Tag Archives: farmers

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (2015)

“Animal agriculture is responsible for emitting more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry and causes unfathomable destruction of natural resources and habitats. Yet it flourishes, almost entirely unchallenged.”

This is the claim of the groundbreaking documentary which follows filmmaker Kip Andersen as he uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today and investigates why the world’s leading environmental organizations refuse to tackle it.

Ian Wood, Green Party Activist in Derbyshire Dales writes:

I amIan Wood possibly the only Green in the county not to have heard of this film, but now I have, and indeed have watched the whole thing, and it is truly excellent.

We all have to go green, of course, but this film makes the bold and convincing claim that we cannot call ourselves environmentalists unless, and until, we are all vegan. Being vegan uses three times less water and grain resources than being merely vegetarian, and eighteen times less resources than being an omnivore. The entire human population could exist perfectly decently on the grain we feed to animals.

The film is a bit preachy at the end and finger-wags that it’s not enough just to cut down on meat on the grounds that, if you have Meat-free Mondays, for example, you are only doing the wrong things on six days of the week and not seven. My view is that it is better to do the wrong things on six days of the week rather than seven, especially if it helps more generally. If you cut down on meat and fish you are reducing your carbon footprint – that is undeniable.

The film is excellent on the lobbying power of agri-business and the corrupting power of money derived from meat-eating of all kinds.

I am a meat-eater and I shall certainly be cutting down on my consumption of meat purely on the basis of having seen this film.

I would now disown the things I have previously said about fossil fuels being far more important to climate change than eating meat. It is quite apparent that eating meat causes more climate change and water shortages and natural imblanaces than fossil fuels, and I am somewhat ashamed I ever thought differently.

Cowspiracy is a calm and brave documentary and thoroughly recommended.

http://www.disclose.tv/action/viewvideo/194765/Cowspiracy_The_Sustainability_Secret_2015/

Note: The Green Party does not require members to be vegetarian or vegan. In section (d) of its Food and Agriculture Policy http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/fa.html it states:

High rates of consumption of meat and other animal products in richer countries, and rising demand elsewhere, means that the increasing requirement for animal feed competes with food production for direct human consumption. We will encourage healthy and sustainable consumption patterns, including a shift towards more plant-based foods. Such a shift would enable an increased world population to be fed sustainably and would help to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss. (See FA211, FA222, FA237, FA662)

Why consider eating less meat?

Victoria Martindale, Green Party Activist writes:

Vegans are stereVictoria Martindaleotyped as freak lentil loving extremists but there is so much more to it. Eating less or no meat and dairy is not just about animal welfare concerns. Meat is associated with so many of today’s global challenges and unacceptable environmental issues that it is about far wider reaching matters such as:

• our own health – meat and dairy are high in saturated fats, the key risk factors for the leading killers in the western world like stroke, heart disease, diabetes
• meat production is the leading man-made cause of global warming
• it exacerbates world hunger and poverty
• it pollutes our water, soil and atmosphere
• it uses vast amounts of finite land and fresh water
• its linked to deforestation etc.

If someone stopped eating meat they would do far more for global warming as an individual than if they never drove a car or flew in an aeroplane again – it’s a hard realization that most people can’t face up to.

There need not be millions of starving people in this world with even more hungry mouths to feed as our population continues to burgeon, there need be no food insecurity issues if we used the finite resources of land and water more efficiently. Meat production is one of the most inefficient food production systems there is, and has high dependency on fossil fuel input. I heard somewhere that about 14 calories of input is required to produce 1 calorie of output in meat!

If you want to find out more about how we treat animals, a documentary called Earthlings has the key message – I defy anyone to watch that and not turn instantaneously veggie, its not for the faint hearted.

In fact it’s on at Belper Goes Green on Saturday 30th May at 11.00 am. Find out more about the weekend from
http://www.transitionbelper.org/belper%20goes%20green.html

Earthlings – A Film by Nation Earth

Note: If you can’t get to Belper Goes Green you can view Earthlings at home.  EARTHLINGS is a powerful and informative documentary about society’s treatment of animals, narrated by Joaquin Phoenix with soundtrack by Moby. This multi-award winning film by Nation Earth is a must-see for anyone who cares about animals or wishes to make the world a better place.  http://earthlings.com/?page_id=32

 

Ian Wood – Derbyshire Dales Constituency

Candidate Statement for the General Election 2015

Ian WoodI live in Bakewell, am fifty-seven years of age, a freelance journalist, a husband and father of four children (aged from ten to twenty-two), and I used to be a lawyer.

A quarter of a century ago, I stood for the SDP in a parliamentary by-election in Mid-Staffordshire. I can now see with almost embarrassing clarity how little distinction there actually is between any of the old established parties’ economic analyses and those of their opponents, and how much they make of such tiny differences.

The world is whirling towards an economic cataclysm that will prompt widespread changes in the way we earn our living and share the proceeds of investment and labour. In consequence of my economic views, I respect and would observe the natural limits of the planet that, inevitably, have to be ignored by capitalists if it is to provide the growth that they have come to expect. And, accordingly, I believe there is in the end no alternative to a steady state economy as the basis of a sustainable economic system. It follows that I support Green policies for energy generation, planning and transport, and those which promote income equality, the integration of nations and peoples, and, ultimately, peace; all things that are consistent with the abandonment of growth as the central objective of economic policy.

I am also in favour of a federal Britain and our place in the world being firmly at the heart of a federal Europe. When it became safe and sensible to do so, I would support the UK’s adoption of the Euro. The central objective of Green policies is to place the emphasis on the sustainable distribution of natural assets rather than exploiting them for growth. Hence, we would have to deal with the economically essential support of uncompetitive member nations, just as our own Chancellor of the Exchequer raises most taxes in the richer south and uses them in part to fund services in the poorer north. However, I would wish to see efficient enterprises – for example, those conducted by Derbyshire farmers – succeed against unduly subsidised continental ones, and there is little wrong with the free market when it operates between smaller and more equal businesses that do not grow by debt and stock market leverage.

This is the best and most optimistic time to be green in history. As the Green Party candidate in the Derbyshire Dales constituency I am passionate about putting forward a truly viable, radically different and increasingly popular alternative for voters to consider. I would be a diligent and persuasive advocate for the constituency. I am also intending to stand in Bakewell for election as a district councillor.

Green Party candidate contact details

How Secure is Britain’s Food Supply?

Written by Victoria Martindale, Parliamentary Candidate for Erewash

Victoria MartindaleAs part of British Science Week (13th to 22nd March 2015) I joined a panel of experts and politicians to discuss food security in Britain at Derby Museum and Art Gallery.

The UK faces a number of challenges to its food security, including long food supply chains, ‘food deserts’ in inner cities, wealth distribution imbalance, climate change and competition from abroad. These pose a real threat to the UK consumer; it is possible that food will become more expensive, choice limited or foods unavailable. Only this week we were warned that the cost of a new “Driver Certificate of Professional Competence” for transport haulers across the EU raises the prospect of ’empty shelves’.

In the 1980s the UK used to be about 80% self-sufficient in foods that can be grown here. This has now dropped to around 65%. The National Farmers Union (NFU) has recently raised concerns that this may be too low. As a nation, we increasingly rely on international markets to provide us with the huge range and affordability of food which we have grown accustomed to.

Questions put to the panel included:

• Is the UK in a vulnerable situation regarding its future food security?
• Following the horsemeat scandal in 2013 should consumers be concerned about the quality and security of their food?
• Are organic foods healthier and better for the environment? Is it fair to expect UK consumers to pay the price premium for these products?
• Are low food prices responsible for the incredible levels of food waste in households in the UK?
• What can be done concerning the incredibly low prices paid by supermarkets to UK dairy farmers forcing them out of business?
• Food banks are rising across the UK. Much of the burden has fallen on charities but is this really the Governments responsibility?

Panel – The chair was Professor Paul Lynch, Head of Natural Sciences at the University of Derby.

The speakers were:
Wyn Morgan, Food economist at the University of Nottingham;
Paul Paine, Garden Co-ordinator at Ecoworks;
Julia Davies, Head of Environmental Sciences at Nottingham Trent University;
Lucy Care, Liberal Democrat candidate for Derby North and
Victoria Martindale,  Derby Green Party Representative.

There was an informative and lively discussion on the night.  For space reasons, let me limit this blog to a few key messages.

I am sure many of you can remember the shocking headline news last autumn. Britain, we were informed, could be plunged into blackouts over the winter. We were warned of the risk of power cuts and electricity failures wrecking havoc over the winter for many households and businesses across the UK. But did we have any of these black outs? No we didn’t. Who was responsible for putting these stories out there? The big energy companies. Why? In response to new EU legislation that restricted their dependency on fossil fuels these massive profit churning companies wanted to legitimize their ongoing use of polluting fossil fuels and justify getting their dirty hands onto our shale gas and fracking up our country. They did so by spreading fear across the country.

This tendency to generate a state of fear, insecurity and panic among the British public and government is a ploy corporations often turn to in an attempt to justify their means to realise vast profits for themselves. It’s nothing more than scaremongering and their agenda is driven by nothing other than corporate greed.

IF_logo_banner_2_420x210The food security issue is similar to the energy security one. We are frequently warned that with a predicted extra 2 billion mouths to feed by 2050 we could be facing food shortages. We were scared with threats of ‘empty food shelves’ this time. Really? Will we all be struggling to find enough food to feed ourselves and will our children’s children be at risk of starving to death? Shock! Horror! However, just like in the energy debate, you need to stop a moment and look at who lays behind these sensationalist stories. In this case it was the NFU scaring us with empty food shelves.

The NFU is effectively the political arm of DEFRA. With its huge wealth comes huge power and influence over the UK’s agricultural policies. Its agenda is to maximise production, yields and exports in order to maximize the revenue and profits for its members, many of whom are already among the wealthiest of this country. It wants to drive an industrialised food production process which is heavily chemical dependent, savages the environment, and spits out poor quality mass produced food that is bad for our health and forces smaller scale farmers out of business.

CowsIt’s time we faced up to the powerful monolithic institutions like the NFU and put the food security issue into perspective. If we display one iota of honesty we are not in a food crisis and we are not by any means about to be confronted with a single empty food shelf. However, that’s very different from saying we don’t need to address how we feed everyone and look closely at our production and distribution processes. We do and we also need to face up to our responsibilities to those in developing countries who don’t have food security even in today’s modern world.

The other likely scaremongering suspects are the global high tech enterprises like Bayer Cropscience, Monsanto and Syngenta. They use food scares to legitimize their development of GM crops under the Panglossian guise it is the answer to all the world’s problems and is the only means to achieve food security for everyone. Yeh right.

The continued industry promises about the ability of GM crops to tackle the world’s growing social problems are pure myth. GM crops are linked to massive increases in herbicide use, increase in greenhouse gas emissions, the expansion of mono-cultural farming practices and increased costs all along the food chain which the already starving and poor of the world can’t afford. They require huge areas of forests and valuable natural habitats to be cleared.

This is ecologically devastating and overrides people’s rights to their native ancestral land, food, natural resources and traditions. GM crops are patented too with over two thirds of all patented food crops in the hands of the top ten companies such as Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, Pioneer and Dow. This means they monopolise the market and it allows them to control the research, breeding and ultimately the entire food chain of GM crops which returns them profits of eye watering proportions.

Attempts to produce GM crops that are resistant to climate change, floods, drought tolerant, altered photosynthesis, and exacerbate intensive farming are all attempts by corporates to earn billions at huge cost to the environment, society and local communities, and our health rather than addressing the real challenges of sustainable food production like combating climate change in the first place.

Over_Farm_produce_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1611242Research shows that we can feed a growing global population a nutritious diet without environmentally damaging factory farms and GM crops. This requires addressing the underlying difficult, but very important issues that currently affect food security and making fundamental changes to the way food is produced, distributed and consumed. The aim should be to provide healthy sustainable diets for all whilst living within environmental limits.

The Green Party believes that GM foods are not the answer to food security. Instead, it promotes a set of sustainable policies based upon local production and distribution, lower meat and dairy consumption, more seasonal produce and which protect livelihoods and biodiversity to provide everyone with healthy nutritious foods.

So, when asking about Britain’s food security, be careful who you ask.

Victoria Martindale
Green Shoots Editor

‘Farmageddon’

FarmyardAccording to the ‘Farming Industry’ and Agribusiness, the way in which creation has evolved is hideously wrong. You cannot cook and eat a chicken unless you pluck the feathers off which is a waste of time and money. So the farming industry has developed chickens without feathers. Instead of allowing cows to ruminate freely in fields of grass, it has decided it is much better to keep cows in narrow pens, feed them grain that has been processed and saturated in pesticides and to genetically modify the cow so that it can be milked more frequently in order to increase milk yields. The farming industry says animals are much more efficient food producers if they are kept in tightly confined cages and pens and fed a very intensive high protein diet.

The folly of this way of thinking and the disastrous consequences of the industry’s interference in nature is meticulously documented in a highly distressing and disturbing book by the CEO of ‘Compassion in World Farming’. It is a grim story of devastating dimensions. We are busy creating our own new version of a hell of tortured and abused farm animals, polluted and poisoned land, rivers and seas and a range of new diseases in both animals and humans alike derived from the phosphates, nitrates and other highly toxic chemicals used in pesticides and fertilisers and animal feed. There is, according to ‘Farmageddon’, clear evidence that these poisons and toxins are gradually finding their way into the human food chain.

The appalling ignorance among many of our MPs, MEPs and ‘Lords’ of these issues and what is happening on factory farms and to the countryside is exemplified by their willingness to pass legislation based on ideology rather than facts and evidence, and by their all too easy acceptance of the influence of powerful lobby groups working on behalf of agribusiness.

As a recent correspondent to The Independent newspaper said
‘Abuse is endemic in the conveyer-belt system (of abattoirs) that allows animal killing on this massive scale. In the UK we breed, fatten and slaughter one billion animals a year. When animals are seen as a “crop” to be “harvested” and a “product” to be sold as meat, compassion and empathy are in short supply”. (The Independent, 15th February 2015, Letters, from Sara Starkey, Tonbridge, Kent).

The author of ‘Farmageddon’ has travelled widely to gather facts and figures regarding the cost and effects of factory farming. Each of his chapters begins with a personal story of how small farmers, village communities, animal and fish populations have been affected by the mass production of food by intensive farming methods. It is certainly not only the animals that suffer. People in North and South America who have found themselves living close to vast pig farms develop respiratory problems and health issues. In Derbyshire, the Green Party has put a lot of work into campaigning against the application to build a mega pig farm at Foston. Although the plans have not been passed at the moment, it is likely that after the election, Midland Pig Producers will appeal against any decisions that don’t go their way.

In spite of the bland assurances of the ‘industry’ manure tanks do overflow, genetically modified plants and fish do escape into the eco-system, and minute particles in pesticides and fertilisers do leach into the water table and the atmosphere with measurable negative health effects on populations.

In fish farms, certain species of fish which cease to ‘fatten up’ once they have reached puberty, are artificially modified into a kind of ‘third sex’ so that they continue to put on weight. Wherever animals that were intended to roam free are cooped up in totally artificial conditions they show distress, boredom and injury. We truly have created a hell on earth, yet its residents are not simply the long suffering animals but the humans who designed and built it; we are ultimately the victims of the way in which we permit the farming industry to turn animals into ‘products’.

The writing must surely be on the wall when we read that the Parisian chef Alain Ducasse, with 18 Michelin stars has ‘removed all meat from the menu at his eponymous restaurant in Paris’s most storied hotel, the Plaza Athénée’ (The Independent, Friday 13th March 2015, p47). Why has he done this? Because, according to Ducasse,
‘There is an absolute necessity to go towards a better way of eating, in harmony with nature; healthier and more environmentally friendly’.

If we are to avoid an environmental catastrophe in the next 40 years we need to reduce our consumption of meat by 50%, according to a report in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

Country fieldThe Green Party believes that we need to expose the ‘big lie’ of factory farming that their existence is necessary in order to feed the world’s burgeoning population. This simply is not true. There is no real problem about feeding the world if we all reduce the amount of meat that we consume and reduce the huge amount of food waste that we tolerate.

This article has been adapted from a review, written by Donald Macdonald for Derby Cathedral Outlook, of the book Farmageddon by Philip Lymbery (Bloomsbury, 2014)

To find out more, you can watch a short film on the Compassion in World Farming website www.ciwf.org.uk/farm-animals/

One step closer to NO Foston Mega Pig Farm

David Foster, Green Party Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Derby South Constituency writes …

David 2As you are probably aware, the Derbyshire Green Party has put a lot of work into campaigning against the application to build a mega pig farm at Foston. The application is being closely watched by many would-be farming companies who would like to reduce their operating costs by turning meat production into an assembly line.

If this proposal goes ahead many more are likely to follow. It is therefore heartening to learn that in February of this year the Environmental Agency declined the application to build 14 pig houses with the capacity for up to 24,500 pigs.

DSC_0120Since submitting the original permit application in March 2011 the Environment Agency has received over 100 representations from the public. Many of these were from ourselves, others were from Foston residents and others came from animal welfare and environmental groups who submitted their own independently commissioned reports.

Jim Davies, of Foston Community Forum, said, “local residents, who have been almost unanimous in opposing the plan, were hugely relieved. After four years of public consultation the facts are now clear. The applicants (Midland Pig Producers) provided insufficient information and should now abandon this flawed scheme forever.”

David Foster, Green Party parliamentary candidate for Derby South said, “If we are to feed the world in coming years then the human race as a whole must turn to a more vegetarian diet. But if we do choose to eat meat then those animals should at least have had as natural a life as possible.”

With the Environment Agency rejecting the application it seems unlikely that Derbyshire County Council will be able to approve it. Nevertheless, it is still important for us to continue to oppose the proposal vigorously until the campaign has definitely been won.

We can expect that after the election, the developers, Midland Pig Producers, will appeal against any decisions that don’t go their way. It is important to get clear commitments from all the local candidates on this issue.

Greens Respond to Badger Cull

Charlotte Farrell, Green Party Candidate for High Peak

?????????????????????????????If the Conservatives are re-elected the Badger Cull will soon enter its third yearand Derbyshire is likely to be amongst those areas where it takes place. The Green Party has opposed the cull since its inception and last weekend I took part in a scheme that the Badger Trust and Derbyshire Wildlife Trust (DWT) have initiated in response to the cull.

There are an estimated 250,000 badgers in Britain, not a huge figure and indeed in recognition of this they are protected by legislation. The Badger Act 1992 consolidated previous legislation and makes it illegal to kill a badger, except of course for the purposes of the Government’s flawed cull.

Of course I don’t want to underestimate the effect of Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) on cattle and the farmers who rely on them for their livelihood, but it seems illogical as well as cruel to continue with a cull which has cost millions to date without producing any evidence in support. This year, despite the goal posts being moved by the government, there is still no evidence that it is working in terms of effectiveness in controlling bTB. Furthermore, there remain very grave concerns that it is not meeting the minimum standard of humaneness which the Independent Expert Panel (IEP) agreed at the outset as a requisite of the cull.

The IEP said at the outset that to be considered “humane” fewer than 5% of badgers killed by targeted shooting should take more than 5 minutes to die. After the first year the IEP found that it was likely that between 7.4% and 22.8% of badgers took longer than 5 minutes to die, which indicated that throughout this time they would have been experiencing marked pain. The IEP recommended that the standard of humaneness be improved in the second year if the cull was to continue. In response the government removed the IEP and used its own agencies to monitor humaneness. However, even they did not manage to improve upon the figures in the second year; and the level of inhumanness and ineffectiveness of the process remains such a concern that there are calls for the British Veterinary Association to withdraw its support from the cull.

KCC2008Wildwood161In contrast, though a scheme in Wales, badger vaccination and improved biosecurity of cattle has seen a 40% drop in Bovine TB. We clearly need to introduce similar measures in this country if we are serious about protecting farmers.

Working towards such a goal, DWT in conjunction with the Badger Trust have been pioneering a scheme to vaccinate badgers in the county from bTB, and raised over £50,000 from members to enable them to do this. Nevertheless the scheme relies on volunteers and so DWT have been training interested people up to assist with the vaccination. It was for this reason that I spent last Saturday at the first of this year’s training sessions.

The cull is designed to stop the spread of bTB which has been blamed on badgers, despite there being little evidence to show for it. The aim of vaccination is to ring bTB hotspots with ‘clean’ wildlife areas to stop reinfection of cattle from the wild. Vaccination of the badgers would therefore ensure the clean areas, and a range of measures would then be applied to the areas of bovine infection including improved biosecurity and more regular cattle testing.

Unfortunately vaccinating a badger is not quite as easy as vaccinating a person. The badger has to be trapped in a cage to be injected with the vaccine. The badger is then marked to make sure it does not get a second dose later. However getting a badger to enter a cage willingly takes time and patience and this is what most of the training was about. We had to learn to think like a badger!

The morning was spent learning how to look for badgers and how to get them to enter the cages, and then in the afternoon, we got the opportunity to put into practice what we had learned. Unfortunately it was without any actual badgers. They were presumably snuggled deep in their setts away from the bitter cold. We were not so lucky as it was a cold and snowy February afternoon! However despite the weather it was well worth it. I’m full of admiration for the people who have already given so much time and energy into protecting these animals; and now I can’t wait to join them when the programme starts later in the year.

Your Money’s Better on your Roof than in the Bank!

John Youatt 6Three years ago, the cost of a solar electric panel (PV) array on a roof was about £4000 per kW installed. The feed in tariff was 45p per kW generated. The incomes paid off the capital cost within about 8 years. I know, because we installed 12 panels (3 kW) at the time and the returns have been better that predicted. Even better, with local publicity, there are now 10 installations in my small, national park village.

Some say the turning point was when the Daily Mail’s economics editor declared “your money’s better on your roof than in the bank”. Then there were scare stories and jealousy stories. Despite those teething troubles, the industry has now settled down, as demonstrated by the following article in the Solar Power portal:

“In the current talk of power shortages and lack of generating capacity, domestic solar photovoltaic, which could be readily implemented and is now cost-effective, has been overlooked. Prices are now close to the projected viable level of £1 per watt. A 4Kw solar PV domestic system can be bought for under £5,000 installed and can produce 4,000kWh a year with a 20-year guaranteed life. This gives a capital cost of £1,138 per kW, with an amortised annual cost of 5.7p per kWh, with no maintenance or distribution costs. If 10% of existing houses (2.8m) converted at 4kW, it would give 11.1TWh, with 11GW capacity, 12% of current UK capacity, equivalent to 3% of UK production, at an installed cost of some £12bn.”

“The annual value at the current domestic price of £0.15 a unit is £600pa. FIT tariff subsidies give a five-year pay-off. I write as a pensioner user with installed PV, which even at the old prices gives an 8% return guaranteed for 25 years, better than annuities or savings – and I am looking at how to fit in more capacity.” John Read, Clitheroe, Lancashire

The stunning point is that even at John Read’s cautious prediction of only 10% of roofs, solar electricity alone will fill the gaps left by the closures and accidents in the dirty fossil fuel and dangerous nuclear power plants. It can

31Oct sunflower 007• Be clean, secure and home grown.
• Create thousands of jobs in a very well regulated industry of panel makers, scaffolders, roofers and electricians.
• Add some income for hard pressed farmers, who like harvesting the sun’s energy. Harvesting is what they do.
• Spur the search for power storage, such as millions of electric car batteries, among many other storage methods
• Reduce transmission losses on the networks

So get installing
Check for the adverts in the press for your local established installer – beware the non-local companies who aren’t there to mend and maintain. The fault rate with local companies is very low.

John Youatt
Regional Co-ordinator (Derbyshire Dales area)

Greens want more Organic Farms

During a visit toKat in Louth. an organic farm in Lincolnshire, Kat Boettge, the lead Green European Election candidate in the East Midlands discussed with farmer, Andrew Dennis, children’s lack of understanding about food and where it comes from. Woodlands Farm  near Boston lays on guided tours for schools and interest groups.

Kat said, ‘it is clear that children love coming here to see the animals and see crops being planted and harvested, but many can’t identify which ones are in the food they eat. It surprises me that many think fish fingers come from chicken and that tomatoes grow underground. How can we expect people to eat responsibly if they don’t know where their food comes from?’

After her visit, Kat Boettge congratulated Woodlands Farm for maintaining organic production and supplying local markets in the face of stiff competition from the supermarkets. ‘Woodlands is just the sort of farm that the Green Party wants to see supported by Government policy. It is producing healthy food, supplying local markets, maintaining the quality of the soil and working with nature rather than destroying it. It concerns me that a farm like this could be under threat from the increasing industrialisation of farming that will come from the trade agreement being negotiated between the EU and America.’

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership                          The trade agreement that is causing concern to organic farmers is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership known as TTIP. The farmers at Woodlands believe that this will open the market to genetically modified crops and cloned animals. This they claim will make it very hard to maintain their organic standard.

Kat Boettge, lead MEP candidateCommenting on this risk, Kat Boettge said, ‘I believe that TTIP is bad news for many farmers, it will open up our market to stiff competition from American producers many of who have production standards lower than in the EU. We know that American companies are very keen to bring GM crops to Europe. Experience shows that they will contaminate non-GM crops resulting in a loss of the organic standard. We also know that the modified genes do escape into the wild populations, what we don’t know is the long term effect of these genes on wildlife.

Beware! Mega-farms on the Loose: Foston next?

DSC_0120In the wake of a decision by the Welsh Assembly to allow a 1000 head mega-dairy unit near Welshpool in Powys can we expect increased pressure on Derbyshire County Council to approve the application for a 25,000 pig unit in Foston?

A recent media event in London was part of a ‘charm offensive’ by big agribusinesses to try to win over opinion on mega-farms, with speakers with close associations with the industry giving their ‘objective’ view on them.  They went to great lengths to insist that the economies of scale that come from these farms help keep food costs down and that animal welfare is safeguarded.

Not surprisingly these speakers took a blinkered view, yet any close analysis of the mega-farm model reveals that, rather than being an answer to the developing food crisis, it is actually a key driver of rising food prices across the globe.  In addition they have many other damaging impacts; from pollution, to heavy water usage, impacts on local communities and employment, and the effects on the animals involved.

The mega-farm model is popular with big agribusinesses because it allows them to produce the cheap food supermarkets want and to make larger profits by externalising costs.  These costs include the full impact of pollution, disruptions to people’s lives and the risk to public health.  These costs are paid for by us.

The tax system encourages the growth of the mega-farm industry in that it provides a massive subsidy to energy-intensive large-scale farming, over more labour-intensive, and smaller-scale pasture and mixed farming.  How?  Because energy use, especially reactive nitrogen fertiliser (which accounts for half of all energy use in agriculture) and red diesel, both come in at a low tax rate.  Whereas labour is highly taxed, so time is expensive.  We need instead, to tax pollution and fossil fuel use, and encourage reliable and skilled employment.

Big agribusiness uses its financial muscle to buy animal feed, both on the local and world market.  Land that should be used to grow food for people is instead widely used to grow animal feed.  Industrial animal farming and its demand for grain and soya for animal feed is a key factor in global food price rises.

As well as huge inputs of food this industrial farming is also heavily reliant on water and drugs, such as antibiotics, and produces large amounts of toxic waste.  The lessons from America, where this sort of farming is much more prevalent, are troubling.  Industrial farming practises there have required massive amounts of antibiotics.  There is increasing evidence of a link between antibiotic use in animals and resistance in people. The UK chief medical officer Sally Davies has given voice to her concern about the increase in antibiotic resistance in people.  Are we really willing to risk this absolutely vital class of drugs to have a bit more cheap meat on our plates?

Animal welfare is also about much more than health, something the supporters of these farms don’t seem to understand.  The industrial dairy cow can no longer live on grass and suffers from numerous ‘production diseases’ as well as high levels of lameness and mastitis.  This disease led to the destruction of far more cattle in the UK than bovine TB, about which the Government professes such concern.

In these massive mega-farm units, animals are unable to express their natural behaviour; cows can’t graze, pigs can’t root around. We are dealing here with sentient beings, not machines. We know animals feel frustration when unable to behave naturally; they get bullied in large groups and feel fear and distress.  If you have seen cows in pasture you will see a contentment you will not see in factory farms.

Small farms, in their current form, are far from perfect – partly because they struggle on tiny margins, and these large scale units will further impact negatively on small local farmers.  But it is they who can sustainably provide their local markets with food season by season, as they have done for thousands of years.

There is no doubt we will see more of these units come up for planning approval in the near future, and the Green Party is committed to fighting them.  The Government has already shown it will ride roughshod over publSupermarketsic opinion and the real facts on cost. Only Greens understand the need for our agriculture to head in a fundamentally different direction, to support local production and local markets.  We need to be reducing our reliance on imports, regulating the middle men and the supermarkets.  We need to ensure that smaller scale producers get a fair deal, and produce the healthy food we need, create jobs, look after our precious landscapes and wildlife and make a decent living.  Only then will our food supply be secure.

[Mike Shipley, with thanks to Caroline Allen]

Natalie Bennett’s Address in Derby 24th September 2013

Natalie Bennett DerbySpeaking to a well attended audience in Derby, Natalie Bennett catalogued the inadequacy of the Labour Party’s response to a range of political issues that are affecting people’s lives.  Contrasting the reality of fuel poverty that is becoming a reality for a growing number of people with the huge profits being made by the big energy companies, she condemned Labours proposal for a two year price freeze as inadequate.

‘After two years, then what?’ she asked. ‘The Green Party proposes a national energy conservation programme funded by the Government.  This will lead to permanently reduced energy bills and to lower carbon emissions.  The insulation programme will create sustainable jobs, taking people out of fuel poverty and off benefit.’ 

‘Labour want to see the minimum wage enforced.’ She said.  ‘We know that people cannot hope to manage on a minimum wage, that is why we want to see it raised to a Living Wage, that enables people to meet their necessary weekly costs.  This policy is supported by 70% of people.

‘Labour have no commitment to re-nationalise the railways to ensure that investment goes where it is needed to build a system that meets demand.  This is Green policy and it is supported by 75% of people.

‘Greens support a publicly funded NHS free at the point of delivery.  Labour has made no commitment to reverse the coalition policy of sell-off of the NHS.  ‘‘Labour is backing fracking, ignoring that we must leave half of all known reserves of fossil fuels in the ground to prevent catastrophic climate change.’

Natalie went on to criticise the economic strategy of the three big parties.  There was she said no evidence of fundamental change in economic strategy from any of them.  They were all supporting the creation of a low wage economy that was only possible with the availability of cheap fossil fuels.  This she explained allowed cheap food and goods to be transported to this country, pricing local production out of the market.  ‘This failed economic strategy has left half a million people in this country, the sixth richest in the world, dependent on food banks.’

She reminded the meeting about the causes of the economic crisis.  ‘The bail out of the banks took huge amounts of public money.  Yet the banks were bailed out with no guarantees that they would reform their activities, stop high risk investments and end the bonus culture.  If the economic strategy proposed by the Green Party in 2010 had been implemented, we would now be seeing investment by the banks in sustainable projects that the country needs, creating long term employment to get and keep people in work and off benefit.’

‘We now need to ‘re-localise’ the economy.’  She said that this process had to be accompanied by the restoration of local political power that could rebalance the economy away from London and the south east.  As evidence of this unbalanced economy she told the meeting that there were a million empty homes in the UK yet there was also a housing shortage.  The power of big corporations was concentrating work in the areas that suit themselves having no regard to where people now live.  As a result these economic hot spots drag people in but do not provide the facilities that workers need, hence a chronic shortage of affordable housing.

‘We need thought out regional development strategies that address both economic and social needs, backed with the necessary political power to deliver those strategies.’

‘With rising transport costs and rising wages in the developing world, we are now seeing a ‘re-shoring’ in production, with companies starting to bring production back to the UK.  This offers great opportunities but we must have the economic and political structures in place to ensure that business properly pays its way.’  Natalie explained that with a clear political determination, big business could be made to address and pay for its impact on the environment and society.  ‘Greens on Bristol Council have helped to bring in a supermarket levy that collects 8% of turnover to reflect the damaging consequences of supermarkets.  This money is ploughed back in to local small business.’

Flanked by the five East Midland European candidates, Natalie concluded with a review of  the Green Party’s electoral prospects.  ‘We are now a Parliamentary Party.  This has been very important in lifting our national profile.  Latest opinion polls are placing the Greens on 12% and show a clear growth in support, by contrast the Liberal Democrats are now on 10% with their support fading.  With our level of support we could have six MEPs, including one here in the East Midlands.’  Natalie said that recent events had shown that the public were turning away from the three main parliamentary parties and looking to the smaller parties to express a dissatisfaction with traditional politics.  ‘We know that a growing number of people are coming to support Green policy.  Our challenge is to get people to vote for what they believe in, because what they believe in is increasingly Green Party policy.’

Natalie Bennett's Address in Derby 24th September 2013

Natalie Bennett DerbySpeaking to a well attended audience in Derby, Natalie Bennett catalogued the inadequacy of the Labour Party’s response to a range of political issues that are affecting people’s lives.  Contrasting the reality of fuel poverty that is becoming a reality for a growing number of people with the huge profits being made by the big energy companies, she condemned Labours proposal for a two year price freeze as inadequate.

‘After two years, then what?’ she asked. ‘The Green Party proposes a national energy conservation programme funded by the Government.  This will lead to permanently reduced energy bills and to lower carbon emissions.  The insulation programme will create sustainable jobs, taking people out of fuel poverty and off benefit.’ 

‘Labour want to see the minimum wage enforced.’ She said.  ‘We know that people cannot hope to manage on a minimum wage, that is why we want to see it raised to a Living Wage, that enables people to meet their necessary weekly costs.  This policy is supported by 70% of people.

‘Labour have no commitment to re-nationalise the railways to ensure that investment goes where it is needed to build a system that meets demand.  This is Green policy and it is supported by 75% of people.

‘Greens support a publicly funded NHS free at the point of delivery.  Labour has made no commitment to reverse the coalition policy of sell-off of the NHS.  ‘‘Labour is backing fracking, ignoring that we must leave half of all known reserves of fossil fuels in the ground to prevent catastrophic climate change.’

Natalie went on to criticise the economic strategy of the three big parties.  There was she said no evidence of fundamental change in economic strategy from any of them.  They were all supporting the creation of a low wage economy that was only possible with the availability of cheap fossil fuels.  This she explained allowed cheap food and goods to be transported to this country, pricing local production out of the market.  ‘This failed economic strategy has left half a million people in this country, the sixth richest in the world, dependent on food banks.’

She reminded the meeting about the causes of the economic crisis.  ‘The bail out of the banks took huge amounts of public money.  Yet the banks were bailed out with no guarantees that they would reform their activities, stop high risk investments and end the bonus culture.  If the economic strategy proposed by the Green Party in 2010 had been implemented, we would now be seeing investment by the banks in sustainable projects that the country needs, creating long term employment to get and keep people in work and off benefit.’

‘We now need to ‘re-localise’ the economy.’  She said that this process had to be accompanied by the restoration of local political power that could rebalance the economy away from London and the south east.  As evidence of this unbalanced economy she told the meeting that there were a million empty homes in the UK yet there was also a housing shortage.  The power of big corporations was concentrating work in the areas that suit themselves having no regard to where people now live.  As a result these economic hot spots drag people in but do not provide the facilities that workers need, hence a chronic shortage of affordable housing.

‘We need thought out regional development strategies that address both economic and social needs, backed with the necessary political power to deliver those strategies.’

‘With rising transport costs and rising wages in the developing world, we are now seeing a ‘re-shoring’ in production, with companies starting to bring production back to the UK.  This offers great opportunities but we must have the economic and political structures in place to ensure that business properly pays its way.’  Natalie explained that with a clear political determination, big business could be made to address and pay for its impact on the environment and society.  ‘Greens on Bristol Council have helped to bring in a supermarket levy that collects 8% of turnover to reflect the damaging consequences of supermarkets.  This money is ploughed back in to local small business.’

Flanked by the five East Midland European candidates, Natalie concluded with a review of  the Green Party’s electoral prospects.  ‘We are now a Parliamentary Party.  This has been very important in lifting our national profile.  Latest opinion polls are placing the Greens on 12% and show a clear growth in support, by contrast the Liberal Democrats are now on 10% with their support fading.  With our level of support we could have six MEPs, including one here in the East Midlands.’  Natalie said that recent events had shown that the public were turning away from the three main parliamentary parties and looking to the smaller parties to express a dissatisfaction with traditional politics.  ‘We know that a growing number of people are coming to support Green policy.  Our challenge is to get people to vote for what they believe in, because what they believe in is increasingly Green Party policy.’

Culling Badgers will not stop bovine TB

badgercullprotestThe Green Party recognises that bovine TB is a serious problem, that it threatens the livelihood of many farmers, causes undue stress and costs the taxpayer around £50 million a year.  The problem has become progressively worse since the early 1980’s and successive governments have failed to develop a satisfactory policy to combat it. This Coalition Government is no exception. As the Defra website understates: A number of different measures have been tried to control the TB in cattle by culling badgers. None of these were entirely successful.  Put more simply, policies, largely reliant on culling, but including movement restrictions and herd testing, have failed.  The measure of this failure has been the progressive spread of the disease from a few remaining residual pockets in the West Country in the late 1970’s to most agricultural areas of mainland Britain.

The disease has been spread by the movement of infected cattle.  As Environment Secretary Owen Paterson says, “Bovine TB is spreading at an alarming rate and causing real devastation to our beef and dairy industry.”  Such a rapid spread could not be caused by badgers who, if undisturbed, will remain in a restricted locality for the whole of their relatively short lives. There is evidence to show that the level of disease on badgers lags that in cattle in the same area.  If badgers were causing the spread, the disease would be higher in their population than in cattle.  In addition, infected cattle are found in areas with no badger population. It is true that badgers can pass the infection back to cattle, but most infection is cattle to cattle and always has been.

The fixation that some farmers, rural vets and politicians have with the badger to cattle transmission has prevented the adoption of the effective control regime that this country needs.  Because  of opposition to badger culling, Professor John Krebs was asked to evaluate its effectiveness 20 years ago.  He  found that there was a lack of scientific information on which to base recommendations and he advised that a properly conducted study of bTB in this country be carried out.  This study took 10 years and its final report, a rigorous, peer reviewed scientific evaluation of the disease in the UK was published in 2008.  It contained two key conclusions, these were:

First, while badgers are clearly a source of cattle TB, careful evaluation of our own and others’ data indicates that badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain.

Second, weaknesses in cattle testing regimes mean that cattle themselves contribute significantly to the persistence and spread of disease in all areas where TB occurs, and in some parts of Britain are likely to be the main source of infection.

Further, the report recommended that:  Scientific findings indicate that the rising incidence of disease can be reversed, and geographical spread contained, by the rigid application of cattle-based control measures alone. These measures include improved bio-security on farms to prevent contact between badgers and cattle, regular testing of cattle, and strictly controlled movements linked to the testing regime so that no infected cattle are moved and an improvement in the reliability of the bTB test.  The clear message is that culling is unnecessary and can be counter-productive.

It should be noted that this ten year study included a scientifically based Randomised Badger Cull Trial designed to test the effectiveness of culling in both infected areas and in clear areas to check the spread. The report stated: RBCT results showed that reactive culling [in response to an outbreak of the disease] increased, rather than reduced, the incidence of TB in cattle, making this unacceptable as a future policy option.  On Proactive culling, designed to stop the spread of the disease in clear areas the report found: reduced TB incidence in cattle in culled areas. However, …. this beneficial effect on cattle breakdowns was offset by an increased incidence of the disease in surrounding un-culled areas.

KCC2008Wildwood161The Green Party accepts these scientific findings and strongly opposes the new badger-cull pilots  as contrary to the clear scientific evidence; we also have significant animal-welfare, public-safety and ethical concerns.  Caroline Allen, a practising vet who speaks on animal welfare issues has said, ‘..the measure of success of the cull is a reduction in TB of around 15%, i.e. leaving 85% of the disease untouched, this all seems completely nonsensical.’  She also noted that the Government has cut funding for vaccination trials.  This decision is also nonsensical. Greens support the decision by the Wales Assembly to scrap the cull and fund a scientific vaccination trial.  We strongly support those independent groups, including Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, who are raising funds from the public to run a five year trial of vaccination in the badger population. We endorse the Trust’s strategy to control the disease through vaccination and increased biosecurity on farms and call on the Government to provide funding for measures such as electric fencing and badger gates to segregate cattle and badgers.  The Government must also increase funding for an oral badger vaccination and for improved cattle testing.  It must work with the EU to get approval for the use of the available cattle vaccine and to get increased funding for improved treatments.  In addition the movement restrictions on animals from infected areas must be more strictly enforced. 

If farmers are serious about bringing bTB under control in the UK, they must accept the science, stop treating badgers as a scapegoat and adopt this packet of measures.  They require a lead from Government and from the NFU.  If these bodies will not give this lead, then farmers like so many other section of society  must turn to those who will give the lead needed and vote for a change of leadership, both of the NFU and of the country.

Please Sign the anti-cull e-petition and get your friends to do the same.  The No 10 petition to stop the cull has now passed 220,000 signatures.

But the more signatures it gets the stronger the message it sends to the Government so keep signing!http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/38

Fore more information on the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust Vaccination Trial go to:

http://www.derbyshirewildlifetrust.org.uk/badgers

Written by Mike Shipley taken from the East Midlands Green Party site

Brussels Biofuels Debate coming to a Head

Steven Roddy blogged on the RSPB website that “The next few months will be crucial as the European Union debates a change to EU biofuels law. We know how to fix this problem in a way that will stop the harm being done to nature and the climate, while still allowing innovative industries to bring new, genuinely beneficial, technologies to the market.”

The Green Party has been saying this all along.  Jean Lambert commented on the Climate and energy package back in 2009: Jean pointing 501234567“The adoption this week of the new climate and energy package has been hailed as ‘historic’ by some, but it remains to be seen how history will judge this week’s vote. … I sincerely believe that if it were not for the very strong presence of Green MEPs in the intense negotiation process the package may have completely derailed and the outcomes would have been much weaker.”

On 10 March 2013, Molly Scott Cato, the Green Party’s top candidate for the south-west in the 2014 European Elections stated  “The decision by MPs to continue to offer subsidies to crops that can be burned in power stations to create electricity is quite irrational and will cause more environmental harm than good.  … The fundamental problem arises because the government is allowing subsidies for industrial scale burning of biofuels, yet setting a low rate for the Feed in Tariff for new domestic and small-scale generators. This encourages the global market in biofuels rather than supporting local community renewables development.  Read more here:   http://southwest.greenparty.org.uk/news.html/2013/03/10/biofuel-subsidies-irrational-top-euro-green/

Why do Greens oppose biofuels?  In order to satisfy the world’s insatiable demand for fuel in the face of declining oil output and rising oil prices, huge areas of land are being turned over to growing fuel crops.  It is simply not possible to meet current demand for fuel oil with biofuels – there isn’t enough land.  Growing fuel crops in the absence of a determined push to reduce fuel use can only lead to biofuels being used as well as oil, leading to greater carbon emissions. 

Biofuels 800px-Greenpeace_biodiesel_demonstrationThe growing demand for biofuels is leading to massive clearances of land including tropical rain forest, as is currently happening in Indonesia, resulting in the choking smogs of Singapore.  These clearances will lead to the total destruction of rainforest unless strong action is taken.  With rising demand and high profits to be earned, we cannot hope for sufficient strong action to protect this vital ecosystem. 

Sugarcane mechanized harvest operationIn addition thousands of small farmers, the mainstay of local food production, are being forced off the land to make way for industrial scale biofuel plantations.  This will lead directly to the collapse of local food markets and therefore yet more hunger.  Diverting land from food to fuel is simply wrong and is leading to rising global food prices.  This leads to big profits for food companies and starvation for millions. 

A final objection to biofuels is that, on the back of the drive for more fuel crops rides a drive to use GM crops.  This is happening in Argentina, where the Government has been persuaded to embrace GM technology and in its drive to get into the biofuel market.  GM crops will become established in global agriculture, contaminating the whole human food chain with completely unknown consequences.  We also suspect that the biggest drive to develop biofuels is coming from the military, who fully understand the consequences of peak oil.

Every year the UK burns enough food crops in our cars to feed 15 million people. Following action from the IF campaign, for the first time ever, land grabs were put on the G8 agenda. Trial partnerships with a small number of developing countries were also agreed, which show progress towards preventing land grabs that leave poor people hungry. Development Minister Justine Greening also spoke for the first time about biofuels affecting food security.

459px-Rape-seed-field

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds say – “Using food for fuel when millions of people are starving is wrong. But it’s not just people who are suffering because of the global demand for biofuels, nature is too.  What you may not realise is that the UK’s landscape is also changing and our green and pleasant land is becoming covered in ever more yellow rape-seed oil.”

How you can help – A key parliamentary committee, the Environment Committee, will be voting on the biofuels issue on Wednesday 10th July.  The RSPB are asking people to email or write to their MEPs about these concerns.  Read more and take action on the RSPB Community website: http://clicks.dbgi.co.uk/DC/ctr.aspx?6C6164=31393033303233&736272=$$EfwYGGq81T08EEE&747970=6874&66=30

Fair is Worth Fighting ForGreen policy does recognise that biofuels can play a limited part in the supply of liquid fuels in a post oil world, but they must be from either certifiable sustainable crops grown close to the point of use, or be from non-recyclable waste. 

Proposed Foston Pig Farm – Wildlife Survey

PIC2UK Company, Midland Pig Producers (MPP) has applied (application CW9/0311/174) to build an indoor pig factory farm on a green field site near the village of Foston, Derbyshire. If the plans are approved it would be one of the largest factory farms in the UK, containing 2,500 mother pigs (sows) and around 25,000 pigs, with 1,000 going for slaughter each week. The site is currently a super green field and when they have finished building it will contain 40 acres of steel, concrete and tarmac.  The photograph shows one of the trees at Foston that may be cut down.  Another larger tree hosts a bat roost.  You can find out more on www.pigbusiness.co.uk

Jim Davies from the Foston Community Forum has asked for assistance with doing an impact assessment where the proposed mega pig farm is being planned. 

Jim says:

“Things are hotting up in the campaign, with a potential for the decision to be made in July / August.   We think too little work has been done on the surveying of local wildlife. On or around the site we have bats, herons, kingfisher, butterflies and potentially crayfish in the brook so we need to find some wildlife experts or protection groups.  If you have any contacts in that direction please could you let me know?”

A Green Party member, David Foster, is willing to assist by making a video/photographic record of all the wildlife likely to be affected. Would any other member be willing to help in any way with the survey of wildlife?  If so, please get in touch with David (david121@ntlworld.com or mobile 0791 4537589) or Jim Davies jim@fostoncommunityforum.org.uk

Register your Objection with Derbyshire County Council – you can also register your opposition to the planning application on the Derbyshire County Council website.  Members of the public and outside organisations can add their input up to 3 days before the decision.

 

Help Save Local Communities

SupermarketsMany local Green Parties and party members are involved in campaigns to oppose the development of supermarkets in their area.  We do this because we know that supermarkets lead to the closure of small businesses on the High Street which cannot compete with the aggressive marketing practices of the big business. They also encourage wasteful consumption, use excess packaging and generate huge ‘food miles’.  As a result of their procurement practices, they are forcing the closure of many small farms and forcing yet more intensification of agricultural production. Supermarkets therefore damage local economies and lead to a loss of secure jobs. 

The Green Party therefore welcomes and initiative by Unlock Democracy to use the Sustainable Communities Act to enable Councils to charge a levy or local tax on supermarkets to help to mitigate the damage they are doing to the local economy and environment.  With their immense wealth and sponsorship of some political parties the big supermarket businesses will fight such a proposal to the highest court.  Ultimately it is up to us, the people to ensure that the supermarkets are tamed and that local business can compete fairly on a level playing field.  Out ultimate sanction is that of boycott, successfully used in many consumer campaigns.

Daniel Flanagan, Projects Manager from Unlock Democracy writes:

Large supermarkets have a devastating impact on local jobs, the environment and local businesses. It seems like there’s no stopping this juggernaut from tearing communities apart.

The good news is there is a solution, and you have the power to fight back and reverse this decline.

Unlock Democracy is campaigning for councils to make supermarkets pay a new levy (i.e. tax) that will go back into helping local communities across the country. We can use the Sustainable Communities Act to achieve this.

Please sign the pledge for there to be a levy on supermarkets used to help local communities: http://action.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/page/s/join-the-supermarket-levy-campaign

A levy like this has already been introduced in Northern Ireland – dubbed the “Tesco Tax.” The money raised from it has already helped over 8,000 small businesses over there.

Our high streets really need our help. Over 40,000 shops lie empty.  Communities are struggling as the economy flounders and local services are cut. Town centres are becoming “Ghost Towns.”

At the same time, supermarkets like Tesco are booming, making billions of pounds in profit.

Supermarkets have huge advantages over local independent shops. They can undercut prices of local stores, use their colossal purchasing power to squeeze suppliers, buy up massive “land banks” to keep out competition, provide free parking at out-of-town sites and employ an army of lawyers and planning experts to make sure they get permission for new stores, even when local people object.

It’s no wonder then that supermarkets have boomed whilst local shops and communities have been decimated.

When a new large supermarket opens, hundreds of local jobs are lost. The environment suffers. Suppliers are squeezed. Local businesses struggle.

It’s time we started to level the playing field between supermarkets and local shops and made supermarkets pay for some of the damage they do. That’s why I would like to ask you to:

Please sign the pledge for a new levy on supermarkets to help local communities: http://action.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/page/s/join-the-supermarket-levy-campaign

 

Saving our best soils for growing food

On my doorstep in Mickleover, Derby, developers have submitted an outline planning application for 300+ new homes on Hackwood Farm.  This area is not in Derby’s Preferred Growth Strategy and at least 70 local residents have submitted written objections to the plans.

View of Hackwood Farm

Hackwood Farm

Safeguard our Soils, Mr. Pickles!
Because of the deliberate weakening of local planning control by the Coalition Government, greenfield sites all over the country are now at risk from private development.  Many, possibly most, of these sites at risk are on good agricultural land. In response to this, Carole Shorney, who is Secretary of SE Essex Organic Gardeners launched a petition, “Safeguard our Soils, Mr. Pickles!” following advice from the CPRE and Soil Association, the full text of which is below.

http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Safeguard_our_Soils_Mr_Pickles/?launch

The following is taken from information given by Carol.  She states that this petition is asking Mr Eric Pickles MP, the Secretary of State for Communities and LoSave our soilscal Government, to include a specific direction in the NPPF to plan positively for the future use of Best and Most Versatile agricultural land (BMV) for benefits beyond food production. Areas covered should include increased biodiversity and an increased level of resilience for agriculture in order to maximise UK production sustainably. As  things stand, this valuable, productive land has very little protection against development.

We must accept that Britain cannot go on relying on world markets for our food. Global demand is rising, prices are rising and with the effects of climate change becoming apparent, harvests are declining.  Britain therefore needs a stable, secure food supply, with short distance from field to plate.  Over the next 50 years, food and farming face the stark challenge of providing better nutrition for more people in spite of rapid environmental change, while cutting our diet’s impact on natural resources, ecosystems and the climate. This calls for changes in our eating habits, reductions in food waste and improvements in food production. We want to make sure organic and other agro ecological approaches are at the heart of efforts to achieve this.  We must therefore protect our best agricultural land.

It used to be the case in England that the grade of agricultural land was a prime consideration for planners and local authorities in allocating sites for development.  However, changes to planning policy in the late 1980’s downgraded the importance of agricultural land classifications in planning, in response to the more globalised market for food that had developed.  This level of attention to quality of land was no longer needed.  The DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) report http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Document.aspx?Document=9905_SP1501finalreport.pdf demonstrates that before the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), Local Planning Authorities didn’t have the tools they needed to protect our best agricultural land from development – and the NPPF has done nothing to improve planning policy to address this.

As Green Party supporters, we need to be aware of the threat to good agricultural land in Derbyshire, particularly close to main centers of population, and campaign to oppose major development. This is another example of how short term private gain is being put ahead of the long term interests of the rest of society and future generations. We need change before any more agricultural land is offered to/bought up by developers.

Jean Macdonald

Don’t forget to sign the petition
http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Safeguard_our_Soils_Mr_Pickles/?launch

This Cull is Simply Wrong.

 Once again the Coalition Government flies in the face of sound evidence and gives in to simplistic right wing opinion, this time as expressed by the Country Landowners. They want to kill badgers, they are generous donors to the Tory party, so they are to be allowed to kill badgers as a reward.

Culling badgers to control bovine Tb has no scientific basis, Lord Krebs, who led the recent Badger Cull trials has described it as ‘crazy’, his report showed that culling is ineffective and runs the risk of increasing rates of infection. Analysis of the cull trials in southern England by the Medical Research Council showed that rates of cattle infection increased in the cull areas. Disturbing badger clans by culling them only increases badger mobility, an effective way of speeding up the spread of the infection.

The proposed culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset are not ‘evidence led’ as the landowners claim, neither are they being scientifically planned. To be regarded as successful, the culls require 70% of the badgers in the control area to be killed, yet the landowners do not propose to carry out a population survey, so they plan to kill 70% of an unknown figure – utter nonsense.

For the cull to have any hope of having an impact on bovine Tb, an area of 150 square kilometres will need to be controlled for a period of four years, with clear access to at least 70% of this area for the culling teams. With shooting to be done at night, the safety issues involved are clearly considerable, and a 100% clean kill rate is highly unlikely, so many badgers will be wounded, to die later. But of course, the consortium of land owners who are organising the cull will have a good excuse to close all public access to this area. Probably they also plan to hunt foxes while they are at it! They will also doubtless claim the cost of the cull against their tax, so in the end it is the taxpayer, who mostly oppose the cull of badgers, who will pay for the killing. The landowners set as their target a reduction of the incidence of Tb of 15%. So at the end of the cull, they will still have 85% of the disease untouched, what then?

The scientific evidence is clear, Lord Krebs large scale trial of culling concluded that “badger culling cannot meaningfully contribute to the future control of cattle Tb”. His report recognised that the main cause of the spread of bovine Tb is from cattle to cattle transmission, therefore substantial reductions of the disease in cattle requires improving cattle-based control measures, including husbandry, transportation and vaccination. These measures must be the focus of funding and research, not another culling ‘trial’. In response to these recommendations, the government has chosen to reduce the funding of badger vaccination trials that began in 2006, while at the same time it pays out £millions of tax payer’s money to compensate farmers, [£500,000 in 2009.]

There are a multitude of reasons why this the cull is wrong; the scientific evidence does not warrant it, there are significant concerns over animal welfare, and public safety. For us there are ethical concerns, do we share this planet, or do the rich and powerful have the right to take it as their own and do as they please? The cull demonstrates once again that in our economic system, nature has no intrinsic value, if it can’t earn profit, it must be swept aside.

Sadly the badger has become the scapegoat for this disease, which the Green Party recognise as a serious disease of the dairy herd. It has to be properly tackled in order to safeguard the health and welfare of cattle and the livelihood of the dairy farmer. The Government, DEFRA and the NFU, all who choose to ignore the science and continue to claim that culling is effective, must now accept the scientific evidence face up to the reality that at least 85% of the disease is caused by cattle to cattle transmission. That requires proper funding for the necessary scientific research and development of treatments and husbandry systems. Unless this is done, the disease will continue to spread as will the distress it causes to farmers and their herds.

Mike Shipley 20/9/12

Time to take the Tesco out of Food Policy

Green Party food policy supports the production of healthy and humanely produced food, giving priority to local production for local needs, integrated with habitat conservation.  Greens also call for a fair price for family farm businesses and greater support for the provision of allotments and local markets.  A Ministry of Food should oversee policy delivery.  To stimulate greater home production, Government must make agricultural land available for sustainable production.  Where possible, this land should be held in Trust for the community, preventing it falling into the hands of the big, intensive landowners.  Government can lead the way by identifying underutilised public land, including that held by the Ministry of Defence – food security is an integral part of National security.  It should also require that the Royal Estate follow its lead.

Local Authorities need powers to take over the management of under-utilised land, similar to the powers they have over vacant private housing, making this land available for allotments or smallholdings.  They have to be empowered to rebuild the local market infrastructure that the supermarkets have destroyed.  Schools and colleges should work to develop knowledge, interest, and skills in growing and preparing food, so encouraging young people to see agriculture as a worthy career.

When Peter Kendall, President of the National Farmers Union addressed his Union’s conference this February, he roundly criticised government’s failure to adopt a serious food policy.  He said their approach was ‘leave it to Tesco’ – to leave it to the markets and rely on food imports to make up the growing food deficit.  Greens support his warning that this is ill advised in a world where a combination of both rising population and prosperity and the increasing frequency of so-called ‘natural’ disasters, is putting pressure on food supply.  He might have added that the reliance of western style agriculture on oil was adding a further twist to the rising spiral of food prices.

Historically the UK government has run a cheap food policy the purpose of which has been to underpin the low wage strategy that the captains of industry have wanted to pursue in order to minimise their costs and maximise their profits and dividends.  In the days of Empire this involved importing cheap food notably wheat from North America and sugar from the Caribbean to provide adequate calories for the workforce.  Now, this policy of relying on imports and letting the supermarkets use their muscle to force down prices, is failing.

Governments the world over have learned that if the workers get hungry they get upset and may riot.  Inadequate food supply has been an underlying cause of the revolutions taking place across the Middle East.  The World Bank acknowledges this and says that global food prices are at a dangerous level.  In response, the G20 will meet to discuss the economic and political impact of food and commodity prices.  French President Sarkozy, currently chair of G20, has blamed commodity speculators, and indeed, it is shocking that human beings will manipulate food prices for personal gain, consigning hundreds of thousands to hunger and misery.  But the problem lies deeper than this naked greed.

The problem lies in the ‘commodification’ of the earth’s resources – turning everything into something for sale and then leaving supply to the market.  Markets will always sacrifice long-term benefit for short-term gain; their interest is in profit not people.  Governments have a duty to look after the long-term interests of the people, and they are failing to do this.  They are in the position to develop policies that will deliver an adequate and balanced diet to their citizens.  However, these policies will require a fundamental shift in methods of food production and distribution; it will require standing up to the powerful interests that are manipulating food and agriculture policy.  It will require curtailing the dependence of food supply on oil.

There is no real food policy in the UK.  The last Government began a tentative process to look at the issue spurred on by the rise in oil prices and the global food riots of 2008.  Professor Tim Lang, a leading thinker on food policy and then advisor to the Cabinet office, exposed some revealing thinking underpinning entrenched government attitude to food supply.  Defra was of the opinion that self-sufficiency was neither possible nor a desirable goal for a trading nation.  They also took the view that the UK could and should buy on open markets.  National food security was relevant for developing countries they conceded, but not for the rich countries of Western Europe.  The Labour Government did not complete its policy review and we can presume that under the present administration Defra has returned to this default position.  If it does recognise a problem, it will doubtless listen to industry lobbyists and see the solution in more intensification, mega-dairies, and GM technology.  More reliance on increasingly scarce oil in other words.

Since Defra questions self-sufficiency, it is fair to ask if it is possible. This question was asked in 1975 by Kenneth Mellanby, founder Director of Monk’s Wood Ecology Research station, which of course has now been closed.  His answer, given in a book ‘Can Britain Feed Itself’ was a clear ‘Yes!’  More recently, Simon Fairlie, editor of ‘The Land’ revisited Mellanby’s work in the light of today’s population and land-use.  This time he gave a qualified ‘yes’.  We could do it, but meat consumption would have to decline by about one half.

A stunning demonstration of what happens if you take oil out of food production is to be seen in the film “The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil” about Cuba after it lost Russian oil and still not able to afford other sources.  In its 2006 Living Planet Report, the WWF named Cuba as the only sustainable country in the world.  This was largely due to its system of organic food production, made necessary by its lack of oil.  Cubans enjoy a high standard of health with a life expectancy of 78, equivalent to any developed country.

Pioneers in the UK are showing the way.  Around the country, Transition Communities are looking seriously at local food security, developing the important concept of ‘food catchment area’.  With rising prices set to continue, their work is less academic and increasingly urgent, made even more so by the inability of Government to address the matter.  In Manchester, Unicorn Grocery specialises in ethically grown and wholesome fruit and veg.  The cooperative business has bought 21 acres of prime growing land at Glazebury, Warrington.  Its intention is to lease out plots to organic growers and provide the outlet market for the produce, bringing healthy, locally grown food to urban south Manchester.  It is initiatives like this that government needs to foster, not GM and mega-dairies.

[Mike Shipley February 2011]

Greens Campaign For A Fairer Derbyshire Dales

Josh Stockell, the Green Party’s general election candidate for Derbyshire Dales, joined fellow party members in Bakewell on Saturday to finalise their campaign in Derbyshire. The meeting heard Josh underline the party’s commitment to a fairer and sustainable society.

“Under this government the gap between the top earners and the average has widened. Top financiers are walking away with million pound bonuses while workers in public services face swingeing cuts. This is not our idea of fairness.”

Handing out leaflets in Bakewell with his team before the meeting, Josh said: “

I am encouraged by the response we are getting. Most of the people I have spoken to are aware of the Green Party and many are pleased to learn that we are standing in Derbyshire Dales – for the first time.”

In his leaflet, Josh, a town councillor in Wirksworth, calls for change to a fair and sustainable economic system and a stop to the ‘growth at all costs’ policies favoured by the other parties. No other party offers a ‘Green New Deal’ with a million new jobs.

Other issues that Josh highlights in his campaign are: an end to MPs’ greed; more affordable homes; local food and proper vetting of imports to support our farmers; better public transport; more renewable energy; no more privatising of the NHS; welfare not warfare.