Yet global food production is up 2.6%. As Jean Ziegler, UN special Rapporteur on the Right to Food has said "World agriculture could feed the population twice over, at its current levels of productivity. This crisis is man-made.
It is in fact financial market speculators who are causing the real crisis. Economist Luis de Sebastian believes multinationals such as Cargill and Dreyfuss with a huge capacity for storage and transport, are keys to the speculation fuelling the massive hike in basic foodstuff prices.
Food makes up 60% or more of the budget of the world's poor, compared to the European average of 10%.
"The earth has enough for our needs, but not for our greed"
Modern agricultural practices have exhausted land and water resources, destroyed diversity and left poor people vulnerable to high food prices, even though they are also highly productive, according to a report announced by the United Nations scientific agency. April 2008. "Business as usual is no longer an option," states the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development.
UNESCO - Modern Agricultural Practices must change. www.unesco.org
The need for action is urgent, the report says, because many poor people are now reliant on the global food market, where soybean and wheat prices have increased by 87% and 130% respectively during 2007/8. Global grain stores are today at their lowest level on record and prices of staple foods such as rice, maize and wheat are expected to continue to rise because of increased demand, especially in China and
India, and because of the alternative use of maize and soybeans for bio-fuels.
The UN report also states that 35% of the Earth's severely degraded land has been damaged by agricultural activities. The impacts of increasingly variable and extreme weather are affecting food production faster. Food riots and the political and economic instability that will flow from this disruption is hurting us all. The report's authors recommend that agricultural science places greater emphasis on safeguarding natural resources and on ‘agro-ecological' practices, including the use of natural fertilisers, traditional seeds and intensified natural practices, and reducing the distance between production and the consumer. As consumers we can support local, organic and fairtrade produce to support the necessary changes.
In 1999, the United Kingdom imported food, feed and drink costing over £17 billion. A reduction in food imports would not only be of benefit to the economy as a whole but could also be a major driver in rural regeneration as farm incomes could increase both in the UK and the developing world. A staggering 80% of fresh fruit is imported. Approximately a third of food and drink comes from poor countries that, as a result, suffer food shortages, forced as they are by the debt system to produce luxury and commodity goods for export.
Every time you shop you have a huge opportunity to make a powerful statement about what you - the customer - believe. Manufacturers and suppliers can only trade if people are prepared to buy their goods. If we won't buy them, then they change.
Where you shop makes a real difference. In 2008, 11 farms in the UK are going out of business everyday, with 1,000 farmers and farm workers leaving the land each week (52,000 per year).
There are 12,000 rural shops. 70% of all English villages have no shops and it is calculated that 300 rural shops close each year. In 1987 there were more than 47,000 independent grocers, by 2002 the number had fallen to 28,319. The number of general stores that have closed since 1986 is 8,000 and the number of local shops and services that closed between 1995 and 2000 is a staggering 30,000
Supermarket chains in the UK stock at best 7% locally produced foods and up to 14% of regionally produced food. With the four largest supermarket chains controlling 75% of the food market, they can impose requirements on food producers that cannot be met by small and local suppliers.
Tescopoly - c/o 38 Exchange Street, Norwich, NR2 1AX. www.tescopoly.org
One in 10 car journeys in the UK are now to buy food. Work for DEFRA suggests that car use for food shopping results in costs to society of more than £3.5 billion per year from traffic emissions, noise, accidents and congestion.
Tesco has been massively expanding its "Extra" format hypermarkets, which are particularly geared towards car-based shopping. The proportion of Tesco's floorspace taken up by hypermarkets is three times what it was six years ago. Superstores are very inefficient buildings. It has been estimated that it would take more than 60 corner shops and greengrocers to match the CO2 emissions from one hypermarket superstore.
Bio Fuel Watch - www.biofuelwatch.org.uk
1. Don't waste food and buy products that will last
Approximately a third of food is thrown away in the UK, mainly because it passes its stated sell by date. Much of this food is perfectly edible. There is a difference between ‘best before/sell by' and ‘use by/will be unsafe after this date'. Familiarising yourself with what you can cook with after the best before/sell by date will not only save on your food bill it will increase your knowledge of food and home cooking.
Choose consumer goods with a long life and you will be minimising the energy used in the manufacturing of replacement goods. As a rule, if it's disposable and convenient, the worse it is. Goods that you can re-use, repair and recycle are the best buys. It is often a false economy to buy something cheap that will break and become waste. Rent or borrow things you don't expect to use much. Before you buy, do a quick sustainability-check by asking yourself:
- Will it last? Do I really need it?
- When I've finished with it will it be recyclable or returnable?
Use charity shops, they are a good way of ‘hiring' goods. You can give them back when you have finished them, or want to treat yourself to something different.
Confuse the wonderful people volunteering in these shops! Pay them more than they want, and make everyone feel good.
2. Buy recycled - or recyclable - products, save on packaging and avoid plastic bags
Don't accept bags or wrappers that are not necessary and avoid products that are heavily packaged. Avoiding plastics that you cannot recycle, and reducing paper is an important ways of reducing the waste you produce. Always take your own bag - keep it by the door or in your pocket or handbag so you don't forget it. Non-recyclable products such as foam blown trays or containers destroy wildlife habitats and pollute the environment.
3. Make shopping trips energy-efficient and buy in bulk
Many products, such as washing powders and detergents, toilet paper, grains and nuts, can be bought in large quantities saving on packaging and energy-consumption and money. 75% of supermarket customers travel by car. Consider ordering wholesale quantities from a local co-operative wholesaler. Get your local farmer to deliver boxes of vegetables to you direct.
Walk to the local shops, it will help keep you and the local shops healthy
4. Buy organic food
Not only is it more healthy for you, there are benefits for the climate and environment too. The use of natural fertilisers from vegetable and animal manure returns their carbon to the soil. In industrialised agriculture animal manure is often treated as a waste and is thrown away or stored in large open ponds that generate methane.
For example, switching to organic dairy products will save up to 75% of the energy consumed in the production of the dairy products. It is estimated that 50% of all transport in the United Kingdom is involved in moving food around, so the closer to home you can buy your food the better.
Buying locally grown produce reduces the energy and air pollution caused by transporting and refrigerating produce grown further afield. .
The single most effective way you can reduce food emissions is by going organic.
- Soil Association - Bristol House, 40-56 Victoria Street, Bristol, BS1 6BY.
Tel: 0117 929 0661. www.soilassociation.org
- The Organic Directory - For Local Box Schemes and supplier information -
- Garden Organic - Formerly, Henry Doubleday Research Association (HDRA)
- Ryton Organic Gardens, Coventry, CV8 3LG. Tel: 0247 6303 517. www.gardenorganic.org.uk
5. Buy locally grown/seasonal produce and grow your own local varieties
Your personal health and the planet's health are connected. The further the fruit and vegetables have travelled the more their vitamin and mineral content deteriorates. For example, purple sprouting broccoli grown at home and then frozen has more nutrients than broccoli that has been frozen and flown thousands of air miles. . Some supermarket foods are irradiated to prolong their shelf life.
Friends of the Earth calculate that the transportation of food destined for UK consumers produced 19 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2002, of which 10 million tonnes was emitted in the UK, almost all from road transport. Agricultural products and food accounts for nearly a third of all road freight.
Friends of the Earth - 26 -28 Underwood Street, London, N1 7JQ.
Tel: 020 7490 15555 www.foe.co.uk
Growing your own vegetables and buying, growing, swapping and selling local varieties of fruit and veg in season is good for the local economy (trading fairly), protects the environment and keeps you healthy.
National Farmers' Retail and Market Association (FARMA) - Lower Ground Floor, 12 Southgate St. Winchester, Hampshire, SO23 9EF. Tel: 0845 4588420. www.farmersmarkets.net
6. Buy from, or become a member of, your local County Market Society
Back in the 1920s, the Women's Institute (WI) were looking for ways to boost the livelihoods of women in rural parts of Britain and they hit on the idea of organising them into Producer Co-operatives to sell garden produce, craft work, jam and baking to the public through a network of weekly markets. Today each county still has its own Country Market Society run on the same principles.
Now independent of the WI, Country Market membership is open to anyone who has produce or craft goods to sell and, in addition to the regular weekly markets, produce is also sold through farm shops and hampers. Whether you are buying or selling, Country Markets are a great way to meet new people and support the local economy.
Country Markets - Dunston House , Dunston Road , Sheepbridge , Chesterfield , Derbyshire, S41 9QD, Tel: 01246 261508 - www.country-markets.co.uk
Food Links UK - Foundation for Local Food Initiatives
PO Box 1234, BS99 2PG Tel: 0845 458 9525 - www.foodlinks-uk.org
All councils in England & Wales (with the exception of Inner London) have to, by-law, provide allotments. Any group of adults over the age of 18 and registered on the electoral role can group together to request the council provide land for growing.
National Society for Allotments & Leisure Gardeners Ltd. - O'Dell House, 8 Hunters road, Corby, Northants, NN17 5JE. Tel: 01536 266576. www.nsalg.org.uk
7. Support fair-trade AND trade fairly
Always look for the Fairtrade logo on products and buy them from your local shops or community centres
Ensuring a fair deal for poor and small-scale farmers will improve their quality of life and strengthen their ability to cope with the climate impacts as they increase. Part of what Fair trade stands for is equity and fairness along the entire food chain, from grower, processor, shipper, manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer, not just the price the grower gets.
Equity is not a principle on which supermarkets operate, supermarkets aim to control the market and are able to act with impunity towards farmers and growers. Often suppliers won't speak up for fear of being left without a market, and it is common practice for supermarkets to demand up to 120 days credit (would you tolerate not being paid four months late?).
The myth of consumer choice is sadly revealed when we have one or two Fairtrade products alongside hundreds that are sold on the basis of driving down the price and destroying the environment as a consequence.
As the Fairtrade brand and fair trade market grows, the Foundation will need to provide higher ‘gold' standards, so that consumers are able to understand and move forward the principles of trading fairly, both in solidarity with small scale suppliers, locally and internationally and the need for trade justice.
Fairtrade Foundation - Room 204, 16 Baldwin's Gardens, London, ECN 7RJ.
Tel. 020 7405 5942. www.fairtrade.org.uk
British Association of Fairtrade Shops - 13 Spring Gardens Place, Cardiff, CF24 1QY. Tel: 07882 680113. www.bafts.org.uk
Shared Interest - No.2 Cathedral Square, The Groat Market, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, NE11 E10. Tel: 0191 2339100. www.shared-interest.com
8. Go FAIRTRADE bananas
As supermarkets slash the price of bananas they do not reduce their profit margins. Instead supermarkets reduce the price they pay to suppliers who pass the cuts back along the supply chain to the workers. At the same time, many supermarkets deny responsibility for the social and environ-mental impacts of their behaviour in producer countries.
Bananas with a Fairtrade label have been produced on small farms or plantations that meet the Fairtrade social and environmental criteria. Choosing Fairtrade bananas has a direct and positive impact on the lives of producers, workers and their communities. Producers are guaranteed a minimum price, which covers basic food, housing, health and education needs. The Fairtrade price is based on the ACTUAL costs of production. A social premium is also paid on every box of Fairtrade bananas and used for social and environmental improvements. So just don't buy any other kind of banana.
Banana Link - 38 Exchange Street, Norwich, Norfolk, NR2 1AX
Tel: 10603 765670. www.bananalink.org.uk
9. Where possible, buy from and support Co-operative Enterprises
It is no accident that many of the initiatives promoted in this booklet are run by Co-operatives. Whether its producing and marketing fairly traded goods, organising car share schemes, mutual home ownership, Credit Unions and ethical financial services, or Country Markets and organic box schemes, a Co-operative is an ideal way to structure businesses which won't put profit before people.
With their origins in the industrial revolution, Co-operatives are jointly owned and democratically controlled businesses which exist to provide services to their members. They are based on an internationally agreed set of values including democracy, equality, equity, solidarity, self-help and self-responsibility. Profits stay in the local economy either by being returned to the members in an equitable fashion, invested in community projects, or ploughed back into the business.
Most Co-operatives are small local concerns, but some are very large indeed and, collectively, co-operation is big business. The Co-operative Sector contributed £27 Billion of turnover to the UK economy in 2007 employed 195,000 people, with 11 million members through 4,370 Co-operative Enterprises. Globally, the largest 300 Co-operatives and Mutuals are equivalent to the whole economy of Canada! (Source: Co-operatives UK (2007), ‘Co-operative Review 2007', Manchester: Co-operatives UK).
National directory of Co-operatives - www.uk.coop
Suma (Wholefoods wholesale co-op) - Lacy Way, Lowfields Bus Park , Elland, HX5 9DB. Tel: 01422 313840. www.suma.coop
Essential Trading (Wholefoods wholesale co-op) - Unit 3, Lodge Causeway Trading Estate, Fishponds, Bristol - BS16 3JB. Tel: 117 958 3550 -
Infinity Foods (Wholefoods wholesale co-op) - 67 Norway Street, Portslade,
East Sussex. BN41 1AE Tel: 01273 424060 - www.infinityfoods.co.uk
Green City Wholefoods (Wholesale co-op) - 23 Flemming St., Dennistoun, Glasgow, G31 1PQTel: 0141 554 7633
Highland Wholefoods (Wholdeale co-op) - Unit 6B
13 Harbour Rd, Inverness, IV1 1SY Tel: 01463 712222 - www.highlandwholefoods.co.uk
Co-operatives UK - Holyoake House, Hanover Street, Manchester, M60 0AS.
Tel: 0161 246 2900 - www.cooperatives-uk.coop
Radical Routes (Co-operatives for Social Change) - 16 Sholebrooke Avenue, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 3HB Tel: 0845 330 4510 - www.radicalroutes.org.uk
Plunkett Foundation (Supporting rural co-ops and social enterprises) - The Quadrangle, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, OX20 1LH. Tel: 01993 810730 - www.plunkett.co.uk
10. Give child labour a good kicking
Football production has a reputation for using child labour. The inner structure of a football is made from layers of fabric, which are glued (with latex) on to the outer skin of stitched panels. A professional quality ball has an air mattress, which helps reduce the time a ball needs to regain its shape after being kicked.
Faitrade footballs are sold to provide income and support for the poor. Why not buy one of these balls and organise a sponsored match or kick about for you local climate change education project too.
Alive and Kicking - 164 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London, SW1V 2AA.
Tel: 020 7630 7333. www.aliveandkicking.org.uk
11. Give up the supermarket addiction. Be part of the transition towns initiative
You will be making a powerful consumer decision to support your local economy.
In 2000 during the lorry drivers' blockade of oil depots, the food supply chain came within two days of major crisis. Localisation of our economy is a vital part of managing our oil, energy and CO2 descent.; the more you shop locally the more resilient you make your own community.
Transition Initiative - www.transitionculture.org
Lobby your local councillors and politicians to strengthen local planning laws, to protect local business and make sure that supermarkets pay the full cost of their im-pact on the local community and environ-ment.
Thanks to a grass-roots campaign supported by members of the public, community and environmental groups, and independent traders, a Sustainable Com-munities Act became law in the UK during 2007. This gives local councils wide-ranging powers to direct planning and other policies in their area to support a sustainable local economy and to challenge the dominance of major corporations. Why not ask your councillor what he/she is doing to make the most of these new powers? (Details of how to contact your councillor are available from your town/city/county hall or the council's web-site).
Unlock Democracy/Charter 88 - 6 Cynthia Street, London N1 9JF.
Tel. 020 7278 4443 - www.unlockdemocrcy.org.uk
12. Educate yourself about the products you buy and the food you eat
There are many issues involved in the food we eat. For example, battery hens spend their lives in cages not much bigger than an A4 sheet of paper. Buying free-range eggs is a direct way of objecting to this form of cruelty. Avoid food that has been heavily processed or which contains unnecessary additives or preservatives and find out what the impact of these foods are on your health. As a rule of thumb, the more heavily processed a food, the poorer the nutrition is likely to be, and the larger its environmental impact.
Vegan Society - Donald Weston House, 21 Hylton Street,
Hockley, Birmingham. B18 6HJ Tel: 01424 427393. www.vegansociety.com
Vegetarian Society - Parkdale, Dunham Road, Altrincham, WA14 4QG.
Tel: 0161 925 2000. www.vegsoc.org
British Free Range Egg Producers Assoc. - PO Box 1752, Fordingbridge,
Hants, SP5 32N. Tel: 01425 650160. www.bfrepa.co.uk
The Organic Milk Suppliers Co-operative - OMSCO - Courtfarm,
Loxton, Axbridge, Somerset, BS26 2XG. Tel: 01934 750244. www.omsco.co.uk
Compassion In World Farming - Charles House, 5A Charles Street,
Petersfield, Hampshire, G32 3EH. Tel: 01730 264 208. www.ciwf.org.uk
Marine Stewardship Council - Unit 4, Bakery Place, 119 Allenburg
Gardens, London, SW11 1JO. Tel: 020 7350 4000. www.msc.org
13. Give up junk food, eat good, slow food
Junk foods are invariably heavily processed - so a lot of energy is used in their manufacture. They are also full of additives and preservatives. Most fast foods are based on meat and many are sold in plastic and/or wasteful packaging. A healthy diet should include a good variety of food, including organic fruit and vegetables.
Pesticide Action Network - Eurolink Centre, 49 Effra Road, London, SW2 1BZ.
Tel: 020 7274 8895. www.pan-uk.org
In the UK, we spend £150 million every year cleaning chewing gum off the streets. Just think what could be done with that much money. Why not give up the habit (or similar) and spend the equivalent on good food?
Carlo Petrini found the slow food movement in 1988. He was protesting against the opening of a McDonald's next to the Spanish Steps in Rome. He believes that the world is forgetting the joys of good food and leisurely dining. Today the movement has become a global campaign pheno-menon, challenging many of the destructive fast-food assumptions that are being promoted around the world.
Slow Food UK - Unit 3, Alliance Court, Eco Park Road, Ludlow, Shropshire, SY8 1FB. Tel: 01584 879599. www.slowfood.org.uk
14. Don't believe what you see, read the labels and demand real information
It is easy to fill up your shopping basket with food, devoid of any meaningful nutritional content, for what seems like a good price but what are you paying for?
In 2002, food and drinks companies in the United Kingdom spent £686 million on advertising their products; McDonalds alone spent £42 million! A large percentage of adverts shown during children's prog-rammes are for high salt, sugar or fat products. 28% of food advertising in 2000 was for cereals, cakes, biscuits, crisps and snacks. Less than 1% spent on food advertising is for fresh fruit and vegetables.
A new generation of "food porn" is being created to sell you convenience food as if it is healthy and ethical.
Ethical Consumer - Published by: ECRA - Unit 21, 41 Old Birley Street.,
Manchester, M15 5RF. Tel: 0161 226 2929 www.ethicalconsumer.org
National Consumer Council - Grosvenor Gardens, London, SW1W 0DH.
Tel: 0207 730 3469. www.ncc.org.uk
15. Avoid Genetically Modified Foods
In India, farmers traditionally passed on thousands of varieties of rice from generation to generation. Oxfam and Christian Aid have both warned that GM crops could intensify poverty in the developing world. GM and organic crops cannot co-exist and contamination of the whole food chain can occur within a couple of years.
In the UK GM companies are filtering GM into animal feedstock - another reason to avoid non-organic meat and dairy produce.
Genetic Engineering Network - Tel: 0845 456 9329. www.geneticsaction.org.uk
16. Encourage your local suppliers to grow more fruit and vegetables and convert waste products into fuel and energy.
The world consumption of meat has already trebled since 1980: farm animals now take up 70% of all agricultural land and eat one third of the world's grain. In the rich nations we consume three times as much meat and four times as much milk per capita as the people of the developing world. Reducing the volume of meat and dairy produce allows farms to grow crops for food and to convert waste products like straw into local sources of fuel and energy.
- Vinceramos (organic and fairly traded wine, beers, spirits) - Munro House, Duke Street, Leeds, LS9 8A4. Tel: 0113 2440002. www.vinceremos.co.uk
- Vintage Roots (organic and fairly traded wine, beers, spirits) - Farley Farms, Reading Road, Arborfield, Berkshire, RG2 9HT. Tel: 0800 980 4992 - www.vintageroots.co.uk
- Sustain - 94 White Lion Street, London, N1 9PF.
Tel: 020 7837 1228. www.sustainweb.org
- Food not Bombs - PO Box 424, Arroyo Seco, NM 87514, USA. www.foodnotbombs.net
- Trade Justice Movement - c/o Oxfam, 274 Banbury Road, Oxford,
Oxfordshire, OX2 7DZ. Tel: 0870 010 8707. www.tjm.org.uk
- Christian Aid - 35 Lower Marsh, Waterloo, London, SE1 7RL.
Tel: 0207 6204444. www.christianaid.org.uk
- Labour Behind the Label - 10-12 Picton Street, Bristol, BS6 5QA.
Tel: 0117 9441700. www.labourbehindthelabel.org
- War on Want - Fenner Brockway House, 37-39 Great Guildford Street,
London, SE1 OES. Tel: 020 7620 1111. www.waronwant.org
- Womankind Worldwide - 32- 37 Cowper Street, London, EC2A 4AW.
Tel: 020 7549 5700. www.womankind.org.uk
- Traidcraft (fair trade wholesale and mail-order) - Kingsway, Gateshead,
Tyne and Wear, NE11 0NE, UK Tel: 0191 491 0591 - www.traidcraft.co.uk
- Permaculture Magazine - Hyden House Ltd., The sustainability centre, East Meon, Hampshire, GU32 1HR. Tel: 01730 823311. www.permaculture.co.uk
- Soil Association - Soil Association, Bristol House, 40-56 Victoria Street,
Bristol, BS1 6BY. Tel: 0117 929 0661. www.soilassociation.org
- National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners - O'Dell House, 8 Hunters Road, Weldon, North Ind.Est. Corby, NN17 5JE. Tel: 01536 266576. www.nsalg.org
Briefing funded by the Norfolk Independent Waste Trust and Cobb Charity
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