MPs warn food prices 'to rocket' thanks to climate change and rising demand

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The cost of food in the UK could shoot up over the next decade due to problems with global supply and our own inability to provide for the nation's growing population, which already stands at more than 63 million.

If the problems are not solved, Britain could even face the sort of food shortages that lead to riots in developing countries.


That's the message from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee, which reported the findings of its latest inquiry into so-called "food security".

What's the problem?
Global food supply is being threatened by four broad trends: population growth, the impact of climate change and urbanisation on agricultural land, the Westernisation of the diets of people in the Far East, and the use of crops for fuel.

The number of people needing feeding around the world, for example, is expected to hit 9 billion by 2042, while beef consumption in China has more than doubled over the last decade.

And the UN climate science panel warned recently that changes to temperature and rainfall patterns could lead to food price rises of between 3% and 84% by 2050.

Add to that the fact that global supply chains are becoming ever longer and more fragile, and the future for the external supply of food to the UK starts to look less and less certain.

What does that mean for the UK?
When it comes to food, the UK is not self-sufficient. And the situation is getting worse, not better.

Britain currently produces 68% of its food, down from 87% 20 years ago. Issues include the impact of cheap imports on the farming community, which has shrunk massively over the last 50 years.

Flooding is also a big problem for the farmers who remain. Many coastal and rural areas have been hit by severe flooding over the last few years, and the Environment Department has estimated that 35,000 hectares of high-quality horticultural and arable land will be flooded at least once every three years by the 2020s.

That's why the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee is calling on the government to do more, and is even controversially urging it to see genetically modified (GM) food as a real alternative to traditionally grown crops.

The government should "encourage an evidence-led public debate about GM crops and also counter food safety fears about the consumption of GM," the committee said.