Farming and food supply library

What’s the issue? One way that mankind has kept pace with the growing demand for food is to bring more farmland in to production. However, almost all of the world’s naturally fertile land is now in use. The scope to expand this further is very limited. New farmland is being created by clearing forests but this of course is a major contributor to atmospheric CO 2 and so is not a sensible o...
What’s the issue? Affordability is a key component of food security. Whenever safe and nutritious food is not available at a price affordable to all, then the welfare of some people is jeopardised. Throughout modern history, the tendency has been for food affordability to improve, relative to income, but this is not a guaranteed trend. Threats to affordability may either be persistent or t...
What’s the issue? Food waste is an obvious barrier to food security. The higher the level of waste, the harder it becomes to match supply with demand. Relatively low prices for food have allowed many Western societies to develop wasteful habits and yet still comfortably afford to eat. Arguably, this “crowds out” lower income consumers, leaving less food to go around. Certainly, if eatin...
What’s the issue? Most countries, even those that are more than self-sufficient in food, rely on trade for some components of the diet. The UK sources about one-third of all agricultural goods from overseas and even for items that can be produced domestically, the proportion is about one-quarter 1 . Some items (eg: fruit) are sourced almost entirely from overseas and overall food self-suff...
What’s the issue? In this context, “speculation” refers mainly to the involvement of outside (non-food-business) interests in the trading of food commodities, especially through the use of future contracts. These are similar to forward-purchase contracts except that a future is a financial asset that can only be traded on an exchange whereas a forward contract is a private arrangement betw...
What’s the issue? The banking system underpins all commercial activity by creating, storing and transferring money. Any failure in the system therefore can cause the destruction of wealth and erosion of confidence. A particularly severe collapse, although unlikely, could undermine the trading system that underpins the food chain. Possible shocks that might precipitate a problem in the b...
What’s the issue? Insects, including bees, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles and hoverflies, pollinate about 80% of all plant species in Europe, including most fruits, many vegetables and some oilseed crops. We are not totally reliant on insect pollinators. Such staple crops as wheat, rice and corn are either wind or self-pollinated. However, insect pollinated crops do provide us with vit...
 What’s the issue? The Earth's climate has always been in a state of flux. However, since the early 1900s, it has changed particularly rapidly and according to the scientific consensus, this is mainly because of man-made changes to the atmosphere and in land use. Assuming that climate scientists are broadly correct, we will live with the consequences of today’s higher greenhouse gas levels...
What’s the issue? The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that "the malicious contamination of food is a real and current threat." Historically, the main threat has come from criminals attempting extortion or individuals with a grudge but action by extremist groups is another potential concern. In today's global marketplace, the contamination of food in one country can affect pub...
What’s the issue? The food system is energy intensive and higher energy prices translate into higher food prices.  Furthermore, energy, food and water are inextricably interlinked. Recent events including droughts, floods, oil spills and food price spikes show that we cannot view our food, water, energy and eco-systems in isolation. Instead, we must understand how all these intersect — the...