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Future policy options to ensure food security: developing a sustainability narrative for United Kingdom health professionals

Hollingsworth, A. P. (2021) Future policy options to ensure food security: developing a sustainability narrative for United Kingdom health professionals. DAgriFood thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00110798


The free market in food has long been thought to have served the United Kingdom market well, producing an endless array of choice, year-round availability through a highly developed retail network, and some of the lowest consumer prices in Western Europe. Successive government administrations have laid the foundations for this laissez-faire approach, thereby enabling the market in food to thrive uninhibited. Where regulation has been necessary, much of this has been effectively devolved to the European Union (EU) through membership of the Single European Market. The scientific literature, however, is progressively developing a future prognosis for the planet which will invariably involve rapid change and new risks. Food security is especially a concern, even in the ‘developed’ world economies, where it has been off political radars for many decades. The threats to existing food security are complex but include: population growth and changing dietary preferences driving growth in demand; food supplies increasingly restricted by water scarcity and energy demand; a growing international scientific consensus on the potentially catastrophic impact and gigantean scale of climate change; and rapidly changing international political environments, some of which are witnessing a resurgence in economic nationalism which has the potential to usurp multilateralism on a number of common goals, such as health and the environment. This is particularly critical for the UK at a time when it is seeking to re-establish trading relationships with its largest food supplier, the EU. Furthermore, many of the economic and social benefits that the free market in food has generated have been achieved through the unsustainable use of resources. Many papers make urgent calls for governance across both sectors and institutions alike: without such infrastructures, the probability of the UK being able to meet its commitments on carbon emissions to the UN on either the Sustainable Development Goals or the Framework Convention on Climate Change will be significantly reduced. Some studies go as far as suggesting that the free market for food has failed, citing the current obesity epidemic, as an example. There is an urgent need in the UK to develop a food policy to tackle the imminent threats to food security whilst, at the same time, addressing the health concerns associated with diets. This research makes three original contributions to the research field. Firstly, the research provides an umbrella review of the latest evidence on how climate change will impact the UK’s ability to both produce and import healthy food and develops recommendations for a new policy framework to ensure the sustainability and security of UK food. Secondly, it uses climate modelling to quantify the impacts of climate change on food production in one area of the UK. Finally, it synthesises the latest findings on what constitutes a healthy diet and provides a framework for UK health professionals that will enable them to deliver evidence-based information to inform and bring about the behavioural change needed in the transition to more sustainable and healthy diets.

Item Type:Thesis (DAgriFood)
Thesis Supervisor:Wagstaff, C.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy > Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences
ID Code:110798
Additional Information:Redacted version. Parts removed for copyright reasons are: figures 8.3 and 8.8.


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