Bitesize: The Food Ethics Council’s 2013 sustainability report

Based in Brighton, the UK’s Food Ethics Council is an independent charity aiming to create a fair, healthy and ethical food and farming system. Today they published a report looking at sustainability entitled Beyond Business As Usual, launched by a debate on the topic.

Executive Director Dan Crossley asked what steps the government, businesses and society should take to accelerate the shift towards sustainable food, encouraging people to tweet replies using the hashtag #foodstrides.

This latest report highlights the fact that the price, quality and value of food remain more important to a consumer than sustainability. The demand to drive a change forward is lacking, with many buyers simply unable to afford eco-friendly food. Our society has grown too fond of cheap, convenient food. Government intervention is needed yet little priority is placed upon food-related issues when arguably we are in a natural recession too:

The Food Ethics Council has identified three key aspects of the current food system that hold the most urgent need for fundamental change: how the market operates– end the ‘cheap food’ era yet take steps  to ensure that all people have access to a healthy diet, business models– consider long-term environmental implications, and government approach– promote sustainability, manage marketing and advertising carefully, and reconsider the dominant focus on continued economic growth.

We as citizens have hefty responsbilities too- we can’t simply shovel the blame onto government and the markets. How we cook, who we eat with, what we waste…it all matters. Future generations will feel the consequences of our food choices so we must commit to lifestyle changes. One retail sector representative said, “The bit that hasn’t been cracked is behaviour change. Unless we do something on this, everything else is really just tinkering. I can play around with the nutritional content of a doughnut as much as I want, I can say eat just one doughnut, I can make them smaller- but I can’t stop someone eating three.”

One simple tip for consumers wanting to help the cause?

The ‘ugly’ groceries are often left on the shelf when they taste just the same!

The central challenge laid out in the report is to identify what moving ‘Beyond Business As Usual’ truly entails for businesses, government and society in terms of practical action and real change. The Food Ethics Council believes that “now is the time to move from small steps to giant strides” and achieve a sustainable food system.

Let’s set about making that happen.

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