The apocalyptic vision of Food, Inc. is based on contemporary food and farming politics in the US. It couldn't happen here... could it?
Yes. Poor standards of farm animal welfare combined with over-reliance on antibiotics; pressure from government to adopt GM technologies; routine pesticide use polluting our land and water supplies; major corporations controlling our food systems - these are all features of our very own British food system.
Learn about these issues below and then check out the 10 Simple Ways you can make a positive change.
Diabetes and Obesity
In the UK, 25% of adults and 10% of children are now obese. According to the NHS Information Centre, hospital admissions for obesity-related illnesses (organ failure, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease) rocketed by 60% in 2008-09. Diet-related heart disease and stroke have already taken over as the two leading causes of death in low and middle income countries.
Most intensive agricultural systems rely on faster growing breeds that produce more milk or meat. This can put animals under excessive stress, weaken their natural immune systems and increase reliance on antibiotics and vaccines. Organic, free-range systems offer an alternative which is within our reach if we choose to eat less but better quality meat.
In the UK context, around 31,000 tonnes of chemicals are used in farming each year to kill weeds, insects and other pests that attack crops. The latest Government figures published in 2009 showed 45% of the fruit and vegetable samples tested in the UK contained pesticides. A whopping 88% of school fruit and vegetables showed the same results. Pesticides have a devastating effect on the environment and there are real uncertainties about the effectiveness of official safety regulation of pesticides.
When eating out, people often have no way of knowing if their food is fresh, honest and additive-free. The Food for Life Catering Mark is a Soil Association accreditation scheme for leading caterers. The scheme helps to reassure their customers that the issues they care about, from animal welfare to additives and the environment - have been taken care of.
The global food crisis
Approximately 1 billion people worldwide do not have secure access to food. National and international food and agricultural policies have helped to create the global food crisis - but they can also be used to help fix the system. Last year, an international scientific assessment endorsed by 60 Governments including our own said that ‘agro-ecological farming’, not GM, was the best prospect for feeding the world.
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