A post-Brexit re-think for food and farming

essay IV.2.3 on the College website: “How much should food cost?)

3: We need massive land-reform (and in particular to bring down the price of housing).


II.1. The world as a whole including Britain needs “Enlightened Agriculture” aka “Real Farming”, loosely but adequately defined as:

“Agriculture that is expressly designed to provide everyone, everywhere, with food of the highest quality, without wrecking the rest of the world”

This is eminently possible. With enlightened agriculture (and all that goes with it!) we would not, as now, be facing Armageddon. We should be contemplating the next million years with equanimity.

The component ideas are those of:

Agroecology: treating farms as ecosystems

Food Sovereignty: society should have control over its own food supply.

Economic democracy.

Policy implication

All three components of Enlightened Agriculture need to be explored and developed.

II.2: In the neoliberal world geared to production and profit all crops are treated as commodities to be sold on the world market. In financial terms – in the neoliberal economy! – this is “efficient”. In ecological and social terms it is a disaster.

Policy implication:

We need to move to a strategy of national self-reliance (not to be confused with self-sufficiency!) and fair trade.

II.3. At present scientific research is financed primarily by corporates who support only the kind that produce technologies that are potentially profitable. Hence the emphasis on GMOs, the present support for Round-Up and neonicotinoids, and robots, and the relative neglect of ecology, the science that is needed to underpin agroecology. Essentially, science has become corrupted; it has lost its intellectual integrity (the dispassionate search for knowledge) which is its sine qua non.

Policy implication:

We need to re-establish independent agricultural science: in effect to restore the old Agricultural and Food Research Council (AFRC) and the Experimental Husbandry Farms (EHFs).

II.4: Agriculture must be answerable to government provided the government in fact represents the true interests of the people and the biosphere. But: the record of successive governments of all parties since the 1970s has been dismal, leading to the conclusion that agriculture is far too important to be left to the whims and vagaries of government, and must be liberated in particular from the ambitions of particular political parties.

Policy implication:

We need a quasi-independent agency to run agriculture – a quango indeed: though run not by the Great and the Good but by people truly knowledgeable in food and farming and who care about it: farmers, cooks, thinking scientists and economists, and thinking and caring citizens at large.

Colin Tudge August 2 2017

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