Which? Food Systems Report: Shock, understanding and a desire for action – Lucy Bjorck

Which? Food Systems Report: Shock, understanding and a desire for action

Lucy Bjorck

1 Sept 2015

“Shock, understanding and a desire for action”

“Against the barrage of depressing news about rising obesity, disappearing wildlife and obsession with economic measures of success, trying to influence food and farming policies to benefit people and wildlife can feel like wading through quick setting concrete. Politicians don’t seem interested and consumers don’t seem to care. But then along comes a report which really restores your faith in people.

Earlier this month the consumer group Which? and the Government Office for Science released their report Food System Challenges. The report details the findings of their research which delved into the minds of the man and woman on the street to understand their priorities for Britain’s future food supply. Far from being disinterested or interested solely in cheap prices, after a rich discussion of the challenges facing the food system, participants were shocked by our impact on the planet. They were willing to change their own shopping patterns and they wanted to see action from Government and industry.

Few of us in our busy lives get time to stop and reflect on the enormity of the impact our modern lives have on the planet we live on and its other residents. Given time and space to reflect on these issues people believed it was essential to change food consumption habits.

From the damage we (the human race) are inflicting on the planet it may seem as if we do not care. Politicians often only react to those issues which people complain about. But if people are not well informed how can they express a view? Not everyone has the luxury of attending such a session. This report shows that it is truly not the case that no one cares. We expect those in a position of leadership to steer us in the right direction helping us make the right decisions, putting in place standards and dare I say it regulations to help chart a course towards a sustainable future.

Environmentalist are often accused  of crying wolf or threatening Armageddon  – an overheating planet bereft of wildlife, with poisoned water and air populated by those dying from diseases of over and under consumption.  If it were really that bad the Government would do something – right? We manage to limp along but all the while the world around us is diminished. We suffer from shifting baseline syndrome, not really knowing what we have lost. For example the state of the UK’s birds (2012) reported that the UK has lost in the region of 44 million breeding birds since the late 1960s.We accept what is offered to us from lack of knowledge that there are better options.

But people do care. When in possession of the facts they are shocked and they want action. The report highlights that not only did the participants think it important to change their own behaviour, they also wanted action from Government to provide leadership, better regulate farming  and help consumers make affordable sustainable food choices. They also wanted to see an independent consumer champion to hold both Government and industry to account.

The timing of this report could not be better at the time when the government is consulting on its 25 year plan for food and farming. The plans as currently outlines fail to tackle any of these problems. I hope that the Secretary of State will take time to read this report and respond by rethinking her approach to the plan to ensure it helps deliver a food system which will deliver for people and wildlife now and long into the future.”

by Lucy Bjorck, Senior Policy Officer, RSPB

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