Do Foxes eat chlorinated chickens? Food policy in Brexit Britain.
Tom Carman recently joined Ethex having spent a career in the progressive food movement. His blog looks at the role that positive investing has played in making structural changes to an important, but often invisible part of our lives – food systems and how it can continue to play an important role in a post Brexit world.
A few years ago I met a friend at a food-sector conference who had taken a break from the sector. The conference was her first entrance back to the world of food, and after an hour had passed she turned to me and said “I’m so relieved I’ve not been missing out on anything … the discussions are just the same as two years ago!” Although food has been my personal focus, I have also explored other sectors including woodlands, rural services, pubs and I am now exploring the world of ethical or positive investing. My feeling from observing these other sectors is that this same quote can also be universally applied – that the ongoing conversations and discourse can seem very static to those involved in them!
Several weeks ago, a new report was published entitled A Food Brexit: time to get real, which highlighted a number of failures in the UK relating to food and Brexit. The report raises a number of of important points … one of the more significant being around food quality standards and the concern that many citizens rightly have about the potential relaxation of food standards that could lead to poorer diets and worsening public health, particularly in relation to a replacement trade deal with the US. There was a whole debate on this topic itself which was asking Liam Fox to eat a chlorinated chicken on TV, and is the content through which the Food Brexit report made a bit of a splash in the press. However, in my opinion the most important issue that this report raises is one that has been part of the progressive food sector discourse for as long as I can remember – What is the vision for the UK’s food system; what are our food systems goals and how will it address sustainability challenges on ecosystems, social equality and public health?
The lack of discussion around food has been particularly alarming given the weight food and farming has within EU – the Common Agricultural Policy is 40% of EU spend for instance – so for me, whilst the report mentioned above highlighted all the things that those of us working in the progressive food sector have been discussing for ages, it also showed me that Brexit has provided a platform to highlight that systems change, and especially progressive systems change is so slow, particularly without the provision of adequate resources. That’s unfortunately why we’ve been talking about this in the food sector for so long..