The London Food Revolution
Earlier today I saw ‘Best Before’, a new short documentary film which explores and explains the impact of rising food prices on the local economy and community. The film uses several London-based case studies to fully illustrate just how unsustainable our food system is.
Over the past 20 years food prices in the UK have risen by 26%, far greater than inflation. Surely this is good news for the food producers who really need the money, right? Wrong. Whilst market prices have increased, the returns for producers in the global south have diminished. UK supermarket giants satisfy shareholders’ demands for constant growth by squeezing the price that food producers receive.
Furthermore, deregulation of trade in the 1980s, pursued actively by Thatcher and Reagan, meant supermarkets, and thus UK consumers, became increasingly reliant on imported food, which now makes up 42% of our market. As a consequence, we are now more dependent on the use of unsustainable resources, especially oil, to produce, package and transport food. The finite nature of oil creates inflationary pressures on food prices which, once more, are passed onto the consumer.
Tim Lang’s view that the ‘era of cheap food is over’ best summarises the initial message given in ‘Best Before’ – that we have a bleak future. However, there is hope on the horizon, in the shape of local food producers in London and the surrounding counties. Groups such as Cultivate London, Growing Communities, Fareshare grow, cultivate and sell their own produce on the markets. In doing so, they dramatically reduce the amount of oil used and ensure employment opportunities within the local community. This is a really good example of food sovereignty in action.
Operating on the basis of an 80% domestic, 20% imported food structure, these local producers show how it is possible to have a sustainable, post-oil economy in which consumers pay a fair price, and producers receive a fair price.
So why don’t we just campaign for the government to change the law? Well, they are seemingly unwilling to do so, as Felicity Lawrence implies: ‘if you really want a sustainable food system for the UK, and Europe, and the World… you would break up the extraordinary concentrations of wealth and power, which are at every level’.
‘Best Before’ leaves you with one clear message: it is up to you to change the way the world works. So, if you haven’t already, Best Before will make you tear up those clubcards and grow your own vegetables.
The World Development Movement supports the UK Food Sovereignty Movement. Find out more about it here.