Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
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Radical rethink of food production required
The UK will need to change the way food is produced and processed so that we continue to enjoy healthy affordable food in the decades ahead, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Hilary Benn said today as he published the country’s first food security assessment.
The assessment shows that the UK is doing well in many areas which make up a secure and sustainable food system, such as a diverse food supply, which includes UK production, and a strong distribution system.
The challenges will be to ensure the sustainability of the UK’s food supply. In particular we will need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to a changing climate here and overseas that will affect what food can be grown and where and how it can be grown. The assessment also highlights the availability and effective use of water to produce food – the need to get more crop per drop – and the depletion of fish stocks.
The UK Food Security Assessment is part of a package being published today, which also includes:
Food 2030, an online discussion seeking views on the future of our food system;“Food Matters: One Year On”, providing an update on progress on the 2008 Cabinet Office report; anddraft indicators for the sustainability of the food system.
Mr Benn said:
“Last year the world had a wake-up call with the sudden oil and food price rises. While we know the price of our food, the full environmental costs and the costs to our health are significant and hidden.
“We need a radical rethink of how we produce and consume our food.
“Globally we need to cut emissions and adapt to the changing climate that will alter what we can grow and where we can grow it. We must maintain the natural resources – soils, water, and biodiversity – on which food production depends. And we need to tackle diet-related ill health that already costs the NHS and the wider economy billions of pounds each year.
“And because we live in an interconnected world – where the price of soya in Brazil affects the price of steak at the local supermarket – we need to look at global issues that affect food security here.
“That’s why we need to consider what food system should look like in 20 years, and what must happen to get there. We need everyone in the food system to get involved – from farmers and retailers to the health service, schools and consumers.”
Mr Benn said that there were three big challenges that needed to be met:
how to meet the economic and environmental challenges of increased productivity in the food chain;how to help people eat more healthily and ensure people have access to safe, affordable food;how to ensure that the way food is produced today doesn’t damage the natural resources on which future food production depends.
Mr Benn continued:
“Our food strategy will need to cover all aspects of our food – production, processing, distribution, retail, consumption and disposal. And that includes the impact on our health, on the environment and future productivity, and on how we deal with food waste.”
The food strategy for the future will be published later in the year, drawing on responses to the consultation launched today.
Notes to editors
1.For more information, and to download the documents published today, please go to www.defra.gov.uk/foodrin/security .
Around 18 per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions are related to food production and consumption, and the health effects of poor diets cost the NHS nearly £8 billion a year.
Defra welcomes the recent publication of the EFRA Committee report on securing food supplies up to 2050. While today’s publications do not represent Defra’s response to that report, they do highlight some of the challenges to food security that we will need to face, and set out the Government’s activities to ensure we remain food secure.
Defra Press Office
Phone: 020 7238 5610