The government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir John Beddington is calling for decisions to be made now to enable the sustainable production and supply of the 40% more food which will be required to feed a population of 9 million people predicted by 2050. The latest Foresight Project report: Global Food and Farming Futures* was published on the 24 Jan and adds more weight to arguments put forward in a previous report Land Use Futures: Making the most of land in the 21st century but one wonders whether anyone in government - national or local - is actually listening.
We are being told repeatedly that with the effects of climate change and global population growth we cannot sustain our current lifestyles and changes will need to be made to save the plant from the devastating effects of mankind. We know food prices will rise with demand for food increasing from fast developing countries such as China and India coupled with an increase in droughts. Exports from some countries will reduce as consumption in those countries rises and the pressure on farmers to find ways to increase production in a sustainable and healthy manner will be paramount. Changes in our current diet and initiatives to reduce wastage are also called for.
As the Friends of the Earth said about the report:
"This report shines a spotlight on our mounting food and farming crisis that can only be tackled with far-reaching reforms of the world's food system .
But with millions already starving in a world of plenty we need to look at what we're doing with the food we produce, not just how we produce it.
The food system is forcing poor farmers to grow crops for export - to feed factory farms and make biofuels for rich countries - instead of feeding hungry local people"
In the meantime the UK cannot afford to ignore these warnings and it will be seen by future generations as preposterous that we knowingly ploughed up arable land and built homes on a large scale to satisfy the aspirations of a handful of councillors and council officers and a swarm of greedy developers and landowners.There is a degree of arrogance to suggest that this country will always be rich enough to buy in produce from abroad from poorer countries desperate for revenue - with the predicted population and economic growth in some countries those countries will turn to their own burgeoning markets and we will be left with little alternative but to pay inflated prices or attempt to grow our own in what is left of the countryside.
Friends of the Earth again: "Feeding the world without trashing it means supporting small farmers to feed local communities, wasting less and rethinking our diets." This means the UK as well!
*For a quick rundown of what the report says take a look at the farming futures blog which picks out a few tables to explain some of the facts.