Food prices in the UK have risen by an average 6% over the course of 2011 at a time when unemployment continues to rise along with energy prices and other costs.
When households are being very careful about their budgets it can seem very difficult to continue to ensure that the diet remains nutritious and healthy.
The current, tenth, annual British Food Fortnight illustrates ways in which this can be done, by shopping for foods that are in season and produced locally. Economies can also be made by joining a vegetable box scheme or buying at local farmers’ markets and farm shops.
There are additional health benefits, as researchers in the USA have discovered when testing the effects of storage on the antioxidant and anti-cancer properties of potatoes. Coloured potatoes contain significantly higher levels of anti-cancer, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds than white ones and the scientists found that the longer the vegetables were stored the more the anti-cancer component of the antioxidants decreased.
All this can help the household budget and health as well as minimising the carbon footprint. This can also help farmers to get a fair price for their produce.
The issues of food security, increasing production and farming more sustainably still require more attention from the politicians, however.
At the recent annual Labour party conference the shadow DEFRA minister Mary Creagh promised to make food and farming central to Labour party policy. She conceded that UK farmers needed help to meet growing food demands while using resources carefully and managing the environment.
She agreed that there had also been little action on the Foresight report, which looked at food production in 2020 and that action needed to start now to meet the concerns expressed in the report on UK food security.
Mary Creagh’s colleague, the Shadow environment minister Willie Bain, agreed and added that expenditure on research and development needed to be increased if farmers were going to increase the amount they produced with fewer inputs.
Farmers will also need much more widespread access to alternative, more environmentally friendly crop protection and yield enhancement products as part of this process.
Low-chem agricultural products being devised by the biopesticides developers provide a useful alternative to the older generation of chemical based pesticides.
These biopesticidesand biofungicides leave no chemical residue in the crops or in the land or water supply while protecting farm production from losses due to waste. Coupled with more organic methods of farming it is feasible that the goals for the increased production and food security that will be needed in the UK by 2010 can be met.