Feeding Britain

Should this rich country feed itself more or rely on others’ land and labour?

  • Mon 23rd Jan 2023

The lecture will explore the state of UK food security and ask whether it should be growing more food or continue to rely heavily on imports. The UK Food Security Report (Dec 2021) painted a picture which could either reassure or concern us. The UK is heavily import-dependent. Home production has slowly fallen since the 1980s. It provides c.54% of what is consumed. There is a c.£25bn annual food trade deficit. Nearly a fifth of its population report being food insecure. The Cost of Living crisis means food is squeezed, hitting not just people on low incomes. Diet is already a major driver of ill-health and environmental damage. Why is this situation being accepted? Is it being normalized? Food receives little political attention, compared to energy costs. As a rich economy, is the UK being quietly taken back into a quasi-imperial situation where it will buy food from where land and labour are cheaper? Does this matter? If we wanted to grow more food, how could this be delivered? For what purpose? What are the blockages? With the Russian invasion of Ukraine reminding us how dependent food is on fossil-fuels, is it time for a big rethink? The London Government sidelined the July 2021 Dimbleby report but might events make this change? Is the the public interest being left to Tesco et al?

Professor Timothy Lang, Centre for Food Policy, City University London

Tim Lang is Professor Emeritus of Food Policy at City University of London’s Centre for Food Policy which he founded in 1994 and directed until 2016. Hill farming in Lancashire UK in the 1970s formed his interest in the relationship between food, health, environment, culture and political economy. He is co-author of many articles, reports and books such as Sustainable Diets (2017), Food Wars (2015), Unmanageable Consumer (2015), Ecological Public Health (2012) and Food Policy (2009). He was policy lead on the EAT-Lancet Commission proposing the planetary diet (The Lancet, Jan 16, 2019). His Feeding Britain (Pelican, March 2020) explored the UK as a case study of fault-lines in a rich country’s food system. He has spent his working life analysing the affluent world’s food system dynamics and building arguments about how to improve them. He has been advisor to many bodies at global, European, UK and local levels. He’s a member of the London Food Board advising the Mayor.

Attending lectures

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The lecture will be preceded by a short presentation from a CSAR PhD Student Award Winner.

Developing novel antifungals: Lessons from G protein-coupled receptors.

Dr. Vaithish Velazhahan, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology; Gonville and Caius

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