February 5th, 2021 Newsletter

Food Sovereignty vs Globalisation

?? #RootingForRealFarms

The latest in our #RootingForRealFarmers series, Vic Jenkins from Thatched House Farm in the Norfolk Broads says, “There’s a growing movement that people want to know where their food comes from and that the animals have been treated really well. Pork from a place like ours versus pork from the supermarket, there’s just no comparison… We should all turn our nose up to factory farms.”

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? A Pigs Life – Part 4/6 – Gestation Crates

Sow stalls (aka gestation/pregnancy crates) are narrow, steel cages that prevent mother pigs from moving, except to stand up or lie down. Sow stalls have been banned in the UK since 1999, however 50% of our pork products are imported from EU countries where pigs can still be kept in gestation crates for 5 weeks in each pregnancy. Weekly pig poems by artist, Harriet Clark.

Maybe you didn’t have a clue
But in the EU
We sows spend 5 weeks of our pregnancy in gestation crates
Our babies will be born on cold metal slates
We can never turn around or even move
After weaning,our babies will be removed
We howl with desperation and frustration
And bite the iron bars of our incarceration
Soon we will be re-impregnated
And then slaughtered when we become outdated
Help us by buying only high welfare farm meat
And make the horrid pig factories go obsolete

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?️ Trade bill

Last week, the safeguards that the House of Lords voted to include in the Trade Bill were rejected by obedient Tory apparatchiks in the House of Commons (only 11 Tories rebelled). Even when every other party supported the Lords’ amendments, with their 80- seat majority the Tories were able to reject these vital safeguards.

In the debate in the Commons on Jan 19th, Greg Hands (listen at 13.56.46), the arch neoliberal Minister of State for Trade Policy, argued against the Lords’ amendment that says ‘this parliament should be able to effectively scrutinise the UK government’s ambitious free trade agreement programme’. Hands said that the amendment ‘goes far beyond what would be appropriate for our unique constitutional make- up and would unduly tie the hands of the government to negotiate to the best interest of the UK’.

Emily Thornbury, the Shadow Secretary of State for International Trades said, “People will rightly ask why we have been through five years of debate in Britain over leaving a trade bloc with our closest neighbours only to rush into joining another one on the other side of the world without any meaningful public consultation at all.’

There is still time to contact your MP to remind them that democracy exists, and if they sacrifice our values and food standards on the altar of increased trade, it will be remembered when Brexit is no longer the election decider! The crucial safeguards provided by the Lords’ amendments to the trade bill would:

  • Protect our standards for the environment, food safety, quality, hygiene and traceability, animal welfare, human rights and equalities, and labour rights.
  • Allow Parliamentary scrutiny of – and a vote on – trade agreements with enough time before they are finalised.

You can contact your MP via this open letter by The Landworkers’ Alliance.

Email your MP

? We need to eat less but better meat.

Democracy around trade is being dismantled at a time when the vast majority of MPs are following Covid rules and staying at home curtailing their ability to debate properly. So, the Tories are rushing into trade deals with trading blocs such as CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership) where the nearest member is 3,000 miles away! Tory MPs need to wake up to the fact that the external costs of globalisation have proved it to be a total disaster. This new Chatham House report, supported by the UN Environment Programme and Compassion in World Farming, shows that cheap worldwide food production is the main cause of accelerating loss of nature.

The report describes three actions needed for food system transformation in support of biodiversity:

  • A shift to more plant based diets
  • More land to be protected and set aside for nature
  • To farm in a more nature-friendly, biodiversity-supporting way, limiting the use of inputs and replacing monoculture with polyculture farming practices

At the report launch on 3 February, Jane Goodall warned that the drive for cheap food was also linked to the risk of further virus epidemics. “The intensive farming of billions of animals globally seriously damages the environment, causing loss of biodiversity and producing massive greenhouse gas emissions that accelerate global warming,” she said.

? Volatile system

Farmers are just as much the victims of this corporate system as the pigs and the environment. We read ever more frequently of feed prices going up and pig farmer profits dropping. With COVID this system is ever more fragile with numerous slaughterhouses closing due to COVID; in Scotland an abattoir closed and won’t re-open till 8 February, resulting in lost profits for farmers since “they are eating more food and at the same time reducing in value.” When a system cannot deal with shocks, it is not sustainable.

? Locals vs factory farming

Fortunately a UK court has seen the light. Permission for an 110,000-chicken farm in the ‘poultry capital of Wales’ was withdrawn after a legal challenge brought by a local pressure group. After a crowdfunded judicial review the local authority admitted it should not have granted planning permission. This is an amazing example that pressure from local groups can successfully overturn factory farm developments which are based entirely on economic gain and which abuse animals, pollute the environment and thus externalise their costs on to local communities and society.

“This is a case that is intended to shine a spotlight on the inertia of local government authorities who have allowed the proliferation to continue unchecked.” A freedom of information request showed that Powys county council has approved 150 poultry units in the past 5 years.

We have sent this info to FOE Northern Ireland to urge them to use the courts to grant a judicial review to reverse the planning permission given to JMW farms for an enormous factory pig farm near Belfast.

☣️ Tanzania bans GMOs

In 1970 Henry Kissinger said, “Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control people”. After 50 years of following this motto for corporate hegemony, the false promises of corporate lobbyists that their hybrid and GM seeds, chemicals and machines will increase yields to feed the world, have failed both in terms of less food being produced and higher external costs from the destruction of habitats and biodiversity and unhealthy food. So many independent governments are returning to their local seeds, skills and food. The government in Tanzania has suspended GMO seed growing trials and banned imports of genetically modified seeds. An earlier ban was imposed in 2018 but was undermined by the agri industrial giants’ influence over local politicians. This follows similar moves by Mexico which banned GM maize last December, and Peru which last month extended the ten year ban on entry and production of GMOs for a further 15 years.

Speaking at a news conference on Friday, Tanzania Organic Agriculture Movement (TOAM) program manager and chief executive officer Mr Bakari Mongo said the people responsible for the importation and distribution of the GMO seeds should be held accountable because they endangered the country’s biodiversity, environment and human health in general.

Here in the UK, we remind you that the UK government is seeking responses to a consultation regarding the legalisation of gene editing. Our main concern regarding gene editing in agriculture is that it opens the door ever wider to corporate control of the food system via patents on newly created genetic material. Beyond GM have this excellent resource to help you fill in the consultation, deadline 17th of March.

Submit a Consultation Response

? Bees!

In the UK, the National Farmers Union (NFU) is the mouthpiece for industrial agriculture and has a huge influence on DEFRA. After a campaign from the NFU, the Government has bowed to pressure and agreed to authorise the use of the highly damaging neonicotinoid thiamethoxam for the treatment of sugar beet seed in 2021. A decision many environmental charities and NGOs strongly oppose. This chemical is deadly to pollinators and has been banned in the EU. If we continue to decimate our bee populations, perhaps we should be less draconian on a Kent based beekeeper who may have his Italian bees destroyed, since, after leaving the EU, the rules state that the UK can only import queen bees. However, bees should not need to be imported in the first place. These Italian bees are killed in their millions after they have pollinated crops in polytunnels in order to prevent their spreading disease to UK bees; ‘The study used information from 130,000 bee imports from 25 countries to show for the first time that the disease was nearly twice as likely in apiaries owned by keepers who used imported queens.’

? Solutions

If we look at farming before the industry lobbyists took control of farmers’ sources of information, we will see a system that is still practised by traditional farmers in remote areas of the world who are still feeding 70% of the world’s population on 19% of the land. To find information about these sustainable and economically viable ways to farm, I would suggest listening to farmers and food representatives at the Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC). Even BBC Farming Today this last week has been reporting on agro-ecology – the presenter called it; ‘Farming in a more sustainable way.’ For an inspiring analysis of what’s gone wrong and how to fix our broken food and farming system, depleted soils and unjust economy, watch the brilliant documentary, This Good Earth.

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