We are told that Fat is the new normal and this is undoubtedly true. It’s another example of shifting baseline syndrome, also known as the “frog in the saucepan“. I have noticed my own waistline expand over the years – not just due to middle age spread; as my lifestyle has become more sedentary.
One theory why obesity is such a massive global health and environmental problem is that we live in an obesogenic environment. It’s amazing that more people in the world are now overweight than are hungry and obesity kills three times as many people as malnutrition.
More concrete evidence points towards the addictive properties of sugar, while Global food corporations derive their profits from food consumption, whether healthy food or not (and generally not). Whatever the cause, the problem is a real one and must be tackled.
Yet we are still implored in this country to grow more food. Time and again the High Priests of food production – the NFU being the Archbishopric of the cult of obesity. The outgoing Pope of agricultural Production NFU president Peter Kendall pushed this particular point at the Oxford Farming Conference in January as he looked forward to “The EU [getting] back to agreeing policy in-line with …the massive challenge of global food security.” Kendall is now president of the World Farmers Organisation. Will Peter be standing up for the small subsistence farmer in Africa, or the global agro-industrial complex? Watch this space.
This means farmers rich and not rich alike get £200 per hectare per annum from us the taxpayer, for whatever they produce from their land. It could be wheat, to feed cows to produce milk to sell to China. It could be oil seed rape to make into biodiesel. It could be maize to feed an anaerobic digester to make biogas. In theory it could be used for public goods such as providing wildlife habitat, storing carbon or preventing flooding. Thanks to the power of the ag-elite, EC rules generally prohibit this sort of useful contribution to society and the planet, unless under very strict controls, for limited periods of time, through agri-environment schemes.
A small cadre of agriculturalists are still obsessed with the UK running short of food. I call this the “U-boats in the channel” syndrome. The last time there were U-boats in the channel, with 70% of our food imported (from the Empire or Commonwealth) the spectre of a hungry nation (who needed to be fit to work in war factories and fight) led to Dig for Victory, The Great Harvest driven by the the War Ag committees – and generous farm subsidies. Food production soared, although arguably it was rationing that made the key difference, not only in terms of food availability, but also health. Rationing produced a healthier population than before, or arguably since.
This mentality continued after the war, across Europe, until we were swimming in butter lakes, with wheat mountains looming over us.
Thanks to the power of this clique and their political connections, we still pay over £3 billion a year in benefits to farmers to overproduce food in this country and trash the environment. The CAP system doesn’t discriminate, it’s not means tested. If you have more than a few hectares of land, kerching! In 2011 the Duke of Westminster (net worth £7.4Bn) was paid nearly £750,000 for his farms. By 2013 the Ag-elite were a bit miffed that their little (large) scam had been revealed and successfully lobbied the EC to stop publishing data on which farms recieved how much welfare payment.
Now all we can tell is that companies like “Meadows Food” (ah the irony) received 171 Million Euros in farm welfare payments while the biggest corporate recipient was …….da da da daaaa…..Tate and Lyle who received a whopping 600 Million Euros during the noughties.
To grow sugar and make very healthy profits in that decade. Now they have sold their sugar refining business to American Sugar, they are in financial trouble.
Meanwhile the Government takes benefits from people on their deathbeds and forces the poor to move homes or get into serious rent arrears to save a questionable amount of money – at what social and psychological cost?