Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills
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Government Food and Farming study takes shape

Government Food and Farming study takes shape

DEPARTMENT FOR INNOVATION, UNIVERSITIES AND SKILLS News Release (017/2009) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 5 February 2009

A new project that will examine how the world can feed a rapidly expanding population was launched today by Foresight, the Government Future's think tank.

By 2050 we will need food for a world population of up to nine billion - significantly up from current levels of around six and a half billion. The project will ask how this many people can be fed healthily and sustainably as we adapt to a warming and less predictable climate.

The 'Food and Farming Futures' project will analyse the global food system including changing demand, production and supply. It will also consider food and farming in oceans and freshwater environments as well as on the land.

The study is sponsored by Jane Kennedy, Minister for Farming and the Environment at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Mike Foster, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for International Development.

Professor John Beddington, the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser and Head of the Government Office for Science, who oversees the Foresight projects, said:

"There are huge challenges facing food and farming due to a growing world population and limited resources, such as water and land. Intricately linked to this is the issue of climate change and concerns over the environmental impacts of agriculture.

"The Foresight study is a fresh opportunity to consider how science and technology can help meet these challenges now and in the future.

"I am delighted that Jane Kennedy and Mike Foster have agreed to be the joint sponsoring Ministers for this project. Together we will be drawing on the top expertise from around the world, across a range of disciplines, to tackle a critical issue.

Mike Foster, Minister for International Development, said:
"It is the world's poor who are most affected by food shortages, and it is the same people who feel the main effects of climate change. I am delighted that the Department for International Development is supporting Foresight's research into this vital issue."

The project will be an in-depth study consulting experts and scientists from a wide range of disciplines from across the world. It will draw on the most up to date scientific evidence combined with well-informed futures work. The aim of the project is to assist policymakers both in the UK and overseas to develop strategies to manage our future.

Hilary Benn originally announced that Professor Beddington would commission the report in July 2008. The findings will be launched in late 2010.

Notes to editors

1. The UK Government's Foresight Programme helps Government think systematically about the future. Foresight uses the latest scientific and other evidence to provide signposts for policymakers in tackling future challenges.

2. Foresight is part of the Government Office for Science, which sits within the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS).

3. DIUS brings together the nation's strengths in science, research, universities and colleges to build a dynamic, knowledge-based economy. Its primary role is to drive forward delivery of the Government's long-term vision to make Britain one of the best places in the world for science, research and innovation and to raise the level of education and skills at every level in our economy to give the UK the competitive edge.

4. The Project's Lead Expert Group will provide technical direction to the Project and help with the analysis of evidence and the promotion of the Project's findings. It will have eight members and will chair by Professor Charles Godfray FRS, Oxford Hope Professor and trustee at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.

5. A High Level Stakeholder Group chaired by the sponsoring Ministers, will provide strategic direction, advise on the key issues that the Project should address; and most importantly, help catalyse action across Government in light of the study's findings. The High Level Stakeholder Group will include senior representatives from international organisations, the public sector, the international research community and business as well as representatives from key regions.

6. Further details about the project can be found on the Foresight website (http://www.foresight.gov.uk).

7. For media enquiries only contact Clare Kingston in the GO-Science press office on 0203 300 8099.

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