There needs to be a worldwide agricultural revolution, with farmers growing more food at less cost to the environment, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman and International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said.
Responding to Foresight’s report on global food and farming futures, Mrs Spelman and Mr Mitchell said that there was a role for governments, the private sector and consumers to play throughout the entire food system in achieving future food security.
Caroline Spelman said: “We need a global, integrated approach to food security, one that looks beyond the food system to the inseparable goals of reducing poverty, tackling climate change and reducing biodiversity loss – and the UK Government is determined to show the international leadership needed to make that happen.”
“We can unlock an agricultural revolution in the developing world, which would benefit the poorest the most, simply by improving access to knowledge and technology, creating better access to markets and investing in infrastructure.
“To fuel this revolution, we must open up global markets, boost global trade and make reforms that help the poorest. Trade restrictions must be avoided, especially at times of scarcity. And we must manage price volatility by building trust and cooperation – and in particular by creating greater transparency around the true levels of food stocks.”
Andrew Mitchell said: “Addressing rural poverty in developing countries while producing enough food to provide for a growing global population needs a sustained focus on agriculture. As well as boosting economic growth, investment in agriculture means the poorest countries are able to feed their populations and are more resilient to shocks caused by changing global food prices.
“This report makes very clear the implications of a population increase to nine billion people by 2050 – two billion more hungry mouths to feed, less land available to feed them from, higher rates of malnutrition, and increasing food price volatility that will hit the world’s poor hardest.
“As the report shows, the right technology and research findings already exist to help to increase yields, reduce waste throughout the production process, and tackle the diseases or difficult conditions that can limit livestock and crop production. What we must do now is ensure that those who would benefit most from these solutions are better informed of their existence and have the chance to put them to practical use.”
The Foresight report estimates that a third of the world’s food is currently being wasted, and that halving food waste by 2050 would have the same effect as increasing food production today by 25 per cent. As part of its response, the UK Government will work with the private sector and other countries to learn and share good practice.
In immediate response to the report, Defra and DfID will:
· champion a more integrated approach by governments and international institutions to global food security that makes the links with climate change, poverty, biodiversity, energy and other policies;
· continue to press for full integration of agricultural greenhouse gases into the UNFCCC process, as well as increased attention to agricultural resilience; take forward Nagoya work on international biodiversity; and promote the importance of sustainable intensification of agriculture more broadly;
· support efforts to negotiate a conclusion to the Doha Development Round with poverty alleviation at its heart, which includes a significant opening of agricultural markets; and plan an active role in talks in the G20, FAO and elsewhere aimed at finding ways of managing volatility;
· showcase what can be achieved on food waste reduction within the UK, working with other countries, the EU Commission and multinational companies to share and disseminate good practice;
· work in partnership with our whole food chain including consumers to ensure the UK leads the way on sustainable intensification of agriculture;
· continue to invest in research to improve the disease-resistance and stress-tolerance of livestock and crops in the developing world;
· continue to develop innovative approaches to tackle existing bottlenecks that stop research getting into the hands of those who need it, whether by finding better ways to communicate findings to rural farmers or by working to make new technology more accessible and affordable; and
· encourage national governments, their development partners, civil society organisations and the private sector to work together to ensure that any new efforts to improve agricultural productivity also include a focus on tackling hunger and malnutrition.