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Think about food sources

11 September 2008

Martin Lam, chef-proprietor at Ransome's Dock restaurant, London, and chairman of the food policy committee at the Academy of Culinary Arts, says the industry must ook seriously at the way it sources food

I strongly believe we should all be giving much more consideration to the source of the food we rely upon to earn our living. Not just where it comes from, in terms of the now fashionable "food provenance", but, more fundamentally, how it is produced.

The world we live in continues to change, that is its nature. We should not stand in the way of progress but neither should we ignore the natural order. We do so at our peril, both now and for future generations.

Food production, and the demands we make on natural resources to do it, is being tested to the known limits at present in order to feed all 7.7 billion of us (probably nine billion by 2050).

The changes of diet in India and China towards much more consumption of animal protein puts yet more strain upon production - it takes 5lb of grain to produce 1lb of beef - while the demand for specific crops grown to make "biofuel" just adds to this problem.

Agricultural scientists continue to try and meet these needs, developing hardier strains of plant that give ever more efficient or increased yields. This is normally a good thing, creating, for example, wheat that can withstand storms that would previously have flattened crops.

However, we now face the resurgence of the pro-GM argument from our own Government, which previously bowed to overwhelming public opinion by halting open field trials because they were seen to be too dangerous and unknown a science.

Using the emotive argument that "rocketing food prices and food shortages in the world's poorest countries mean the time is right to relax Britain's policy on use of GM crops" we are now asked to believe that GM crops produce bigger yields than conventional methods, even though this is still unproven. But will poorer countries be able to afford the herbicides and oil-based artificial fertilisers upon which GM crops are dependent?

As an industry that depends upon food for its very existence, we should all stop and think about these matters before it is truly too late.

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Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

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