As MPs at Westminster discussed the issue of rising food prices and the impact of food poverty on the diets of lower income households, the Crop Protection Association has moved to highlight the critical role of modern, science-based agriculture in safeguarding the long-term availability and affordability of our food supply.
Monday’s opposition debate in the House of Commons, introduced by Shadow Environment Secretary Mary Creagh, revealed that since 2006, the combined impact of the recession and food price inflation had forced a 30% drop in fruit and vegetable consumption by families on lower incomes, who are now spending more than 15% of household income on food.
But while the debate focused mainly on the role of food banks and plans to create a supermarket ombudsman, CPA chief executive Dominic Dyer urged policy-makers to recognise that access to the most advanced farming technologies would also be essential to tackle the growing food poverty crisis.
"Mary Creagh is right to highlight the damaging consequences of food price inflation, and to consider what short-term measures can be taken to mitigate its effects. But the simple fact remains that food security is a strategic global issue, and the most realistic prospect of delivering a sustainable and affordable food future is through increased agricultural productivity."
"The key challenge therefore is to persuade decision-makers at an EU level that future farm policies must reflect the pressing global need to produce more food, because the reality is that current EU policy in areas such as biotechnology and crop protection is blocking progress and stifling investment in new research."
Mr Dyer also highlighted the findings of consumer research conducted for CPA in 2011, which showed that most shoppers believe the Government should be doing more to keep food prices down, and that science should be applied to help increase food output.
"Consumers understand the link between domestic food prices and the impact of global factors such as population growth, climate change and rising oil prices. As a result they are more willing to embrace the use of agricultural innovation in boosting food supplies."
"But advances in plant science and crop protection will continue to be denied to Europe’s food producers and consumers without a science-based EU regulatory environment," warned Mr Dyer.