ARCHIVE: Background: Why do we need to reassess our food policies?
Food policy is a priority area of work for us.
- Rising prices and commodity shortages in 2008 highlighted the short and long-term challenges of global food security.
- The 2008 report on food by the Cabinet Office Strategy Unit highlighted the pressures of climate change on food production, the impact the food chain has on the environment, and the health impacts of our diets as just some of the challenges which need to be addressed.
In recent decades, we in the UK have been benefited from a greater choice of food, better labelling and improving food safety. Despite recent price rises, food has, in general, become more affordable over the last thirty years. And over that time global food production has grown consistently faster than population, but with serious environmental costs.
However, we cannot assume that these trends will continue. Nor is there any excuse for complacency about the effects of unsustainable practice in our global food supply chains. There are big challenges looming for the world’s food supply, and we need to ensure we are equipped to meet them.
- To feed a growing global population, it is estimated that global food production will have to increase by some 70% compared to 2005-7 levels by 2050. The world’s ability to grow food depends on global resources - such as soil, energy, water and biodiversity – and we’ll need to expand food production within those environmental limits. In other words, we’ll need to grow more food with fewer resources.
- Food contributes around 18% to UK greenhouse gas emissions. If we are to avoid dangerous levels of climate change we’ll need to reduce these emissions, along with other sources of greenhouse gases.
- Climate change will alter what we can grow where, both in Europe and throughout the world. This isn’t all bad news – there will be benefits for some. But we need to be prepared for, and be able to adapt to, these changes.
- While 1 billion people in the world don’t have enough to eat, in developed countries, like the UK, obesity and diet-related ill-health are increasing problems. It is estimated that the health bill arising from obesity could cost the UK taxpayer billions by 2050 if we do nothing.
Page last modified: 5 January 2010
Page published: 5 January 2010