A food dystopia: Is Britain sleepwalking into a crisis?

Terry Marsden and Kevin Morgan, Cardiff University

Back to the future?

The historical ability for the UK state to periodically create self-inflicted harm upon its own food system seems to be raising its head again as the country triggers Article 50 to remove itself from the European Union. We should remember that the repeal of the Corn Laws in the 1840s, opening up the UK to cheap food imports (based indeed on subsidised imperial preferences to its colonies), in exchange for colonial penetration of its financial and manufacturing interests and sectors, created the conditions for a long- running agricultural and rural depression in the UK, lasting well into the 1930s. That Imperial regime of ‘free trade’ created much harm to the British food system, its rural areas, and indeed shaped a dependent food diet based upon imports from colonies and other Logo_brexit_new_size2.pngEuropean nations (like Danish  Bacon and Dutch eggs and pork). What is ironically labelled as the ‘full English’ breakfast up and down the land derives from the successful import penetration of its component parts from overseas. The decline in our food-based infrastructure was so bad that, by the onset of the 1st World War, Lloyd George had to go ‘cap in hand’ to the likes of Henry Ford to plead concessions on building his tractors on these shores in order to resolve food and rural labour shortages. Even by 1941 the national farm survey found the agricultural situation in a parlous state, even before the U-boat campaign further disrupted food supplies and led to a  period of prolonged public food rationing until 1954. Continue reading “A food dystopia: Is Britain sleepwalking into a crisis?”

Brexit: Towards building a new consensus for an Integrated Food and Rural Development Policy?

TransmangoJust as increasing calls and debates occur regarding the need for a more integrated and comprehensive Food and Agricultural policy across Europe we now have the Brexit result, which  whilst not changing the urgency for the need  to debate the shape of European policy beyond 2020, certainly adds another dimension and potential ‘opportunity space’ for such developments. Whilst specific instruments and policy programmes might indeed increasingly vary across Europe, this result does not quell the need to debate what sort of founding and common principles upon which such policies should be based.

Here I would like to set out some of the issues and reactions to the Brexit vote for the agri-food policy arena, some of which I presented and discussed at the recent UK Food Research Consortium held at City University, London in July. I also draw upon the recent policy paper we have written, entitled ‘Food Policy and Public Policy’ for the Welsh Minister for Farming and Food [1]. In addition these arguments here draw upon the research and discussions associated with the ongoing (and increasingly policy relevant) EU funded research project, TRANSMANGO [2] . Continue reading “Brexit: Towards building a new consensus for an Integrated Food and Rural Development Policy?”

Towards a Common Food Policy for the EU – a 3 year reflection led by IPES-Food

Rural Sociology Wageningen University

March 17 2016 IPES-Food (Twitter @IPESfood) launched a three-year process of reflection and research entitled: Towards a Common Food Policy for the European Union. IPES-Food will convene scientists, civil society groups, grassroots organisations and policy-makers from various governance levels in order to identify the policy tools that would be needed to deliver sustainable food systems in Europe. Kick-off meeting will be on April 17 in the European Parliament. A concept note Towards a Common Food Policy for the EU can be downloaded. Olivier De Schutter, co-chair of IPES-Food, will lead the process and explained the need for an EU food policy in an address to the European Economic and Social Committee on March 11th in a video:

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From food futures to food action – investigating the link between foresight and policy

In the face of an uncertain future, more and more people working on the challenges of future food and nutritional security are turning to foresight – a field encompassing various methods for exploring diverse future worlds that might come to be.  However, while foresight can often help think about the future, it does not necessarily provide a link with planning and actions. This link between exploring future contexts and considering future actions has to be created somehow. If foresight is used without any understanding of the best way to combine exploration and action, policy makers, researchers, leaders in the private sector and societal organizations who use it run the risk of repeating common mistakes and missing out on the full potential of foresight processes. Continue reading “From food futures to food action – investigating the link between foresight and policy”

Syria and Sustainability: Bombs, bullets and bio-diversity, let’s move beyond ‘precision’ warfare and ‘precision’ farming.

In light of current debates on climate change negotiations, but also on warfare in Syria, Terry Marsden wrote an opinion paper on moving beyond a technological ‘fix’.


The current debate about bombing again is really so tiresome. At the same time the Climate talks are starting. The overwhelming evidence shows (for well over a century), that bombing never works and creates far more problems than it resolves. It just creates an elitist movement of memorials; and it generally pleases and satisfies the politicians. But it is old-fashioned ‘fordist’ technology relying upon old -fashioned nation states. We don’t need to rehearse the arguments again here; but I would like to suggest a way of progressing a far better link between war, terror and bio-diversity. In fact reversing the order of these three words would really help.  Continue reading “Syria and Sustainability: Bombs, bullets and bio-diversity, let’s move beyond ‘precision’ warfare and ‘precision’ farming.”

Identifying main vulnerabilities and policy priorities to deliver FNS: Results from a Delphi survey with experts

What are vulnerabilities and transitions in the European food system at EU level according to international experts? This is one of the things we aim to explore in WP5 of TRANSMANGO. As part of this WP, we conducted a Delphi method, where 45 international experts participated to identify global drivers of the food system affecting EU food and nutrition security.
This method consisted of three rounds. The first round contained open-ended questions to gather as much diversity as possible. The analysis of the answers to these questions led to identify a set of drivers, vulnerabilities and policy priorities that participants ranked throughout the second round. The results of the second round were shared in the third and final round asking for reactions, comments or suggestions if any. You can read the full report here. To help us gather more information on how to prioritise drivers, vulnerabilities & policy priorities for FNS, fill in the form found at the bottom of this post. Continue reading “Identifying main vulnerabilities and policy priorities to deliver FNS: Results from a Delphi survey with experts”

Building a Common Food and Nutrition Policy: asking the new structures question

Terry Marsden revisits the opinion paper he wrote earlier this month on a common food policy and reflects on the ‘new structures question’. If you would like to comment on this please join us in our discussion on #commonfoodpolicy on Twitter or Facebook.

Since my first intervention calling for a radical reorganisation of the CAP, both in terms of individual responses and further reading, I am increasingly struck by the significant weight of evidence calling for more policy integration around food. This includes various EU Foresight reports. In debating these proposed changes and policy needs it is perhaps important not to rush into concerns about changes in actual policy instruments and structures, but first to more fundamentally consider and debate some of the principles which lie behind a ‘new deal for food’ in Europe. One key area is to re-position rural development concerns right at the heart of the debate. Talking to colleagues this week at the ‘kick off’ meeting of the new EU ITN Network (SUSPLACE) in Wageningen, and visiting a multi-functional ‘care farm’ in the process, made me reflect upon the renewed need to establish and embody a firm EU policy regime around multifunctional rural development, very much along the lines of the ‘new rural paradigm’ thinking coming out of the OECD, and various academic writings over the past decade[1]. Continue reading “Building a Common Food and Nutrition Policy: asking the new structures question”

A Common Food and Nutrition Policy for Europe?

TransmangoThe EU-project TRANSMANGO is focussed at sustainable pathways to changing the food system. This project aims to combine and integrate different theoretical approaches to gain insight into Food and Nutrition Security (FNS). In light of that, TRANSMANGO’s Terry Marsden has written an opinion paper about transitioning from the CAP to a Common Food and Nutrition Policy to start the debate. Join us on twitter and Facebook by using #commonfoodpolicy.

Having been fortunate enough to have attended and participated in several international conferences and working groups over the spring and summer of this year, and had a change to explore and discuss the current ‘state of play’ in what seems to be the increasingly dysfunctional global food system, I have recently begun to seriously reflect on European policy, and the questions of radically changing the current EU CAP into a Common Food and Nutrition Policy. This was mentioned by Damien Canare, from Montpellier at a meeting of the FLEDGE research programme in Waterloo in September this year, and in my preparation and discussions for a presentation on the TRANSMANGO EU project at the Agriculture and Urbanising Society Conference in Rome thereafter.
Continue reading “A Common Food and Nutrition Policy for Europe?”