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If. . .

Helen Browning - 23 January 2013

sugar beet in soilWe are excited to have joined a new campaign coalition focused on the vital issue of hunger in developing countries. It’s called IF and focuses on the fact that despite us producing enough food in the world to feed everyone, many are still going hungry.

One in eight people on our planet are hungry and two million children die each year because of malnutrition. And the problem is not a shortage of food; there are deep inequalities in the food system, which mean that the hungry do not get the food they need to live.

What’s striking about this state of affairs is that at a time when so much time and effort is being spent pushing techno-fixes to ‘feed the world’ in the future, it is clear that even now, when there is enough food to go round, many people still go hungry. And the forces that keep people hungry today are structural, including financial secrecy, land grabs and too little investment in small-scale agriculture. .

We have been shocked to discover, for example, that as foreign investors do deals on large amounts of land in poor countries, an area of land the size of London is being sold or leased in developing countries every six days. Deals are all too often leading to harmful ‘land grabs’ that are forcing farmers and communities off their land.

One major reason for land grabbing that displaces small-scale farmers is the recent expansion of biofuel production. As much as 58 per cent of global land acquisitions in recent years are estimated to have been to produce crops that could be used for biofuels. This reduces land available for farming, pushing food prices higher and higher.

As it seems that the business and political will to tackle these problems is weak, we think it’s important to join in this campaign that calls on politicians to take action. The campaign's overarching message is that if we all get together, we can make world leaders change the future:

  1. IF we give enough aid to stop children dying from hunger, and help the poorest people feed themselves.
  2. IF we stop big companies dodging taxes in poor countries, so that millions of people can free themselves from hunger.
  3. IF we stop poor farmers being forced off their land, and use crops to feed people, not fuel cars.
  4. IF we force governments and big corporations to be honest and open about their actions that stop people getting enough food.

Though much of the work of the Soil Association focuses on fixing the UK food and farming system, we know that it is essential that we work with others to change the global framework. The IF campaign resonates strongly with our guiding organic principles of care, health, ecology and fairness, and we are very pleased to lend it our support.

So do sign up to the campaign and help us to work together to end hunger. We will keep you updated as the campaign progresses.

Helen Browning is the Soil Association's Chief Executive, and also is an organic farmer - she runs a 1,350 acre organic livestock and arable farm in Wiltshire. Her sausages and bacon can be found in the supermarkets, and her versatile team also run the village pub! Previously Director of External Affairs at the National Trust, Helen is also chair of the Food Ethics Council and was awarded an OBE in 1998 for services to organic farming.

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John Pozzi
26 July 2013 21:20

Global Resource Bank Shareholders @ support the Soil Association

John Whipple
30 January 2013 08:45

I believe that it is right to try and undertake such a campaign congratulations on its concept and I wish you well with it. As to overweight/obese people it is a fact that statistically we (westerners with a western diet including Japan) all have gained weight over the past 35 years approximately 25 lbs I think was the last known figure. It is it seems because of 2 main factors. 1) Sugar intake increased.along with portion size. 2) The addition of Corn Syrup and its derivatives and artificial sweeteners in processed drinks and foods of all kinds. For those that are interested a video lecture is available to view by Dr R Lustig UCSF -Sugar the bitter truth.

Tim Young
24 January 2013 16:12

Thanks for the comments George, they’re good points, and we agree with them. Although the issues you raise below don’t feature in the headline four asks for the IF campaign, they are both they are in the campaign plans and we will be working on food waste and ensuring adequate support for small farmers in developing countries. We agree re neonicotinoids. Please see more detail in our bee campaign: Keep Britain Buzzing

George Browning
23 January 2013 18:23

There are more IFs to do I think. There are apparently more obese people than hungry people now and, as has recently been shown, a quite shocking amount of food waste. A lot of this is linked to the fact that food is too cheap, as a proportion of income, in so called 'civilised' societies. So for more IFs; IF we can dramatically reduce or better still eradicate food waste. IF we can persuade those who are still hell bent on resorting to or exhorting the use of destructive and exploitative methods to produce food that they are wrong and need to work with nature rather than against it. IF we can only learn from history and the wisdom of our predecessors, such as Rachel Carson and E.F. Schumaker. I could go on but you will have got the flavour. Unfortunately some of this is not possible by being too cosy with people who wish to peddle such as neonicotinoids.

Tim Young
23 January 2013 15:02

Thanks for the feedback on the image. The IF campaign is a coalition, and this particular image was supplied to us by the central campaign team (outside of the Soil Association) as the preferred launch image. I think the cake in the image is supposed to be a visual metaphor for the sense of ‘plenty’ in our current food production system, rather than a literal dietary recommendation – however, whether the image really ‘works’ is open to question, and we tend towards sharing your misgivings about it. We agree that an image with some healthier food in it would be much better! In the light of your feedback we’ve now changed the image on the website, and we won’t be using the image with the cupcake again. Thanks again for your comments. Tim (Soil Association web team)

Dalia Weinreb
23 January 2013 12:38

I just sent an email to Helen Browning re: the cupcake picture too! As a dietitian I am alarmed to see the cupcake picture representing such a fantastic campaign! Please change it!

Courtney Scott
23 January 2013 12:32

Thank you for sharing this campaign. However, I am disappointed in the choice to put the picture with the cupcake on the top of the campaign sign-up page on your website. I would prefer to see a picture with real, healthy food in it - which would be in line with the Soil Association's work and with the ultimate hope of food security being adequate AND healthy food for all.

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