Tim Hughes: So, I'd like to welcome Sue Pritchard from the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Art, Manufacturers and Commerce. Over to you Sue.
Sue Pritchard: Thank you and thank you very much for having me. I am really, really pleased to be here. So the RSA, food, farming and countryside Commission is an independent inquiry that was established three years ago and we published our reports in July last year. We were incredibly relieved and grateful that they received an enormous amount of support from all the political parties and from over 130 different organisations, farm businesses, retail organisations, green organisations, citizens groups, because we invested a great deal of time as indeed you are, on exploring some really, really difficult issues in order to be able to make our recommendations. So what I'm gonna try and do in a way that's really quite hard for me, is to scamper through the evidence that we took into account before we made our recommendations. And then I'll talk you through a little bit about where we think the most promising prospects are for the future. So it was an independent inquiry outside of government, nonpartisan, we were funded by the Esmee Fairburn Foundation, a charity, and that made that made it possible for us to take evidence and take into account evidence of a very wide range of bodies of knowledge and different kinds of science. The first thing I think that we took into account was the fact that the UK food and farming system is now deeply embedded in an international food and farming system in which, as Professor Tim Benton said, a small number of commodities grown as cheaply as possible in outdoor factories for global markets is essentially the kind of food and farming system that dominates the world at the moment. And as you know, this has really serious consequences. Consequences for our water supply, for our environment, that's a picture of soils being washed away, for biodiversity, for nature, but also for the public's health and well being, our own health and well being. So let's start there. Let's start with health. So this is a diagram that describes what we should be eating. It's a Harvard diagram, it's very similar to the UK's eat well plate. So we should be eating 50% of our diet coming from fruit and vegetables, and perhaps 25% coming from cereals and starches. But what we actually grow around the world is something like over 60% of our food is coming from cereal, starches and sugars. A tiny fraction 17% is actually directed towards producing the really healthy food that we need to be eating. And that's because the UK has focused on a cheap food policy so that food, the cost of a basket of food, is as cheap as it possibly can be. So the UK -so that's right, yes.
Member of the audience: Are you talking about the UK, is that one and the same?
Sue Pritchard: So what what is what, one of the same?
Member of the audience: Is that diagram there the world and now you're moving onto the UK, is that one and the same? (inaudible).
Sue Pritchard: So what I go on to show you in a few slides time, is the way that the world's agribusiness, the food and farming system in the world, actually contributes to the food in your basket. So there is a really, really close relationship between what the world produces, what the UK produces and what we actually eat.
Member of the audience: So it's not what we're producing here?
Sue Pritchard: No, this relates to what the world produces. But I think Indra's slide at the start illustrates what's produced in the UK and what we import. That's okay, that's okay. So the UK's cheap food policy has given us essentially the third cheapest basket of food in all of the developed countries in the world. But curiously, 2.2 million people in the UK suffer food poverty or food insecurity. That means they don't have enough money to buy food. And that's the worst in all of Europe. And alongside that, the cheap food policy has given rise to a massive increase in obesity in the UK. So that says 75% of people in the UK are either obese or overweight, and the cost of that in diet related illness is having the most extraordinary impact on our NHS. So type two diabetes alone costs the NHS £12 billion a year and the cost of the lost days of productivity is over £15 billion a year, and that's not even trying to quantify the effect on people's health and wellbeing, people's sense of self and self worth. And the cost of removing the drugs from the food supply, from the water supply, is at the moment incalculable because we simply can't. To treat diet related illnesses, yes. So I'm going to motor on, so you might well ask where's the money? Farmers can't afford, there's some farmers who are really struggling to make ends meet and they can't afford to eat the food they produce and there as we know, a rapid rise in food banks across the UK. And yet global agribusiness is worth £2.4 trillion every year. But the reality is that that money is concentrated in a very small number of very large and powerful organisations. Four companies control seed population. Four companies control 70% of the agrochemicals business that supports that industrial agriculture system that I indicated earlier, and four supermarkets control the food market. And in terms of the food you eat, those companies, you won't be able to see this, but you'll be able to see it when you get the slides on your on your tables. Those companies in the centre of that diagram are making an enormous amount of money producing highly processed and ultra processed junk food that is essentially bad for the people and bad for the planet, at huge profit. So we have to ask ourselves, as we did in the Commission's work, what is the kind of future that we want. Do we want a future with more intensive land use and continuing high demand for ultra processed junk food that's bad for us? Or do we want to imagine a different future and not forgetting that there is another future coming up on the outside rank, which says, in the future, we may not have farmers at all, that food will be squirted into your homes through 3D printing. It's an entirely different version of the future. We have a view that all of these issues are fundamentally connected. You will have been exploring this at length in your deliberations. So food and farming is intimately related to issues around social justice, fair and good work, climate and biodiversity. We argue that the future that we want to be working towards is a future rooted in agroecology, which is essentially food and farming for the benefit of the climate, in harmony with nature, good for people's health and well being, sustainable and fair for everyone on the planet.#
So what does that look like? Our recommendations centred on three sets of areas. The first, healthy food has to be everybody's business. It should not be possible anymore for companies to make profit from your and my ill-health or from trashing the planet. And therefore we need much stronger policy frameworks to deal with that. We talk about levelling the playing field for a fair food system, introducing radical restrictions on the marketing and manufacture of the really unhealthy stuff. Designing healthier high streets. You're likely to hear today, not just about the kinds of choices that we get to make in our in our in our shops, but how the whole food environment needs to help us make easier choices. We need international measures to stop that concentration of power in the hands of a small number of countries. But essentially government can use its buying power to encourage us to eat much more and of the good stuff, of fruits, vegetables, nuts and pulses in everyday food. So farming absolutely can be a force for change and agroecological farming transition includes things like planting trees, restoring peatlands, managing wetlands, growing hedges, reducing antibiotics and other chemicals, improving animal welfare, making sure everyone has a fair price. For that, I'm going to concentrate on how we can invest in growing more of the good stuff, supporting UK horticulture to grow more fruit, more veg. Now there are all sorts of different ways of doing this. At the moment, we tend to focus on open field production. I'm gonna have to scamper really fast. Open field production uses a lot of water for little yield and a lot of food miles. Growing in greenhouses uses much less water. You get more yield, but the food miles don't necessarily improve a great deal. Vertical farming, vertical farming in cities and in urban centres can make a dramatic difference. Much less water, much more yield and far fewer food miles. The problem is that this evidence is all based on growing lettuces. This is an illustration of how to grow lettuce. Now I like rocket as much as the next person, but that's not the kind of nutrient rich food that we really, really need to be growing more of on. And at the moment, the evidence isn't supporting these modern methods so we will need a variety of approaches to grow the healthy food that we need, on land and in greenhouses and in in new modern methods. But the really, really important point that I want to lend land with and finish with, is that all of these conversations are complex, contested, people have very different, strongly hand held views and we need a framework, a process for deciding how we are going to use our land, food or forestry, housing or infrastructure, rewilding or green energy. We need the right structures for a fair and balanced debate for public value.
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