A Sustainable Food Future

Technology, resource use and resilience

27 Nov 2017 - 09:30 to 28 Nov 2017 - 13:30
Add to Calendar

Chatham House, London


Increasing competition for land and land-based resources from agriculture, urbanization, climate mitigation and other emerging sources of demand pose challenges to food security and the long-term sustainability of food production. Technological advances and new business models are also changing consumption, demand and the price of food, with positive and negative consequences for food sustainability and security.

The resilience of the food system is also under threat from disease, conflict and climatic shocks. Our ability to mitigate and manage these risks will depend as much on developing and financing new technologies and agricultural practices as improving the viability of more traditional methods.  

Innovations in agricultural practice and food production are affected by regional and international politics and stability, as exemplified by recent changes in government policy in several major food-producing countries now pursuing increasingly protectionist trade agendas. 

The annual Chatham House Food conference will address the latest challenges to the food security and sustainability agenda while assessing new policies, practices and technologies being devised to create a more resilient and sustainable food system.

The Chatham House Rule 
To enable as open a debate as possible, this conference will be held under the Chatham House Rule.


Monday 27 November

Session One | Sustainability and Resilience in the Global Food System

This opening discussion will explore the latest developments in the food security and sustainability agenda.

  • What steps have been taken by governments and international organizations to address the challenge of improving global food security in recent years?
  • How are the pledges made in major international agreements such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Paris Agreement changing practices and approaches to sustainability, food production and food choices?
  • Can disruptive innovation change how land and other resources are used for food production?
  • To what extent is conflict now a primary contributor to regional food insecurity? How resilient is the global food system to disruption and protracted crises?

Session Two | Resource Use

Increasing competition for land and land-based resources from agriculture, urbanization, climate mitigation, and other emerging sources of demand pose challenges to food security and the long term sustainability of food production. This session will focus on the interconnections between resources and the challenge faced in balancing the multiple uses of land, water and energy.

  • How will climate change and other threats affect the long-term productive capacity of land, soil and the ecological systems needed to meet global food demand?
  • How can increased agricultural productivity be achieved while ensuring that water and water-related ecosystems are protected, managed and used sustainably?
  • What effect can changes in energy use have on the sustainability of the food system and on the availability of land for food production?
  • What existing farming practices can be improved to help increase productivity while protecting the environment?
  • Could new cultivation methods decouple food production from land use, for example via hydroponics, aeroponics and aquaponics?

Session Three | Understanding Risk and Building Resilience in the Food System

Many regions are increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, manifest as both acute weather shocks and chronic changes in rainfall, temperature, and seasonal variability. Disease epidemics, conflict and protracted crises further exacerbate the vulnerabilities. Supply chains and trade routes can also become vulnerable to a range of disruptive risks. This session will look at the interaction between these risks and how they can be better understood and the effects mitigated.

  • In which ways can disruptive shocks be anticipated and accounted for?
  • What are the main challenges in exporting, transporting or importing commodities?
  • What risk management mechanisms can be employed to ensure safe passage and security of supply of grains and fertilizers?
  • How best to ensure the stability of the global food system as it faces risks from increasingly frequent extreme weather being driven by climate change?
  • As the degree of corporate concentration in food and agriculture sector increases, does this consolidation offer potential for a major shift in the way the supply chain and market dynamics operate, or increase risk? 

Session Four | Changing Diets and Patterns of Food Consumption 

Global dietary trends, from undernourishment to obesity affect every country and places more than one quarter of the world’s population at serious health risk. Furthermore, our current patterns of producing and consuming food are driving climate change and threatening natural resources. Patterns of food production and consumption need to adapt to ensure global health and a sustainable global food system. This session will assess the scale of the challenges and consider the potential for cultural change and innovative solutions from government, the private sector, academia and civil society.

  • How will increased urbanization and the growth of cities affect demand, particularly in countries that are net-importers?
  • What are the implications of growing global demand for animal-based proteins?
  • How might public opinion adapt in relation to food produced through new technologies, particularly alternative proteins?
  • To what extent can the price of food accurately reflect the externalities of its environmental impact and health costs?
  • How can innovation and disruptive technologies address the food waste problem?

17:30 Close of day one and drinks reception

Tuesday 28 November

Session Five | Innovation and Technology in Food Production

Recent developments in information and communication technology have made a positive impact on the efficiency, productivity and sustainability of agriculture, as well as playing a vital role in formulating climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies. Mechanisation, new crop varieties and agricultural chemicals have all also contributed to yield-enhancing shifts. However, to produce food in a sustainable way for an additional 2 billion people by 2050, game changing new technologies and new ways of financing these developments will need to be found. This session will look at recent advances in this area and how they may compliment innovations in more traditional practices: 

  • Which disruptive technologies could be game-changers in creating a more sustainable food and agriculture system? What will be the rate of availability and large-scale adoption of such technologies?
  • How equitable will the design and deployment of technological innovations be? To what extent will developed and developing countries both stand to benefit?
  • How will the costs, benefits and risks of technological advances be distributed?

Session Six | Changing Trade Agendas and Food Security

Brexit may have implications for UK food price security and could lead to a reconfiguration of the UK’s food-trade regimes. In the US, the potential reshaping of agricultural trade relationships under the Trump Administration could have also major implications for global food security, food prices, and the environment. This panel will look at the potential sustainability consequences of redefining the UK’s agricultural and food-trade policies as well as developments in US agriculture trade policy and the likely consequences for the stability and sustainability of food production. 

  • How will the UK leaving the EU affect domestic food security and how might the future EU-UK trade relationship affect food trade?
  • What will replace EU derived agricultural subsidies?
  • Because of these changes what potential impacts could shifts in UK need and demand for key agricultural products have on resources and environment?
  • How will the US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and trade frictions with China and Mexico affect agricultural production and exports? Under what conditions might the US seek to reach an agreement on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the EU?
  • Will other major food trading nations conduct cooperative trade through open markets or adopt more isolationist policies? How will this affect food and agriculture? 

13:30 End of conference

© The Royal Institute of International Affairs 2017

Keynote speaker


Pricing and booking information 

Register by Friday 29 September 2017 to benefit from the early booking rate.

Ways to book:

  1. Phone: Call Louisa Troughton on +44 (0)20 7957 5727
  2. Online: Click here to complete the online registration form


Partners and major corporate members  
All organizations£545£645
Standard corporate members  
Commercial organizations£1,190£1,390
Government departments£720£820
NGOs and academics£440£540
Commercial organizations£1,335£1,535
Government departments£810£920
NGOs and academics£490£595

Your delegate pass includes:

  • Conference attendance
  • Documentation
  • Lunch and refreshments

Travel and accommodation are not included. View a list of recommended hotels here.


If you are interested in becoming a sponsor for this event, please contact Adam Bowie on
+44 (0) 20 7957 5732


Chatham House
10 St James's Square
[email protected]

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7314 2785
Fax: +44 (0)20 7957 5710

If you wish to book the venue for your own event please phone +44 (0)20 7314 2764

The nearest tube station is Piccadilly Circus which is on the Piccadilly and the Bakerloo Underground lines. From Piccadilly follow Regent Street southwards towards Pall Mall and take the first road on the right called Jermyn Street. Duke of York Street is the second road on the left and leads to St James's Square. Chatham House is immediately on your right.


Although we cannot book accommodation for delegates, we have arranged a reduced rate at some nearby hotels, where you can book your own accommodation. Please inform the hotel that you will be attending a conference at Chatham House (The Royal Institute of International Affairs) to qualify for the Institute's reduced rate.

Please note all rates are subject to availability.

Flemings Mayfair
13 Half Moon Street
London - W1J 7BH

Tel: + 44 (0)20 7499 2964
Fax: + 44 (0)20 7499 1817
[email protected]

Classic Double without breakfast: £195 +VAT

The Cavendish London
81 Jermyn Street
London - SW1U 6JF

Tel: + 44 (0)20 7930 2111
Fax: + 44 (0)20 7839 2125
[email protected]

Classic Room without breakfast: £205 +VAT

Book The Cavendish online

The Stafford London 
St James's Place
London - SW1A 1NJ

Tel: 020 7493 0111
Fax: 020 7493 7121
[email protected]

Classic Queen without breakfast: £247 +VAT
Quote Chatham House


Media partners

f you are interested in becoming a media partner for this event, please contact 
Amy Smith on +44 (0)20 7957 5755

Press registration

This conference will be held under the Chatham House Rule. Information for journalists.

Press can request a press pass.