‘#bittersweetbrexit: The future of #food, #farming, #land and #labour’- Time for a big debate, says Dr Charlie Clutterbuck

I’ve known soil zoologist Dr Charlie Clutterbuck for years. He’s passionate about the need to understand the vast array of living organisms in the soil. He’s also always been deeply concerned about the people who work on the land and throughout the system that brings us our food. So when he decided to write a reflective book on his experiences it was clear that relating these to the biggest change coming for the UK’s food and farming made sense. This book – Bittersweet Brexit: The Future of Food, Farming, Land and Labour – is the result. In it he discusses great number of tariffs – some 17,000 – involved in food and farming products and what to do with the subsidies that currently go into farming. I interviewed him about it at the launch in Manchester on World Food Day, October 16th. There’s also a website where you can join the debate here.

 

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Cutting #livestock consumption to prevent further wildlife extinction

There was a major conference on Extinction and Livestock in London last week, 5-6 October 2017.  The contributions will be put up on line in due course but I took the chance to interview some of those present. Here’s a brief sense of what was discussed. You can follow what was said on Twitter at #Extinction17

Livestock consumption and the extinction of other species are interconnected. That is why Philip Lymbery, CEO of Compassion in World Farming, was determined to have a conference that brought animal welfare groups together with those concerned with the conservation of wildlife. In this interview, recorded at the conference in London 5-6 October 2017, he explains how working on his book Dead Zone: Where the Wild things Were shocked him into action on this.

Duncan Williamson, Food Policy Manger for WWF UK, a cosponsor of the conference, explains the need to link the food on our plates to biodiversity loss and the demand for animal feed. He discusses the need in the rich world to eat less meat and dairy. WWF’s Livewell project demonstrates that a healthy diet can be sustainable, Eating for 2 degrees – new and updated Livewell Plates.

Ecologist Carl Safina discusses how animals think and feel, that they too are sentient beings. He also explains the gradation between empathy, sympathy and compassion – some animals have all three and most vertebrates exhibit empathy.

Katherine Richardson, professor in biological oceanography at the University of Copenhagen and leader of the Sustainability Science Centre is one of the core authors on the planetary boundaries initiative. She explains just what these are and how livestock consumption affects our capacity to live within them.

Jimmy Smith, the director of the International Livestock Research Institute, called for a nuanced discussion that took into account the different needs and circumstances of the rich and poor nations. In the latter, the bulk of production was by small farmers, many of whom are women, and livestock are important for their livelihoods. He says ILRI’s research shows that some of the data on emissions in developing countries from livestock is extrapolated from rich countries and overestimates them.

Martin Palmer, secretary general of the Alliance of religions and conservation, urged the conference to recognise we humans are working with a false story that we are the most important species. We need to extend compassion to all species and recognise humans have no right to extinguish others. He also discussed how the religions could use their money to influence more sustainable practices.

Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens and Home Deus, in a video message to the conference urged scientists to accept greater political and ethical responsibility to speak out about the way animals feel and behave to correct misunderstandings. Two key questions where science can show the answers is whether animals are conscious sentient beings – they are – and can they experience emotions – they do.

 

 

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Transforming #agriculture to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (#SDGs)

Hans Herren, CEO of the Millennium Institute, Washington DC and founder of Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development in Zurich, argues that the Sustainable Development Goals offer the way to reshape agriculture in a way that will help meet these goals, in an interview I did with him at the Extinction and Livestock Conference in London last week, on October 5-6, 2017 (brief report on the conference with interviews to be published tomorrow). Goal 2 on Zero Hunger and sustainable agriculture connects to all the other goals. He argues that a report from the International Panel of Experts in Food Systems (IPES) From Uniformity to Diversity shows the way.

SDG's-Graphic

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Tim Lang warns of dire disruption to UK’s #food and #farming with #Brexit

In an interview I did last week with Tim Lang, professor of Food Policy at City University at the Extinction and Livestock conference in London (more of that in a later blog), he explains why he feels Brexit will cause a major disruption to the UK food system. He discusses some of these effects on a food system that relies on just-in-time deliveries to keep food on the shelves and why they will hit the poorest hardest.

The report he refers to in the interview is ‘A Food Brexit: time to get real’ by Professor Tim Lang (City, University of London), Professor Erik Millstone (University of Sussex),  and Professor Terry Marsden (Cardiff University) and is available here.

 

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Getting the facts straight about #foodinsecurity

I just wrote this blog for the #EndHungerUK campaign, prior to its national conference on 17th  October in London

In September 2015, the British Government committed itself to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition. It was then that the UK, along with most other governments, signed up to the Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations. These goals apply to all countries, including the UK. The second of these goals is to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”. The first commitment under this goal is:

“By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round.”

As the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) argues, there is something relevant to meeting the end hunger goal in virtually every other goal of the 2030 Agenda – the first one being to end absolute poverty, others cover clean water and sanitation, climate action, reducing inequality, peace and justice.

SDG's-GraphicNow while most focus goes, quite rightly, on the urgent need to tackle these challenges in the poorest countries, these goals also apply to the UK. The End Hunger UK campaign is one contribution to tackling hunger and poverty here. As one of the world’s richest countries we should be far more ambitious about ending hunger here well before 2030 – whilst at the same time supporting programmes, governments, businesses and civil society organisations to do the same elsewhere around the world.

SOFI-2017

Last month FAO, along with 4 other UN agencies, published the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2017 – and it is well worth reading. Shockingly, the latest figures available show that from 2015-2016 the numbers of those going hungry in the world went up by 38 million to 815 million people.

One of the measures they use in the report is the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) which showed that nearly one in 10 people in the world suffer from food insecurity. This is based on interview data from adults around the world to measure people’s access to food. It relies on direct yes/no responses to eight questions about access to adequate food. “Respondents are asked about experiences associated with the inability to access food, including whether they have at any time during the previous 12 months, due to lack of money or other resources: been worried about not being able to obtain enough food; been forced to decrease the quality or quantity of the food they eat; gone for entire days without eating,” says the report

FoodInsecScale

The report notes that “The ideal source of FIES data is large population surveys conducted by national institutions, enabling more detailed, policy-relevant analyses of the food-insecurity situation by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location, or other policy-relevant characteristics.” Unfortunately, few countries, including the UK, collect such data in national surveys. Yet we need to know it, if we are to be able to say we are meeting the goal of ending hunger.

This is why one of the panels, which I am chairing, at the EndHunger UK national conference on October 17th will be on ‘Measuring the scale of the problem’. The three speakers – Rachel Loopstra (UCL), Anna Taylor (The Food Foundation) and
Elli Kontoravddis (Nourish Scotland) – are working on this, and how knowing the level of food insecurity helps both reach our goal in EndHunger UK, hold government to account, and support the Right to Food. Do join us.

 

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Find, #eat and share the world edible #plants – an interview with Joseph Simcox, the Botanical Explorer

Earlier this week I had a visit from Joseph Simcox, the self-styled Botanical explorer. A dynamo of a man, he’s travelled the world to over 100 countries to find, eat and share as many of the huge range of edible plants people have eaten. In this interview, he talks about that, why we now only eat so few of them and explains what drives him to share these resources and expand our range of food plants in the face of climate change.

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#Inequality and why it matters – an interview with Richard Wilkinson, co-author of ‘The Spirit Level- Why #Equality is Better for Everyone’

Earlier this year the authors of a widely read book that examined why equality is better for everyone gave a lecture locally. I had a chance to interview one of the authors, Prof Richard Wilkinson, Professor Emeritus of Social Epidemiology at the University of Nottingham, about their work. In this he explains what they did, what they found, why it matters and why mass movements are needed to challenge growing levels of inequality.

You can see more about their work and the follow-up on The Equality Trust website.

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