Tag Archives: UK food strategy

Food 2030 – spin not substance

Venue magazine asked me for my view on Food 2030 for its Feb 3 issue. That got me thinking:

The government’s food strategy for the next 20 years sounded like good news.

“Britain must grow more sustainable food,” went the Guardian headline as farming minister, Hilary Benn, launched Food 2030 at the Oxford Farming Conference.

Hilary was using all the right words: climate change, food security, homegrown food.

Hilary even included this rallying call:

“People power can help bring about a revolution in the way food is produced and sold.”

That sentence could have come straight from the planet-friendly Soil Association. Hold on a minute. I think it did. I remember writing something similar when I was editor of the organic charity’s magazine, Living Earth.

So, has the government finally got the green message?

Look, I hate to be cynical but there is an election coming up.

The fact is – and you might as well know sooner than later – New Labour (and Conservatives when in power) are as wedded to the dominant global food system as ever.

Food 2030 pretends to be open-minded about GM but I am not convinced.

According to Hilary Benn’s performance at the Soil Association 2008 conference, the minister does not inspire confidence.

(Watch out for Hilary at the Soil Association conference in February).

So Hilary tries to reassure us that the government is on the case because it is spending £90m over the next five years “to fund innovative technological research and development” with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

Sounds like quick-fix technology to me – good for corporate finances but not for us mere mortals.

You can bet that not-much of that £90m will go on researching already-existing healthy farming models such as organic farming or permaculture.

Food 2030 pretends to be looking for solutions but instead dumps the burden on consumers and farmers.

(Reminds me of that ghastly government advert on climate change where the little kid sees a picture of a puppy dying in the rising tide. O, so kids must feel guilty while the government carries on with business-as-usual? No, minister, that is not what I would call positive action against climate change).

Back to Food 2030 and Hilary’s big push against food waste. Yes, we waste food but hold on a minute. Why focus on what we citizens keep rotting in our fridge when supermarkets throw away far more food than we do?

And as for telling farmers to produce more local food when – hello? – council farms are being sold off.

Benn’s only vaguely substantial idea was to be more honest about labelling meat’s country of origin.

But then that was a Tory idea anyway.

So, sorry – not impressed.

Are you?


Stop press (added 03.05.2010): The Soil Association has produced a report investigating the big fat lie that the UK needs to double food production by 2050.