Sunday, May 04, 2008


Lord Paddy AshdownLast week on the BBC's Question Time, Paddy Ashdown had a rant at his fellow panellists. He said [I am paraphrasing] that we in the west have to have a serious look at our lifestyle. We have to recognise the increasing competition we face for the planet’s limited fuel and food supplies. We will, sooner or later, be forced to review how we source our food and get used to travelling less. As usual our governments are in denial and looking for quick solutions to the symptoms rather than tackling the root problem.

Grain has a devastating review of what’s gone wrong. Extracts.

For most of 2007 the spiralling cost of cooking oil, fruit and vegetables, as well as of dairy and meat, led to a fall in the consumption of these items. From Haiti to Cameroon to Bangladesh, people have been taking to the streets in anger at being unable to afford the food they need.

Similar problems [to the credit crunch] lie at the heart of the food crisis: an ideologically driven elite has forced countries to wrench open markets and let the free market run, so that a few megacorporations, investors and speculators can take huge payoffs. Many countries have lost that most basic power: the ability to feed themselves. This loss, coupled with the corruption that plagues our countries and trading systems, shows that neoliberalism has lost any legitimacy that it might once have had. It is a measure of how out of touch these ideologues are that many now openly call for more trade liberalisation as a solution to the food crisis, with some even proposing that the rules of the WTO be changed to prevent countries from imposing export restrictions on food.

The Times reports on how rationing is being introduced into the UK market. Extract.

Food prices across the world have rocketed in the past two years, driven by increased demand for corn — the grain that is fermented to produce ethanol, the biofuel. With corn a main foodstock in dairy farming, milk has doubled in price in two years.
Growing awareness of global food shortages have exposed a deep divide in Europe over how best to guarantee supplies.

None of this is helped when we set aside land to grow crops for fuel [bio-fuels] instead of food. Now to add to that problem the Guardian reports on the additional use of corn-based materials being used for so-called bio-degradable packaging.

Neither of these "solutions" have been thought through. They are quick, get me out of trouble, short term temporary fixes that will not last.

That compost mentioned in the previous post may well come in handy, sooner than we expect, when we turn over our gardens to vegetables instead of flowers and shrubs. And what price allotments? Those who “do not understand it” had better start learning – and quick!


  1. Yes, absolutely, definitely, we must bring back the great Soviet-style anti-free market way of doing things that was so, so successful in feeding the world.

    Stakhanov, thou shoulds't be living at this hour.

    After all, we have seen the amazing success of imposing targets upon targets upon targets of our ersatz/fake/pseudo Labour government of the last 11 years. And who better a fine thinker, politician and all-round statesman than Paddy Pantsdown to be our Great Teacher and Leader! What a resounding success he was, just try saying his name to a new generation and verily, they will rise up, crying "why cannot he come again to us?".

    (I'm now off to take an extra blood-pressure pill)

  2. Now, now, Judith,

    Just as the “Soviet style” was wrong so too is its antithesis. I worry that traditional Conservatism has been hijacked by neo-Liberalism.

    As for Paddy Pantsdown, I could refer you to similar comments for Boris, but I won’t. The point here is that when someone makes a sensible comment, even if they are not your favourite cup of tea, it is worth noting. Track record is not necessarily a guide to current or future performance.

  3. BARKINGSIDE 21 SAID: "Track record is not necessarily a guide to current or future performance".

    It's sometimes called brewers' droop...........