This was the message from Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy at City University of London, speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) Bitesize webinar Towards Greater Self Sufficiency, which examined the future of food security in Britain.
Lang highlighted Britain’s reliance on other countries to supply its food, placing it in a vulnerable position, telling the virtual audience: “We have this extraordinary imperial legacy where we think other people are going to feed us and we are now getting a very cold dose of water reminding us how fragile our relationship is to ecosystems and food supply.”
Reflecting on the meaning of ‘food security’, he added: “It’s about juggling, at the same time, supply, health, quality, acceptability of culture, ecosystems, economy – a multicriteria approach – which is not what we have now. We still think others are going to feed us.
“Get real, Britain. We need to grow up and shed our imperial past and inject sustainability into food security. Britain is parasitic and overconsuming with a mismatch between policy, evidence and reality.”
Fellow panellist, Essex agro-ecological farmer George Young, stressed the importance of micro-supply-chains and hyper-local food systems: “For me, local food hubs are the crux of where we need to get to with food supply. We need more local butchers and bakers and need incentivization for local food hubs and to get more people involved in agriculture to ensure that local food hubs can be served.”
Get real, Britain. We need to grow up and shed our imperial past and inject sustainability into food security. Britain is parasitic and overconsuming with a mismatch between policy, evidence and reality
Calling for a devolution of power to ensure real and sustainable change, Lang added: “I want a new food resilience and security act. An act with very clear guidance and a devolution of power that gives us the ability to get on with it at a local and regional level. An act that gives direction and has power and deals with everything we talk about – health, environment, culture, jobs. Will COVID-19 leave a lasting legacy on food security? Well, that’s down to us.”
Towards Greater Self Sufficiency was chaired by Liz Bowles, OFC director and associate director farming and land use at the Soil Association, and was the second of seven online debates organized by the OFC.
To listen to this webinar or to register to attend future debates, visit the OFC website.