Are we running out of food?

Uploaded by CranfieldSoM on 13.06.2011

>>Steve Macaulay: Is Britain running out of food? This seems an unlikely question, so
I put it to Séan Rickard who is an expert on food pricing and an economist in this area.
Now, Séan, come on, this sounds almost ridiculous – the supermarkets are heaving with food.
The only thing I can see is that food seems to be going up in price.
>>Séan Rickard: Well the United Kingdom is not running out of food, but the world is.
The demand for food is outstripping the world’s ability to supply food and it is because of
that fact, that trend, that world food prices are rising. So the reason we see, in our supermarkets,
the price of food now rising much faster than the general rate of inflation – something
we have not seen in a generation in this country here – is due to the fact that world markets
are under pressure.
>>Steve Macaulay: Now, this is clearly serious; what are the implications for the UK?
>>Séan Rickard: The implications are that whereas if you go back for the last thirty,
forty years, we have enjoyed a situation where the price of food always rose at a rate less
than the general rate of inflation. Combine that with people’s rising incomes and the
affordability of food was steadily improving; that is why it became a much smaller proportion
of people’s household expenditure and why we managed to spend more money on other things,
putting people to work in the rest of the economy.
This situation has now been reversed. Food prices for the foreseeable future will rise
faster than the general rate of inflation. We are at the moment struggling with incomes,
so the affordability of food has reversed. It is now getting less affordable – and
of course this is a basic necessity – and as the pressure bites, so governments in rich
countries will come under great pressure to do something about it.
>>Steve Macaulay: And what is that something?
>>Séan Rickard: Well, again, we are going to have to rethink our approach to food production.
We have been in love with the organic school, the less intensive school – to talk about
industrialised farming was pejorative.
We are going to have to recognise that if we are going to meet the world’s demands
for food, we are going to need a new green revolution and that new green revolution is
going to involve larger scale, industrialised farming and it is also going to involve the
application of science in much greater amounts than we have had over recent years; and in
particular we are going to need genetic modification in order to be allowed to produce the food
we need, in the light of the world running short of water, in the light of the world
seeing rising energy prices and with climate change putting greater stress on crops.
>>Steve Macaulay: We are going to expect some resistance to that aren’t we?
>>Séan Rickard: Well perhaps people who have been well fed and have had the luxury of very
cheap food for a number of years, could believe that they lived in a world in which they never
had to worry about where their food was coming from and what the cost of it was going to
Unfortunately, that world is now behind us and people are going to have to think very
seriously about the social and moral implications of demanding that we adopt farming systems
that produce less not more food.
>>Steve Macaulay: Séan, there are some serious messages there. Thank you very much.