Knowledge for better food systems

Defra Green Food project report published

Defra’s Green Food Project has published its report. This project was tasked to consider how production and consumption could change in the future, and whether/how it was possible to reconcile the goals of increasing production and improving the environment. 

To consider these questions, five different food related case studies were chosen for examination – the wheat sector, the bread supply chain, the curry supply chain, the dairy chain and fifth, a geographically focused study.

Leading project members on the report included the National Farmers Union, Country Land and Business Association, National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs, Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, WWF-UK, Linking Environment and Farming, British Retail Consortium, Food and Drink Federation, Business Services Association, British Hospitality Association, and Defra.

The project was led by an overall steering group, there were five case study project sub groups, and then there was a synthesis group whose task was to pull these studies together and draw out their findings.

The final report was produced in a very short space of time and so it lacks detailed analysis. Rather it identifies areas where further more detailed work is needed.  These are copied as follows:

Research and technology: We want to improve our knowledge base and science capability, firstly by continuing to encourage and build on existing „blue sky‟ research, but also by ensuring this is matched by applied research and development. Applied research should be underpinned by fundamental science, which should be relevant to business need, or be carried out in a way that ensures it can be taken up into practice and used to drive forward innovation and technology. We also want to be able to better forecast likely environmental, population and other changes and consider scenarios we might face in the future in order to enable ourselves to prepare better and become more resilient. We also want to further enhance and build on the actions that have been taken to reduce or reverse problems we are facing, such as biodiversity decline, soil degradation and poor water quality in some areas.

Knowledge exchange: We want to continue to support a better coordinated research effort and improvements to the way in which research and advice is shared or exchanged throughout the food, farming and environment sectors, Government and other institutions such as in civil society.

Future workforce: We want to ensure we are attracting the right numbers and calibre of enthusiastic, entrepreneurial and environmentally literate people into careers in food, farming and environmental management and protection, and that they are equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in these careers.

Investment: We want to ensure that farmers and food businesses feel confident in making investments and securing the physical and human capital they will need to respond to the challenges faced in the food system and maintain their competitiveness. Investment will also be critical to support businesses in improving their environmental performance and ensure resilience to climate change.

Effective structures: We want to ensure that our business structures, markets and supply chains are operating fairly and effectively to support high levels of growth and sustainability.

Valuing ecosystem services: We want to ensure that we have a clear understanding of the monetised and non monetised value of ecosystem services, the economic costs and risks of allowing deterioration of those services to take place and the drivers for that deterioration, and that this understanding carries through into policy and decision making.

Land management: We want to derive more economic and environmental benefit from our agricultural land and do so sustainably, in a way that reflects the value of the range of ecosystem services it produces and the best potential to achieve win wins between them.

Consumption and waste: We want to initiate further work within the project to consider how consumption, demand and waste can be tackled and to ensure that this feeds into wider strategic thinking about the food system as a whole.

The project steering group also propose that further work to examine these areas in more detail is needed.

You can download the project report, as well as the case study reports here.

Defra’s press release is here. Media coverage includes The Guardian with blog reactions to the report here, and The Independent

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