VEGA News Item

Parliamentary Inquiry on Global Food Security - 31/03/2009
VEGA responds to a Parliamentary Inquiry into the UK's Role in Tackling the Challenge of Global Food Security

VEGA's response to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the UK's Role in Tackling the Challenge of Global Food Security until 2050 follows:

1. Evidence for our interest in the Proposed Inquiry and our wishes to be of help is illustrated by many items on our website and in copious written consultations with Defra, the FSA (Food Standards Agency) and Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) and other influential agencies, especially on matters of health and welfare in all sentient livestock and the common and varying environments, with the aim of attaining a harmonious and fruitful occupation of territory.

2. This purview ranges over the breadth of interests outlined in the note (undated) that we have received. We are a registered charitable research trust, tracing a pedigree of scientifically-based commitment from WW2, when we were involved with the government in the debate over the national loaf, ending of the Marshall Plan of aid from the USA, and the rehabilitation of the victims and their offspring of the Dutch and Leningrad starvations in the bitterly cold winters of the mid-1940's. These populations, as well as prisoners of Japanese war camps and German and other concentration camps as victims of persecution, and well as famine and deficiencies in our cities prompted medical and other campaigners in preparation for utterances such as the Beveridge Report with significant social and political consequences.

3. We were also involved after the war with other organizations in Britain with overseas responsibilities. The committee's chairman was a Frank Judd (now ? Lord Judd) and the membership included Oxfam and Christian Aid and other charities; and for a time it enjoyed the services of half a civil servant. It also attracted the participation of pharmaceutical companies, seeking to develop cures for tick-borne and other zoonotic diseases (as well as measures of birth control more civilized than war). These efforts continue to this day; TB, malaria, hepatitis and other viruses (eg HIV and Ebola) continue their dire tolls.

4. These were times of renewed nutritional exigencies. The Ground Nuts scheme in sub-Saharan Africa was a major failure, with severe political repercussions in a UK flagging under the challenges of austerity. Further, the Green Revolution and promises of cheap and convenient animal-derived foods, accompanied by famines and crop failures in the early 1970's, prompted us and others into plans for "Salutary Food from Salubrious Farming" with the motto Grow Food not Feed. Our Green Plan for "farming, food, health, and land" was launched in 1976, accompanied by a Campaign for Real Bread. These suggestions for research continue to this day and parallel in many respects developments in Finland's South Karelia Project and work in Dutch universities and research stations. We are seeking to enliven school teaching with citizenship projects that prepare children for the responsibilities of adulthood and independence and to turn the FSA from constant groveling into the squalid entrails of the live/deadstock industry into resumed applications of research and development into meat-frees, dairy-frees - and cruelty-frees such as proteinaceous plant-milks and "meats" (Marmite and Quorn, for instance).

5. Try as we may by attendance at Open Meetings (such as the parliamentary food and health forum) to engage in sturdy scientific debate on these matters, we are constrained by the limitations of competitive Q and A, which blunt many of our enthusiastic interpretations of situations resembling several major challenges in a single person's lifetime. We launched Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, a scientific journal, and played a major part in the Phillips BSE Inquiry and the Act setting up the Food Standards Agency. At present the UK has Ministers of state at DEFRA and the DOH who voice or demonstrate the need to reduce the consumption of animal-derived foods. We publish weekly recipes and meals on open access in a Portfolio of Eating Plans, which demonstrate advice and labelling consistent with FSA's Healthy Eating ploys. Cookery writers and commentators are beginning to follow suit. We are constantly improving our information, and results (in, say, further comparisons with the benefits of statin drugs) will be presented at this year's Nutrition Society Conference in Belfast. At present we are answering a request from the FSA on the consumption of fish and the corollaries. We have also applied for a place on Hilary Benn's council, chaired by Dame Suzi Leather, on Food Security. Our application was turned down. I acted as advisor and expert witness for the defendants in the McLibel Trial. Although the whole case was lost, the adjudicator ruled that we had succeeded in proving that the plaintiff had been "guilty of culpable cruelty".

6. We have been involved with medical, veterinary, and other services over precautions and actions in the event of deliberate as well as accidental contamination in the food and water chains. These threats may be nuclear or microbiological, some involving zoonotic diseases and major challenges in culling and disposals and they affect animals kept mainly for zoos and other collections and animals bred and reared for "sports" and (human) leisure purposes. Accordingly, animal welfare organizations have been involved recently with the latest Animal Welfare and anti-hunting Acts and the lessons learnt from the BSE and food-and-mouth epidemics. Relaxing of movements of livestock (eg cheap travel and prevention of rabies, as well as imports of bush meat and human arrivals bringing in TB - and now Bovine TB from countries newly building up dairying enterprises - need assurances of constant vigilance at ports and at markets. Entry of mycotoxins in badly harvested, stored, and transported crops must also be diligently pursued. We understand that a brigadier has been appointed to remove the Queen's horses and dogs from zones where culling has to be ordered. And we have to remember the potential in microbiology for traditional purposes (with some restraint in brewery outputs), as well as for new applications in the production of pharmaceuticals and novel foods, for which applications of GM are especially useful.  

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