A UK government report, released today (24 January), said that the growing world population, increasing wealth, competition for land and climate change constitute a “major threat” that requires a “strategic reappraisal of how the world is fed”. Here’s how the industry has responded to its findings:

“The Food and Drink Federation has consistently called for sustainable food production – producing more, from less and with less environmental impact – to be made a key strategic priority for the UK. The forthcoming review of the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy provides a further opportunity for us to make the case for radical reform to end protectionist agricultural policies and allow us to play our full part in helping to meet these challenges” – The Food and Drink Federation’s sustainability director, Andrew Kuyk.

“The argument is over who decides which technologies or efficiencies are appropriate. The priority must be to give the people most vulnerable to climate change and food insecurity more control over the markets, policies and innovations that affect them. That means listening to those people at the sharp end and investing in the things they need” – Dr Tom MacMillan, Food Ethics Council executive director.

“If every Chinese man drinks just one extra beer a week – this would require 231,235 hectares of annual barley production, which is the equivalent to a fifth of UK barley production. These are only estimates to show what impact a possible change in Chinese consumption habits could have on global food production” – IGD reacts to the report by illustrating the impact that changes in Chinese consumption could have on global food production.

“This report contributes to the emerging agenda for research on food security. SCRI will continue to make major contributions to this through its work on breeding new crop varieties that are resistant to diseases and able to use fertilisers and water efficiently, and by developing new management systems that promote sustainable crop production practices” – Professor Peter Gregory, director of Scottish crop research centre SCRI.

“The food system is forcing poor farmers to grow crops for export – to feed factory farms and make biofuels in rich countries – instead of feeding hungry local people. The report also pins its hope on GM technology when crop science has moved on. Other technologies have delivered drought-resistant plants while GM crops have proved to be a disaster for the environment and farmers. Feeding the world without trashing it means supporting small farmers to feed local communities, wasting less and rethinking our diets” – Friends of the Earth food campaigner Kirtana Chandrasekaran.

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“We need to be honest about the failures of certain technologies – such as GM – to provide food for a growing world population. Despite billions being pumped in to GM, it has failed to deliver against its promises. The majority of the world is fed by small, local, often organic farmers. These systems are better for the environment, better for animal and human welfare, and offer more resilience to issues such as the rise in oil and fertiliser price rise shocks. Contrary to the pro-GM advance publicity, the Foresight report contains much that supports agro-ecological methods, such as organic. In particular, it highlights the need for research in agronomy, agro-ecology, soil science and other areas that have been neglected in recent years” – Soil Association campaigns and communications director Molly Conisbee