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.
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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."
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