GREEN MEP SPEAKS AT SOIL ASSOCIATION’S 60th ANNUAL CONFERENCE
LUCAS OFFERS CHALLENGE TO CAMERON OVER ‘GREEN’ FOOD
Feeding our cities this century will require a shift towards more local
production and away from supermarket domination of the retail sector, Green
Party Euro-MP and Principal Speaker Caroline Lucas told the Soil
Association’s 60th annual conference today.
“Only through the relocalisation of our food systems can we hope to take
back control of our food from industrialists and financiers and have a
chance of feeding a growing population in a way that is both equitable and
sustainable,” Dr Lucas said.
“Our current food system plays a large part in driving the social and
environmental challenges facing Europe: transport, waste, social exclusion,
urban sprawl and, crucially, the over-consumption of natural resources.”
The MEP for South-East England also told the Soil Association that radical
measures are needed to protect and encourage the local food sector: new
rules limiting the size of supermarkets and banning new out-of-town
superstores, reforming EU and WTO rules which prohibit public procurement
policies based on prioritizing local supplies, and banning GM crops across
“We need a Local Food Action Plan supported by local, regional and central
government and backed by legislation. It must address the EU’s arcane
procurement policies, competition laws, banning GM crops and live animal
exports, reforming the Common Agricultural Policy, the EU’s single market
and the World Trade Organisation.”
Commenting on an opening speech in which Tory leader David Cameron stated
his support for the organic sector, Dr Lucas said he had offered ‘little
more than window-dressing’.
Speaking after Mr Cameron’s address to a reception hosed by Jonathan
Dimbleby yesterday (Thursday, January 5th) to mark the conference, Dr Lucas
“He said it is up to politicians to listen to farmers and to act
accordingly. But farmers have been shouting loud and clear for years about
the crisis facing the industry and he hasn’t been listening at all.
“The only concrete step he proposed was to improve labelling of British food
– important, yes, but hardly sufficient. He didn’t promise to even consider
imposing mandatory restrictions on supermarkets’ behaviour, banning GM foods
or reforming EU and WTO rules preventing public bodies adopting a ‘buy
“In short, it was a warm-sounding speech almost entirely devoid of content,
and I don’t think he’ll have won many converts to the Tory cause tonight.”
We are beginning to see a pattern with David Cameron: he makes all the
right-sounding noises but falls well short of adopting the policies that
will deliver on his overtures. His environmental ‘dream team’ of Zac
Goldsmith and John Gummer have been charged with formulating long-term
policies which will ‘make Britain a better place to live without
constraining economic growth’ – and that’s the problem. Only by addressing
the way we measure progress and shifting from the blind pursuit of ever-more
economic growth to policies aimed at increasing social wellbeing will we
make Britain a ‘better’ and more sustainable place to live.
By failing to realise this – and by stopping short of announcing policies
which would actually make a difference to the food we eat – he is offering
little more than window-dressing.
Dr Lucas made her comments on the first day of the Soil Association’s 60th
annual conference, which takes place today and Saturday at the Brewery
Conference Centre, Barbican, London.
The event boasts some of the most respected speakers in the field: Dr Lucas
joins Jonathan Porritt, Monty Don, John Humphreys, Rosie Boycott and Soil
Association director Patrick Holden.