2 THE CHALLENGES FOR THE UK
How should the UK respond?
32. Given the challenges set out in the previous
chapter, the first question we explored was how the UK should
respond, both to secure its own food supplies and to make its
contribution towards improving the security of global supplies.
We will discuss three possible responsesdescribed as the
head-in-the-sand, the self-sufficient and the sustainable production
approachesand explain which we believe the Government should
adopt. This chapter is concerned with broad approaches, rather
than the detail of Defra's policy, which we will cover in chapters
3 and 4.
The head-in-the-sand approach
33. The UK could do little or nothing about its own
levels of food production. It could leave other countries to respond
to the challenges of increasing food production sustainably, continue
to provide agricultural aid for developing countries, and trust
in its ability to buy food on a world market. To some, this may
seem an irresponsible, even a ridiculous approachone that
is barely worth discussing. However, until very recently, this
was essentially the Government's approach. Hilary Benn described
the remark, "Well, we can always buy the food from somewhere,"
as a "caricature" of where some had positioned themselves
in the past. The
remark, though, is not so very different from comments made by
Defra in 2006 in Food Security and the UK: An Evidence and
Analysis Paper. This report stated that "food security
has become increasingly discussed as a matter of concern in some
developed countries, including the UK," 
but concluded: "As a rich country open to trade, the UK is
well placed to access sufficient foodstuffs through a well-functioning
34. An approach that Defra espoused three years ago
must at least be worthy of examination. There are certain factors
that appear to be in its favour. For a start, the UK is a small
country and even a substantial increase in UK production would
not make a large contribution to increasing world food supplies.
As Chatham House pointed out, "the share of incremental global
food demand that can be met from [UK] domestic production is very
modest." It commented: "Even today, with its high relative
efficiency, the UK's cereals sector accounts for less than 1%
of world grain production."
35. Moreover, there are clearly other countries in
the world that could make a very significant contribution to increasing
world food supplies. Land is a limited commodity. Hilary Benn
said that Mark Twain advised people to, "Buy land because
they've stopped making it".
However, although they certainly have stopped making it, there
is still land available for agricultural cultivation. Anastassios
Haniotis, from the European Commission, commented: "there
is area available in many parts of the world that could come back
into production." He cited the examples of Russia, Ukraine
and parts of Latin America.
In June 2009, the President of Russia issued a press release committing
the country to realising its "enormous agricultural potential
] to ensure [
] food security for a substantial part
of the world population". The press release stated that "in
the situation of the current food crisis, development of 20 million
hectares of Russian agricultural land, unused since 1991, could
36. The Brazilian Government is also explicit about
its country's plans to expand agricultural production. Brazil
already makes a significant contribution to the world's food supplies:
its beef represents 31% of global exports, its chicken 44.6%,
sugar 58.4%, soy-beans 36%, and maize 13%. However, under plans
set out in Brazilian Agribusiness Forecasts 2008/2009 and 2018/2019,
the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply (MAPA)
forecasts that these market shares will increasesometimes
considerablyover the next ten years. Beef exports are predicted
to almost double to represent 60% of global volume, chicken likewise
is expected to double to an astonishing 89.7%, sugar is forecast
to rise to 74.3%, soy-beans to 49% and maize to 21.4%.
José Garcia Gasques, the General Co-ordinator of Strategic
Management at MAPA, was quoted in Farmers Guardian as saying
that these figures represented "conservative forecasts"
of what Brazil could achieve and that they took into account the
global recession, protectionism and climate change.
37. At first glance, it seems as though the challenge
of feeding the world up to 2050 could safely be left in the hands
of Brazil and other land-rich countries such as Russia. The reality
is more complex. During our visit to Brazil, we were told time
and again, by Government Ministers, officials, scientists and
representatives of the food and farming industry, that there were
vast tracts of land in Brazil that could be used for agricultural
production, without encroaching on the Amazon rainforest. One
estimate put the figure at 144.8 million hectares. To put this
in perspective, the total size of the UK is 24 million hectares.
38. We saw for ourselves the scale on which Brazil
is capable of producing food stuffs when we visited Farm Pamplona,
an hour's drive from Brasilia. The size of the enterprise is 17,308
hectares. It is one of 11 farms owned by the same company, SLC
Agricola. Together, these farms cover 220,657 hectaresan
area larger than Greater London. The farms are highly organised
and geared towards maximising production. At least 50 hectares
on Farm Pamplona, and on each of the other 10 farms owned by the
company, are assigned to research. The farm also makes use of
research carried out by Embrapa, the research agency of MAPA.
This enables managers to select high-yielding varieties of crops
and employ efficient sowing and harvesting techniques. We were
told that SLC Agricola has plans to double its size by purchasing
more land and expanding its production.
39. Quite apart from its size, Brazil clearly has
a number of strengths as an agricultural producer: notably, its
science base, to which we will return later. However, there are
also several weaknesses that could prevent it from realising its
agricultural potential. The most important of these is its infrastructure.
An article in Agra Europe commented: "With planned
increases in production, the risk of a collapse in the transportation
system for agricultural products increases."
We heard about this risk in more detail when we met the Executive
Director of the Brazilian Agribusiness Association, who, while
optimistic about his country's prospects as a large-scale agricultural
producer, said that poor railways, waterways and roads were a
big problem, as was the capacity of Brazil's largest port, the
Port of Santos. He told us that the depth of the Port of Santos
meant that it could not be accessed by larger ships. We were also
told that links between the MAPA and the Brazilian Ministry of
Transport were poor. The Brazilian Agribusiness Association was
clear that there needed to be investment in infrastructure, but
said that public-private partnerships had not advanced under the
current Government of President Lula.
40. Another point that transpired from the meeting
with the Brazilian Agribusiness Association, and meetings with
the Banco do Brasil and the Brazilian Development Bank among others,
was the extent to which Brazilian agricultural expansion is dependent
on foreign investment. This was borne out by our visit to Farm
Pamplona. Some 51% of SLC Agricola is privately owned: the other
49% is in the hands of shareholders, and the company was clearly
keen to attract foreign investors. The Brazilian Agribusiness
Association told us that Brazil does not have the capital to keep
expanding its agribusiness and said that many agribusinesses had
been sold to international companies such as Cargill and Bunge.
41. It is clear that maximising food production
does not depend on agriculture alone but also on infrastructure-transport
systems, as well as food storage.
42. Another issue is the impact of the proposed increase
in production on the environment. Unless the expansion of agricultural
production in Brazil and other land-rich countries is carried
out sustainably, it will create problems in the long term even
as it appears to solve them in the short term. The MAPA representatives
we met in Brazil took great pains to impress on us that sustainability
was important to them. They told us that increases in production
could be achieved without further deforestationmainly by
expanding into the Cerrado, or Savannah, area. In addition, land
for arable crops could be freed up by increasing the productivity
of the livestock sector. We were told that agricultural zoning
was being used to specify which areas of the country could be
used to grow certain crops, with the aim of ensuring that the
Amazon biome was protected.
43. Our meeting with the Brazilian Environment Secretary,
Egon Krakhecke, was, in some senses, encouraging. Brazil is clearly
taking a number of measures to reduce deforestation, including
by stimulating sustainable rural activities in the Amazon. However,
we remain concerned about enforcement. For example, Egon Krakhecke
told us that the Government had recently set up restrictions on
access to credit for land-owners who failed to comply with environmental
legislation such as Brazil's Forest Code, which restricts the
amount of land that can be legally deforested. In a different
conversation, however, we were told that, although there was a
list of people who should be denied access to credit on this basis,
the effectiveness of the measure was questionable because the
list was not always used.
44. In June 2009, President Lula approved a law that
will transfer 67.4 million hectares of land in the Amazon from
public into private hands. The law was intended to benefit poor
farmers, but there are worries that it may ultimately be exploited
by large landowners and result in further deforestation.
Rates of deforestation have slowed overall in recent years. However,
deforestation is still taking place, and last summer there was
a report that deforestation had increased by 64% over the 12 months
to August 2008: the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research
reported that 3,145 square miles of rainforest had been destroyed
since August 2007.
We believe that the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment has
the best intentions, but we are not convinced that it is in a
position to ensure that any expansion in food production is carried
out sustainably, particularly given that there does not seem to
be a close working relationship between it and MAPA.
45. Another concern is that by concentrating production
in a few large countries, the risk of a significant disruption
to the world's food supplies increases. If Brazilian chicken exports
were to account for 89.7% of the global volume by 2018, the consequences
if a problem were to occur with their production could be substantial.
MAPA's International Relations Secretary, Célio B. Porto,
told us that Brazil had made great efforts to eradicate foot and
mouth disease in cattle, but he also explained just how difficult
this task was: Brazil has 16,000 km of borders, with 10 countries,
some of which do not regard the eradication of foot and mouth
disease as that important because they do not export beef. He
said that the Brazilian Government is using vaccination to try
to create buffer zones along the borders, but the challenge of
isolating the disease is huge.
46. Finally, climate change is likely to alter the
parts of the world that are most conducive to agricultural production.
The UK is not a large country, but it has a relatively good climate
for food production and this is likely to remain the case as temperatures
rise. Professor Crute, the Director of Rothamsted Research, stated
that the countries of north-west Europe enjoyed "extremely
favoured environmental conditions" that would probably get
more favourable with climate change. He spoke of an obligation
"to make sure that we do produce food", explaining that,
"we are going to become very important globally in food production
and we should not ignore that".
Several other witnesses also used the language of "obligation".
Professor Tim Lang, of the Centre for Food Policy, spoke of "a
moral responsibility to maximise our production, appropriately".
He stated: "I think it is inappropriate land use not to produce
food when you have got the climate, soil and capability of so
Leech, of the Food and Drink Federation, commented: it "behoves
everybody to take advantage of their natural position in the globe".
This seems to us common sense. The argument about the UK taking
advantage of its natural position in the globe applies also to
other parts of Europe. In this context, the EU must recognise
the continuing importance of European farmers and the long-term
contribution they could make to securing the world's food supplies.
47. The global
aspect of securing food supplies is about recognising which countries
ought to be doing what and getting an agreement about how these
responsibilities should be met. In relation to climate change,
the UK has recognised that, although it produces only a small
proportion of global emissions, it has a responsibility to contribute
towards their reduction. By acknowledging this, the UK has placed
itself at the EU and world top table, where it can influence global
policies on climate change. The same approach should apply to
securing food supplies. Doing nothing to
contribute to the world's food supplies would be morally unacceptable:
at a time when a fundamental shift in thinking is required, the
UK should set an example, not bury its head in the sand. Land-rich
countries such as Brazil have great potential to boost global
food supplies, but neither their ability to realise this potential,
nor a well-functioning global market, can be taken for granted.
A healthy domestic agriculture is an essential component of a
secure food system in the UK.
The self-sufficient approach
48. The opposite approach is that, instead of relying
on potentially vulnerable global markets, the UK could aim to
supply all its food needs from its own resources. The countries
of the UK have not been self-sufficientin the strict sense
of the termfor more than 200 years.
Over the centuries, people in the UK have become accustomed to
food stuffs, such as citrus fruit and bananas, that are not grown
here. However, as the following tables make clear, the UK is also
far from being self-sufficient in indigenous products: in fact,
rates of self-sufficiency have been falling fairly consistently
since the mid-1990s.
Chart 2: UK self-sufficiency in food (%) for:
DEFRA, Agriculture in the United Kingdom
Chart 3: Estimate of the percentage consumed from
domestic production for various commodities
Source: HC Deb, 6 March 2009, cols 1877W-78W
49. The term "self-sufficient" was used
frequently in the submissions we received, but no one argued for
total self sufficiency. Friends of the Earth described self-sufficiency
as "a desirable policy goal for food security and environmental
sustainability", but it supported "high self-sufficiency"
rather than total self-sufficiencyalthough it did not explicitly
rule out this approach.
Others were unequivocal in their dismissal of total self-sufficiency.
Monty Don, the President of the Soil Association, commented: "I
do not think there is any [
] benefit in trying to be 100%
50. Setting aside the considerable practical difficulties
that would be involved in aiming for total, or near total, self-sufficiency,
the principal argument against such a policy is that, while most
of the country's food supply would be under its own control, the
consequences if something were to happen to that food supply would
be immense. Hillary Benn gave the hypothetical example of what
would happen if a disease affected the UK wheat crop. He stated
that, in such circumstances, without trading relationships with
other countries, the UK would in be trouble.
Andrew Kuyk, Director of Sustainability and Competitiveness at
the Food and Drink Federation, made a similar point. He commented
that if the UK refocused solely on domestic production and ignored
external trade, there could be a "cataclysmic event"
such as a major crop failure. He argued that "diversity of
supply" was the "key to resilience in those circumstances".
 This point
of view was shared by Defra, which stated that the diversity of
the UK's food supply "helps to spread risks from potential
disruptions such as terrorism or floods". Defra commented
that, in 2006, 26 countries, including the UK, accounted for 90%
of the UK's food supplies, up from 22 countries in 1996, and that,
currently, 34 countries each supply the UK with at least 0.5%
of its food imports. The Netherlands accounts for the highest
share with 13%. Defra commented that "the vast majority of
our food (69% in value)" comes from "our stable trading
partners in the European Union."
It should be noted that risk is spread not simply by having trading
relationships with a number of different countries, but by ensuring
that each commodity comes from a number of different countries.
51. Trading relationships themselves are, as we have
already commented, a source of risk. There is no guarantee that
even our EU trading relationships will always remain stable. The
CLA asked us to consider whether intra-EU trade would continue
to operate smoothly in the event of severe shortages of basic
food stuffs. It conceded that such shortages were "somewhat
unlikely", but suggested that there might be a need to consider
contingency plans for dealing with the breakdown of the single
market. When we asked
Anastassios Haniotis of the European Commission what would happen
if EU countries did attempt to take protectionist action in a
time of severe food shortages, he was adamant that the Commission
would ensure that the rules of the single market were upheld.
The CLA's point was that the Commission may not be able to apply
sanctions with sufficient speed. The Commission should investigate
further what means would be at its disposal in the unlikely event
of a breakdown of the single market. However, the fact that trading
relationships are fragile is an argument in favour of spreading
the risk by having relationships with multiple countries, working
to build strong relationships, and having contingency plans, not
an argument in favour of self-sufficiency.
52. There is another disadvantage to pursuing a policy
of total self-sufficiency: its effect on the global food market.
It could be argued that a UK totally self-sufficient in indigenous
food stuffs would free up commodities elsewhere in the world,
to the benefit of other countries. However, such a policy might
be seen to exemplify an "every country for itself" approachan
attitude that is already leading to so-called land-grabbing and
would be likely to destabilise the global market in food. The
UK should not aim to be self-sufficient, even in indigenous food
stuffs. Total self-sufficiency would make the UK's food supplies
less secure rather than more secure.
FOOD COLONIALISM OR "LAND-GRABBING"
53. In May 2009, the FAO, the International Fund
for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the International Institute
for Environment and Development (IIED) published a report on "land-grabbing"a
phenomenon which involves the large-scale acquisition of land
overseas by wealthy investors in order to grow food that is often
destined for people in the investor country. Land grab or development
opportunity? concentrates on sub-Saharan Africa, focusing
on the acquisition of land in Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Madagascar
and Sudan. However, it comments that "international land
deals are emerging as a global phenomenon".
It describes the level of activity in the five countries it studied
as "significant": it estimates there have been a total
of 2,492,684 hectares of approved land allocations since 2004,
excluding allocations below 1,000 hectares.
54. While commenting that there could be benefits
to host countries, such as improved Government revenues, the report
also makes it clear that there are a number of risks, including
the possibility that large-scale land acquisitions may result
in local people losing access to the resources on which they depend
for their food security and the danger that investors may not
consider the long-term environmental impacts of production. The
authors make what they describe as some tentative recommendations
to minimise the risks involved in such transactions, but stress
that the report should be regarded "as a first step towards
improving understanding of the phenomenon" and that "extending
research to other regions is expected to be a key next step."
55. When we asked Hilary Benn about the large-scale
acquisition of land by overseas investors, he acknowledged that
the phenomenon could create difficulties, but overall he seemed
fairly complacent, describing the trend as "a sign of the
times" and commenting that he could not conceive how there
could be an international system for regulating such transactions.
We are concerned that Defra is not taking this phenomenon sufficiently
seriously. Arrangements of this kind can be between partners of
vastly unequal power and offer few guarantees for local people,
including shifting cultivators and pastoralists who use land intermittently.
An international system of regulation may not be possible, but,
as the Land grab or development opportunity? report demonstrates,
there is a need for further monitoring of the implications of
this new trend.
56. We welcome the recent report by the UN Food
and Agriculture Organisation, the International Fund for Agricultural
Development, and the International Institute for Environment and
Development on the large-scale acquisition of farmland in sub-Saharan
Africa by overseas investors. It is a first step towards exploring
the implications of this global trend. We urge the bodies involved
to continue their work on the phenomenon, with the aim of providing
an accurate picture of the extent of the trend and of developing
a set of international guidelines that include provisions for
local producers, property rights, sustainable management and transparent
rules. We note the involvement of Dfid in the initial study and
urge it to continue to provide input to subsequent studies. Defra
should report on the implications of the trend for UK food security.
The sustainable production approach
57. Although none of the submissions argued for total
self-sufficiency, several argued that the UK should increase its
production of food. Unilever stated that, given the challenges
ahead, there should be "a strong focus on the potential to
increase domestic production in a sustainable way".
Fruit and vegetables were the focus of most of the submissions
that argued for an increase in UK production. Cereals were also
mentioned in some submissions, but there was less explicit emphasis
on the need for an increase in production.
This can be partly explained by the fact that, in the case of
some cereals, domestic production already accounts for a high
proportion of consumption. As chart 3 in paragraph 48 shows, in
2007, 90% of the wheat consumed in the UK was produced here. Although
the following paragraphs concentrate on fruit and vegetables,
because that was the focus of the evidence, we believe that the
potential to increase UK production of cereals, for export, should
also be explored.
58. East Malling Research, a private research organisation
supporting the UK fruit-growing industry, was among those concerned
about the level of UK fruit and vegetable production, and specifically
about the trade deficit in fruit. It commented that the Government's
five-a-day campaign drew people's attention to the health benefits
of eating fruit and vegetables, but noted that "the UK's
ability to supply itself with fruit, in particular, falls well
short of current consumer demand."
Like others, it noted that only 10% of the fruit consumed in the
UK, by value, is grown here.
As well as noting the trade deficit for fruit, the World Wide
Fund for Nature (WWF) stated that for some indigenous vegetables
"production is declining even while imports are increasing".
59. There are many statistics that we could use to
illustrate these points, but, to prevent the report from becoming
a compendium of tables, will we focus on the example of apples:
Table 3: supplies of apples in UK ('000
tonnes); figures for 2007 are provisional
|Home production marketed||187.1
|HPM as % of total supply||30.4
Table 4: Planted area in the UK for dessert and culinary
apples (hectares); figures for 2007 are provisional
Source: adapted from https://statistics.defra.gov.uk/esg/publications/bhs/2008/default.asp
It will come as no surprise to some people that the planted area
for apples declined by about 35% from 13,473 hectares to 8,670
hectares between 1997 and 2007. Leicestershire Food Links described
the "depletion of orchards" as one of the weaknesses
of the UK food system.
However, even though the planted area decreased, production of
apples in the UK increased in the same period. Despite the increase
in UK production, the proportion of UK production as a percentage
of total supply did not change significantly: in 1997, it was
30.4%; in 2007, it was 33%. The figure remained broadly the same
because, although there was an increase in demand for apples in
the UK, this increase was met by imports, as well as by an increase
in domestic production. As we have already explained, we believe
that food security is enhanced by having a mix of both domestic
production and trade. Moreover, some of the demand for apples
will be out of the apple-growing season in the UK and will have
to be met by imports. However, for the proportion of UK production
as a percentage of total apple supply to have remained largely
the same at a fairly low 33%, despite increasing interest among
consumers in buying UK-grown fruit, seems to us a wasted opportunity.
Defra should commission research to establish the reasons for
the relatively low level of domestic fruit and vegetable production.
This should include a study of the procurement practices of supermarkets,
food manufacturers and the food service industry to establish
how these practices impact on the problem. Defra's new Council
of Food Policy Advisers should consider how the barriers to increased
domestic fruit and vegetable production could be removed.
60. Several submissions pointed out that, not only is UK production
of fruit and vegetables low as a proportion of current UK consumption,
current consumption is itself low compared with what it would
be if people followed healthy eating guidelines. Natural England
commented that if UK consumers followed World Health Organisation
guidelines, which recommend the consumption of a minimum of 400g
of fruit and vegetables a day, people would eat 50% more fresh
fruit and vegetables than they do at the moment.
Natural England's estimate was based on a study entitled Food
consumption changes in the UK under compliance with dietary guidelines,
which looked at consumption levels in 2003-04 and compared them
with target levels.
The Fresh Produce Consortium came up with a different figure.
It stated that the total volume of fruit and vegetables marketed
in the UK in 2006 was 8.1 million tonnes, whereas if people had
followed the five-a-day guidelineswhich are based on the
WHO's guidelinesconsumption would be in the region of 8.8
million tonnes. The
National Association of British Market Authorities cited Defra's
Family Food Survey 2007, which estimated that average consumption
of fruit and vegetables in the UK was 3.9 portions. However, 3.9
portions may be a generous estimate of actual consumption. The
Cabinet Office report, Food: an analysis of the issues,
noted that although purchases of fruit and vegetables have reached
an average of four portions a day, actual consumption "may
be much lower than this".
Defra should produce its own estimate of the amount by which
consumption of fruit and vegetables would rise if people in the
UK followed the Government's five-a-day guidelines.
61. There is a big difference between aiming to
be self-sufficient and aiming to increase production of certain
commodities. The UK should aim to increase its production of those
fruit and vegetables that are suited to being grown here, particularly
where there is evidence of an increase in demand. It should also
explore the potential for an increase in cereal production. However,
again, we emphasise that it is essential that this increase in
production is carried out sustainably.
MEAT AND DAIRY PRODUCTION
62. The WWF urged the Government to support an increase
in demand for UK fruit and vegetables, but it also wanted a decrease
in meat and dairy consumption. Compassion in World Farming pointed
to health reasons for reducing consumption of these commodities,
but it also cited two main issues with the sustainability of intensive
livestock farming. The first was the "wasteful" use
of resources such as land, water and fossil fuel energy. It commented
that several kilograms of cereals needed to be fed to animals
to produce one kilogram of meat and stated: "People could
be fed much more efficiently if those cereals were used for direct
It commented that "it takes up to 2.6 kg of feed to produce
1kg of chicken meat, 6.5 kg of feed to produce 1kg of pig meat
and 7kg of feed to produce 1 kg of beef".
The amount of feed needed to produce 1kg of edible meatexcluding
the parts of the animal that are not eaten such as boneis
even higher. The second issue was that "the livestock sector
is a major producer of greenhouse gas emissions".
A 2006 report by the FAO estimated that, globally, livestock production
is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, contributing
a larger share than emissions from transport.
The figure of 18% includes land-use changes, such as deforestation,
driven by the need to expand pastures and arable land for feed
crops. Professor Lang told us that the "strong evidence",
on the grounds of climate change alone, was that "we need
to reduce meat and dairy consumption". He added: "That
therefore implies that we have to reduce production."
63. The issue of reducing UK meat and dairy production
is, as Professor Lang acknowledged "contentious". It
is also far from straightforward. Professor Lang asked: "If
British dairy production went down or meat production went down
would the British consumer demand it and merely get it from elsewhere?"
If consumers want meat and dairy products, someone in the world
will produce them. Unless the issue of consumption is addressed,
a reduction in UK production would simply export the problems
associated with intensive livestock farming to another part of
64. Moreover, it is important to distinguish between
different types of meat, which have different environmental impacts,
and between intensive production and other methods of livestock
production. Compassion in World Farming argued that attempting
to feed the growing population by increasing intensive livestock
farming was "not a realistic strategy", but commented
that a "more judicious approach" would be "to re-orient
the world's animal production away from industrial farming and
towards lower-input, more extensive systems."
Of course, lower-input livestock systems still produce greenhouse
gas emissionsin some cases, they may even produce more
greenhouse gas emissions. An article in The Guardian reported
that battery-reared chicken was the least greenhouse gas-intensive
meat. Tara Garnett, from the Food Climate Research Network, was
quoted as saying:
If you keep an animal in a very small space,
don't let it expend any energy on exercising, feed it up really
quickly and kill it within 40 days, it is going to be energy efficient.
However, from an animal welfare point of view it is certainly
not something I would endorse.
The quote draws attention to another issue that makes
this a particularly complex debate: the need to consider animal
65. Peter Kendall, the President of the NFU, commented
that it was "an over-simplified analysis to say that meat
is bad and grain is good."
Fertilisers, rather than livestock production, are the largest
single source of emissions from agriculture. According to The
Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, fertilisers
account for 38% of agricultural emissions.
Thus arable farmers also have a large part to play in reducing
greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, livestock production can
have environmental benefits. Natural England stated: "fewer
numbers of livestock in the dairy and meat sectors may reduce
greenhouse gas emissions but could have negative impacts on landscape
character and biodiversity."
A study funded by the Research Councils' Rural Economy and Land
Use programme found that a fall in livestock production could
lead to the abandonment of some upland areas.
This would have consequences for biodiversity. UK consumers
buying meat and dairy products should be encouraged to consider
the environmental, as well as the health, impacts of their choices.
To enable consumers to make informed decisions, Defra needs to
do more work on what are the most sustainable methods of livestock
production, and the balance to be struck between animal welfare,
biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions, and the need to conserve
inputs such as water.
66. The Marine Conservation Society stated: "Globally,
fisheries supply over 2.6 billion people with at least 20% of
their average protein intake." However, it also drew attention
to the poor condition of many fish stocks. It commented: "Around
the British Isles only eight out of 47 fish stocks are known to
be in a healthy state, and thus the UK faces a serious challenge
to secure food supplies sustainably from the marine environment."
It stated that in the EU as a whole, 88% of stocks were overfished.
It is to be hoped that major reform of the Common Fisheries Policy
(CFP) will make EU fisheries more sustainable. However, this will
be a lengthy processthe consultation on the CFP reform
green paper has just begunand its results are by no means
67. The National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations
(NFFO) commented that, although in the longer term it was expected
that UK fish stocks would recover, there was no certainly that
they would reach previous levels, due to changes in the marine
environment and to climate change.
It stated that, although healthy eating guidelines recommended
the consumption of two portions of fish a week, UK citizens were
currently only eating one portion of fish a week on average. If
the guidelines were to be followed, the supply of fish would need
to double. The NFFO noted that the ability of the global market
to meet increased demand in the UK was "by no means guaranteed",
because the Pacific, which had provided much of the increased
catch in the past, was starting to be over-exploited and because
aquaculture would be unlikely to be able to continue its rapid
expansion. The Marine Conservation Society pointed out that two
of the top five seafood species we eat in the UK are farmed-salmon
and warm water prawn, both of which are carnivorous and rely on
wild capture fisheries to provide their food. Current food conversion
ratios mean that their production results in a net loss of ocean
biomass. The NFFO
added that domestic requirements in emerging economies were likely
to reduce the amount, and type, of fish on the international market.
It commented: "The need is to encourage the consumption of
fish and shellfish, that, at the present time, consumers are unwilling
68. The marine environment is an important source
of food. However, the current state of many fish stocks is a serious
cause for concern. Defra, the Department of Health and the Food
Standard Agency should consider the wisdom of continuing to advise
consumers to eat at least two portions of fish a week at a time
when the ability of the marine environment to meet this demand
is questionable. The fishing industry and the Government have
a duty to encourage consumers to try sustainable, less well-known
types of fish and shellfish. Defra and the devolved Administrations
should produce a study evaluating the potential of sustainable
aquaculture off the shores of the UK.
THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF INCREASED
69. We have said that the UK should aim to increase
its production of certain commodities, but in a sustainable way.
During our inquiry, we encountered widespread awareness of the
environmental and resource challenges that need to be considered
when increasing production. However, when it came to the detail
of the impact of increased production, there was much less certainty.
Natural England told us that it had not done any work on the consequences
for biodiversity of a push for increased yields and the cultivation
of more land for arable production. Andrew Wood from Natural England
said that he dearly wished he had a computer model to enable him
to do this work. When pressed about the consequences of a push
for increased yields, he replied: "I am notand I do
not believe anybody else isin a position to tell you that."
70. An increase
in production is inevitably going to have some environmental impacts.
The NFU acknowledged as much when it stated: "we do not accept
the view that any increase in production need come at an unacceptable
We, too, do not accept the view that any increase in production
need come at an unacceptable environmental cost. However, until
there is greater knowledge of what the environmental costs could
be, it is impossible to distinguish the acceptable from the unacceptable.
Defra should produce a study setting out
the volume of particular commodities that the UK would be capable
of producing under different scenarios and the impact that this
production would have on the environment. This study into "The
UK's Agricultural Potential" should include work on the most
sustainable methods of both arable and livestock production.
LOCAL AND HOME PRODUCTION
71. So far, we have discussed the potential to increase
production in a sustainable way at a national level. Several submissions
argued for the importance of local food networks and home productioneither
in gardens or on allotments. Both local and home production have
increased in popularity in recent years: a survey by the National
Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners estimated that 100,000
people are on the waiting list for an allotment in Britain.
Both types of production have benefits for the security of food
supplies. The President of the Soil Association, Monty Don, stated:
"If you can devolve production and consumption so that they
are as close together as possible, and the obvious example of
that are farmers' markets or farm gate sales, that is a healthy,
very flexible way of supply and demand."
The supply and demand relationship is even closer in the case
of home production. Garden Organic, an organisation that supports
organic gardening, emphasised the benefits of home food production,
stating that it "can contribute towards ensuring food security
by providing access to affordable fruit and vegetables for people".
Local food networks and home production also have the advantage
of reducing emissions from transporta point made by Friends
of the Earth.
One aspect of the interest in local produce that could be explored
further is the potential to make more use of traditional sources
of food which have declined in popularity in the second half of
the twentieth century, such as rabbits. An article in the Daily
Mirror reported that sales of rabbit had soared in one area
of the UK, partly because rabbit was seen as a cheaper meat, but
also because of the initiative of a local farmer.
72. There is another, even stronger, argument in
favour of local and home food production. Garden Organic commented:
"Active involvement in food production, at whatever scale,
is vital in terms of reconnecting people with the food they eat."
Monty Don expressed a similar view, stating that the "process
of growing a pot of chives on a windowsill is actually a huge
leap in connecting people to the food that they eat".
We have already seen that increasing production sustainablyon
a national and global levelwill have to involve consumers
changing their behaviour. Waitrose argued that a "sea change
in consumer behaviour" was needed to guarantee the sustainability
of UK producers.
Consumers will need to think more about the impacts of the way
in which their food is produced, and the Government will have
to encourage them to do so. This is a formidable task, but it
will be rendered less formidable if consumers are engaged with
the concept of food production in the first place.
73. Schools have a role to play in this context.
Lord Melchett, the Soil Association's Policy Director, described
the work of the Food for Life Partnership, which is led by the
Soil Association and operates in a network of schools across England.
The schools are encouraged to source their food locally and pupils
grow vegetables that can be used for school meals. Pupils learn
about food "as part of a whole range of lessons in their
curriculum" and make regular visits to farms that supply
their school with food. 
74. We welcome the increasing enthusiasm among
consumers for buying food that is local to a particular area of
the UK, and also for growing their own food. In terms of overall
production, these trends are a small contribution to a huge challenge,
but they are a way of reconnecting people with food production
and have an important part to play in encouraging the sort of
changes in consumer behaviour that will be necessary for a sustainable
system of food production. The role of local and home production,
and of educating children about food, should be incorporated in
Defra's vision and strategy for food. When it has been established
that there is an unmet demand for allotments in a local authority
area, the Government should require the local authority to publish,
within three years, a plan setting out how it proposes to meet
53 Q 544 Back
Defra, Food Security and the UK: An Evidence and Analysis Paper,
2006, p 4 Back
Food Security and the UK, p 32 Back
Ev 46 Back
Q 523 Back
Q 478 Back
"Brazilian agriculture is set to take on the rest of the
world", Farmers Guardian, 13 February 2009 Back
As above. Back
"Are the winds changing for Brazilian agriculture",
Agra Europe, 22 August 2008 Back
"Brazil grants land rights to squatters living in Amazon
rainforest", guardian.co.uk, 26 June 2009 Back
"Brazil: Deforestation rises sharply as farmers push into
the Amazon", The Guardian, 1 September 2008, p 17 Back
Q 186 Back
Oral evidence taken before the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Committee on 11 December 2008, HC (2008-09) 266-I, p 7 Back
As above, p 5 Back
Q 252 [Ms Leech] Back
The Oxford English Dictionary defines self-sufficient as
"able to provide enough of a commodity (as food, oil) to
supply one's own needs, without obtaining goods from elsewhere". Back
Ev 441 Back
Q 411 Back
Q 576 Back
Q 252 [Mr Kuyk] Back
Ev 210 Back
Ev 119 Back
Q 521 Back
Land grab or development opportunity?, May 2009, p 3 Back
Land grab or development opportunity?, p 4. The authors
of the report stress that data on land acquisitions is scarce
and often of limited reliability, so the figures in the report
should be treated with caution. Back
As above, p 17 Back
Q 552 Back
Ev 100 Back
Evs 275, 294 Back
Ev 335 For further examples of this viewpoint, see also Evs 336,
Ev 335. See also Evs 43, 311 Back
Ev 341 Back
Ev 371 Back
Ev 147 Back
M. H. Arnoult, Food consumption changes in the UK under compliance
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Ev 404 Back
Cabinet Office Strategy Unit, Food: an analysis of the issues,
January 2009, p 36 Back
Ev 280 Back
Ev 281 Back
Ev 280 Back
FAO, Livestock's long shadow: environmental issues and options,
2006, p xxi Back
Q 12 Back
As above Back
Ev 280 Back
"Eat your greens", The Guardian, 7 June 2007,
p 18 Back
Q 308 Back
Nicholas Stern, Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change,
October 2006, annex 7g Back
Ev 147 Back
"Meeting 5-a-day could hit landscapes hard", Farmers
Weekly, 22 May 2009, p 16 Back
Ev 291 Back
Ev 291 Back
Ev 113 Back
Ev 293 Back
Ev 113 Back
Qq 351-52 Back
Ev 123 Back
"Allotment waiting lists reach up to 40 years", Daily
Telegraph, 2 June 2009, p 14 Back
Q 412 Back
Ev 352 Back
Ev 446 Back
Daily Mirror, 25 May 2009, p 27 Back
Q 413 Back
Ev 436 Back
Q 415 Back