Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
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Benn launches debate on UK food security in a changing world

Benn launches debate on UK food security in a changing world

DEPARTMENT FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS News Release (231/08) issued by The Government News Network on 17 July 2008

A debate on how to continue to ensure a secure and sustainable supply of food in the future has today been launched by Hilary Benn.

Publishing a new Defra discussion paper, "Ensuring the UK's food security in a changing world", Hilary Benn stressed that, while the UK was currently secure in its food supply, it was important to consider whether the UK food supply chain is sufficiently resilient to deal with short term shocks and sufficiently strong to face long term challenges.

The paper - which will feed into a more detailed statement on food security policy expected later this year - poses five key questions for the public and industry to comment on. In particular the Government is keen to hear the views of the agricultural sector, consumer groups and food retailers. To this end Defra will be holding a series of meetings, workshops and events to encourage discussion.

The paper also suggests a set of indicators that could be used in the future to assess food security. Views are being invited on these indicators and how they could be used.

Hilary Benn said:

"The UK currently has a secure food supply. In fact we are more self-sufficient now than we were in the 1950s. But recent food price rises across the world have shone a light on the challenges all countries face in ensuring food supplies at reasonable prices, particularly as the global population rises and the impacts of climate change and rising oil prices are felt.

"That's why it's sensible to think about the impact of these challenges so that we can plan effectively for the future and identify any further steps that may be needed, bearing in mind that as well as domestic production - which is very important - we also rely on being able to import food."

The analysis of the UK food chain contained in the paper shows that the situation in the UK cannot be viewed in isolation. UK and global food security are interlinked, particularly in relation to world food markets and international energy supplies.

However, UK agriculture has a vital contribution to make to food security both in Britain and internationally. The paper outlines the importance of the sector to the UK economy and its role in managing Britain's unique landscape and biodiversity.

The key questions posed in the report are:

1. Whether Defra has correctly identified the challenges facing global and UK food security.

2. What the views of the food industry and wider public are about the action the UK Government is taking globally and domestically to address these challenges and ensure food security.

3. What further role the agricultural, retail, and food service sectors can play in ensuring UK food security.

4. Whether the food security indicators cover the right areas and measure the right things.

5. What steps we should take together if the indicators suggest there is a problem.

The five key indicators of food supply are:

1. global availability;
2. diversity of supply;
3. food chain resilience;
4. affordability; and
5. safety and confidence.

The report also includes a broad consideration of the factors that contribute to food security and historical and future trends.

Notes to editors

1. "Ensuring UK food security in a changing world" is available on the Defra website at http://www.defra.gov.uk/foodrin/foodstrategy/security.htm

2. To take part in the debate, e-mail foodmatters.security@defra.gov.uk. The closing date for contributions is 15 September 2008.

3. The views Defra receives on this discussion document and from a series of planned workshops and stakeholder events will inform a more detailed statement of food security policy that Defra intends to publish later in the year.

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