The food industry must consider demographic changes alongside climate change in developing a more sustainable food supply chain, the government’s chief scientific adviser Professor John Beddington, has warned.
As guest speaker at the British Nutrition Foundation’s annual day last week, Beddington reported the “formidable problems” facing the world over the next two decades. Even today, he noted, there are 1.1bn people around the globe living on less than 50p a day.
“Something of the order of 900M people suffer malnutrition and hunger,” he added. “These are really devastating problems for us; we need to think about them. Nutrition and the issue of food is so important.”
However, he reported that around 30% of crops were lost due to pests and diseases before they were harvested, while around 25% are lost post harvest.
“These are terrible figures; we need to be thinking about how science and technology can develop that,” he said. “And at the same time we have this enormous irony that the per capita figure for food waste in the UK is something like £420 per person.”
Beddington said the world population increasing by 6M a month; a major shift of people from rural communities into towns; and increasing affluence in some developing nations was putting severe pressure on resources.
There would be an increasing demand for food of 50% by 2030, he said. There would also be an increase in demand for energy of the same amount; and water “needs to be up by something like 30-40%”, he added.
“What we have is a global challenge … we have the problem of feeding 9bn people [the world population predicted by 2050]; addressing the shortages of water; addressing the problems of increasing energy; and, at the same time, working out how we can mitigate and adapt to climate change all by 2030.”