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WWF - Government must not ignore food crisis

Responding to the publication recently by the Environmental Audit Committee of their report on Sustainable Food 1, WWF-UK said that the Government must not ignore the urgent need to develop a joined-up strategy on food.

WWF-UK said it would have liked to see the report go further and call for the Government to define a sustainable diet, getting the Department of Health to work with Defra to accomplish this. The group said that the Government should also tackle other complex issues around production, consumption and subsidies that some stakeholders would like brushed under the carpet.

Mark Driscoll, head of the one planet food programme at WWF-UK , said: “Around the world we’re seeing the early warning signs of a global food crisis, what the Government’s own chief scientific advisor, John Beddington, has called a "perfect storm" of food shortages, scarce water and insufficient energy resources 2. How we produce and consume food is also at the heart of many of the key environmental and social challenges we face today, including the biodiversity crisis.

“The UK Government needs to demonstrate international leadership on this and put the issue at the heart of its agenda. A food system in which globally 1.5 billion are overweight or obese while another billion people suffer from malnutrition and hunger and at least 30% of all food grown across the globe is wasted, is clearly broken.

“A key step towards fixing the system is defining what a sustainable diet is and integrating sustainability criteria into healthy eating advice. There’s also a need to define what we mean by ‘less but better livestock products’, and to work with farmers, retailers and consumer groups to help us move towards a more sustainable food system that’s fair for all.”

WWF-UK said there was also a need to look at how livestock is produced and consumed and ensure that is truly sustainable, taking into account direct and indirect costs. In addition, the Government should promote the production of temperate fruit and vegetables which are suited to our climatic conditions and invest much more in the UK horticultural industry.

The group said it was vital the food industry adopts targets for GHG emissions reduction accompanied by a route map to achieving these targets. WWF-UK also called on the Government to convene a group that will work towards defining a sustainable diet and overarching food strategy as soon as possible.

WWF-UK has already highlighted that the Green Food Project 3 does not cover the whole system and this must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

Notes to editors

1. The Environmental Audit Committee will be publishing it's report on “Sustainable Food” (HC 879) on Sunday 13 May at 00.01am. The EAC launched this inquiry over a year ago, looking at the environmental and social consequences of the way the food we eat is produced, distributed, marketed and sold and how Government policy can be used to promote more sustainable practices in the UK food industry and more sustainable behaviours from the public.

2. The Foresight Report, The Future of Food and Farming (January 2011), is available here: http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/foresight/docs/food-and-farming/11-546-future-of-food-and-farming-report.pdf  

3. Defra’s Green Food Project is bringing together government, industry and environmental partners to look at how we might reconcile the goals of improving the environment and increasing food production in England: http://www.defra.gov.uk/food-farm/food/environment/  

4. WWF’s Livewell Report with the Rowett Institute of Nutrition (January 2011) shows what a sustainable and healthy diet might look like, based on the Government’s own healthy eating advice: http://assets.wwf.org.uk/downloads/livewell_report_corrected.pdf  

For more information:

George Smeeton, Tel: 01483 412 388, Mob: 07917 052 948, email: GSmeeton@wwf.org.uk

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