Cutting an American family’s meat consumption by half is equivalent to getting rid of a car. Why isn’t the pressure on, asks Tim Benton.
The most recent figures for carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere give one pause for thought. There was a bigger increase in CO2 in the atmosphere over the last year than had been recorded for many years; despite all we know, carbon is increasing faster than ever, and faster than imagined in IPCC’s ‘worst case’ scenarios.
Continue reading Cars, cows and carbon
GFS Champion Tim Benton explains how engaging with people has shifted his views.
I am very privileged in the role of Global Food Security (GFS) Champion to meet many people and discuss the challenges raised by global demand for food outstripping supply. I have had such discussions with a large range of groups in different government departments: Health, Defra, DFID and the FCO in the UK as well as the Scottish and Welsh governments.
Continue reading Framing the big picture: going round in circles
GFS Champion Tim Benton looks to the New Year and considers food waste on national and personal levels (including his own recipes).
I enjoy cooking, so do the kitchen duty when I am at home. And, of course, Christmas is the most intensive cooking festival. I just totted up that I prepared 141 meals, spread over 32 mealtimes. No wonder coming back to work seems restful!
As food waste is such an issue, we worked hard to minimise waste over the period through a concerted effort of planning, inventorying and negotiation over how to eat left overs. As a result, we threw away very little that was avoidable, perhaps though at the expense of over-consumption!
Continue reading Waste not, want not
Christmas is traditionally a time of celebrating via food. GFS Champion Tim Benton explores the question of whether we should be more self-sufficient in producing it.
One of the questions asked in Westminster is “should the UK be more self-sufficient in food production?” According to government (PDF) data about 62% of our food is produced in Great Britain.
Last August, 62% of the way through the year, the National Farmers’ Union had a Back British Farming campaign pointing out that were there no international trade our “larder would be bare” from August onwards – definitely a problem for the Christmas feast then – and so growing more food locally would be benefit our food security by increasing self-sufficiency.
Continue reading Season’s greedings: self-sufficiency and the UK food system
We have learnt a lot from the 2007/8 food price spike, but the future will be a bumpy ride says GFS Champion Tim Benton.
The historical era of falling food prices is over. Global demand for food is continuing to increase while production growth has slowed in recent years, leading to significant upward pressure on prices.
It is well recognised that world’s biological and ecological resources (its ’natural capital‘) provides ecosystem services that subsidise production costs: think about how soil fertility, promoted by soil biodiversity, pollination, natural pest control and the climate support agricultural production. Fully investing in sustaining the natural capital, via management of soils, biodiversity, water and carbon emissions would raise food production costs and add to prices.
Continue reading The price is right? Wrong!
GFS Champion Tim Benton takes a personal look at weight gain and ruminates on what quantifies over consumption.
As many readers of this blog will appreciate, the demand for food is rising globally and many posts on this site tackle the issues associated with increasing production. The demand-side of the equation perhaps gets less attention than it deserves.
Like many people of middle age, I have gained weight in recent years. Yes, I know of many extenuating circumstances (= “excuses”) that have changed my daily energy budget, but the ineluctable truth is that I have piled on the best part of 10 kilos in the last decade.
Continue reading Eating: how much is too much?
A birth and bereavement gives food for thought. GFS Champion Tim Benton reflects.
Two recent events – the death of my father and the birth of a friend’s first child – have made me ponder about the course of a human life. In particular, for someone born now what will happen to the world during their lifetime?
During our debates over food security and climate change we often look ahead. But does the timescale we choose to look ahead matter? If so, is there one that resonates with sufficient power to promote action?
Continue reading Life, death and looking ahead
Top researchers gather to tuck into global food matters. Tim Benton relishes the chance.
I have recently returned from a Meeting of the Agricultural Chief Scientists (the ‘MACS’) of the G20, held in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Each time we left the hotel for a venue, I couldn’t get over the security involved in our bus escort which at one stage included 11 or 12 vehicles: motorbikes, police cars, machine-gun mounted jeeps, an army vehicle and an ambulance! And it wasn’t all work, one day’s meeting was held in the grounds of the Jose Cuervo distillery in the town of Tequila, including a fascinating tour involving vision, audio and (of course) taste(s).
Continue reading A meeting of the big ‘MACS’
Fresh from the Rio+20 conference, Tim Benton ponders the paradox of producing more with less.
In the last weeks, I have attended an unsustainable flurry of meetings and discussions about sustainable intensification, sustainable agriculture or sustainable development (or all three together).
So what does “sustainable” mean, in the context of environment?
Agriculture, the world’s biggest industry, is rightly seen as the engine of development. It also generates the fuel, literally, that we all require.
Continue reading Sense and sustainability
Tim Benton on the challenges ahead and why he’s taken on the role.
Meeting the growing demands for both food and sustainability is a huge interdisciplinary challenge; the answer will not be found in a single discipline. As an interdisciplinary problem, global food security solutions must combine agricultural science (including crop improvement), farming management, understanding trade-offs in land uses (between ecosystem services and agricultural production for example) and a wide range of social issues concerning behaviour, consumption, economics and global trade.
Continue reading A Champion for the Global Food Security programme