Consuming or eating? : Conference bloggers : Soil Association

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Consuming or eating?

Pat Thomas - 02 March 2012

Pat ThomasIn her talk this morning Ann Pettifor talked a great deal about how we define ourselves.

If we define ourselves simply as consumers is it any wonder that we have a food system that is based on consumption – of land, of chemicals of resources, and of money that could be invested in change?

She used the recent example of Tesco’s disastrous experience in South Korea where citizen pressure has been used to enact legislation and regulation that prevents big supermarkets from establishing themselves without the consent of the community.

If a supermarket is deemed a threat to local shops and local livelihood, it’s not going to get built. Tesco has thrown its toys out of the pram over this, accusing the South Korean government of being a ‘watermelon government' – green on the outside and red on the inside. Well, every PR gaff reveal what really goes on inside the heads of supermarket supremos.

The South Korean legislation is an example of citizen pressure on the government in action. If we want a world where sustainable food and farming are given the ascendency we desire, then we need to stop thinking of food as something we consume, or as an anonymous commodity to be traded.

Food is something we all need – something we all have in common. The desire for a food system that feeds us all can unite us in ways that go beyond cooking programmes and media foodery pseudery.

It could perhaps could go some way to addressing pesticide campaigner Georgina Downs' concern, voiced during question time, that we keep electing governments wedded to a big business as usual model. Defining ourselves as citizens could well lead to us finally electing a government that is pro-people, pro-food and pro-sustainbility.

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