The idea that vertical farms and ‘urban food production’ can contribute significantly to the UK’s food security should be treated with caution, one of the UK’s most prominent engineers and climate change experts has told an influential committee of MPs.
Julia King, who leads work on adaptation to climate change on behalf of Defra, was giving evidence at the end of January to an inquiry into environmental change and food security by the Environmental Audit Committee of MPs.
Responding to a question from Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, Professor Dame King said: “I think we are on the cautious end of estimates of the role of urban food production, of how big an impact it will have on food security. It is not that vertical farming with artificial light and irrigation is going to replace food growing in fields, but it might be able to do important niche things.
“I do not see us moving to industrialised food production in urban areas replacing the need for farming.”
She told the inquiry the government was still doing too little to help farmers and growers adapt to climate change, particularly on water use and storage, and drought management.
Professor Dame King – who sits in the House of Lords as Baroness Brown – chairs the adaptation group of the Climate Change Committee which works on behalf of Defra to report regularly on the risks posed by climate change and to advise on mitigating actions.
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