Producing food and improving the environment: Green Food Project conclusions
Following the online discussion announced in the introduction to the project in the March edition of SD Scene and work by the Green Food Project steering group, subgroups and synthesis group, initial conclusions have now been published.
The Green Food Project is a partnership project looking ahead to the challenges of increasing food production and enhancing the environment in England. The initial conclusions include a full report, the subgroup reports and a summary of the online forum discussions. The project follows a commitment in the Natural Environment White Paper to:
‘bring together government, industry and environmental partners to reconcile how we will achieve our goals of improving the environment and increasing food production.’
Conclusions: trade-offs and strategic steps
The conclusions recognised that some ‘win-win’ scenarios are possible in the future. But as the number and scale of possible win-wins will vary, there is a need for us to adopt the ‘right management for the right place’. Decisions will also need to be made on how best to balance the trade-offs to deliver maximum benefits. There can be trade-offs between production, the environment and other factors, such as animal welfare or things of social value, for example through the adoption of free range poultry or livestock systems.
There is no one path that can be taken to solve the problems and challenges ahead. A number of strategic steps were identified that will place us in a better position, including:
- More coordinated research and more innovative technology;
- Improved knowledge exchange across the food chain, between farmers and from research labs to farms, and back again to labs;
- Ensuring we have the right talented and entrepreneurial young people entering the food industry;
- Giving farmers and food businesses the confidence to make the right investment;
- Ensuring we have the right business structures that will enable fair and effective sustainable growth;
- Developing a clear understanding of the value of services that our natural environment provides;
- Adopting an approach that will enable us to best use the land.
While the initial conclusions of the Green Food Project focused more on the challenges of increasing food production and improving the environment, we recognise that tackling consumption and waste are an important part of the equation. To explore this further, a debate has been called for to feed into wider thinking about our food system.
Farming Minister Jim Paice described the project’s aims:
“With our increasingly hungry world every country must play its part to produce more food and improve the environment. Britain already punches above its weight, but we’re a small island with limited space, so we’ve got to show leadership and play to our strengths more efficiently.
“We’re not talking about setting Soviet-style targets but an overall approach in which the whole food chain pulls together. Whether it means embracing new farming technology or people wasting less, we’ve got to become more sustainable.”
This is not the end of the Green Food Project. More needs to be done to build on the initial conclusions and the project partners will be continuing to work together to make sure the aims of the project are delivered.
- Green Food Project conclusions: overall conclusions, sub-group reports and summary of online forum
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