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Food prices and waste are hot topics of public survey

21 August 2012

Public views on tackling food crises:

  • Price of food is focus of concern for many
  • Majority agree UK wastes too much food
  • Many believe ‘food security is not an issue that affects me rather it’s more a problem for people in developing countries’
  • Science and behaviour change seen as important for addressing  food crises

Research conducted for the Global Food Security Programme has shown that many people believe that: ‘food security is not an issue that affects me rather it’s more a problem for people in developing countries’. The results also highlight that food price is often seen as more important than all other food issues.  The results come as US drought threatens to spark a food price crisis.

With the world’s population predicted to reach 9Bn by 2050, together with the scarcity of natural resources and the impacts from climate change, food security is likely to be one of the most significant public policy issues of this century.

The Global Food Security Programme commissioned research to help consider public views, aspirations and concerns around global food security, the reports of which are released today. The reports include results from an omnibus survey and results from qualitative workshops that together will help to inform the direction of future public dialogue work.

The results showed that around one in ten had heard of the term ‘global food security’. However, around a half believed that ‘food security is not an issue that affects me rather it’s more a problem for people in developing countries’ (55%). The qualitative data suggested that people would relate more easily to discussion around food security issues if it was framed around anchoring points, such as looking at the global consequences of local choices.

Over a half of survey respondents were receptive to changing their diets to eating less or eating food that takes less to produce. Half agreed that ‘people in developed countries such as the UK need to change their diets and eat less or there won’t be enough food to go round’ and two thirds thought that ‘people should be encouraged to change their diets to eat food that takes less to produce’. However, the price of food was seen as the most important food issue for just over half of respondents; 55% agreed that they were ‘more concerned about food prices than all other food issues’.

Participants in the workshops also raised the issue of food demand, including the problem of large amounts of food being wasted. The survey showed near universal agreement that the UK ‘wastes too much food and people should only buy what they need’ (90%), with 67% strongly agreeing with the statement.

Science was seen as part of the solution to the challenge of food security. A majority of survey respondents agreed that to increase food supply, ‘we need to make greater use of science and technology’ (71%). The qualitative data highlighted the need for more public discussion on the role of technologies in relation to supply and demand.

Behaviour change was also seen as an important factor  with survey respondents agreeing that  ‘to meet the needs of a growing population we need to both grow more food and reduce the amount of food we buy and waste’ (85%).

There was some uncertainty in responses about the issue of supply. Three quarters believed that ‘we already grow enough food in the world – the problem is getting it to those who need it most’, whilst six in ten agreed that ‘the amount of food produced in the world needs to increase’.

 The study was conducted for the Global Food Security Programme; the research team comprised a partnership between TNS BMRB and SPRU Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Sussex.

The Global Food Security Programme is committed to responding to this initial scoping work and will be meeting in autumn to discuss the findings and next steps in order to ensure public views are considered when shaping the future of research to help tackle this important issue.

To read the research in full, visit: http://www.foodsecurity.ac.uk/assets/pdfs/gfs-exploring-public-views.pdf and http://www.foodsecurity.ac.uk/assets/pdfs/gfs-survey-public-attitudes.pdf

About Global Food Security

Global Food Security is a multi-agency programme bringing together the research interests of the Research Councils, Executive Agencies and Government Departments.
Through Global Food Security the partners are working together to support research to meet the challenge of providing the world’s growing population with a sustainable,  and secure supply of safe, nutritious and affordable high quality food from less land and with lower inputs.
Partner and sponsor organisations are:

  • Research Councils UK – comprising:
    • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
    • Economic and Social Research Council
    • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
    • Medical Research Council
    • Natural Environment Research Council
  • Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
  • Department of Health
  • Department for International Development
  • Food Standards Agency
  • Government Office for Science
  • Scottish Government
  • Technology Strategy Board
  • Welsh Government

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