future of food
In September 2007, the UK Government's Strategy Unit commissioned a major project on food and food policy to review the main trends in food production and consumption in the UK; to analyse the implications of those trends for the economy, society and the environment; to assess the robustness of the current policy framework for food; and to determine what the objectives of future food strategy should be and the measures needed to achieve them.
Outsights 21 Drivers for the 21st CenturyTM and Sigma Scan research contributed to this report as part of its work to embed futures thinking across Whitehall. In doing this work, Outsights were able to highlight critical drivers of change such as resource availability and technology.
Resource availability is emerging as a critical driver of change, as signalled by the current spike in food and energy prices. The effects of climate change could further aggravate resource scarcity. Experts expect more food price hikes in the future as agriculture is heavily energy and water dependent. Agribusiness uses 70% of global freshwater; producing one kilo of beef adds up to 15,500 litres of water.
Based on the report, the UK government is setting up a Food Strategy Task Force to counter an unsustainable agribusiness model. By taking more control of resource distribution, the Task Force aims to ensure "good, affordable food which is vital to political stability". This can be seen as an early indicator of resource allocation, one of the major drivers of change in Outsights recent Scenarios for the Global Economy to 2030. In two Scenarios, governments are asserting control to allocate resources rather than leaving it to market mechanisms.
Technology is further identified as a key driver in these Scenarios. In a world of rapid biotech innovation, worries over food security may disappear e.g. if the next Green Revolution can deliver less energy and water intensive agriculture, food may no longer be a scarce resource. Therefore at the heart of the interrelated issue of climate change and resource availability is the question of whether technology will deliver a solution.