The UK Government 'Aims and Objectives' for food and farming (2001)
have been examined using an Analysis Toolbox, and the following
main points have been drawn from this:-
- they adopt many of the major discourses in the field
- they try to satisfy most of the major lobbying groups
- there is a careful balance between green and economic interests
- they attempt to please and unite everyone - no-one could object
to any of the policies
- there are clear 'sites of tension' in the text, such as one
- there are other points worth noting, such as the use of an incomplete
form of the verb "protect"
- the document uses the word 'sustainability' frequently, and
even more so in the current version (2003)
The Government documents do not engage with or mention the industrialisation
and globalisation of the food industry.
| Below I include
a commentary with some of my own interpretations and conclusions about
It is interesting to look at these results in terms of discourse,
and in particular to recognise that I have my own authorial
discourse - it is difficult for me to analyse this, but it may
be necessary for the reader to offset this authorial discourse in
their interpretation of what I have done.
My comments have two main 'impartial' stating points:-
1. The discourse about food quality has changed entirely. Once,
food quality was low, and the main discourse was whether the food
was edible or not (for example, people may have had to eat meat
from sick animals) and we marvel that they survived. By our modern
standards, all of humanity had malnutrition throughout all of history.
However, there is now a new 'food quality discourse' about the effects
of additives and new genetic techniques - we now worry that what
we eat is remote from nature.
2. We once had a sustainable farming system of a 3 or 4-course
rotation. The typical crops in successive years would be - potatoes
(manure added) - cereal - fallow grazing - roots/beans. This gave
long term sustainability and maintained the natural fertility in
the land over centuries. This method now seems to have been largely
abandoned, as has any concerted attempt to maintain fertility for
future generations. The 'assets' in the 'bank of nature' are all
being spent at once. The same can also be said about oil resources,
mineral resources, water reserves, climate and soil fertility.
In my Context Analysis, I also described a starting point - 'when
everything was organic, because there were no other techniques available'.
Admittedly, there were then problems of poor crops and crop losses
to pests, but these could be adapted to, as each farmer grew several
varieties of wheat and several other crops, so the risks were spread.
Nowadays, monoculture is almost universal.
Now, many food products are unnatural (pot noodles and Pringles
are made of processed starches, artificial colours and flavourings),
and I am extremely concerned that what we are doing is not sustainable.
I am equally concerned that the Government uses the word 'sustainable'
in almost every sentence, but they seem to have no workable definition
or measurement of sustainability, no grasp of what it might mean
to re-introduce sustainability, and no idea of how to create it.
The 3 or 4 course rotation was known to be sustainable - there are
no other systems where this can be said. In my view, we have almost
no sustainability in any sector of the UK food and farming industries.
The Government may use the word, but their policies are unlikely
to have any real effect - they are window dressing.