Food and Farming: a better way forward by Natalie Bennett

12 January 2018


A talk and discussion on the future of food and farming by led by  Natalie Bennett, former Green Party Leader.

North Lancashire Green Party meeting hosted the meeting as part of the series of meetings entitled “Why Green?”

Natalie gave a passionate and informed presentation about food production and distribution. She had just recently attended the Oxford Real Farming Conference (which takes place annually at the same time as the Oxford Farming Conference), where new ideas for production, yields, distribution and land ownership are discussed.

Natalie said that the problem can be described as 'cheap food is actually costing us a lot' … in terms of health and pollution.

One third of the world’s carbon emissions come from agriculture and only 60% of our food is produced in the UK.

The production and distribution of food is dominated by supermarkets and access to good quality food is now linked to income levels.

Inefficient and unsustainable farming methods now dominate: where one ton of food production damages 10 to 16 tons of soil.

This trashing of the planet cannot continue.

The Oxford Real Farming Conference has identified issues related to food security, Brexit and the need to stop poisoning our environment.

But how to initiate change? Natalie said that increasing concern about the impact of the over use of antibiotics and their heavy use in farming might in the end be the political driver to end factory farming and slash food miles. We cannot afford to become antibiotic resistant and ending the of use of antibiotics in farming would put an end to intensive factory farming.

Looking after the soil using bio-intensive methods, organic, no till farming and permaculture approaches have been shown to lesson plant diseases and increase yield. The example of a multi-layer farming technique in Normandy at Le Ferme du Bec Hellouin, outlined in a book called ‘Miraculous Abundance’, increases production whilst protecting soil structure. Natalie suggested that a system of local market gardens could lower distribution costs, increase understanding between town and country and provide varied work in biodiverse businesses and local distribution as well as providing good incomes for the producers.  New policies to replace the EU Common Agricultural Payments, land ownership and over-use of pesticides and fungicides would be needed to deliver this new food system.

The question of how we could make local schemes pay using the current economic model was discussed and access to land at a reasonable cost is crucial. The Kindling Trust in Manchester who attempt to make land affordable for those wishing to get into agriculture,  the John Muir Trust for Land Reform in Scotland and the Biodynamic Land Trust are useful sources of information.

Natalie emphasised that as is to be expected-the problems are complex and solutions are interconnected. She gave a good account of how Green Party policy is derived with an understanding of this interconnectedness.

How we use all our land impacts on all of us. The need for change is urgent, the outcome of change is positive – going green leads to a better life.

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