14 March 2017: Pesticides, organics and Brexit

A new UN report denounces the ‘myth’ that pesticides are necessary to feed the world. As reported in the Guardian, the report says pesticides have ‘catastrophic impacts on the environment, human health and society as a whole, including an estimated 200,000 deaths a year from acute poisoning’. Its authors said: “It is time to create a global process to transition toward safer and healthier food and agricultural production”, and “using more pesticides is nothing to do with getting rid of hunger”. The report recommends a move towards a global treaty to govern the use of pesticides and a move to sustainable practices including natural methods of suppressing pests and crop rotation, as well as incentivising organically produced food.

Indeed, in the UK sales of pesticide-free produce are actually flourishing. Tesco reports a 15% hike over the past year and the latest UK market figures show that sales for organic produce are at their strongest in a decade. As reported in the Guardian, “In growth terms, organic is now outperforming the non-organic grocery market, contradicting cynics who said that at the first whiff of austerity we would ditch high-minded concerns about animal welfare, pesticides and the planet, and join the cheap food scrum”.

UK shoppers have not had time to really engage with what the potential outcomes of Brexit could be for food and farming. Terry Marsden and Kevin Morgan from Cardiff University call for the UK Government to recognise that we urgently need a national strategy, where the country comes together to develop an innovative, internationalist and integrated-systems- approach to the production and supply of sustainable food and promotion of sustainable diets. They say that failure to do so could expose us to vulnerabilities impacting human health and well-being far more than any other sector currently prioritised in the Brexit negotiation plans. As Victoria Schoen and Tim Lang also argue, we need a clear commitment from HM Government for ‘a post-Brexit agricultural sector to differentiate itself by producing high quality products with higher – not lower – environmental, health and labour standards.

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20 April 2016: Addressing Policy Challenges for more sustainable Local–Global Food Chains: Policy Frameworks and Possible Food “Futures”

We have published a  new open access article in the journal Sustainability http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/8/4/299 . In the article we  consider how policy can address the local–global within a wider commitment to food sustainability and draw on research conducted for the EU-funded GLAMUR project (http://glamur.eu/). We suggest the findings can help support policymakers as they consider the effects and value of using multi-criteria interventions.

You can read the full text and download the PDF here: Sustainability 2016, 8(4), 299; doi:10.3390/su8040299


3 August 2015 – can markets help save our town centres?

A new book by Julian Dobson – How to save our town centres – includes discussion on how traditional markets, as long-established local hubs, are the key to a successful future for UK high streets.  Dobson has written an interesting article (with photographs) that explains some of his thinking in the Guardian.

This features examples such as Queen’s Market in East London and it’s struggles against development by Newham Council and private developers – backed by the local community and the Friends of Queen’s market campaign. Interviews with long-standing traders on Bury Market, Lancashire where he brings out the theatrical skills of the market traders and the tension with local supermarkets. The article also provides a brief summary of developments in the UK over the past 7 or 8 years and gives some examples of where local communities have tried to fight back, such as Brixton Village – where early success has been countered by a wave of gentrification and rent price hikes by the private market operators. He concludes by saying there is a need to re-think traditional markets but also build on ‘old’ ideas of  ‘local benefit and commercial activity’ if we are to ‘rehumanise the concept of exchange’ and bring our town centres back to life.

You can read the full article here


16 May 2015 – why people use food banks

The UK Guardian (Amelia Gentleman, 1 May) comments that food banks have grown from being a rarity in the UK 5 years ago to more than 1,000 at the current count. The article notes that ‘the UK’s largest food bank operator said that in 2014-15, it distributed enough emergency food to give more than a million people three days’ supply’. In a wide-ranging article, it follows the stories of someone who feels motivated to donate food regularly to a food bank, those that volunteer, and those that need to use food banks.

You can read the article here


21 April 2015 – Sign up to support the Declaration for Markets

You can read about – and sign – the 9th International Public Markets Conference Declaration on the Project for Public Spaces (PPS) website. This sums up some of the collective outputs from the Conference, attended by 425 participants—representing 45 countries and 119 cities – and is designed to highlight the value of public (traditional) markets, their crucial importance for linking urban and rural communities,  and the need for increased funding and policy recognition at all levels.

Worth signing up to!