Chief Scientist warns of food crisis

The government's new chief scientific advisor has warned that food security is likely to become as much of a problem as climate change.

In a speech to the Govnet Sustainable Development UK conference in Westminster, Professor John Beddington said that the rush to grow biofuels was at odds with the need to provide food to feed a rapidly growing population.

"There is progress on climate change. But out there is another major problem. It is very hard to imagine how we can see a world growing enough crops to produce renewable energy and, at the same time, meet the enormous increase in the demand for food, which is quite properly going to happen as we alleviate poverty," he said.

Beddington said that the biofuel industry had caused a "major shock" to world food prices and said that it caused serious problems with unsustainability, especially when grown in rainforest areas.

"Some of the biofuels are hopeless. The idea that you cut down rainforest to grow biofuels seems profoundly stupid," he said.

He predicted that price rises in maize and wheat would continue to rise due to population growth, increased global wealth and decreased rainfall in many crop-growing areas, and warned that a food crisis could bite more quickly than climate change.