The facts speak for themselves: the current food production system is not making wholesome and safe food accessible to all by any means, and the recent global food scandals and price spikes have only served to make clearer the underlying food security risks.

Socio-economic impacts on food security

  • There are still 870 million people malnourished on the planet. In the UK 500k are reliant on food aid [1]
  • There are 1400 million overweight people of which 500 million are obese.  In the UK obesity is estimated to affect one in every four adults and one in every five 10 year olds [2]
  • At present sufficient calories are produced to provide 4600kcal per capita, which is  enough to feed twice the present world population and 50% more than the population we will have in 2050. We waste food by diverting it to feed livestock and to be consumed as fuel. Thus the 70 billion farm animals produced each year worldwide, are fed more than 30% of the world’s grain and global fish catch and 90% of its soya meal [3]
  • Global food waste amounts to 1.3 billion tonnes per year valued at $750 billion; in Britain £60/month worth of food is wasted in the home, totalling 7 million tonnes of food and drink every year [4]
  • 70% of global food is currently produced by small producers including hunter gatherers, fisher folk, urban food producers and small and family farms. These  receive little or no help from governments or R&D programmes
  • Farm subsidies and trade policies in the north damage markets of the millions of small family farms in the Global South. In 2012, support to farmers across the OECD amounted to $259bn, more than double the $125.6bn they provided in development assistance [5]
  • Animal welfare is poor in intensive systems where production is pushed to the maximum; factory-farmed grain-fed animals are often unhealthy, make inefficient use of crops, besides contributing heavily to pollution
  • Crop and farm animal genetic diversity is being rapidly lost as a handful of companies get to dominate the market

Ecology and climate change

  • Agriculture is responsible for 10-12% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions
  • Habitat destruction resulting from the creation of agricultural land contributes another 19% to GHG emissions. Together with pollution from intensive farming it is one of the main causes of planetary biodiversity loss
  • Nitrogen fertilisers are a major polluter of water, seas and the atmosphere, adding to global warming and ozone depletion; phosphate fertilisers pollute fresh water and marine ecosystems (while depleting a finite resource)
  • In 2011 25% of the global land area was degraded in some way – in Europe 16% of 52 million hectares is degraded; 2.2 million tonnes of topsoil was eroded annually in the UK and 44% of arable land was estimated to be at risk in a 2006 analysis [6]

Agroecological approaches to farming (including organic farming systems, agro-forestry and permaculture), address all these problems by managing food production holistically, at the ecosystem level, minimising inputs and maximising recycling of what are now polluting wastes, to restore and enhance biodiversity and ensure that the soil is healthy and thus capable of:

  • storing carbon
  • absorbing rainfall
  • making optimum nutrients available to plants and consequently to people
  • keeping pests and diseases in check

Agroecology also brings a host of socio economic benefits with it, including

  • greater complexity requires more skilled labour: UK data show that organic farms generate 32% (and up to 64% with additional processing and direct marketing enterprises) more employment than conventional farms [4]
  • stronger local food links which boost rural economies

The Agroecology (Food Security) Bill provides the necessary framework for an effective transition to a more secure food system in England by ensuring that the essential reforms to agriculture, trade, rural development and aid policies, R&D strategy and training of farmers and provision of farm/rural economy support are in place.

The Bill follows in the wake of the comprehensive efforts of 400 experts within the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report of 2009 and the several other reports from the UN including the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food’s, UNCTAD (such as the Trade and Environment Report) and the EU all of which endorse its recommendation to adopt agroecology and demonstrate how agroecology has the capacity to produce the necessary yields without further degrading planetary systems and the soil.

[1] Walking the Breadline: The scandal of food poverty in 21st-century Britain, Oxfam

[2] NHS: Obesity, Introduction

[3] Lymbery P. and Oakeshott I., 2014, Farmageddon: TheTrue Cost of Cheap Meat, Bloomsbury Plc, London

[4] Love Food Hate Waste

[5] Trade out of Poverty

[6] UK Soil Degradation, Postnote Number 265, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, July 2006

[7] Organic works, Soil Association, 2006

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