A Peoples Food Policy - a vision for a better food system
26 June 2017
After his failed backstabbing leadership bid, Michael Gove’s sudden return to the frontbench in the recent cabinet reshuffle was a shock to many. His controversial role in the education and justice departments, his attempts to remove climate change from the national curriculum and calls for the habitat directive to be scrapped has left many question marks on his suitability as the new environment secretary. His new role puts him at the forefront of key decisions to be taken on food, farming and the environment in post-Brexit Britain. And yet whether he or the Conservative party or indeed any of the parties, have a vision for a better, fairer food system in England, is questionable.
Our current food system is in a state of crisis, characterised by:
- Food insecurity - an estimated over eight million people across England, Wales and Northern Ireland experience food insecurity and struggle to eat even one meal a day.Low paid farmers - 64% of farmers earn less than £10,000 a year
- Corporate dominance - eight supermarkets control almost 95% of the food retail market,and farmers receive less than 10% of the value of their produce sold in supermarkets.
- Poor working conditions - for people in the food and farming sectors
- Lack of support -for new entrant farmers or funding for farmers producing food on less than five hectares of land
- Contribution to climate change - industrial agriculture continues to produce a tenth of all greenhouse gases (GHG) in the UK as it is dependent on unsustainable inputs of fossil fuels and chemicals.
But it doesn’t have to be this way and Brexit provides an opportunity to re-think our food system. This week, A People’s Food Policy was launched, giving an exciting positive vision for a food system in England that works for people, communities and the environment. (There are plans to introduce the Good Food Nation bill in the Scottish parliament based on civil society input).
Eschewing the silos of government departments and disconnection from the lived experiences of consumers and producers, A People’s Food Policy provides an alternative way to look at food policy and how it can be coordinated to bring about genuine social change. For the past 18 months, consultations, workshops and surveys with individuals and over 150 organisations, unions, community and campaign groups, workers from across the food system and civil society have taken place in order to create a participative process to collectively answer the the questions: What does a better food system look like and what policies are needed to get us there?
A People's Food Policy looks at all different aspects of the food system from land, labour, markets, health, trade, environment etc and presents a comprehensive vision for how it could be different as well as identifying the interconnected policies that help us get to that vision. It's radical and positive. The report is based on the framework of food sovereignty - which has come from the voices and experiences of farmers from all over the world. Food sovereignty sees food as a right, in the hands of people who consume and produce food and valuing both environment and the people who produce food. It provides the strongest, most credible governance framework that we could have in this country.
But to get these ideas anywhere near the political radar, we need strong, co-ordinated movement building between individuals, communities and voluntary and civil society groups from across the spectrum. Collectively pulling together to push for a better food system, from the bottom up. Its not just something that we want, its something that we need.