Why the UK should produce more food, more sustainably

22/07/2009 - 00:00
The UK has a moral obligation to contribute to the global challenge of securing future food supplies, concludes the EFRA Committee in a report published today.

"If people go hungry then political stability goes out of the window. This is a key lesson that 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," said committee chairman the Michael Jack MP. The Committee wants the UK to make the most of its temperate climate and the natural advantages this gives it for producing food. In contrast, it does not favour targets for food production and recognises that Defra cannot command farmers to increase output of specific commodities. MPs urge Defra to provide clear leadership, and guidance on the nature and size of the challenge. The report says that the Department must concentrate on building capacity in the food and farming industries so that they can respond to market signals in ways that will reduce the risk of food shortages. "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," added Jack. "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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