At the Food Ethics Council we have analysed the underlying causes which undermine our food system’s ability to be healthy, sustainable, fair and humane:
We believe that tackling the huge inequalities that exist around the globe in access to healthy diets and land to grow food is an essential step.
We’ve got to stop living beyond the means of the planet too. Our current quest for more food and more resources means that we are degrading our environment at such a rate that we risk the planet’s ability to feed ourselves and our future generations. The more we deplete the planet’s resources, the more vulnerable our food system will be to increasingly frequent shocks.
We need to ask ‘who owns our food system?’ It’s clear that market and political power is concentrated in the hands of a few organisations whose dealings along the supply chain are opaque to say the least, and who are not held accountable for their actions.
The global economic model, which has remained unchallenged for centuries, is no longer fit for purpose. Instead of rewarding unsustainable business models it needs to embrace market mechanisms that reflect the true social and environmental costs of food.
There appears to be an absence of a moral calculus in relation to our food. We are discouraged from facing up to the trade-offs between the interests of humans and animals or humans and the environment, or even between different people and communities. But the more we learn about farmed animals, the more obvious it is that we must take their welfare into account in developing ethical meat production.
And the more we read about indentured agricultural slavery and land grabs the more we realise how culpable each one of us is when we choose our food at the supermarket.
Many of us are disconnected from our food. We simply don’t think about the impacts of what we eat – be that animal welfare, human rights or its impact on the natural world. The result is that we don’t value it enough; we throw it away and treat it like fuel rather than a key part of our lives that is savoured, respected and enjoyed.
All this is compounded by an egregious democratic deficit. Time and time again we see short-term decision making based on political expediency. There’s a real lack of political will at a national level to bring about a fairer food system, and global governance merely serves to perpetuate current vested interests.
We need to give the world’s 525 million farmers, 1 billion agricultural workers and everyone who consumes that food and are affected by our broken food system a say in decisions about it. We need a bold, joined up food and farming policy that gives us good food and sustainable farming, which improves our health and protects the natural world.