Integration - Summary and Commentary

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:-

  1. they adopt many of the major discourses in the field
  2. they try to satisfy most of the major lobbying groups
  3. there is a careful balance between green and economic interests
  4. they attempt to please and unite everyone - no-one could object to any of the policies
  5. there are clear 'sites of tension' in the text, such as one involving forestry
  6. there are other points worth noting, such as the use of an incomplete form of the verb "protect"
  7. 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 the results

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 Commentary
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.

Please contact me at george@whatever-will.be if you are interested in the above

(0044)(0) 1372-749803

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