The next few months will see the closest fought election in a generation. Already the economy, welfare, health and education have been occupying headline space as some of the most important issues which affect people and therefore their vote. But where is food in this debate? More importantly, where is safe, secure, traceable British food?
Feeding a growing global population of nine billion people by 2050 is one of the world's biggest challenges--especially in the context of rapid urbanisation, rising amounts of food waste and climate change. During one day of discussions senior executives from agribusiness, policymaking and the NGO community examined approaches to food and nutrition security.
When it was broadcast on the radio "eat less" came out as a ridiculous blunder - as if I had said that people who were hungry or could only afford to eat hamburgers should eat less. Of course poor people don't have any choice. Half the world is hungry, poverty increases; everyone is so worried. Therefore people were angry with me. Luckily the press then reported my interview in full and this cleared up what I was really trying to say. They quoted me, "What's good for the planet is good for people". Most importantly the press then posted the fundamental question: Is Big Ag.( agricultural capitalism) good or bad? This is the urgent debate we must have.
As more and more stories of human trafficking appear in newspapers and on television, consumers are increasingly asking what they can do to fight this problem. Many are frustrated, and feel disconnected from the people who make the clothes they wear or pick the fruit they eat, toiling in foreign countries and even on distant continents thousands of kilometres from the stores and markets where the products are sold...
It is undoubtedly a very frustrating and worrying time for British dairy farmers. Milk prices are plummeting. With increased milk supply around the world and demand not increasing at the same pace, huge pressure has been put on milk values. For some it means they are now only getting around 25 pence-per-litre for their product. With the cost of production sitting much higher than this it is no wonder that many fear for the future of their farm businesses... What we also know is that it is clear that the British public want to back British farming and continue to support British dairy farmers during this difficult time.
Farmers have little to cheer about; politicians even less. But, when an American can evoke an explosion of applause from Iran's most elite agricultural researchers at the suggestion that all of mankind is capable of standing together to address common challenges, the possibilities for a more peaceful world becomes limitless.
Is organic food actually better for our health? Well, it should be. Organic agricultural practices mean avoiding chemical fertilisers - using instead crop rotation and natural nitrogen sources like clover, composted manure and seaweed. Pesticides are severely restricted and routine use of antibiotics and other drugs is banned. That means we should be ingesting far fewer chemicals ourselves.
This year there has been a slide in the proportion of food produced in the UK for British consumers. We're calling on government, the food industry and shoppers to put British farming - and feeding the nation - at the heart of their decision making. We're now just 60% self sufficient - despite British farmers being geared up to produce more, sustainably, for the long term.
People, especially youth require strong vocational and business management training to equip them with the right knowledge and skills to start successful enterprises along the agribusiness value chain. Easy access to adequate and affordable financing for starting and growing enterprises must be made available. Finally, an enabling environment with strong political leadership that allows entrepreneurship to flourish and embeds the notion of entrepreneurship in the agriculture sector in the wider political and economic agenda must be supported.
The 1,000 days between the start of a mother's pregnancy and her baby's second birthday are an especially crucial time to protect against these dangers. If babies don't get the proper nutrition during those 1,000 days, their brains will never fully develop. After that, the devastating truth is that the damage can never be undone - no matter how many vaccines they get or how much time or money is invested in their education.
HS2 raises the prospect of an unacceptable treble hit. Firstly, essential farmland is being lost to the line; secondly, larger areas which have been highlighted for habitat creation and tree planting will take valuable food-producing land out of production. And thirdly, far more new habitat is being imposed than is being lost on a questionable 'bigger is better' principle.