Britain could grow more spices and chickpeas for curries as the climate changes as part of efforts to make the food system more sustainable, a Government report suggested today.
Significant amounts of energy could also be saved if more energy-efficient toasters were invented, according to the Green Food Project which looks at how to produce more food at the same time as protecting the environment.
The UK is being urged to grow more chickpeas for curry
The project examined how production and consumption could change in five areas - wheat, dairy, bread, curry and geographical areas - in the future.
A report for the Government last year predicted the world's population would hit nine billion by 2050, and food production would have to increase by 70% in the face of the rise in population, obesity and western meat and dairy-rich diets.
It also estimated that between 30% and 50% of all food grown world-wide may be wasted.
The initial report from the Green Food Report, which brings together farmers, manufacturers, retailers, caterers, environmentalists and scientists, outlined measures to boost sustainable farming including improving research and development of innovative technology in the sector.
It said that biotechnology could play a role in addressing some of the challenges surrounding food production, but investment and the "emotive nature" of the debate around genetic modification had affected progress in developing the technologies.
While some in the industry warned the approvals process was creating unnecessary delays in getting products to market, the report said GM raised important health and environmental concerns and needed to be properly assessed.
Farming minister Jim Paice said: "With our increasingly hungry world, every country must play its part to produce more food and improve the environment.
"Britain already punches above its weight, but we're a small island with limited space, so we've got to show leadership and play to our strengths more efficiently.
"We're not talking about setting Soviet-style targets but an overall approach in which the whole food chain pulls together. Whether it means embracing new farming technology or people wasting less, we've got to become more sustainable."
But WWF-UK said the project needed to be radical and ambitious and not just rehash existing initiatives, and raised concerns over a lack of specific targets and milestones.
Scroll down to find out how hot spices can be good for your health...
The wildlife charity also warned it was a "fool's errand" to try to ramp up food production without addressing underlying issues such as waste and diets, and said manufacturers and retailers should play a key role in boosting sustainable diets.
Mark Driscoll, head of WWF-UK's food programme, said: "We support the collaborative approach taken by the Green Food Project as a - very small - first step.
"However, what's really important is the need to take action so we move towards a more equitable and sustainable food system which addresses the twin global challenges of sustainability and hunger.
He added: "The establishment of a consumption forum is a useful initiative, but this has to be much more than just a talking shop.
"It must report back with clear recommendations and a timetable for action from government, business and civil society."
Martin Harper, RSPB's conservation director, said: "It's clear that food production and consumption urgently need to change.
"Currently, both the environment and the world's poor are losing out, while increasing consumption is taking its toll on precious and finite resources. We all ask a lot from our planet.
"I am very pleased that Defra has initiated this discussion - the Green Food Project is an important first step towards working out what England's contribution should be to help food production become more sustainable and shared more equitably.
"We need to be thinking and planning at the landscape scale to get the most from our land and stay within environmental limits - both within England and globally."
Spice up your life - health benefits of the hot stuff
Cinnamon isn't just a great way to sweeten up your pastry or morning coffee, it also has great weight-loss properties, too. According to a recent study by Diabetes Care, a simple teaspoon of cinnamon a day rapidly reduces blood sugar levels, as well as cholesterol by 26%, meaning it helps protect against diabetes, weight-gain and cardiovascular disease.
Hot and spicy paprika contains capsaicin, whose anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects may lower the risk of cancer (also found in cayenne and red chili peppers).
The staple in all our kitchen cupboards, black pepper contains piperine component (which creates its pungent taste) as well as boosting the metabolism by as much as 8% for sveral hours after ingesting. Freshly ground pepper packs the most piperine.
These spicy-tasting mustard seed not only pack a punch on your taste buds, but helps boost the metabolism. This helps the body burn fat quicker - by up to 25% and around 45 calories per average meal. According to a recent study by Oxford Polytechnic Institute, the mustard seed's thermogenic property is best as burning off the fat.
The main ingredient in the cayenne pepper is capsaicin, which is known for its fat-burning abilities and thermogenic properties. These stimulate the central nervous system to produce heat in the body, that goes onto increase calorie burning. A recent study featured in the Journal of Obesity found that these type of spices increase fat oxidation, which ramps up energy and stimulates the nervous system - all beneficial to helping the body shed weight.
Thanks to its preventative and curative ingredient, curcumin, a rich anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, turmeric is best at reducing inflammation in the muscles and joints. This spice is also believed to be a great breast cancer-preventing food and is more effective than over-the-counter pain killers, like aspirin and ibuprofen, according to the American Institute for Vedic Studies.
According to the Digestive Disease and Science, coriander rapidly decreases the painful symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Coriander contains an anti-spasmodic agent that helps relax contracted digestive muscles, which cause stomach cramps. It's also good at relaxing the artery, which subsequently helps lower blood pressure.
Fennel can be classed as a vegetable, herb or spice but whatever you label it, it's anti-inflammatory agents provide pain relief for menstrual cramps. Fennel contains a liquorice-tasting oil called anethole and phytoestrogen, an oestrogen-like compound. This is proven to reduce menstrual cramps and is as strong as an over-the-counter ibuprofen.
Ginger has long been used as a spice which helps ease all types of nausea. Previous studies from the University of Michigan and National Yang-Ming University, Taiwan, found that ginger reduces the release of vasopressin - the key hormone that plays a role in motion sickness. Ginger also has great gastric mobility abilities, and aids healthy digestion.
Oregano is a major source of thymol and carvacol - two antibacterial agents that fight off infection. It's also packed with super strength anti-oxidants, so much so, it has quadruple the amount of antioxidants found in blueberries.