MPs call for action from Government on food security in the face of changing weather patterns and global food demands

The Government must plan now for future changes in weather patterns and global demand for food in order to ensure the UK continues to enjoy a high level of food security, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee of the House of Commons has warned.

In its second report following the food security inquiry, the committee says Defra should become the lead Department on the issue and appoint a Food Security Coordinator "to ensure a coherent approach to this important issue".

Noting the steady decline in food security in the UK over the last 20 years the committee says the Government should monitor this level. It adds: "Levels of self-sufficiency in fruit and vegetables have fallen the most, and farmers should seek to extend the seasonal production of fresh fruit and vegetables in coordination with the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board."

it calls on supermarkets to shorten their supply chains. "It is clear that this significantly reduces the threat of disruption and risk in the system and helps ensure consumers know exactly where their food comes from," the committee says.

Noting that the weather dependency of agricultural output and that climate change will bring more unpredictable and volatile weather, the committee says farmers need better longer-term weather forecasts, and resilient production systems to be able to recover from such events.

Says the committee: "The technology to assist farmers is available, but at present, it is not translated into a marketable tool which would enable farmers to predict the likely impact of adverse weather and plan for it."

The report says one of the key ways in which future food security can be ensured is by taking advantage of available technology, but that the Government may need to offer greater funding for research: 

"We support the Government's new £160 million AgriTech Strategy whose objective is to support collaborative research and development and ensure that technological ideas are translated into practice. However, the funding may be insufficient—the first round of bids was six-fold oversubscribed. The Government must monitor this and, if necessary, identify additional funding sources."

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Welcoming the recommendations, the Crop Protection Association said the committee "is right to recognise the role of technology in driving greater food security," but urged the Government to ensure that the R&D pipeline is "accompanied by a regulatory system that doesn't stifle innovation by preventing farmers from having access to the tools they need," and called on it to challenge the current approach being taken by European regulators.


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