Memorandum submitted by The Woodland Trust (SFS 06)

Executive Summary

1. The Woodland Trust supports the need for a thriving viable and sustainable agriculture industry in the UK, able to support national food security. Productive agriculture relies on a stable and thriving ecosystem to provide the services for planned agricultural production. Woodland and other natural habitats are vital in securing those services.

2. Despite the UK's self-sufficiency ratio having fallen in recent decades, it is our view that food security should not be simply increasing national food self sufficiency. In the medium to long term the greatest risks to food security in the UK are likely to result from issues around oil supply and climate change rather than other factors which have received disproportionate attention such as for example, land going out of agriculture to other uses.

3. A package of measures to address food security should consider:

Identifying issues relating to energy supply, particularly oil

Mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change

Robust supply and distribution chains

Reducing food waste

Consideration of dietary change - particularly a switch from high meat and dairy diets

Where appropriate increasing food self-sufficiency

4. Adapting to climate change will require resilient systems able to support a human population in additional ways to food production. This includes ensuring adequate and clean water, biodiverse systems able to support agriculture in the long term, timber and other forest commodities, cities with adequate shade, shelter and resilience against flooding, as well as cultural values associated with the natural environment, including woods and forests.

Securing food supplies up to 2050: the challenges for the UK

5. The Woodland Trust welcomes the opportunity to respond to this consultation. We are the UK's leading woodland conservation charity. We own over 1,000 sites across the UK, covering around 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres) and we have 300,000 members and supporters.

6. Our particular interest and concern relating to the terms of reference of this consultation is the way in which land is farmed and managed; achieving food security whilst ensuring sustainable production. In particular that any increase in domestic food production reflects an understanding of the importance to agriculture and to wider ecosystem services of a healthy and thriving natural environment.

7. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) forecasts a decline in global food production[1]. Limiting factors include changing rainfall patterns, loss of water supply for irrigation, increased pest and pathogen outbreaks, greater fire risk and increasing levels of ground level ozone.

8. Greater frequency of extreme weather events such as storms, flooding and droughts are likely to increase the uncertainty of food production, and lead to years in which there is serious global undersupply.

9. Modern agriculture is dependent on oil, not just as a fuel source but in the production of pesticides and fertilisers, and in processing, packaging and distribution of food. Oil represents about 43% of the world's energy use, but dominates transport, with over 96% of transport fuel coming from oil[2]. Food security in the UK is strongly associated with issues around energy security, illustrated dramatically when supermarket food stocks began to run out after just one week of the fuel tanker driver strikes in 2000. In our view in the medium to long term the greatest risks to food security in the UK are likely to result from issues around oil supply and climate change rather than other factors which have received disproportionate attention such as for example, land going out of agriculture to other uses.

10. Waste in the food chain also has a major impact on both food security and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The UK currently wastes a third of all food bought for home consumption[3]. Improved understanding of the impacts of waste through all parts of food production, processing, distribution and consumption, could increase food self-reliance and reduce GHG emissions.

11. Despite the UK's self-sufficiency ratio having fallen in recent decades to around 60%, it is our view that food security should not be thought of simply as increasing national food self sufficiency[4]. Food security encompasses a robust and responsive domestic food industry, reliable food imports, effective food distribution systems and consumer behaviour, particularly around waste, which reflects the value and importance of food.

12. A package of measures to address food security should consider:

Identifying issues relating to energy supply, particularly oil

Mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change

Robust supply and distribution chains

Reducing food waste

Consideration of dietary change - particularly a switch from high meat and dairy diets

Where appropriate increasing food self-sufficiency

13. The Woodland Trust supports the need for a thriving viable and sustainable agriculture industry in the UK which is able help deliver national food security. Food and agricultural commodities are an important part of a trading system of which we have a long history.

14. Productive agriculture relies on a stable and thriving ecosystem to provide the services for planned production - clean and plentiful water, pollinating insects and a balance between crop pests and their predators, healthy soils, clean air etc - and to provide the genetic resources for future development.

15. Food, whilst clearly immediately critical to life, is not the only element of a liveable environment. Adapting to climate change will require resilient systems able to support a human population. This includes ensuring adequate and clean water, biodiverse systems able to support agriculture in the long term, timber and other forest commodities, cities with adequate shade, shelter and resilience against flooding, as well as cultural values associated with the natural environment, including woods and forests.

16. Woodland and other natural habitats and resources should not be seen as luxuries to compete against the needs of food production in a battle over use of land but rather as essential and fundamental in securing ecosystem services which support food production.

17. This includes an increase in the area of woodland in the UK:

As part of the development of habitat networks for biodiversity conservation,

To help mitigate and adapt to climate change, in particular in water management

To adapt towns and cities to changing climate and weather patterns

To provide the resources we need, including the provision of timber and bioenergy where appropriate.

 

 

January 2009



[1] http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/syr/ar4_syr_spm.pdf

[2] http://www.worldwatch.org/node/4079

[3] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2008/07/08/ccfood108.xml

[4] Defra (2006) Food security and the UK: an evidence and analysis paper.