Securing food supplies up to 2050: the challenges faced by the UK - Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Contents


5  CONCLUSION

136. Defra stands on the brink of an unparalleled opportunity to shape the UK's food and farming industries in a way that will contribute to the long-term security of domestic and global food supplies. It must not shy away from the task ahead of it. What is needed above all is clear leadership to enable people to invest and plan for the future. Following the loss of most of its climate change responsibilities to the Department for Energy and Climate Change, Defra now has a chance to refocus its attention and energies on food at a time when the importance of a new approach to food production is becoming increasingly apparent. This does not mean that Defra should neglect its environmental responsibilities: we want the UK to produce more food, but it must do so sustainably and in response to consumer demand. The advantage of a Department that oversees both the environment and food is that it is well placed to champion sustainable, increased production.

137. As well as providing clear leadership, Defra must tackle the existing weaknesses in the UK food system that will otherwise prevent it from achieving its long-term objective of securing food supplies. The most significant of these weaknesses relate to research and development, and the connected issue of skills. However, there is also an urgent need to engage more imaginatively with consumers, to encourage them to think about the consequences of the way in which their food is produced and what they eat, to enable them to make informed choices. Engaging with the next generation of consumers is particularly important. These are cross-departmental issues, and Defra will need to become a champion for food within Government. We are broadly satisfied that Defra is beginning to move in the right direction. However, there is a great deal still to do. The scale and importance of the challenge is such that we recommend that Defra publish a supplement to its Departmental Annual Report, detailing what it is doing to ensure the long-term security of the UK's food supplies, both through trade and domestic production.

138. Securing food supplies is a vast subject and there are many aspects that we have not been able to cover in this report. We regard this as the first in a series of food-related inquiries to be undertaken by this Committee. It is likely that our subsequent work will focus on some of the solutions to the challenges we have outlined. We would welcome feedback and suggestions for future work. We propose to hold a public discussion to enable people to respond to the report and to the Government's reply, and to shape the direction of future inquiries on this subject.


 
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