The annual Chatham House food conference

  • 09th December 2016
  • by secretary

5-6 December. London. International agreements, increasing urbanization and climate change are putting pressure on the global food system. The annual Chatham House food conference addressed the specific challenges that need to be overcome to improve sustainability and food security, deliver carbon reductions in the food system, and the role of policy, industry and civil society in achieving these goals.

Discussion topics included:

  1. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the COP21 climate change commitments – In order to satisfy these agreements, how will food production and consumption approaches need to be reassessed by countries, companies and individuals? Key areas for improvement include tackling
  2. food waste, changing consumption and improving the ecological efficiency of food production. 
  3. Demographic shifts and increasing urbanization – These are furthering the need for, and accelerating, changes to farming systems. Methods for adaption to a low carbon, urbanized world and the potential for entrepreneurial approaches and new technologies to generate solutions will be assessed. 
  4. Sustainable development and resilience – To ensure food security and economic development, resilience must be improved. As climate risk grows, how can investment be mobilized to help prevent serious disruption and what risk management mechanisms, including insurance, are available?
Session Two | Innovation in Food Production and Sustainable Intensification

  • What is the need and potential for innovative forms of urban farming to sustainably produce food for growing and concentrated populations? What challenges do these systems face?
  • What improved farming practices are being developed that increase productivity while protecting the environment? 
  • How significant is the impact of soil erosion on agricultural systems and how can it be avoided? 
  • What developments have been made in genetically modified crops? To what extent are they likely to be taken up more widely, and what role might they play in more sustainable food production? 

Gerda Verburg, Coordinator, Scaling Up Nutrition Movement


  • Marc Sadler, Global Lead, Climate Smart Agriculture, The World Bank 
  • David Morgan, Global Head Vegetables Business Unit, Syngenta
  • Professor Tony Ryan, Director, Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures
  • Mark Pettigrew, European Agricultural Sustainability Manager, PepsiCo 

Session Five | Sustainable Development through Agriculture
Ensuring sustainable and profitable agricultural systems in developing economies is critical for growth. Pressures on agricultural systems include increasing urbanization, competition for land use and environmental factors. This session addressed how these challenges might be managed and look at new approaches to overcome them.

  • How can effective partnerships for sustainable food systems along value chains be built and developed by multinational organizations? 
  • How can farmers, especially women, be empowered and their livelihoods made more secure through improved access to resources including land, finance and education?
  • What can be done to make farming more attractive to the next generation? 
  • What role might entrepreneurs have in fostering sustainable and transparent supply chains and developing new approaches to the food system?

Duncan Cameron, Professor of Plant and Soil Biology, Royal Society University Research Fellow


  • Keynote speaker: Shenggen Fan, Director-General, International Food Policy Research Institute 
  • Arne Cartridge, Special Adviser, Yara International and Executive Director, Grow Africa (2012-2016)
  • Gerda Verburg, Coordinator, Scaling Up Nutrition Movement 
  • Dominique Kohli, Assistant Director-General, International Affairs, Research and Innovation Directorate, Federal Office for Agriculture, Switzerland
  • Friedrich Wacker, Deputy Director General for International Cooperation and Global Food Policy, Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Germany and Chair, Agricultural Market Information System