The problem of future food supplies, and the solutions, both from governments and the private sector was debated at a recent Prospect roundtableby Prospect Team / December 17, 2013 / Leave a comment
On Tuesday 10th December, Prospect held a round table entitled “How to overcome the challenges of food security and sustainability.” This subject was especially timely as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which has reached a limited deal among members, was held back from a more wide-ranging pact by entrenched national positions on food subsidies.
The discussion was supported by the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment at the University of Oxford, Climate Change Capital and the Crop Protection Association. The debate examined the problem of future food supplies, and the solutions, both from governments and the private sector. The use of big data and technology, improving diets, cutting out waste in the food chain, sharing best practice and efficiency, cutting red tape to improve markets and trade and the systematic connection between water, food and climate were all discussed.
Among the group of 20 specialists from government, universities, the investment community and NGOs, there was agreement on the nature of the problem—with the global population expected to rise to 9bn by 2050, adequate provision of food is a global concern. This challenge is exacerbated by factors such as climate change and pressure to expand agriculture production into forests. Efforts to increase production are also impacting ecosystems which provide the natural biological, physical and chemical services on which resilient agricultural systems ultimately rely.
“Markets and trade are the only way we are going to feed the world” said Alfred Evans, CEO of Climate Change Capital. “But you need an effective system with good price signals and policies to make them more effective. There is a policy deficit and a lack of link-up between global organisations.”
“International negotiations are failing across different fronts,” said Professor Sandy Thomas, Head of Foresight at the UK Government Office for Science. “National governments may be aware of these problems but there isn’t a lot of political appetite for this issue and voters aren’t demanding their governments act.”
But what is the scale of the problem, both internationally and at a country specific level? Professor Sir Gordon Conway, the agricultural ecologist who heads the Agriculture for Impact Programme at Imperial College London said one of the big demands would be for meat-based diets (from the burgeoning middle classes of developing countries). Extensive use of fertiliser, rising oil…