Memorandum submitted by Northern Foods plc (SFS 09)
· New crop hazards and pests prompting change in agricultural practice
· The adoption of crops to changing, less predictable weather conditions
environmental migration, predominantly from
The potential solutions are perceived in the development and application of science; in the development of infrastructure responsive to changing requirements; and in the extension of training and education.
Specific responses to the questions posed are under-noted.
1. How robust is the
2. How well placed is the UK to make the most of its opportunities in responding to the challenge of increasing global food production by 50% by 2030 and doubling it by 2050, while ensuring that such production is sustainable?
3. In particular, what
are the challenges the
3.1 Soil quality: Without intervention, soil erosion and nitrification may be expected. Care should be exercised to ensure the work of other agencies does not encourage the un-composted return of materials to the soil, with further unintended environmental and food chain consequences.
availability: Even at present, in one third of
3.3 The marine environment: Best available wild species conservation techniques should be employed to protect the marine environment, in conjunction with a drive, wherever possible, to replace hunted species with farmed, sustainable, aquaculture alternatives.
3.4 The science base: There is a key challenge in encouraging generally the study of the sciences and in improving specifically the attractiveness of the range of agriculture and food related sciences to new generations of potential students.
3.5 The provision of training: Problem solving requires the deployment of knowledge, skills and talent. Increases in incentives to improve training can only be welcomed.
3.6 Trade barriers: Recognising the sensitivities in consumer health risk assessment, care should be exercised to avoid the precautionary principle allowing the building of unnecessary technical and commercial barriers to trade. The removal of inappropriate standards should be encouraged, wherever possible, to free trade.
3.7 The way in which land is farmed and managed: Challenges arise in understanding true agricultural best, sustainable, practice; in communicating with a disengaged, often mistrustful consumer base; in re-determining land availability for crops use; and in adaptability to mitigate the effects of climate change.
4. What trends are
likely to emerge on the demand side of the food system in the
5. What role should
DEFRA play both in ensuring that the strengths of the
The key role is in the delivery, support and application of sound science to aid sustainable decision making throughout the food supply chain. Means of addressing consumer mistrust of scientific solutions should be actively considered.
6. How well does DEFRA engage with other relevant departments across Government, and with European and international bodies, on food policy and the regulatory framework for the food supply chain? Is there a current cross-Government food strategy?
Value judgements can be difficult to make in absolute terms. It may be beneficial to question whether cross-Government food strategy is understood in the sector and by the end consumer.
7. What criteria
should DEFRA use to monitor how well the
Primary agricultural and finished food outputs, expressed as some form of tonnage to fossil carbon ratios, may be appropriate criteria for monitoring purposes. This will require the development of appropriate, practicable, carbon calculation tools.
Group Technical Director
Northern Foods plc