The Challenges Facing the Food System

The recent period of food price volatility has alerted the world to profound changes that are occurring in the food system. Though prices may decrease in the short term there are a series of fundamental shifts occurring in the food system that, in the medium term, are likely to see significant increases in prices. 

Listen to Professor Charles Godfray discussing the impact of rising food prices

Population size will increase (though at a diminishing rate) while the world’s peoples will be wealthier and demand a richer diet requiring more resources to produce. The global population will increasingly be urban which changes the way food is purchased and marketed (as well as amplifying the social and political consequences of high food prices).

On the supply side there will be growing competition for land, energy and water, the latter of particular concern as a number of very major aquifers will be exhausted by 2025. Though productivity continues to increase, recently this has been at a decelerating rate associated with low investment in food system R & D.

Despite some progress in recent decades, nearly a billion people go to bed hungry each night, and perhaps the same again suffer some form of malnutrition. Yet a third billion or so people eat too much food and are at risks of the diseases of over-consumption, a problem for both the developed and developing world. Investment in agriculture as an engine for sustainable development has been very low in recent decades, and, though it is now receiving greater attention, many commentators argue much more can be done.

Professor Charles Godfray discusses the question: Can we feed the world?

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