Food could influence election outcomes, report

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: 2007–2008 world food price crisis

The UK government is taking a grim view of effect of food prices on the political landscape and is establishing a council of food policy advisors – just as a report warns that food could be a factor to influence elections.

Defra announced yesterday that a new team of advisors will focus on food policy and will be made up of experts from all along the food chain, including production, retail, regulation and distribution.

“With rising food prices and increasing demand across the globe, we can’t take our food supply for granted,”​ said Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. “Our food supply needs to be reliable and resilient and able to withstand shocks and crisis.”

He added that it is time for a “more strategic approach” ​to food policy, that covers production, supplies, distribution, consumption, and related aspects.

The role of the advisors will be to inform on affordability, security of supply and environmental aspects; a policy on food security and supply is expected to be published later this year, and the advisors will be amongst its architects.

The politician made the announcement at a conference organised by think tank Chatham House. The identity of experts to sit on the panel has not been disclosed at this stage.

Government say-so

Chatham House has prepared a report on the future of the UK’s food system, which has been seen by The Guardian newspaper in draft form but which was not in general circulation at the time of this article’s publication.

According to the newspaper, the report gives a stark warning that the food system in the UK “is unable to come with rapid changes in supply driven by climate change, rising energy prices and population growth”.

Certain consumers have noticed that their grocery bills have been increasing this year; however the expectation is that the government and industry will end up having more of a say in what they eat in the future, as the food that is sold will have to reflect the wider needs of society.

Food price and availability could become “issues that swing the outcome of future elections,”​ it says.

Food Matters strategy

In July the UK Cabinet Office today published the results of a ten-month cross-government strategy project on food policy.

It concluded that rising demand, climate change, and trade and productivity restrictions are all key issues to be addressed.

Amongst the recommendations, it said that the UK should take a leadership role in seeing how the world should address the “twin challenges”​ of climate change and global food security.

It also advised the government to take a more “joined-up approach”​ to UK food policy covering fair prices, safer food, healthier diets and the environmental; and continue its focus on fair prices and access to food.

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