Benn seeks world agreement on food supply

The UK should not look solely to British farmers to feed the nation, DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn is set to announce at a Fabian Society lecture on food security today (Wednesday, 10 December).

Instead, Mr Benn is expected to tell the society that an international agreement to help secure food supplies at home and abroad is needed.

Ahead of the lecture Mr Benn said: “Domestic food production is really important – we rely on it – but we cannot and should not look just to the UK for all the food we need.”

The UK should look to the security of its sources of supply. Although global food production had outstripped population growth over the past 50 years, there would be 9bn people living on the planet by 2050.

“If we want to avoid too much demand chasing not enough world supply – which raises prices for everyone, including consumers in the UK – then we need to help create a stable food market which can meet global demand for future generations.” This was both a moral duty and an investment in the nation’s future security, Mr Benn said. Global food production needed to double just to meet demand.

“If food production is not sustainable as the century unfolds, it will never be secure. Increasing production and protecting the environment are not in competition with each other – those who suggest they are just haven’t got it.”

Dependence on a food system that relied on fossil fuels must change, said Mr Benn. It should include the smarter use of fertilisers, tractors powered by renewable energy and harnessing science in the form of new crops and technologies.

Referring to this week’s meeting of the world’s environment ministers in Poland, Mr Benn called for a long-term plan for meeting the challenge of food security. “As a world, we need to own up to the true scale of the problem,” he said.

“We need to look at how we can build on the work of the World Food Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and others, to create a kind of new Kyoto – a new global deal to secure the future of our food.”