Government gives food industry ultimatum

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Agriculture Food

Global food industry giants grappled with the grim realities of food security at a meeting in Brussels last month, building on the UK government's Foresight report: The Future of Food and Farming (2011).

At the meeting, government chief scientist, professor sir John Beddington, issued an ultimatum to Kellogg, Diageo, Kraft Foods, Nestlé, Coca-Cola and ingredients firm DSM, plus trade bodies and policy makers, to act now.

He said the private sector must persist in developing sustainability metrics; sign up to transparent sustainability standards; provide clear and simple food labelling; and manage food waste.

On the wider food chain, global climate change agreements had omitted commitment to a viable system of sustainable agriculture, yet it was vital to strengthening food security and ending world hunger, he added.

Also present at the event, Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Crop Protection Association called Foresight "a key stepping stone like the Stern Review on climate change".​ The development of new technologies to improve production and crop yields was a crucial part of the jigsaw, he said. The European Commission should appoint a chief scientist to provide a lead on scientific development and help overcome resistance to new technologies, fuelled by ignorance, Dyer added.

"Food and drink manufacturers have to invest more in R&D, they have to be out there talking about issues such as GM [genetically modified foods]."​ They also needed more efficient strategies for coping with food waste and supply chain emergencies such as natural disasters, he said.

At a Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum event analysing Foresight, Food Ethics Council executive director Tom MacMillan praised the report for recognising the size and immediacy of the challenge and facing waste and consumer demand issues.

However, he also said it lacked teeth. "Despite the rhetoric about changing the system, the recommendations are pretty conservative they're for more of the same, but better: for freer trade, for people to be better educated, for scientists to get bigger research budgets."

Related topics Supply Chain

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