What principles should underpin policies for fair, resilient food systems? 

In the summer of 2023, we posed this question to a group of food systems experts, farmers, landworkers, campaigners, funders, and business representatives, at a workshop we convened in London’s OmVed Gardens

With a General Election on the horizon and the chatter of party conferences filling the air, the time is ripe to consider how national policies and the UK Government’s approach to policy making can shape food systems for the better. We’ve already begun to hear specific policy promises; party manifestos will be published soon; and businesses and civil society organisations have ramped up work to try and influence our policy landscape.

But amidst the disparate, single-sector asks being floated, we wanted to bring it back to basics. Rather than brainstorm a set of detailed policy demands (other organisations have done terrific jobs at this, such as the Landworkers Alliance Manifesto), our workshop sought to establish a clear and simple approach to policy-making – what are the basic building blocks that fair, ethical policies should be constructed from? What fundamental principles should underpin the how, what and why of national policies?

At a time when national government appears set on serving vested interests, and reversing on urgent climate action amidst ongoing social injustices, it doesn’t feel amiss to be going back to basics.

During the workshop, participants were split into groups of six and asked to discuss: ‘what fundamental principles should underpin food and farming policies?’ Facilitators used the ‘1-2-4-all’ technique to structure the session, beginning with a silent personal reflection, then discussing in pairs, before sharing insights, seeking consensus and untangling areas of discord in groups.

Photographs by Will Hearle.

2 Replies to “Back to basics: Five principles for fair policies”

  1. Yes, there must be a ‘Right to Grow (access to public land(see Incredible Edible’s Right to Grow campaign); funding for SIC/CIC’s under the fundable size, especially on private landlord’s land where the matched funding comes in a rent or lease free situation or where a ‘commercial’ tenant/landlord relationship exists w rent and profit model. The current ‘business’ oriented gov must continue all the amazing ‘APPG for Agroecology’s work , and support the multi-sector, labour intensive, farming/market garden industries. Tax consessions to importers such as Sainsburys/Tescos, to commodified WTO plants (1996 onwards) directly conflict with small labour heavy nutritious food production and a circular economy espoused by some gov depts but not all. Export support for ‘licensed crops’ where farmers are charged upfront by the hectare by UKgov/UPOV rules and then use tax payers dough to pay them back for export of barley for lager, sugar beet for cakes and chocolate and maize/rape for biofuel is against the ‘Climate accord’ agreement, against our right to food, right to grow and conflicts also w the ratified ESC covenant 2012 you refer to above. Currently our gov ignores prev. promises to push regenerative farming and urban food growing as a essential design reg. In new and regerative projects. I live in london and i am yet to see this w developers or Borough planning departments. Its all lip service while behind the scenes a continued ‘sell-off’ of state and prev state, private assets is massively on the increase. These are agsinst policies enshrined in law. We need laywers and policy ammendments alongside new land policies…..i support in principal the work you are doing, if you need a ‘farmer or community growers’ perspective at a future session or meeting please get in touch. All my best Simon

  2. Climate controlled eco-logical growing spaces for winter and extreme weather events and full cycle community based food hubs to help regenerate soil and reduce GHGs- see OASISfoodhub.ca

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