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Foreign Ag Services highlights British food/farming report

A British government report that calls for transformation of the world food system on the scale of the industrial revolution “is much more forthright than ever before on contentious agriculture and food topics,” according to a USDA Foreign Agricultural Service analysis posted Thursday.

“Support for new technologies is upfront, as is the need to promote sustainable intensification of production, and for developed economies to consider managing their meat consumption,” the FAS analysis says. “The contribution of the organic sector is duly noted, while also indicating its limitations in sustainably feeding a growing population.”

“Coming within a year of a new U.K. coalition government (noticeably quiet on several policy fronts such as biotechnology), this report will provide the basis for UK politicians to move forward on food and farm policy, as well as seeking to influence policy further afield,” the report concluded.

The report, titled “The Future of Food and Farming,” was released in January. The FAS analysis was also written in January, but not posted until Thursday. The analysis is part of the FAS Global Agricultural Information Network page, which includes analyses that are not necessarily U.S. government policy.

The report by Foresight — the U.K. government’s futures think tank — is the product of a two-year study, involving 400 experts from 35 countries. It was co-commissioned by the U.K.’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and the Department for International Development, and overseen by the U.K.’s Chief Science Adviser, Sir John Beddington.

The U.S. provided input primarily through Dr. Nina Fedoroff, former special adviser on science and technology to the State Department. Other U.S. contributors included USDA’s Economic Research Service, as well as Iowa State, Stanford, and Yale universities.

The report calls for “interconnected policy-making” on a variety of issues and repeats previous calls for completion of the Doha round of multilateral trade talks with an emphasis on development and changes to other policies to help the development of agriculture in the Third World.

But the report also noted that the U.K. retail food sector “would welcome government-accredited national schemes that set standards for sustainability.” It also cites the U.S.-based Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture as an entity that “has developed a series of metrics for quantifying the sustainability of agricultural systems” that may be used to reward sustainable farming systems with carbon credits and other incentives.

The Future of Food and Farming