East Anglia: Is it possible to feed world sustainably, asks food security champion

The big questions on food security facing the global population will be discussed tonight at the Forum in Norwich by UK champion for Global Food Security [GFS] Professor Tim Benton.

‘Feeding a world of nine billion: Can we do it sustainably?’ is being hosted by the East of England Co-operative Society, and will bring a global debate to a local audience.

With the global population expected to increase to 9 billion by 2050, the global demand for food is expected to rise by 70 per cent in the next 40 years. This brings huge challenges with the impact of climate change threatening crop yields and the limited space available to expand agricultural land and increase food production.

Amanda Long, Executive Officer – Membership, Marketing and Media of the East of England Co-operative Society, said: “As the region’s leading ethical retailer we should be starting and informing the debate locally on subjects like food sustainability.

“We know that sustainable production is just as vital to the local farmers down the road who supply our stores, as it is to Fairtrade producers in other countries like banana growers in Ghana. Wherever products come from we need to find a balance between stocking what our customer wants at a price they are willing to pay, and which is profitable for everyone in the supply chain.

“We operate in one of the most important food production areas of the UK, but also one of the driest. East Anglia is the UK’s larder, and agriculture and land management plays a key role in our region’s economy. Not just supporting the food supply chain, but also other industries such a tourism.”

The society has invited Professor Benton to explore how the growing food demand can be met alongside the need for long- term agricultural production to decrease the impact it is having on the environment.

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As ‘champion’ of UK’s Global Food Security programme, Professor Benton helps coordinate research on food security across the government, and plays a role in feeding knowledge into policy decision-making. He is also a leading researcher on agri-environment interactions.

He will address some of the potential solutions to increasing global production sustainably and highlight some of the choices that will need to be made.

Professor Benton said: “‘Sustainable agriculture’ is not something that is either simple to define or measure, but how we feed an increasing population, with a growing demand for food is a significant question.

“Being able to inform people of the challenges ahead, present some of the options, and encourage discussion is vital for the future of food sustainability, and I’m delighted to bring this debate to East Anglia.”

Choosing the subject of the debate was inspired by the International Year of Co-operatives, which is being celebrated and is raising the profile of co-operatives across the world.

‘Feeding a world of 9 billion: Can we do it sustainably?’ will be streamed live from 6.30pm on Tuesday 23 October at www.eastofengland.coop/lecture2012. Registered users can watch live, or on demand from Wednesday 24 October.