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The Disraeli Room

Blog Post

Food for Thought

22nd November 2015

Food is a vital part of human well-being and flourishing. Over the course of the next week ResPublica will be running a blog week on establishing good food practices for all in society. Food is far more than just what is needed for sustenance; the food and groceries market raises important political and ethical questions about the relationships between the food industry, government and individuals; food security and food waste; and the role of technology in producing food. In the coming week we will explore these issues with our contributors.

First, food raises key questions about the interplay between the food industry, government and individuals. How much is it the responsibility of the food industry or government have to regulate the choices consumers of food make? In what ways is personal choice affected by the food industry? Should the industry have a responsibility to promote healthier food? Should government take responsibility by imposing legislation to incentivise healthy eating (e.g. the recent debate on the ‘sugar tax’)? Some of these contested questions will be explored in the contributions of Joanna Lewis and Dr Cesar Revoredo-Giha.

Second, we will examine questions relating to food security and food waste. In the UK there are many people living in food poverty, unable to access healthy and nutritious food. In spite of growing choice in supermarkets and reductions in price, there are still many people in the UK who eat what they can afford, not what they want.

Families with tighter budgets often have to regard food as a flexible budgeting item, and pay the price in their health. Children with low nutrient intake, poor dietary patterns and little vegetable consumption often suffer in later life with health problems. In an affluent society like the UK, it is shocking to think that tonnes of good food are thrown out every day, while people in the same towns are going to be hungry. The theme of food security and production will be examined by Dan Crossley, and Tristram Stuart explores the myriad issues around food waste.

Third, there are interesting questions to be asked relating to technology and food. How should technology and food interact, for example, in terms of GM debate and in terms of pesticides in farming? What is the role of technology in addressing production and distribution of food? The on-going GM-debate in particular is an area which produces strong feelings on both sides. The issues at stake will be explored in the contributions of Professor Jurgen Denecke and Dr Rupert Read. Ben Goldsmith writes on the striking parallels between energy production and food production.

These are but three areas which emerge from thinking about food and groceries markets; they are all linked and overlap in interesting ways. The freedom to choose food is related to the cost of food, which is again related to the manner in which this food is produced. This further relates to the technologies of production and distribution. At ResPublica we believe that to make real progress all these areas must be addressed holistically, based on an understanding of the complex interplay between them.

We believe in the common good and the promotion of social and economic flourishing for all. In order to work for a healthy and flourishing population we must develop policy which works to build and restore good relationships with food. Food is intrinsic to the good life, and deserves far greater attention in the political debate.

Our contributors have written a great collection of pieces to be published over the course of the next week.

Monday 23rd November

Is the food industry always the villain on childhood obesity?                                                                By Joanna Lewis

Tuesday 24th November   

Retailers’ Promotions on Sugary Products: Should they be regulated?                                                By Dr Cesar Revoredo-Giha

Wednesday 25th November 

For food, read energy                                                                                                                                    By Ben Goldsmith

Thursday 26th November          

Delivering sustainable food security with a pick axe, a two-way torch and a mirror                      By Dan Crossley

Friday 27th November   

Think Food and Fuel!                                                                                                                                      By Professor Jurgen Denecke

Saturday 28th November   

Climate science is to geo-engineering as genetics is to GM food                                                            By Dr Rupert Read

Sunday 29th November    

TBA on Food Waste                                                                                                                                 By Tristram Stuart

We are keen to explore these themes further in future events and research publications. For more information get in touch with Jenny Leigh at jennifer.leigh@respublica.org.uk


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