Memorandum submitted by Anthony Jackson (SFS 10)
would like to draw your attention to Devolution, and the separate progressive
policies and directions that the Devolved administrations are taking vis a vis
food and farming. Perhaps
About time that they were brought back into being, they would have mitigated most of the present "food crisis".
The distortions in relative market power along the food chain, both domestically and internationally need to be rapidly and seriously addressed.
This not only
involves the retailer/ producer relationship, but also the suppliers of inputs
(especially chemical and seeds and fertilisers)/ producer relationship. Strong
concentration has occurred in the seed, chemical and fertiliser sectors, some
due to GM seeds and patenting, this is impacting negatively for farmers and
diversity of crops, across the
Waste and Consumption
30% of food is
wasted in the
2 billion people globally are obese, whilst 850 million are starving.
This is clearly perverse, and needs to be prioritised. Instead of spending vast amounts of money on failed technologies (such as GM) to try and increase yields, and instead of similar attempts to do the same via further intensification and concentration, the direct link must be made confidently and publicly that overconsumption is a primary cause of malnutrition in the world. This can then allow genuine attempts to redistribute food effectively.
There is a
vital need to address the issue of access to the means of production, both in
Biofuels and animal feed
Biofuels are a waste of time, effort and money. They are based on a completely ridiculous predication, and will only lead to further squandering of public money, and a bubble bursting, further damaging hard pressed farmers.
It is still amazing that after a quarter of a century of failure some people still seem to need to peddle the nonsense that GM crops can play any part in solving any of the problems that we have concerning food and farming.
GM crops exist because they can be patented and hence monopoly profits can flow to the MNCs (Multinational Corporations) that can afford the research and development costs (which are also heavily subsidised via public institution research budgets).
There is simply nothing else to it.
Only 2% of the
World's agricultural land is under GM crops. GM crops go into animal feed,
fibre and now fuel (biofuels), all areas where consumers find it hard to make a
direct choice. Despite the protestations of the vested interests in the GM
industry, very few GM crops go directly into human food, and only then in
highly processed form, in small quantities, and in unlabelled products in the
The "potential" of GM, other than to suck up vast amounts of scarce research funding that would be far better allocated elsewhere, has long been noted to be nothing more than simplistic and juvenile attempts to ignore the real fundamental issues, and subscribe to industrial silver bullets.
Another wild goose chase...
of food needs to be improved across the
This requires relative levels of poverty to be addressed, as well as issues of geography. Where there is a need, incentives for the local production of certain products will be necessary. This will also help to reduce food miles.
Trade issues need to be looked at with honesty. Fair Trade does a great job, but is marginal. Public monies spent on fairly traded foodstuffs must dramatically increase. We must also be aware that other countries need to be able to produce food for their own consumption, and some incentives and pressure from richer nations actually act against this primary necessity.
and Food Sovereignty are key issues and are interlinked. Why do we import so
much animal feed? Is it really in our best interests to have our meat sectors
in hock to soya produced on the other side of the world. Should we really be
supporting the production of GM varieties of maize and soya that destroy
environments in South America, and increase pesticide usage across all of the
Funding can be directed to research in how much protein is really necessary.
advantages there may be by increasing the usage of pasture and straw. What
protein crops can be grown across the
There may be a need to extensify, but that brings environmental, welfare and branding benefits too.
environment needs protecting and enhancing. This includes water and soil, and
again should make us look at the amount of pesticides and fertilisers that we
actually do need. It also means that we should stay well clear of GM crops. The
environment outwith the
of production should never be ignored. The use of chain gangs in the
Land grabs are
also widespread. Soya cultivation in
It is probably
also time to recognise that if we do want a fair agricultural system, and thriving
rural areas, more money needs to flow into the countryside. Although this may
be a tricky time to talk about this, it may be necessary that people have to
pay more money for food. The proportion of incomes spent on food is at an all
time low, and this is reflected in our production methods, environmental
degradation, health issues, and concerns in rural areas. In return for an
increasing proportion of private and public incomes spent on food, we must
demand, and get, on the other side of the bargain, quality, healthy food, that
benefits the environment, not only in the
quality production comes the ability to brand our food so that the benefits can
be easily read by the consumer who is being asked to pay more to increase the
margin for the producer. Locality is of course important in this, as can be
methods of production. Feed is also key here for animal products, for example,
as is happening across
These profits must be distributed fairly. This needs a major rebalancing of power throughout the chain (and globally!). Producers need their fair share, and processors and large retailers need to be held accountable so this becomes a reality, and not just an aspiration. Small retailers also need a fair go.
We all know how it can be done, and that it can be done. It just needs the will to make it happen. This will not only need the will of politicians, but also consumers, and the producers themselves, to change their behaviour.
Vested interests, whether they are the multinational GM seed producers, or the domineering supermarkets, cannot be allowed to hold the food system to ransom. Food is for us all, and not just the few.
Education is vital in all of this. People need to understand food, appreciate food, and agriculture and the environment. Nutrition, cooking skills, and even the ability to grow their own food, must be encouraged.
has a place in schools, but we must also inspire, and facilitate the adult
population of the
Communities, including in urban areas, can be incentivised to grow their own food, and hence re connect to what they eat every day.
has been oft mentioned, and understandably so. School canteens, prisons, the
health sector, councils and central Government can collectively and positively
change the face of
And education is a life long process.
Finally, do we really need to double food production by some future date? This "fact" has never really been questioned, and yet extrapolations of this kind (and of population) tend to be wide of the mark? Maybe there are better ways to feed all of us fairly: distribution; balanced, healthy diets; addressing poverty, etc, etc.
And; should we be so distracted by what may or may not happen in 40 years time, when we should be fundamentally changing things now, so that we can feed the 1 billion people who will starve this year. They should not be forgotten, and should be at the heart of your enquiry, rather than putting off the necessary changes to face the potential problems of the future.
If we had the courage to deal with the problems of today, we may also find that we have dealt with the problems of tomorrow.
There are no
short cuts and no technological fixes to any of the food and farming issues
that we face in the
For too long Government has encouraged (and funded) greed and stupidity.
We now must
spend more time and effort concentrating on quality, respect throughout the food
chain, and a fundamental rebalancing of power relationships, both within the
We need to reconnect people with food, and an appreciation of food. Where it comes from and what it takes to produce. People need to know how to cook, and how to cook well, how to eat well, and how to live well. And people need to know how what they consume, and how they act impacts on the poorest in the world, and have the courage to change.