate should be the beginning of a process of investing more in our land and labour.

The decline in the UK's contribution to world food supplies is lamentable. FAO statistics show that in the world context the contribution of UK is small – less than 2%. In the last 25 years that contribution has declined – by a fifth for cereals, nearly half for livestock and over 2/3 for fruit and vegetables. It was good to see the Secretary of State, Hilary Benn, make a point of improving fruit production. But what about the legumes - good for the soil too!?

1000 tonnes
% Contribution to world
United Kingdom
United Kingdom
Fruit & Vegetables
United Kingdom

If the UK government wish to claim that our science can do much elswhere to contribute to improved food supplies (eg Chatham House evidence to EFRA), these statistics are hardly a good advert.

The big long term issue is that we need to invest more in our own food and farming. Where does that investment come from? Consumers are not going to want to pay more. Why not start with the EU? The rest of EU is not so vulnerable as UK, being largely self sufficient. Evidence to EFRA from EU (pdf Q 474), said that despite possibility of Spain being too dry in near future, there is land in Eastern Europe that can come in - after all it wasnt long ago that EU was overproducing big style. So, we believe CAP money should be used to provide the sustainability aspects - as a "sustainable food policy" - rather than "CAP". Food and farming are not part of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (CCC Chap 9 pdf), but clearly a major contributor (Stern Report Annex 7.g). We will need this money to help make a contribution to a low carbon economy. The metrics are not impossible. See how

That means the UK state must pay more for improved UK food security. One of the most noticeable findings of the EFRA Select Committee was the decline of public funding for science and research. Since the 1980's the number of public funded research stations, including those for fruit, vegetables, glasshouses, and plant breeding, has declined from 17 to 3 (Peter Kendall NFU @ EFRA launch 11 Dec '08 pdf). And the remaining research is too dependent on short term grants - both public and private. The Barnes Review of 1988 identified the "near-market" part of the MAFF research effort that the industry should pick up - in line with Treasury policy at the time, popularly called "privatisation". Chris Barnes went round research stations ticking or crossing off reasearch - just like Beeching had done with the railways before. This introduced a boundary between underpinning strategic research and the down-stream applied research and development needed by users. The estimate is that we need £100m/yr to put this right - an enormous sum, but which palls into insigiifcance compared to the billions in bank bailouts, which do not grow a single bean. Our science skills base eg soil scientists, is now getting low and critical according to Royal Agricultural Society of England.

We need to bring both Organics and GM research more into the public sector (Kowtowing to Monsanto in Observer). Organics need large scale research into energy savings and carbon emissions/sequestration. GM needs to be under public scrutiny to provide greater confidence about areas of research. In addition, we need to set up a new Extension/Advisory Service like ADAS, as argued by SDC Report (Food Security & sustainability: A Perfect Fit pdf Recommendation 5) ie. like wot we used to have - a free objective advice service for farmers, at the point of delivery.


Felicity Lawrence says government rethink marks progress - but not nearly enough

Can DEFRA deliver its Food 2030 vision? Ecologist

Country Landowners Association criticise new policy papers on food security saying it adds little new to the debate. But Bidwells welcomes it for taking the debate forward Land Gazette

Adam Smith Institute ask "what is wrong with the (super) markets giving away food?"

What we'll be eating in 2030 according to Times Online

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