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UK must 'war game' future food security risks

Published: 8 December 2023 at 09:00

Professor Aled Jones

Professor Aled Jones’ recommendations are adopted by Committee of MPs

A food security expert at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) has helped to shape a major report published today by the House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee.

Environmental change and food security includes recommendations from Professor Aled Jones, who investigates the UK’s resilience to shocks in the global food chain caused by climate change and biodiversity loss.

In evidence submitted to the cross-party group of MPs in the Environmental Audit Committee, Professor Jones called for a government body to be established to oversee food security in the UK, with the responsibility of modelling and preparing for future problems.

This is a key recommendation in today report, with the Committee stating:

“We recommend that the Government establish a cross-government, cross-sector food security body to bring together all the actors in the food system to examine and make policy recommendations on long-term food resilience and environmental issues.”

The report also picks up on Professor Jones’ evidence that the food system has become too reliant on ‘just in time’ delivery and has been optimised for profit rather than resilience. 

The interconnected nature of the current global food system means that it has become more vulnerable to shocks that can have significant impacts, with local extreme weather events such as flooding and drought now being felt across the world through food supply issues.

In October, Professor Jones led a study, published in the journal Sustainability, investigating how food shortages caused by extreme weather could lead to civil unrest in the UK.

Professor Jones, Director of the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said:

“While exploring routes to increase its own resilience in the event of a global food system shock, the UK government should advocate strongly for a better global governance process in food. 

“This should include decisions on the level of global food stocks, and the ability to ensure that responses to production shocks or food access issues, such as export or import bans, do not create feedback loops which make them worse.

“Food resilience here in the UK will be driven in the future by moves to a more plant-based diet to lower our overall footprint on global food production, as well as better and more transparent supply chains.

“To better manage risks and to build societal resilience, the UK needs to properly understand our own food system interdependence. We need analytical, statistical, war game-type models to explore future scenarios, and strategies need to be prepared for mitigating these threats.”