The Green Party has an amazing opportunity to help deliver a better vision for UK food and agriculture policy. Two parts, one whole. Post-Brexit, Defra must develop new policies for UK agriculture, and the Green Party should help shape it.
Farming is a capital-hungry industry (including needing a lot of land), with around 25 per cent of farms tenanted. It currently often delivers lousy incomes, and global market pressures will remain when we leave the EU. Artificial ‘subsidies’ should protect our precious environment, as the free/world market alone won’t.
Without ‘subsidies’, farmers will need higher product prices to deliver what citizens want. Greens must fight for policies that create a durable balance between demands of production and consumption.
Scientists often want to jack up production, or genetically modify things to attempt to close these gaps. Yet the world already produces enough for 10 billion people, probably more. We need to be smarter about what science we deploy and our objectives. Are we to help people or corporations?
Many innovative people are already creating exciting new ways to produce, market and sell fresh, wholesome and health- giving food, both in the UK and globally. Simultaneously, much of society is impoverished. Declining health is over-burdening the NHS, and people are often exploited as laboratories and factories create ‘fake’ food. Community-supported agriculture is a start!
In our population-dense islands, we’ll be unlikely, at least short or medium term, to feed everybody from our own resources, currently achieving around 65 per cent self- sufficiency. We must cut waste, overconsumption, and poorly- balanced diets, and grow more where people live and eat. This would improve health, reduce pressure on the NHS, protect our soils, reduce agricultural chemical/artificial fertiliser usage, energy demand and transportation costs, et cetera. With our climate under pressure, these are all huge win-wins.
All these factors apply globally as much as in the UK. What we buy, whether food or other goods, has implications for others’ livelihoods and the environment. But none of this needs to be exclusive or only for those who can afford better. If properly executed, a good food and agriculture policy should deliver a countryside and diet fit for all.