Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Food for thought.
My Unison in house magazine arrived yesterday and unless you can get wildly exited about Dave Prentis and A Million Voices for Change it's, well, not wildly exiting. One thing that did catch my eye was a full page advertisement for the "Nostalgic Cook Book - the ultimate book of old fashioned recipes including many wartime recipes that kept our workforce both happy and healthy and kept our soldiers fit to fight in the battlefields!" Among the gastronomic delights on offer are Wooton Pie, Mock Oyster Pudding and Grilled Pilchards on Toast. On the same day that Unison unleashed this on it's unsuspectimg members Environment Secretary Hilary Benn announced a new government initiative on food security in the face of climate change and population growth. Conspiracy theories are launched on less than this.
In the coming months the debate on food security will no doubt give rise to a number of ideas that have been around for a while being dusted off and given a new airing. Three that the media have picked up on already are:
Grow Your Own. Very trendy at the moment and certainly there is much to be said for it. DIY food production has a long and honourable history in this country and there is no doubt that it can make a significant contribution to overcoming food shortages but the real problem is the lack of available land. Every unused piece of waste ground would need to be brought into production as happened during World War 2. DIY food production has the potential to bring people together both in the struggle to make land available and in the collective effort to feed ourselves. I look forward to the launch of the Red and Black Pig Club.
Vegetarianism. I don't know why but the anarchist movement has always seemed to have had more than it's fair share of vegetarians. There are certainly very sound arguments for reducing our meat consumption but that is not the same as becoming vegetarian. The reality is that it is not possible to produce eggs, milk, cheese etc; without also producing meat. What we choose to do with this meat is up to us but the best thing to do is eat it! Livestock is a major component of all agricultural systems and is likely to remain so.
Improvement in efficiency. It depends of course how we measure efficiency, but in terms of yields per acre agriculture has never been so efficient. It's not production that is inefficient but distribution and I'm not referring here to the fact that half the world can't afford to eat what is produced, criminal though that is, no it's the shocking levels of waste that are now inbuilt into the food distribution system that I'm concerned about. Don't let them con you into thinking that you are somehow to blame for this. It is not the out of date food in your fridge that is the real problem; it's the crops left rotting in the field because some suit from Tesco thinks that it is not the right size or shape. It's the whole stranglehold that the supermarkets have on food production and the fact that growers are producing to satisfy not the need for food but the needs of retail marketing strategies and the production of profit. That is the real inefficiency, but you probably won't hear this from Hilary Benn, or Dave Prentice.