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New Global Food Security report and public exhibition

22 March 2013

Resilience, safety and security of UK food imports highlighted in new Global Food Security report and public exhibition.

  • Global Food Security report highlights key issues for UK food imports
  • Public exhibition highlights global food security research

A new report has highlighted issues surrounding global food systems and the importation of food into the UK. Partners in the Global Food Security (GFS) Research Partnership came together with thought-leaders, scientists and experts in the field to contribute to the report via a Public Policy Seminar onGlobal Food Systems and UK Food Imports (PDF 523KB)’.

The seminar, co-funded by ESRC, Defra, the Food Standards Agency and Scottish Government, provided a welcome opportunity for scientists and non-scientists to discuss the broad range of factors which affect the stability and resilience of food supply chains in the UK. Participants considered challenges which range from those with a local or UK national focus to more wide-ranging European and global issues.

The resulting report, produced by the Economic and Social Research Council for the Global Food Security Programme, outlines key issues, such as:

  • the need for a better functioning supply chain
  • reducing food waste
  • securing safer foods
  • tackling food fraud

Professor Tim Benton said: “Global food security, and ensuring food is socially, economically and environmentally sustainable, is perhaps the most important societal issue we face. Disruptions to food supply has serious knock-on effects; economically, socially and to the health and well-being of the population.”

“This report highlights some of the key challenges we face in food security, such as declining self-sufficiency, food fraud and a need to reduce the vast amount of food that is wasted.”

“The research activities of our partners in the Global Food Security programme aim to help food producers and processors, retailers, consumers and civil society respond to and manage these challenges.”

The report highlights potential research priorities that could help to provide answers, including: a social science perspective on the complexity of food security; understanding the impact of the changed world; changing global diets; issues underpinning food waste; food security and ecosystem sustainability; resilience of the global food system to shocks; global markets; and new technologies.

A public exhibition by the Global Food Security Programme is touring the UK this year in a bid discuss these issues with the general public, and to present some of the ways scientific research is helping to address the problem.

The ‘From Field to Fork’ exhibition can be seen at:

Read the report at:


Notes to editors

Issues highlighted in the report:

The report outlined key issues raised by those in attendance, including:

  • A global view is required
  • Disruptions to the global food system are expected to increase, how resilient will the price, choice and availability of UK food supplies be?
  • A growing demand for food
  • Demand for meat and dairy products is growing whilst the world’s most productive land is already in use.
  • Declining self-sufficiency in food
  • The UK is approximately 60 per cent self-sufficient in food supply and this has declines in the past few decades, from almost 80 per cent.
  • Narrow sources for food imports
  • The UK is heavily reliant on a relatively small number of countries for its food imports.
  • Food price volatility
  • UK consumers are increasingly vulnerable to price rises because stocks of food are no longer held - overall reserves within the UK run to just a few days. 
  • A better functioning supply chain
  • To date, much attention has focused on the resilience of agricultural production. Greater attention should now be placed on complex and diverse supply chains.
  • Food choices
  • As well as food production and supply, greater attention should be paid to understanding people’s food choices. UK consumers have access to 450 different varieties of fruit and vegetables. Could choice editing (i.e. controlling or limiting the choices available to consumers) become an issue in future?
  • Food waste
  • Reducing food waste in the UK would have a significant positive impact on food security. Why is wasting food culturally acceptable in the UK? How can people be incentivised to eat well and not waste food while maintaining safety?
  • Securing safer foods
  • Ensuring that imported food is safe to eat is growing challenge. Can more be done to identify risks further upstream in the supply chain i.e. closer to the producer rather than the consumer?
  • Tackling food fraud
  • The problem of food fraud may increase as food prices rise.
  • Agro-terrorist threats
  • How safe is the UK food supply chain from existing and potential malicious threats to food security such as cyberthreats.

 About Global Food Security

The UK’s main public funders of food-related research are working together through the Global Food Security programme to meet the challenge of providing the world’s growing population with a sustainable, secure supply of nutritious food from less land and using fewer inputs.

Read more about the Global Food Security programme here:

Read about the partners here:

About the 'From FIeld to Fork' exhibition

The Global Food Security Exhibition, ‘From Field to Fork’, highlights the challenges of providing the world’s growing population with a sustainable, secure supply of good quality food.


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