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Important Public Protection On Food Quality Could Disappear In The Proposed UK Budget Cuts

Author : Alison Withers

Copyright (c) 2010 Alison Withers

The UK's coalition government is preparing to cut spending on the public sector, by between 25% and 40%, as part of its efforts to cut the budget deficit and included in its review of all services are reported be around 177 watchdog bodies made up of non-elected members.

It is not clear yet which of these bodies that were intended to protect the public and consumers in a whole range of issues including health and food quality, pollution and air quality, will go.

Two national newspapers have "leaked" lists of those quangos supposedly under threat so the precise list is not clear, but they include three committees whose focus is on food, food production and its safety, with wider implications for the environment and soil quality.

Among them is the Advisory Committee on Organic Standards which advises on the development odf standards for organic food production and certification ad was established in 2003.

Included also are The Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP - a part of the Food Standards Agency) set up to advise Ministers on all aspects of control, safety and use of pesticides and The Pesticides Residues Committee,the body that oversees pesticides residues in food and the UK's national programme of pesticides testing.

These three are just a few of the committees covering environment, air pollution, animal welfare and food that are being considered.

These lists were published in the same week as the UN's three-day conference on progress towards the 2015 deadline for eight Millennium Development Goals aimed to tackle issues of access to education, child and maternal health and of poverty and growth among the world's poorest. It became plain that there would be difficulty in meeting several of these partly because countries had not followed through completely on pledged donations, but also, of course, the deep the global financial crisis.

At the end of the week came the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation's emergency meeting to discuss a possible food crisis following the summer's Russian drought and resulting ban on wheat exports until after the 2011 harvest and the extreme monsoon weather that destroyed crops in Pakistan and China.

Its special rapporteur on food Olivier De Schutter was unequivocal in his presentation, that the explanation for the extreme price volatility and rapid price increases of basic commodities like wheat and other grains lay with the financial speculators and non-food trade investors who have been looking for other, more stable commodities markets to invest in for at least the last eight years.

There was a noticeable increase in their activity in 2008 amid food scarcity fears and riots in various places in the world, and in the last few months of 2010 basic commodity prices, particularly wheat, have been escaatng again.

Against this background in a world where a billion people are still starving or malnourished and the pressure to increase agricultural production, while preserving the environment in a sustainable way, the UK government's proposals to cut the watchdog bodies mentioned earlier has to be alarming.

Surely given the questionable ethics and morality of the investments market it is dangerous to withdraw any scrutiny of how food is produced, using what kinds of chemicals and pesticides.

It seems equally short-sighted to do the same over how they are certified and licensed to protect food and human health, the quality of the roil and the land.

To start with, can multinational agricultural producers be trusted not to put profit before what may be better for the farmers' livelihoods, the sustainable use of their land and the quality of the food produced?

Secondly, it is already taking up to eight years and an enormous amount of money in Europe for the Biopesticides Developers' newer, low-chem agricultural products, biopesticides, biofungicides and yield enhancers to go through the certification and licencing process.

There is little or no global uniformity in regulation and approval of low-chem agriculture despite growing evidence that they can help the millions of small farmers - as well as large agricultural conglomerates - across the world to farm more safely, profitably and sustainably.

In such circumstances does it make sense to abolish any form of oversight of food production and quality or the licensing of more environmentally agricultural products?

Author's Resource Box

Journalist Ali Withers asks if it is wise to abolish watchdog bodies focused on food quality, pesticides and organic food at a time of impending food crisis when theres a need to get the Biopesticides Developers new low-chem farming products licensed.

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Tags:   Millennium goals, food commodity speculation, advisory committee on pesticides, low-chem agricultural products, Biopesticides developers, biofungicides, food quality

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Submitted : 2010-10-02    Word Count : 1    Times Viewed: 313