The food industry needs to develop a more coherent sustainability strategy if economic and ecological disasters are to be averted.

This was the stark message to emerge from the CIES World Food Summit this week in Munich.

Growth and sustainability, the themes of the conference, would only be achieved if food retailers and suppliers acknowledged the scale and nature of the problem, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor told delegates.

"We must be aware of the limits of what our planet can tolerate if we want to be able to guarantee lasting economic prosperity and social wellbeing," she said. "It is not possible to imagine any lasting economic growth based on predatory exploitation of nature or social injustice."

Drastic steps were required, said South African adventurer and broadcaster, Patricia Glyn, urging people to stop eating meat. "Meat production is one of the most pressing environmental crises we face," she said. "We are robbing our children of their future, more by what we eat than what we drive."

However, Waitrose MD, Mark Price urged retailers not to censor consumer choice. "Our role is not to be the editor of choice, it is to be the provider of choice," he said.