The UK has imported food for well over a thousand years. During the industrial revolution, we lost self-sufficiency in basic foodstuffs and have never regained it.
We have always been able to buy food from elsewhere and the global food market has become so efficient that the proportion of UK average income spent on food has fallen from 33% in 1957 to 15% in 2006. If food is cheap, reliable, safe and globally abundant, why should the UK worry about local production?
In my view, there are three main reasons why we should not assume that tomorrow will be the same as yesterday.
Continue reading Why should the UK grow food?
In 1898, Sir William Crookes, then President of the British Association stated that: “England and all the civilised nations stand in deadly peril of not having enough to eat”. He was referring to Britain’s reliance on imported wheat and concerns that there was insufficient land to meet global demand when yields were around 1.5 tonnes per hectare.
Crookes was aware of the pioneering work of Sir John Lawes and Sir Henry Gilbert who showed that wheat yields of up to four tonnes per hectare could be produced year after year by application of nitrogen fertilisers. Crookes proposed that the power of Niagara Falls should be harnessed for “oxidating free nitrogen of the air” and thereby enabling “twelve million tons of nitrate of soda to be applied to the global wheat crop”.
Continue reading The need for nitrogen – is sustainable food production possible?