Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Are pesticides sprayed near you?

21 December, 2010

‘Disgraceful’ decision on spray rules – campaigner
Georgina Downs, of the UK Pesticides Campaign, said it was a disgrace that the government has decided there was no need to introduce any new measures to protect the health of rural residents from pesticide exposure.

The award-winning environmental campaigner waged a 10-year pesticide safety campaign, and won against the UK government in High Court – only for the government to return to court to overturn the legal decision. Georgina pledged to continue her crusade – even though the government has rejected the introduction of mandatory measures to protect rural residents living near sprayed fields.

Farmers Weekly (16 Dec)
Farmers Guardian (15 Dec)


FSA bias against organics

16 July, 2010

The Soil Association’s initial reaction to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) research when it was published in July last year was that it as misleading. Having taken detailed scientific advice, the Soil Association is now clear that the research was designed in a way that produced inaccurate conclusions which were then presented by the FSA in a biased and misleading way.

Following meetings with both the Chair and the Chief Executive of the FSA, and at their suggestion, the Soil Association and the Organic Trade Board are raising a large number of concerns about the FSA’s behaviour, and the way the scientist they commissioned went about this research, with the FSA’s General Advisory Committee on Science – hopefully they will report sometime this year.

The FSA’s review contradicted other recent science which has shown significant nutritional differences between organic and non-organic food. A paper will be published shortly in a prestigious scientific journal which examines how these different results were arrived at , and why the FSA’s were wrong. On 20 May this year, the FSA released the raw data on which their scientific conclusions were based – a scandalous 10 months after the research was published, and 7 months after the FSA Chair agreed to do so.

This data will now be reworked by independent scientists, led by Professor Carlo Leifert at Newcastle University, to investigate further how it was that the well-known and widely reported nutritional difference between organic and non-organic food were found to be ‘not significant’ by the FSA research.

This work is not likely to be published in a peer reviewed journal before the end of this year

Government To Put Down Its FSA Lapdog

16 July, 2010

My reaction to the news that the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is to be abolished was mixed. Like many others, I campaigned for its establishment and was delighted when it came in to being. Disappointment quickly followed.

It was probably inevitable that the appointment of Smug Sir John Krebs as its first chair would lead to partiality, loss of vision and to the watchdog becoming a lapdog. His world view seems to begin and end at the inner councils of The Royal Society. His patronising, reductionist science knows it all approach set the culture and the core methodology of the FSA. Unfortunately, this approach was also prevalent in the Department of Health and within the Department of the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra).

It is not that the FSA has been especially pro-industry or anti-NGO. The problem has been its pro-technology, pro-narrow science, elitist and tick-box mentality. If anything it is pro-“nannyism” because nanny knows best and this supertech, scientific nanny had no time for anything that didn’t fit her view of things. Hence, food sterility has been promoted under the guise of food safety, pesticide residues have been ignored and living foods almost totally banished.

So despite the proclamations of openness, the board meetings held in public, the consultations and the forums, real dialogue and communication was smothered by a pervasive we know best, patrician attitude. Smug Sir John, his cohorts and his successors, for the most part politely and courteously, did not listen to anyone else.

This is best exemplified by the FSA’s prejudicial attitude to both GM and organic food. Its determination to promote GM technology led, in recent weeks, to two resignations by independent advisers. Whilst, last year, its biased presentation of a report on organic food received widespread and justified criticism.

Of course the FSA has not been a complete failure. Many NGOs in the food and health fields argue that in some areas the FSA has had a positive impact.

Given the state of the food and health sector when it was formed, the nature of its original remit and the resources at its disposal, it had to get something right. After all, even a stopped watch gets things right twice in 24 hours.

The fact is, it could and should have done more. We desperately need a truly independent and truly effective Food Standards Agency. We don’t need a government annex pretending to be something it’s not. A government source is reported as saying “The functions of the FSA will be subsumed into the Department of Health and Defra”. I’m sure that this will save money and that it can be done seamlessly because there was little difference between them anyway.

It is hard to gauge the government’s true intentions. This is worrying but I’m sure abolishing the FSA has little to do with complaints by the food industry over “traffic light labelling proposals”. It is to do with saving money and reveals something of where the government’s priorities lie. The FSA became more of lapdog than a watchdog some time ago. Had it been otherwise, they wouldn’t have been able to scrap it.

Lawrence Woodward O.B.E.
Whole Organic Plus
blog >

GM potatoes a waste of public funds

15 July, 2010

From the Soil Association campaigns team…

Following the announcement that a field trail of GM potatoes is taking place at a secret location in Norfolk to monitor whether the genes work against blight, Emma Hockridge, Soil Association policy manager said:
“This GM field trial further highlights just how far behind GM technology is compared to conventional breeding. A blight resistant potato variety (Sarpo) has already been bred using conventional methods and is commercially available. The fact that this GM potato variety is still at the field trial stage – after 10 years, no significant results and £1.7 million of tax-payers’ money later – clearly demonstrates what a failing and old technology this is.

“In the same way that we are calling for the Food Standards Agency to stop wasting money on what is effectively a PR exercise for GM food, this field trial should also be halted. Research should instead be focused on conventional breeding which is showing much better results at a far cheaper cost.

“The IAASTD report, the largest scientific farming study ever conducted and produced by over 400 scientists from across the world, concluded that in a world faced with climate change and resource depletion, agro-ecological farming methods like organic need be utilised, rather than throwing more money at GM crops.”

Ask your MP to end sham GM ‘public engagement process’

Read Sheepdrove’s top 3 GM Mythbusters

FSA to be cut out

13 July, 2010

Peter and Juliet Kindersley welcome the government’s decision to abolish The Food Standards Agency. The FSA has been criticised for being led by food industry lobbyists and pro-biotechnology policy.

Andrew Lansley, the health secretary, announced it last week. As part of the changes Lansley will reassign the FSA’s regulatory aspects – including safety and hygiene – to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association, the organic food standard-bearer, said: “Many NGOs campaigning on food thought for a long time the food industry has an unhealthy degree of influence over the Department of Health so the great risk is the corporate vested interests of the food industry will have too strong an influence on future policy.”
The Observer (11 July, p.7)
The Guardian (12 July, pp.1 & 4)
The Independent (12 July, p.19)

GM crops – 1 Million Voices on Avaaz

15 April, 2010

Add your voice to the petition for independent research and a moratorium on GM crop development in Europe. A new initiative allows 1 million EU citizens to present legal requests to the European Commission.

With a forthcoming election, it’s a great time to cast your vote directly on future food and environmental policy. Every vote will count!

Together, let’s get 1 million citizen signatures – please send the following link to your friends, or post it on your Facebook wall:

GM crops – 1 Million Voices on Avaaz

Add your name to the GM petition on Avaaz

22 March, 2010

On the Avaaz website, campaigners are asking for 1 million people to  sign a petition to the EU. They need your voice – and when they reach a total of 1 million the EU will accept an official request to consider it.

Their petition says:

To the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso:
We call on you to put a moratorium on the introduction of GM crops into Europe and set up an independent, ethical, scientific body to research the impact of GM crops and determine regulation.

Sign the petition now!

Climate Change on target

4 August, 2009

climatechangeLast week Geoffrey Lean reminded readers of the Telegraph that the phenomenon of climate change is due to keep its ‘promise’, according to American researchers at the NCAR, despite the fluctuations of solar activity and the distractions we see in the weather.

Lean remains skeptical of the progress made by international partnerships making an effort to tackle climate change. That’s despite his recent meeting with Barack Obama’s key adviser Prof John Holdren, who emanated a very positive impression about what the USA is working toward. Holdren spoke of imminent legislation and campaigns internationally to lever a “level of agreement that will surprise people”.

Targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions aren’t being met by the G8/G20/G(add favourite number). The goals for atmospheric CO2 concentrations are being shifted. Our expectations of the leadership must change too. Disappointment with politicians is easy, we can do that, but dare we look up the latest predictions of the effects that inaction will generate over the next century or two?

What does the FSA stand for?

3 August, 2009

The actions of the Food Standards Agency make people wonder what they are all about. I enjoyed Geoffrey Lean’s article in the Telegraph last week. (Organic Food Gets a Raw Deal from the FSA)

Lean's article

Lean's article

A snippet of his piece reads…
The agency says it stands for “safer food”. But while it has a mixed record on additives that cause hyperactivity, toxic dyes, illegal GM foods, or pesticides, it has, from the start, campaigned against organic food, which no one claims to be dangerous.

The article by Joanna Blythman in the Mail was also excellent. At the moment I’m reading the book by Robert AlbrittonLet Them Eat Junk: How Capitalism Creates Hunger and Obesity – and it seems to relate the way the FSA behaves.

To take a leaf out of Albritton’s book…  the TRILLIONS we spent supporting farmers in rich countries has led to higher taxes, worse food, intensively farmed monocultures (and monstrous animal welfare causing pandemics), overproduction and world prices that wreck the lives of poor farmers in the emerging markets.

The FSA seems to be complicit with this system, and their backing of the industrial status quo is wholly unhelpful to positive progress.

Peter Kindersley

Self-sufficiency should be Defra priority

22 January, 2009

Benn must make UK food self-sufficiency a priority
A letter from Sir Anthony Bamford is published in the Financial Times.

“As a farmer and the only remaining British manufacturer of tractors, I am compelled to respond to recent comments by Hilary Benn, environment secretary, on national food self-sufficiency. Since the government came to power in 1997, our food self-sufficiency has declined to 60 per cent. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, however, believes 60 per cent self-sufficiency is high enough. Meanwhile, billions of unnecessary “food miles” clock up as we import indigenous foods such as potatoes, apples and sugar, causing congestion, road infrastructure costs, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Since the Ministry of Agriculture became Defra, a strong support of farming has shifted to a woolly focus on “rural affairs”, and lack of interest in food self-sufficiency is further evidence of this. The department should remember that the agri-food sector accounts for 6.9 per cent of the total economy and provides 3.6m jobs which, incidentally, is more than four times as many as the car industry in the UK. And it could generate more, should Defra do its job.

Mr Benn should immediately announce clear actions that support our farmers in boosting production, and make 100 per cent indigenous food self-sufficiency a priority.”

Financial Times (22 Jan, p.10)