Blog: Dean BestSoil Association looks back for the future

Dean Best | 12 November 2009

In London today (12 November), UK organic body The Soil Association has brought together organic food makers, academics, NGOs, government representatives and retailers to discuss what it is calling "the food crunch".

Or, in other words, to discuss how the world can continue to feed itself in the face of a number of pressing issues, including a warming planet and a growing population.

The message from this morning's session was stark - "business as usual" cannot continue.

However, as is to be expected when presented with perhaps the most wide-ranging set of problems and challenges ever faced by humanity, how to move away from "business as usual" is a matter of debate.

For some, we need to think 'local' in food production. Others believe tackling food waste is vital. There are those who believe big business is blocking the change that is needed. Others argue that political leaders across the world have yet to grasp the nettle - and that the imminent climate change conference in Copenhagen will yield few substantive results.

Patrick Holden, chief executive of The Soil Association, raised eyebrows; first, by agreeing with much of what his predecessor at the lectern Defra chief scientist Professor Bob Watson had to say on the issue (opposition to GM notwithstanding) - but also with his call for greater planning in how the food system works at local, regional and national levels.

Notably, Holden said all stakeholders needed to work together and likened the action needed to a "war effort".

Sections of industry spent the morning under attack from the World Development Movement, which claimed lobbying from big business had defined trade law and global food policy in its favour.

This afternoon, Asda puts its head above the parapet to suggest how industry can play a proactive role in enacting the change that is needed.


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