Posted: Thursday 10th September 2009

Defra's recently published food security assessment concludes that we will need to grow more food from fewer resources. However, CIWEM believes politicians should be discussing the real issue of how a large population, particularly when allied to high levels of consumption, is driving this demand.

CIWEM supports Defra’s aim to ensure the sustainability of the UK’s food supply whilst reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing water usage efficiency and adapting to climate change. But the Institution urges the Government to address the issue of how unsustainable populations cause environmental degradation and contribute to climate change, rather than just relying on technofix solutions that boost food production on increasingly limited agricultural land.

With the global population projected to rise from 6 billion to 9.2 billion in 2050, global food production will have to increase by 70 percent. Already 18 percent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions are related to food production and consumption, so CIWEM believes that the UK needs to change the way food is produced, processed and consumed if the Government is to meet its legal commitment to cut carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

CIWEM hopes that the Government’s future food strategy, to be published later in the year, will include a broad range of initiatives including: a nationwide assessment of land holdings to ensure that all land suitable for food production is effectively utlilised; more statutory allotments provided by local councils to encourage the growing interest in home-grown food; a requirement on schools to set-aside land for kitchen gardens to encourage an interest in growing fruit and vegetables. CIWEM also believes that urgent action on food waste through public education and incentives is essential. Although the UK produces around 65 percent of our own food, we throw away one third of all groceries we buy.

Nick Reeves, CIWEM’s Executive Director, says:

“A third of all people who have ever lived are alive today. In an era of climate change the biggest threat to food security is population growth, increased consumption and food waste. Unless these issues are tackled head on the need for food imports will grow, increasing the risk to supplies, higher food prices and the inability of the country to feed itself.”

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