Food Security Must Be Priority, says Cameron

Conservative leader David Cameron echoed industry leaders yesterday as he insisted that food security must be the priority of the future.

Speaking at the NFU Conference 2008, Cameron underlined the importance of a strong rural economy for rural employment, environmental stewardship and, most importantly, the production of food.

He described food production as Britain's most important industry and said that the issue of food security is vital for the economy, vital for security and vital for every family in the country.

Cameron said: "Some analysts are beginning to make some very worrying, very stark predictions: that competition for resources will become intense; that food prices will continue to rise; that there will be world shortages of food. And these analysts say that politicians should start to rank the issue of food security alongside energy security and even national security.

"But changes are happening in our world... changes such as global economic progress and what this means for peoples' diets, climate change and the move to biofuels, which directly affect the ability of the world's farmers to fulfil their essential purpose: to grow enough food for us all."

Cameron criticised the government for the Pirbright foot-and-mouth leak and urged it to increase biosecurity in its laboratories, take tougher action on imports of illegal meats and introduce a package of measures on bovine TB.

He said that politicians should respond to concerns about food security "by giving this issue the attention and thought it deserves - not hoping it just goes away".

In order to ensure that Britain produces enough affordable food, Cameron insisted that Britain must press for the de-coupling of production from subsidies across Europe and reduce the volume of "red tape" faced by UK farmers.

He said that, in turn, Britain's farmers must reconnect with their consumers, take responsibility for their environmental impact and be more responsible about the food they produce.

"All we need is the farming community to meet the challenges of the 21st century head-on, with confidence, ingenuity and creativity, and for government to assist that process, by giving you more power, control and responsibility," he said.

"We're all in this together and, if everyone plays their part, British farming can look forward to a secure and prosperous future."