Food security: food system “failing to deliver”

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 1st April 2011

The global food production system is “not fit for purpose” and requires a “radical redesign” in order to secure adequate food supplies and ensure future food security, a leading scientific expert insisted today.

Speaking at a conference in London, Professor John Beddington, chief scientific advisor to the UK government, warned that current methods of food production are failing to meet the demands of a growing global population, a problem that looks set to intensify.

“The food system is currently failing in a dramatic way,” he told his audience at the Westminster Food and Nutrition Forum. “A radical redesign on the food system is required… No action, no change, is not an option.”

However, while Beddington emphasised the enormity of the challenge facing global food producers, he also insisted that industry and policy makers are currently presented with an unprecedented opportunity to meet this challenge.

According to Beddington, world population increases are expected to plateau by around 2050 at approximately 9 billion people. This, he suggested, affords the possibility that a food production model could be developed that would not only meet the nutritional needs of the global population, but which would also tackle issues such as climate change and sustainable resource management.

Looking at climate change, Beddington said agriculture is often the “poor relation” as it currently accounts for 10-12% of total greenhouse gas emissions. However, he suggested, the view of agriculture as “part of the problem rather than part of the solution” should be revised in order to foster the development of “climate-smart agriculture”.

Beddington echoed the conclusions of the UK government-commissioned Foresight report on the future of food and farming, highlighting the need to improve the sharing of knowledge, while also investing in research into technologies that will maximise output and minimise the environmental impact of food production.