Resilience of the UK Food System in a Global Context

Global Food Security Resilience of the UK’s Food System logo
GFS has launched a major interdisciplinary research programme “Resilience of the UK Food System in a Global Context” (GFS-FSR). Co-designed by funders and stakeholders, it aims to help policymakers and practitioners optimise the resilience of the UK’s food system to environmental, biological, economic, social and geopolitical shocks.


The UK food system is vulnerable

The UK imports around half of its food, and our diets are very varied demanding a wide range of foodstuffs to be available year round. Environmental, social, political and economic stresses interact to make the UK food system vulnerable to disruption. For example, extreme weather (an important aspect of climate change), conflict, currency fluctuations all affect crop production, logistics and trade. The effects of these food system ‘drivers’ (especially powerful when they occur together), lead to volatility in food supply and affordability.

Corn field before harvest partially damaged by stormmiropink/
A corn field damaged by storm – an example of extreme weather disrupting food production.

The UK food system is complex

The UK food system involves many activities from producing and processing, to distributing and retailing food. All these activities are influenced by social, policy, technological, market, environmental and economic forces, trends and shocks. A change in any one activity has repercussions across the system, affecting food security, other socioeconomic and environmental goals, which feed back to food system drivers.

White bags of sugars from warehouse are staffing in container for exportMr. Amarin Jitnathum/
Sacks of sugar being processed for export will be influenced by a variety of forces, trends and shocks.

The UK food system can be more resilient

The GFS-FSR programme will improve understanding of how the UK food system can increase its resilience to shocks and stresses. The programme will fund and coordinate a number of collaborative research projects to produce new evidence and recommendations for policy and practice. This will help create a more efficient and resilient UK food system in a changing world.

Train cars on the flooded railltummy/
Shocks to transport systems put stress on food distribution.

Find out more about the GFS-FSR programme.

Phase one projects

Phase one projects were awarded in August 2016, see: £9 million funding to optimise UK food supply and tackle global food security.

Phase two projects

  • The role of Phosphorus in the resilience and sustainability of the UK food system
    Lead: Professor Paul Withers
    Partner institutions: Bangor University
  • Modelling Landscapes for Resilient Pollination Services in the UK
    Lead: Professor Simon Potts
    Partner institutions: University of Reading
  • Resilient dairy: socio-technical innovation for dairy resilience and sustainability
    Lead: Professor Mark Reed
    Partner institutions: Newcastle University
  • Sustainable economic and ecological grazing systems – learning from innovative practitioners
    Lead: Dr Lisa Norton
    Partner institutions: Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
  • The role of livestock in food system resilience in remote, upland regions
    Lead: Dr Ann Bruce
    Partner institutions:  The University of Edinburgh

Phase two projects were awarded in October 2017, see: £4.9 million to further increase resilience and sustainability of the UK food system.