Memorandum submitted by Anthony Jackson (SFS 10)


Firstly I 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 Westminster could start to learn from and follow some of the fine examples set around food and farming in Scotland and Wales.


Food stocks

About time that they were brought back into being, they would have mitigated most of the present "food crisis".


Market Power

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 UK and across the globe. Patenting and monopoly power need to be addressed.


Waste and Consumption

30% of food is wasted in the UK! This is appalling. It contributes to environmental damage, and the need to import crops from abroad including, for example, soya from deforested areas of South America. Reducing food waste to the minimum possible level must be the most serious priority.


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 the UK and globally. To feed themselves, and to feed themselves quality food of their own choosing, people need access to the means of production necessary to produce food. This includes seeds, water, and land. It also requires that farmers and the public have a far greater say in "food policy", rather than just via consultations or as consumers.



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.

The UK imports a huge amount of animal feed. Surely it makes far more sense to grow our own animal feed, and extensify production systems (including strongly encouraging mixed farming), than pushing on the runaway biofuel bandwagon.



GM crops

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 USA. If the GM industry had enough confidence in its products to actually label them in the USA, these products would be rejected too.


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...




Distribution of food needs to be improved across the UK and globally.

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.


Food security 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 Americas, by not working out how to feed our livestock with more locally produced feed?


Funding can be directed to research in how much protein is really necessary.

What advantages there may be by increasing the usage of pasture and straw. What protein crops can be grown across the UK and the EU? And of course, why can we not reduce some of the problems of food waste, by returning to the use of pig swill. How many problems could that solve?

There may be a need to extensify, but that brings environmental, welfare and branding benefits too.


The 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 UK is also important. The food that we import impacts negatively on other countries environments. GM, pesticides, deforestation are all key issues. Soya, and other feed crops are again key, but so are other food stuffs, and so, of course are the issues associated with food miles and global change.


Social impacts of production should never be ignored. The use of chain gangs in the UK needs to be addressed immediately. The conditions that some people have to work in are completely unacceptable. Social issues abroad should also not be ignored. Plantation agriculture has many problems, and we import many foods grown in such systems. We cannot indirectly support slavery.


Land grabs are also widespread. Soya cultivation in South America is not only leading to the destruction of unique and vital habitats, but also the ejection of many native peoples and campesinos from their land. Extensification and increased self sufficiency at home, will not only lead to a better control over our own food production, isolate us from the worst effects of the global food chain, and associated speculation, but also help smallholders abroad maintain their way of life, and the ability to feed themselves.


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 UK, but across the world.


With this 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 Europe, meat and dairy products can be labelled as fed on GM free food. The UK can steal a march here and create the conditions for honesty and marketability, and profitability.


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.

This obviously has a place in schools, but we must also inspire, and facilitate the adult population of the UK as well.

Communities, including in urban areas, can be incentivised to grow their own food, and hence re connect to what they eat every day.


Procurement 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 UK agriculture and UK food. In the same way as consumers are entitled to local, quality, labelled and fully traceable food, so are children and employees.

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 UK and globally.


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 UK and globally.


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.


Yours sincerely,


Anthony Jackson

January 2009