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User Icon     Posted on Jun 8, 2020     by Nick Solomon     

Mars, Venus & Votesville

The term ‘Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus’ is well known and has an element of truth in it. We should also add ‘Politicians are of course from Votesville’ as that can be the only reason so many of them don’t want to include ‘quality assurance’ for imported food in the upcoming Agriculture Bill 2019 -21.

MPs have been told to vote down the Agriculture Bill amendments that would have maintained British food and animal welfare standards for all imported food as part of any future trade deal. This bill has been in existence for a number of months and is due to pass to the House of Lords next week. So why have over 780,000 people signed a petition against these amendments? This troubled bill was quietly progressing behind the COVID 19 headlines until a letter from a certain chap from Essex to the PM was published in the Daily Mail.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) arranged the petition. It’s president, Minette Batters, should be commended for highlighting this issue and managing to get 250,000 signatories with the help of several national papers. What undoubtedly made the difference this week was Jamie Oliver stepping into the arena with a long personal letter to the Prime Minister outlining why he believed this bill is bad for Britain. Well done Jamie!

Agri Bill Land

The omens for this Bill are not good as it got off to a rocky start. The land on the cover picture used on the Bill depicting our glorious countryside was embarrassingly sold to developers for circa £100m who are now turning the barley fields into luxury homes. The locals fought this development but sadly lost as it appears money talks.

Of course, the bigger picture here is that we all have to live somewhere. We all know, but chose to ignore, the fact that the population just keeps increasing. No politician on earth seems brave enough to tackle that thorny issue, which is worrying as so many current affairs lead back to this central problem. Sadly, this wonderful planet of ours is slowly but surely being destroyed. We are all to blame but it is sad to see that our ‘leaders’ seem more intent on staying in power than making the necessary tough decisions required to turn the tide.

The central issue behind this bill is simple, all right minded people (I hope) want their families to eat food that is produced ethically, sustainably, locally if possible and, preferably, seasonal. Now where have you heard those four words before?

Britain currently maintains excellent standards of food production, hygiene and animal welfare. It’s important however, to remember that when it comes to food scare’s we have had a few, from salmonella to listeria to mad cow disease; we don’t have a perfect track record but I would say we have generally learned from our mistakes. Almost all of these food scares come when we try to fast track an increase in profit margins on food production. Let’s also not forget that other countries were very quick to ban imports of our food (quite rightly) the second there was any suspicion of a disease entering the human food chain.

It took an extraordinary national effort to reach the enviable position we now hold, with laws protecting the consumer, the farmer and our animals. We must not allow our politicians to undo all that hard work for the sake of a trade deal.

Much of the media reporting on this issue seems to be focused against the United States, but I wish a lot of these media outlets had the same focus when also looking East as well as West. Many countries have woeful standards when it comes to animal welfare and food standards. As Jamie points out in his letter, if other countries can produce food to our standard cheaper, then so be it. What is not acceptable is to allow imports to lower our standards for the sake of trade. If we hold our nerve and stick to our principle’s we might even be responsible for raising global food production standards. Wouldn’t that be something to be proud of?

<p>Herb & Flower Bed</p>

Herb & Flower Bed

Lastly, one of the statistics that jumped out at me from the letter to the PM was that as a country we produce 53% of our own veg and 16% of our own fruit. I am a rubbish gardener, but I do at least try to grow a few vegetables and herbs. Even when living in a flat in London I grew potatoes in bags and had a ‘herb bed’ on the windowsill. Fortunately, I’m now lucky to have a proper herb bed that can be ‘dressed’ to look good with a few flowers.

<p><em>Courgette’s ready to go outside</em></p>

Courgette’s ready to go outside

Schools need to teach the next generation that it is possible to do the same wherever they live, however little space they have it will make a difference to their health and wellbeing. It’s this generation that will suffer most from a watered down Agriculture Bill so we must make MP’s see that we care. Don’t let them rob the next generation of the great strides taken during ours.

Let’s never forget, politicians always like to know what’s going on in ‘Votesville’!

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