What shapes people's opportunities in food and farming - their access to markets, land and resources? Is power used fairly or abused?
On 4th August, the UK Competition Commission confirmed that it would press government for a new ombudman to regulate supermarkets' relationships with their suppliers. This is latest turn in a tale that has dominated debates about power and opportunity in the food system, but there are other issues too including workers' pay and conditions, fair tips, access to land, exit from farming and integenerational justice - the opportunities we leave for future generations.
structural change - not just behaviour change
Submitted by ladybirdathome (not verified) on 20 August, 2009 - 11:48.
The idea that we can bring about the necessary change in food systems by providing 'consumers' with information and educating them, in the light of the deep structural configurations and inequities in food systems, is way off the mark.
The idea that consumer education is the key strategy for change is deeply embedded in the UK government and many other organisations and is based on an ideological position - remember Thatcher and 'there is no such thing as society'?
But the decisions which shape what people eat, how, where and when are taken by people operating in domains far distant from eaters, and most of the people who make those decisions are not concerned with ecological or human well-being or fairness. We cannot penetrate of influence these domains as 'consumers'.
What is required is structural change, and this change has to address deep change in the food economies at every level. Can food systems in which the main driver is profit and capital accumulation ever be fair? If not, what are the alternatives? How can change be brought about.
Yes, we need information, but of what kind? Eat less chips, or organise to bring about change in food systems? Unfortunately consumer 'education' is mainly focused on manipulating consumers to behave in particular ways, as if the problem is 'the wrong kind of consumer', and information provided by the food industry is often confusing (nutritional labelling of food being a good example).
I think we have the wrong kinds of food systems, with decision making power in the wrong hands. Of course the provision of accurate information and education about food is a necessary tool in bringing about change, but it is not sufficient to bring about the kinds of transformational changes in food systems that are needed to ensure that food systems are fit for purpose and fit for a very uncertain future.
Fair access to food and markets
Submitted by hudson on 5 August, 2009 - 09:37.
Great that the Food Ethics Council is looking into this vital and highly important relationship between food and fairness!
What springs to my mind immediately is the highly regulated access to food for consumers and to markets for producers, which is highly influenced by the larger producers and the supply chain (supermarkets, catering companies, etc.). This situation is not fair.
Instead, what everybody should have access to, is tasty, healthy, clean and ethically produced food that pays the producer a fair price and secures his living. And this applies anywhere on earth!
Crucial for achieving this is information for and education of consumers so that we can change the way we think about and deal with food – so that all of our food systems become fairer and better.
Dr Ursula Hudson, Slow Food Brighton and Lewes