A major report from the Cabinet Office Strategy Unit takes a comprehensive look at the issues surrounding food production and consumption in the UK and what the implications are for society, the economy and the environment.
The interim report Food: An Analysis of the Issues is a discussion document and does not represent government policy on food production, but it is likely to influence policy direction and provide the basis for future consultations.
The report claims that, as a high income nation, the UK is in a strong position to access supplies from other international markets. However, it also acknowledges that climate change will impact on global food production.
For example, it suggests that 50% of the world’s arable land may be unusable by 2050 because of soil degradation. It also says rising food prices are likely to continue as demand for biofuels increases scarcity and raises the price of animal feeds.
The food chain’s environmental impact includes nationally significant contributions to greenhouse gas production at 18% of all UK emissions. Farming is slated as the single biggest source of emissions within the chain, producing 54%. The report adds that livestock has a disproportionately large impact on the environment. It also brands agriculture as the biggest producer of waste in the chain, contributing 95m tonnes of the 115m tonnes total for the food industry as a whole.
“The full climate-related impacts of farming, and especially livestock and dairy, warrant much more attention – we need to look beyond CO2.” But the report does highlight farming’s performance on reversing the decline in wildlife habitats and biodiversity.