UK Food Sustainability Insight Report

The world is changing rapidly leading to pressures on existing ecosystems

Sector Forecast: UK Food Sustainability - Farming Sector 2021 - 2030
Published 2021 - Report Highlights

Farming For Food: the immanent challenges and future direction for global sustainability

The question is, how will we be able to live equitably and sustainably in a world of finite resources, when our demands for exploiting resources - specifically for food, but generally for economic growth - are growing?

This Insight report provides a valuable insight into how our farming and food industry in the UK can contribute to the transition to a green economy by increasing sustainability, seizing opportunities and providing innovative solutions for the future. 

It highlights the many challenges facing global farming and food will require decision-making that is fully integrated across a diverse range of policy areas which are all too often considered in isolation, and for action to be based on sound evidence.

The report also explores the pressures on the UK and the wider global food system between now and 2030 and identifies the decisions that policy makers need to take now, and in the years ahead, to ensure that a rising global population can be fed sustainably and equitably.  

On the demand side global population size will increase from nearly seven billion today to eight billion by 2030

It is estimated that this will probably increase to over nine billion by 2050; many people are likely to be wealthier, creating demand for a more varied, high-quality diet requiring additional resources to produce. On the production side, competition for land, water and energy will intensify, while the effects of climate change will become increasingly apparent.

"I am interested in how ecological systems underpin the services on which we rely, and how they respond to change. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that ecosystem services are preserved in the face of change".

Prof Tim Benton,
Professor of Population Ecology,
Leeds University UK

The five challenges are:
. Balancing future demand and supply sustainably – to ensure that food supplies are affordable.
(2). Ensuring that there is adequate stability in food supplies – and protecting the most vulnerable from the volatility that does occur.
(3). Achieving global access to food and ending hunger. This recognises that producing enough food in the world so that everyone can potentially be fed is not the same thing as ensuring food security for all.
(4). Managing the contribution of the food system to the mitigation of climate change.
(5). Maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services while feeding the world. These last two challenges recognise that food production already dominates much of the global land surface and water bodies and has a major impact on all the Earth’s environmental systems. In recognising the need for urgent action to address these future challenges, policy makers should not lose sight of major failings in the food system that exist today. 

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In addition, this report highlights: 

The changes required throughout the different elements of the food system and beyond if food security is to be provided for a predicted nine billion people. Action has to occur on all of the following four fronts simultaneously:
● More food must be produced sustainably through the spread and implementation of existing knowledge, technology and best practice, and by investment in new science and innovation and the social infrastructure that enables food producers to benefit from all of these.
● Demand for the most resource-intensive types of food must be contained.
● Waste in all areas of the food system must be minimised.
● The political and economic governance of the food system must be improved to increase food system productivity and sustainability. The solution is not just to produce more food, or change diets, or eliminate waste. The potential threats are so great that they cannot be met by making changes piecemeal to parts of the food system. It is essential that policy makers address all areas at the same time.

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