Food inflation is only going to get worse in future, warn scientists

 

The era of cheap food is over, and prices are likely to rise significantly in coming decades, due to the increase in the global population and a worldwide shift towards eating more meat and dairy produce, a major study into the future of farming has concluded.

Governments will have to embrace new agricultural techniques, including genetically modified (GM) crops to boost food production, according to scientists who compiled the report, The Future of Food and Farming.

They warn that the existing food system is failing in two major ways: nearly a billion people in the world are left hungry, with another billion suffering from dietary deficiencies; at the same time, agriculture is continuing to degrade the natural environment in a fundamentally unsustainable way.

"Without change, the global food system will continue to degrade the environment and compromise the world's capacity to produce food in the future, as well as contributing to climate change and the destruction of biodiversity," says the report by the Foresight Project on Global Food and Farming Futures in the Government Office for Science.

The scientists believe that a second "green revolution" is needed to boost crop yields but, unlike the first green revolution of the 1960s, this one must not degrade the soil, water or climate on which farming relies.

No new technologies, such as GM crops or animal cloning, should be excluded a priori on ethical or moral grounds, they said. "To a good approximation, there is no new land that can be brought into agriculture. We're going to have to produce more food from the same area, and we need to do this by sustainable intensification," said Professor Charles Godfray of Oxford University, the chairman of the report's expert group. The global food price spikes of 2007 and 2008, which led to riots in some poorer countries that rely on food imports, were a sign of what is likely in the future when price volatility is more common. "Some increase in prices is almost inevitable," Professor Godfray said.

The report rejected the idea that nations must become self-sufficient in food, arguing that global trade would be better at ensuring food is distributed from "bread basket regions" to where it is needed. The advisers said it is important to avoid export bans at times of "food stress", and that such bans almost certainly exacerbated the crisis of 2007-08.

Nevertheless, the scientists believe food prices will increase in real terms by at least 50 per cent over 40 years, because of supply shortages as demand rises in line with a growing world population that is also modifying its diet. And social and economic turmoil could make food far more scarce and more expensive still, they warned.

"There's a very large risk of quite a substantial increase in food prices in the next 30 to 40 years. This risk is such that it demands urgent action on all components of the food system: supply, demand and making the food system work more efficiently," said Professor Sir John Beddington, the Government's chief scientist.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Guru Careers: Front of House Receptionist / Receptionist

    £21K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Front of House Receptionist to provide th...

    Recruitment Genius: Bid / Tender Writing Executive

    £24000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executives / Marketing Communications Consultants

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a number of Marketi...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

    £20000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This well established business ...

    Day In a Page

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders