Friday, 25 March 2011

We don't need a "National Food Plan" - not even slightly

I’ve been holding off talking about food strategies despite Bradford’s little colony of Green Party councillors ramming one down the District’s throat helped by assorted rent-seekers and political activists. But Mary Creagh, the opposition lead on food has penned an utterly stupid, misinformed and largely ignorant article in the Guardian that requires comment. Ms Creagh leaps into action on the back of a report from the Sustainable Development Commission:

It is a wake-up call for ministers, warning that "policy development within government still remains inadequate". It makes for challenging reading with serious recommendations on how to define and respond to food poverty in the UK.

Now, leaving aside that the Green take on food – obsessing about “food miles”, local production, grow-your-own and organic production rather than how to sustain cheap food production – is the very antithesis of what poor people need, you have to wonder when Ms Creagh starts talking about food prices and makes this suggestion:

Food will be one of the defining issues of the next century – but compare the political attention it is given compared to climate change. We need as much attention on food security and sustainability in the coming years ahead as we have devoted to climate change in the last decade. That means an urgent food plan at home and an international-style Copenhagen agreement for food. It also requires the missing ingredient from government – leadership.

The perennial response of the socialist – managed trade, market intervention and a host of boondoggles for “food strategists” to fly off to and feel important – will make no difference to the issues raised. So for Ms Creagh’s benefits let me explain:

1.       The cheap food strategies of supermarkets (much though I hate the places) have provided more social benefits than all the state intervention over the past 50 years. Ordinary families can afford to eat – indeed, judging by the streets of Bradford: overeat – at a cost unheard of by their ancestors
2.       Developments in higher yield crops, the use of pesticides and fertilizers and other agro-engineering innovations – including GM varieties – are further extending that cheap food strategy
3.       Other pressures – growing population, dietary changes in China and India, non-food crops such as biofuels and climate variation – are pulling in the opposite direction to this cheap food strategy
4.       Our (indeed that of the entire developed world) food policy has been misplaced and producer dominated – in Europe, the Common Agricultural Policy results in skewed land prices, corruption, subsidy for not farming and a host of other insanities. It also kills more people in the developing world that any other western policy

We don’t need a “food security” policy or another load of green cant about “sustainability”, we need just three things:

1.       Free trade in agricultural products
2.       The scrapping of producer subsidies
3.       Ending the restriction on GM crops and other innovations

If we do these three things we will go most of the way to solving the “problem” that Ms Creagh identifies. And, if people like me want to eat locally-grown, quality food, the market will provide for us too  – whether we wish to be locavores or gourmets. All the government has to do is bog off out of the way! To paraphrase P J O’Rourke, we need to take food strategies round the back of the barn and finish them with an axe.



Anonymous said...

I don't mind the idea of organic grown and local owned markets, but I do mind being pushed in that direction to the exclusion of other choices by unwarranted government propaganda or meddling with marketplaces so that a variety of choices don't abound.

While I might like the local grower one day, I might also like the local supermarket the next and might even fancy fast-food take-out another day.

If government begins meddlng in consumer choice of food the way they have in other areas of personal consumption, we'll end up with less of it at higher cost some might not find if affordable at all, less abundance to go around and just more of this autocratic meddling in personal free choice, which we have too much of as it is.

Mark said...

Excellent post as per Simon the lady in question was probably drinking a "new world" chardonnay while expressing her misguided and quite frankly stupid views p.s.these people make my blood boil