The UK needs to produce more food with fewer resources and reassure the public on the safety of genetically modified (GM) foods if it wants to become more self-sufficient in the long term, a group of MPs has said.
A new report by the environment, food and rural affairs committee has called for “sustainable intensification” of the UK’s food system in order to increase crop yields and resilience in the light of threats posed by climate change.
Anne McIntosh MP, chair of the committee, said, “Complacency is a genuine risk to future UK food security. If we want our food production and supply systems to be secure, government and food producers must plan to meet the impacts of climate change, population growth and increasing global demand for food.”
She added, “If we are to curb emissions and adjust to climate change, we need a significant shift in how the UK produces food. For instance, livestock production contributes 49% of farm-related emissions, so we need more research to identify ways to curb this.
“Farmers also need better longer-term weather forecasts and more resilient production systems to be able to cope with severe weather events such as the floods that devastated the Somerset levels last winter.”
The committee called for supermarkets to shorten supply chains, farmers to reduce dependence on imported soybean for animal feed and the government to outline a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the sector.
The committee also added that the government should convince the public on the safety of GM foods and lobby the EU on GM crops in Europe. Separate research had previously warned over the shortage of farmland the UK is facing.
Friends of the Earth’s senior food campaigner Vicki Hird said that the report’s recommendations do not go far enough.
“Although this report identifies the massive impact our livestock system has on our climate – and the huge mountain of feed imports it consumes – it fails to tackle the vital challenge of changing UK diets,” she said.
“Eating less but better quality meat would be healthier, help cut greenhouse gas emissions and free up land for other uses. Leaving decision to ‘informed’ consumers is simply not good enough.”
Photo: Andrew Stawarz via Flickr