Over 28% of five-year-olds in Wales overweight

BBC News – Thursday 4th July

It’s no surprise that children are getting heavier, and though Wales seems to have the heaviest children in the country, it’s still hardly shocking. We are in the midst of an obesity epidemic. It makes the news almost daily.

What is notable about this piece, is the link it makes between obesity and deprivation. Obesity is a ‘poor’ disease. We should think carefully about the inverse logic of this – obesity is a disease of deprivation. The more deprived we are, the fatter we are likely to be. The question of how to turn the food-system so that those on low-incomes can access nutrient-dense, non-processed alternatives, is  a question worth contemplating.

One place to start is by making food issues more socially inclusive. This may sound strange, but both the ideas of ‘sustainable’ and ‘organic’ food are tinged with a sense of elitism – we know better; and we are prepared to pay more. However change will not be made by the educated few telling the masses how to eat. It’s important we start to communicate the issues at stake, in ways that make them meaningful to a wider cross-section of the public than is currently the case.

Scurvy returns among children with diets ‘worse than in the war’ 

The Telegraph – Wednesday 3rd July

Another story on the ill-health of our children. Scurvy and rickets, both nutrition-based diseases, are on the rise. The article pretty pointedly attributes this to diets almost wholly based on processed foods. People are subsisting on take-away and microwaved meals, and children aren’t getting the critical nutrients that they need to be healthy, particularly vitamin-C and vitamin-D. While neglect may be at the root of the worst cases of these diseases, disconnection and a lack of understanding of nutritional needs, is more generally to blame. This is further evidence that there is a desperate need to reconnect people with their food, particularly fresh food, and ideally to get them to grow and cook it for themselves. Growing and cooking it is the best way to get people to eat better, but these are also disappearing skills for large parts of the population. We need more initiatives, more campaigns, more grass-roots projects to facilitate access to fresh food.

UK farming subsidies shortchange the public, study says 

The Guardian – Thursday 4th July

It has been widely acknowledged that the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) reform was not the positive support for the environment that it could have been. Though the reform aimed to deliver more environmental benefits, lobbying power virtually wiped these out, and as a result we have a policy that still largely benefits conventional farmers, at the cost of significant environmental degradation.

A new report makes explicit the financial cost of this to the public, arguing that the public purse is being shortchanged by the significant subsidies given to farmers. If these subsidies were put towards public benefits such as protecting the environment, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, or improving access to the countryside, the wider benefits would be valued at £18bn for an input of £3bn. Instead, we still have a system that rewards farming practices which damage the environment.

The study puts actual monetary figures on the cost of these practices and assesses their value to the public purse. Exercises such as these are so important in making explicit the real cost of our food, and highlighting why we need to encourage farmers to work more sustainably, and return those costs to their source.

Biofuel crop mix ‘not favourable for environment’ 

The Guardian – Wednesday 3rd July

The rush into biofuels has been yet another area where the practice has not been fully thought through. Using food crops for fuel has never made sense in a world where hunger affects millions of people, and now it is being recognised for the environmental damage it is doing. As an ‘alternative’ energy that is supposed to help us lower carbon emissions, it’s not doing its job. Thankfully, the EU is trying to cap biofuel made from food crops in the face of fierce opposition from those who stand to make a chunk of cash out of it.

We must interrogate our definitions of ‘sustainability’ in relation to new sources of energy. Just because it’s not a fossil fuel, doesn’t mean it’s good for the environment.

Shoppers opt for butter over margarine 

The Telegraph – Sunday 7th July

We’ve seen the light! Butter is best. It is what it is – butter. It’s not full of additives and added flavours. It’s just gorgeous unadulterated fat, and real fat is always going to be better than fake fat. Be a believer in butter.

Environment Secretary talking ‘nonsense’ about GM crops, claims Zac Goldsmith 

The Telegraph – Thursday 4th July

Here, here Zac Goldsmith! We rather agree that Mr. Paterson might have shot himself in the foot. His overt enthusiasm and unquestioning faith in GM, not to mention his rather skewed presentation of the facts, has made the British public more suspect of GM, not less. There must be a reasoned  and informed debate on GM that acknowledges the growing research base evidencing the potential problems in its use.

Photograph by madlyinlovewithlife

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