Does the UK need to be worrying about food production?


With Putin’s warmongering having further exposed the fragility of our food supply, it is worth reflecting on another Vladimir, Lenin, who wrote over a hundred years ago that ‘Every society is three meals away from chaos’. During the COVID pandemic people fought in shops over loo rolls – imagine the reaction if we were to run short of food.

Some Tory politicians think the UK doesn’t need to worry about growing its own food, because we’re relatively wealthy and can buy what we need from other countries. North Dorset’s MP Simon Hoare recently wrote about the need to sustainably increase UK food production, but he focussed entirely on livestock farming and claimed there is no ‘argument to sustain’ a decline in the livestock sector. West Dorset MP Chris Loder has similarly written about how effective pastureland is as a carbon sink, and said that science does not support a plant-based diet. I respectfully suggest they both need to look more closely at the evidence, perhaps starting with DEFRA’s reports.
Livestock is presently the major part of Dorset’s farming industry, but we can and must change that. At present we have to import so much else of what we eat. Animal farming is a hugely inefficient way of producing food, using large areas of land to produce relatively little food. Around 71 per cent of UK land is used for agriculture, and 72 per cent of that is grassland for grazing. Most of UK-grown wheat, barley and oats is used for animal feed, while we import almost half our fresh vegetables and 84 per cent of our fruit. That cannot continue.
With the changing climate we cannot rely on other countries to be able to grow what we need.
We have to recognise that farming is the most important occupation, bar none. Farmers must be properly rewarded for their efforts, and we need to encourage younger people into the profession. We must incentivise farming that produces more of the food varieties we need, and in organic ways that regenerate the health of our depleted soils, make our waterways clean again, increase biodiversity and capture carbon. It can be done, and our healthy future depends on it.
Ken Huggins,
North Dorset Green Party

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