Agriculture Bill

Written evidence submitted by T Burrington (AB51)


I am writing as a concerned individual and consumer.


Summary

I support the written evidence previously submitted by EcoNexus (AB45) to the 2017-19 Agriculture Bill and would like to expand on some of their comments. I would urge consumers to take note of the comments and suggestions, as the voices of consumers may not be being heard by those making decisions on the Bill. The consumer is under-represented and perhaps feels powerless (endnotes ii and iii).


"Econexus considers that agro -ecological farming is the way to improve food quality in the interests of public health, reduce the use of chemicals and enhance biodiversity, as well as improving soil, which is an urgent issue in the UK. Genetic engineering, including the new genetic modification techniques, must be regulated according to the Precautionary Principle, which, along with the Polluter Pays Principle, need to be included in this bill. We need transparency, traceability and labelling in the food system to include imported food. We believe that payments to farmers need to be continued, particularly for new entrants and also note that farmers need to be paid fair prices. Finally , we consider that food waste must be urgently tackled, including through increasing respect for food and improving direct links between food growers and food eaters."


I would like to add that labelling will not sufficiently deal with the problems associated with GM cross contamination. The Precautionary Principle must apply to the regulation of all emerging and converging technologies.


"Maize pollen travels kilometres [4] and is no more likely to respect a national border than to turn left at a roundabout so keeping GM out of your own back yard is never going to be enough." GM Freeze
GM Freeze Press Release 2017

https://www.gmfreeze.org/press-releases/eu-nations-say-no-to-gm-crops-but-not-quite-loudly-enough/

Some NGOs and the NFU have "acknowledged differences". Has the consumer been left holding the short straw regarding their food and environmental choices [1]


"In a joint letter, 60 co-signatories acknowledged differences on how to achieve a sustainable, carbon neutral model of farming, but said they were all agreed that Brexit provided an opportunity to do so and that "Without the right domestic policy, supported by a progressive and ambitious trade policy, none of us will realise this shared vision."

https://www.sustainweb.org/news/jan20_nfu_letter_boris_johnson_food_farming_standards/

January 2020


A Just Trade Policy?

https://www.tjm.org.uk/trade-issues/developing-an-alternative-trading-system
International trade at a juncture


Agenda 2030

Again, has the consumer (and the environment) been left holding the short straw? Hundreds of civil society organizations worldwide denounce World Economic Forum´s takeover of the U N [2]
"Signed in June 2019, the agreement promises to ‘accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ by deepening institutional coordination and collaboration between the UN and the WEF. The agreement grants transnational corporations preferential and deferential access to the UN System at the expense of states and public interest actors."

Harris Gleckman, a former UN official and senior fellow at the University of Massachussets says ‘This strategic agreement is a coup for the corporate leaders at Davos, but what does it offer the UN and the international community? This gives some of the most controversial corporations unprecedented access to the heart of the UN, yet it has not even been properly discussed by the UN’s country members and certainly not by the broader public.’ 

The UN system is already under a significant threat from the unilateralist instincts of the current US Government and a new wave of authoritarian leaders who question a democratic multilateral world. However, this ongoing corporatization may well have longer-term damaging consequences, given that many corporations in WEF bear responsibility for today’s leading social and environmental crises as a result of their practices including tax evasion, human rights violations, environmental contamination, climate pollution and corporate intervention in democracies.  [3]

Agenda 2030 – there are opposing view points

1. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/04/how-5g-can-advance-the-sdgs

2. Pimbert, M.P. and T. Uhnak, 2019. Agroecology and food sovereignty: charting a way to a radical transformation of the food system [4]


This vision of development essentially seeks to expand the technosphere at the expense of the biosphere
"Indeed, the word ‘transformation’ is being used both by the food sovereignty movement acting from below, as well as by the more forward-looking actors in industry and finance. The latter envisage food system transformation being based on the use of technologies associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). The World Economic Forum has identified a package of 12 technologies based on digital technology, synthetic biology, automation and intelligent robots for food system transformation. These 4IR technologies blur the lines between the physical, digital and biological domains.4 In this scenario of the future, people are entirely replaced by intelligent robots that can do all farming operations, from soil preparation and seeding to weeding and crop harvest. As bees are becoming extinct, research underway proposes to replace bees with flying robots designed to pollinate crops. This vision of development essentially seeks to expand the technosphere at the expense of the biosphere.5 This scientific and technological hubris is legitimising new investments in 4IR innovations for food and farming. "

In: Burrows, D. and A. Cezar, 2019. Politics of Food. Sternberg Press and the Delfina Foundation, London. pp. 88-99.


3
. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKaoLxw0qJI&feature=emb_title

The 5G mass-experiment: Big promises, unknown risks

4. https://cagj.org/agra-watch/

AGRA Watch is a grassroots, Seattle-based group challenging the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s questionable agricultural programs in Africa, including its Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). The Gates Foundation and AGRA claim to be "pro-poor" and "pro-environment," but their approach is closely aligned with transnational corporations, such as Monsanto, and foreign policy actors like USAID. They take advantage of food and global climate crises to promote high-tech, market-based, industrial agriculture and generate profits for corporations even while degrading the environment and disempowering farmers. Their programs are a form of philanthrocapitalism based on biopiracy.


What is there not to like? Opposing view points

1. https://www.nuffieldbioethics.org/blog/genome-editing-to-improve-farmed-animal-welfare-whats-not-to-like
Genome editing to improve farmed animal welfare. What’s not to like?


2. https://www.foe.org.au/food_and_technology_news

The National Food Strategy – will the consumer be left holding the short straw? There are opposing view points – see GM Freeze and TACD in the end notes. (New policy resolution on consumer concerns about new genetic engineering techniques)

What is in the Tool Kit?

https://www.nationalfoodstrategy.org/
Can those involved with the Citizens’ Assembly bring their own tool kit?


Pesticides
Georgina Downs calls for non chemical farming policy:

https://theecologist.org/2018/dec/20/pesticides-amendment-protect-residents

Conclusion
The Agricultural Bill must make provisos for strong and robust regulation and ill conceived policies should not be imposed by a few on the many. Please see endnotes. There are decisions to be made in respect of the genetic arms race and 5G, for example, that should not be rushed and those decisions should not be made by the few. Academics and economists often disagree. There are questions that remain unanswered about the National Food Strategy’s Citizen Assembly for these reasons regarding corporate lobbyists and global agendas both open and perhaps hidden. [5]

February 2020

 

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[1] https://www.gmfreeze.org/brexit/

[1] GM Freeze is campaigning to protect UK farmers right to farm responsibly, fairly and sustainably and consumers’ right to make informed choices.

[1] This means ensuring that the UK has:

[1] Rigorous GM regulation that protects people, animals and the environment.

[1] GM labelling that allows people to take control of what they are eating.

[1] Protection from GM contamination.

[1]

[1] https://tacd.org/new-policy-resolution-on-consumer-concerns-about-new-genetic-engineering-techniques/

[1] New policy resolution on consumer concerns about new genetic engineering techniques

[1]

[2] http://www.babymilkaction.org/archives/23661

[2] Press Release

[2] Hundreds of civil society organizations worldwide denounce World Economic Forum´s takeover of the UN

[2] As corporate executives fly into Davos for the annual meetings of the World Economic Forum, more than 400 civil society organizations and 40 international networks have denounced a Strategic Partnership Agreement between WEF and the UN and called on the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General to end it.

[3] https://www.fian.org/en/press-release/article/wef-takeover-of-un-strongly-condemned-2273

[3] WEF takeover of UN strongly condemned

[3] With the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in DAVOS around the corner, hundreds of CSOs reiterate condemnation of the partnership between the corporate world with the UN.

[4] https://www.sternberg-press.com/product/politics-of-food/ Politics of Food

[4] The last decade has witnessed a proliferation of artists and artist collectives interrogating the global politics and ethics of food production, distribution, and consumption. As an important document of new research and thinking around the subject, this book, published with Delfina Foundation, contains reflections on food by prominent artists, anthropologists, and activists, amongst others. Interviews with chefs, policy makers, and agronomists critically assess and illuminate the ways the arts confront food-related issues, ranging from the infrastructure of global and local food systems, its impact on social organization, alternatives and sustainability, climate and ecology, health and policy, science and biodiversity, and identity and community.

[4]

[5] https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/insight/biotech-ambassadors How the U.S. State Department Promotes the Seed Industry’s Global Agenda

[5] Food & Water Watch closely examined five years of State Department diplomatic cables from 2005 to 2009 to provide the first comprehensive analysis of the strategy, tactics and U.S. foreign policy objectives to foist pro-agricultural biotechnology policies worldwide

[5]

[5]

 

Prepared 27th February 2020