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
Adisa Azapagic unpacks the carbon footprint of her evening meal and reveals how you can too with a smartphone app.
You know the feeling – the end of a hard day at work, no time (and, in my case, no inclination) to cook. So you do what 30 per cent of Brits normally do: stop at a supermarket on your way home and buy a ready meal. Tonight I fancy lamb curry. Mmmm… looking forward to it!
But because of my research on environmental impacts of food, I know my lamb curry has the total carbon footprint from farm to plate of around 6 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 eq.) per person*. It may be tasty and convenient, but by choosing and eating this curry I will have contributed to climate change, through the greenhouse gases emitted on its journey to my plate.
Continue reading Fancy a curry?
Innovation is a critical part of solving global food security challenges, and presents business opportunities too, says Calum Murray.
But, if the UK economy is to maintain its own food security and benefit from the potential global commercial opportunities that will prevail, we need to ensure that the business base both exists and is adequately supported.
As the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board understands that breaking down the barriers to innovation can be hard; these might include a traditional mind set, policy and regulatory hurdles, available expertise or adequate funding.
Continue reading Linking and clever thinking
The poverty that many women suffer in the developing world is no laughing matter, but tackling a deadly livestock disease could help. Michael Baron explains.
On June 22 this year a number of UK celebrities, including Cilla Black, Cherie Blair, Rajashree Birla and Baroness Floella Benjamin, drew attention to International Widows’ Day by walking a small herd of goats across London Bridge.
The link between these two groups (the widows and the goats, rather than the celebrities) is poverty. Widows are among the poorest households in developing countries where there are no benefit systems to provide income support or pensions.
Continue reading A goat, a widow and a celebrity walk into a bar…
Truly sustainable agricultural systems require scientific innovation based around new social and economic principles, says Geoff Tansey.
The fundamental reasons why people face food insecurity are not mainly the scientific and technical.
As a Food Ethics Council Food and Fairness inquiry concluded, the problems we face cannot simply be solved from within a food system perspective but are rooted in institutional features of how the world works today. Within existing frameworks, technological innovation alone will not deliver the kind of change needed to achieve a well-fed world, sustainably and equitably.
Continue reading Food and the economy of fairness
Growing the farming sector in developing countries will improve children’s health. Or will it? Katy Wilson reports.
Evidence of the impact of agricultural interventions on nutrition security is urgently needed. This was an issue raised at the launch of a Montpellier Panel briefing paper, Scaling Up Nutrition, in the UK Parliament on 17 May, authored by Tom Arnold, CEO Concern Worldwide and myself.
As we have learned from the Green Revolution, it is often the poorest and most in need that are neglected as agriculture develops. India is the second fastest growing economy in the world (with real growth rate of GDP equalling 8.3 per cent in 2010) but the prevalence of underweight children is still high at around 40 per cent.
Continue reading Intuition versus evidence: agriculture and the fight to end child undernutrition
Even in the UK, where we have shown little anxiety about our access to food supplies since the days of rationing in World War 2, food security is back on the agenda.
Climate change could, it seems, be the trigger that makes us overcome our squeamishness about genetically modified crops, according to debates in the popular press. The recent Royal Society report “Reaping the benefits: science and the sustainable intensification of global agriculture”, urges universities to work with funding bodies to reverse the decline in subjects relevant to the sustainable intensification of food crop production.
But is technology really going to provide everything that we need or are we simply hoping once again for a quick fix to an extremely complex problem?