28.06.2017 |

A People’s Food Policy: NGOs call for transformation of England’s food system

A more just and sustainable food system is needed (Photo: CC0)

A coalition of food and farming organisations has urged politicians in England to develop a more progressive food policy in advance of leaving the EU. On Monday, they launched ‘A People's Food Policy’, a 100-page report which is calling for a more just food system “where everybody, regardless of income, status or background, has secure access to enough good food at all times, without compromising on the wellbeing of people, the health of the environment and the ability of future generations to provide for themselves.” The report draws on 18 months of extensive, nation-wide consultations and over 150 food and farming initiatives, community groups, grassroots organisations, unions and NGOs have contributed their ideas and proposals.

The organisations highlight that agriculture is one of the sectors that will be faced with the most uncertainty as a result of Brexit. Rising food prices and a lack of workers in the agricultural sector due to migration restrictions are just two issues. They argue that, in the face of this uncertainty, policy, legislative framework and a food act is needed that “integrates the compartmentalised policy realms of food production, health, labour rights, land use and planning, trade, the environment, democratic participation and community wellbeing.” The organisations point out that, while Scotland is already in the process of adopting national food policies and is developing a ‘Good Food Nation Bill', England is lagging behind. “The lack of a coherent, joined-up food policy framework in England is becoming increasingly problematic. In this country we have shameful levels of food insecurity, with food bank usage rising year on year, and an estimated over eight million people now in a state of such financial precarity they can’t afford to eat,” said Dee Butterly, the coordinator of A People’s Food Policy.

According to the organisations the British food system is characterised by inequality and exploitation at all levels. “From the increasing corporate control of agriculture in the UK, to the price of basic food stuffs outstripping the rises in real wages, through to small farmers being aggressively squeezed out of the market, with over 33,000 small to medium farms closing down in the past decade – the UK is witnessing a series of crises in how we produce, distribute and sell food,” said Heidi Chow, food campaigner for Global Justice Now. “The government’s approach to addressing these problems is at best piece-meal and at worst non-existent,” she added. Therefore, the organisations behind “A People’s Food Policy”, whose work is currently being co-ordinated by representatives from the Land Workers Alliance, Global Justice Now, the Ecological Land Co-operative, the Centre for Agroecology Water and Resilience and Permaculture Association, want to radically change the way the food system functions and is governed. “We need to develop a national food policy in the coming years that transforms our food systems and that puts equality, resilience and justice at the forefront.”

The report contains a comprehensive set of recommendations and policy proposals for transforming the food system in England covering the thematic areas of governance, food production, health, land, labour, environment, knowledge and skills, trade and finance. “Brexit brings with it an historic opportunity to create radical change for the better, and it is our responsibility to seize it,” the report reads. “The time has come for us all to join together and to create a food system which is the beating heart of our cultures, our histories, our earth, our communities and our future generations.” (ab)

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