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Author Topic: How much land would the UK need to sustain itself?  (Read 4858 times)

David and Judith Coley

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David and Judith Coley  asked the Naked Scientists:
   
Dear Chris
 
It's said that to grow sufficient food to sustain the UK we would need the land area of Latin America to do the same as what we did before the war, because we have built on so much land.

Even allowing for the great waste of food we have and that we eat far too much, I find this hard to believe that the factor is this big. Is this correct please? If so why?
 
Very Curious      
 
Dave Coley

What do you think?


 

Offline Don_1

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How much land would the UK need to sustain itself?
« Reply #1 on: 26/08/2009 10:30:00 »
We apparently waste 20% of our food in the UK. This is probably the figure for the food industry and retail, and does not account for the waste by the individual's individual meals. Judging by the amounts left on plates in fast food restaurants, I would say, that the individual wastes at least the same amount again.

If the UK needs an area the size of Latin America to sustain itself, China must need the rest of the world. So where do the French, Germans, US Americans, Italians, Spanish, Indians, Russians (need I go on?) get their food from.

If I've said it once, I've said it 10 trillion times, 'don't exaggerate'.
 

Offline Mazurka

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How much land would the UK need to sustain itself?
« Reply #2 on: 26/08/2009 10:41:07 »
Doesn't this partly relate to diet? - I have heard it said that if we were to reduce/ eliminate  our consumption of meat we could produce more food.  I don't entirely agree with this as some areas are unsuitable for arable production and there are innovative solutions emerging.

I suspect it is quite a difficult thing to quantify as some foods we take for granted are difficult to grow in this country...

Isn't the normal metric for land areas "the size of wales"  ;) http://www.simonkelk.co.uk/sizeofwales.html- i do not have any idea how big Latin America is!  [:I]
 

Offline graham.d

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How much land would the UK need to sustain itself?
« Reply #3 on: 26/08/2009 12:32:34 »
I don't think this "stat" is anything like right. Jonathon Porrit said that the UK would have to halve its population for it to be self sufficient. I would take this to mean that doubling the land area would be equivalent, which is much less than the initial arrertion.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article5950442.ece

But also JP has a number of agendas that would encourage him to exaggerate this, so I expect the reality is even less dramatic. Population has grown by about 30% since the 1930s but, although urban areas have grown considerably, they are not really a very significant portion of the total land area. Two other factors are that lifestyle choices make our diet more rich and varied from what it was in the 1930s and the way trade has developed has led to specialisation in particular areas of agriculture - we are much less varied now but, on the other hand, are much more efficient.

I cannot justify this without a lot of research but I think it quite likely that the UK could be self sufficient given enough reorganisation of current land usage. However, we would all have to get used to a very different diet.
 

Offline LeeE

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How much land would the UK need to sustain itself?
« Reply #4 on: 26/08/2009 15:58:28 »
This is one of those questions where a numeric result has been derived from no numeric input   :D

First of all, the population needs to be defined.  It's not adequate to simply say 'the U.K. population' because this number is constantly changing over time.  Secondly, you need to define what you mean by 'food'  Iirc, the production of livestock for meat requires >10x more land area than edible crops to produce the same amount of 'food', which is to say that if everyone was veggie we'd need less land to produce adequate food; you can't really just refer to 'food' without specifying the diet.
 

Offline rosy

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How much land would the UK need to sustain itself?
« Reply #5 on: 26/08/2009 17:49:09 »
Hm, probably not entirely veggie. As I understand it, sheep are quite an efficient means of harvesting the energy available from Welsh hillsides which couldn't usefully be farmed for other food crops. You couldn't realistically keep such stock for milk since collecting them in to be milked would be prohibitive, but for mutton you probably could...
 

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How much land would the UK need to sustain itself?
« Reply #5 on: 26/08/2009 17:49:09 »

 

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