Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer (Liberal Democrat), who tabled the debate, said: 'We have only recently begun to understand the importance of the concept of global food security rather than seeing it as an issue only when there is a regional famine or shortage far from these shores.'
She highlighted how the UK has the 'best grass-growing conditions in the whole world and a wonderful range of livestock breeds'. She continued: 'Food security is all about resilience and diversity. We must value our seed heritage and our different animal breeds.' She predicted biotechnology would be a 'hot topic' and said: 'I do not think that GM is the answer to food security issues, but nor should we seek to halt scientific exploration and trials.'
Earl of Selborne (Conservative), former chair of the Royal Agricultural Society of England and current chair of the Foundation for Science and Technology, stated: 'Our present food system is clearly unsustainable, inadequate and failing in some respects.'
He listed reduced dependence on fossil fuels and exploitation of natural resources, economic use of water, increased use of biomass and reducing carbon leakage as essential components of sustainable agriculture. 'It will not be agricultural science that delivers totally. Financial services, the communications sector and a whole raft of interventions - political, economical, sociological and technological - will be involved,' he said.
Lord Giddens (Labour), member of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment EU Sub-committee, took a global view and spoke about 'new style risks' which 'we tend to be in denial about'. Human created risks are rising steeply yet 'we are not in a world that is getting close to managing their consequences, or even to accepting their seriousness' he explained.
Lord Giddens added: 'Three of the biggest new-style risks are climate change, population growth and world urbanisation.' In the case of food security these risks overlap and it's time 'to make far more of a dent in these risks than we have so far'.
Other speakers included
- Lord Curry of Kirkharle (Crossbench), former chair of the Commission on the Future of Farming and Food and author of the Government Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food
- Lord Taverne (Liberal Democrat), chair of Sense about Science
- Earl of Caithness (Conservative), member of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment EU Sub-committee.
Lord Stern of Brentford (Crossbench), Lord Judd (Labour), Baroness Parminter (Liberal Democrat), the Bishop of Derby and the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich also took part in the debate.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach (Conservative) responded on behalf of the government.