The art of politics is to disburse the revenues of government to your supporters

Or, make sure your constituency gets its snout in the trough:

Zac Goldsmith is urging ministers to kickstart a revolution in eating habits by ensuring that all schools, hospitals and care homes start using healthy, environmentally friendly, sustainable food.

A Conservative party taskforce led by the new MP for Richmond Park and prominent green campaigner wants the government and public sector\’s £2bn annual food budget to be spent on produce that is organic, has been produced nearby and meets animal welfare standards.

The taskforce\’s unpublished final report calls on the government to overhaul public sector food procurement to boost British agriculture, help the planet by reducing \”food miles\”, reduce dependence on an increasingly precarious international food supply chain and improve the quality of food that millions of people eat every day. Changes could be cost-neutral or even save money, it says.

There is no evidence that organic food is healthier.

There is abundant evidence that locally produced food is less sustainable (most certainly in terms of emissions).

There is absolute evidence that the wider, deeper and more international the food supply chain the less precarious it is.

My opinion would therefore be that Zac is just aiding his friends over at the Soil Association in getting a cut of the government\’s food budget. No different in either logic or morals from the Labour Party giving tax money to the unions so that the unions could make donations to the Labour Party.

Aren\’t we lucky to have such an exemplar of the new politics? Instead of Mark Serwotka getting our dosh it\’s Lord Melchett.

14 thoughts on “The art of politics is to disburse the revenues of government to your supporters”

  1. A bit off your point, which is basically right, but… Food miles are silly. But buying organic is the only way I’ve got to oppose the overuse of antibiotics and pesticides in agriculture, and almost the only way I’ve got to get meat that has been raised in a reasonably ethical and humane way. Oh, and it usually tastes better, too.

  2. But if everyone ate organic food, there wouldn’t be enough to go round, as it requires less intensive cultivation. It’s basically a fad of selfish middle-class Western liberals.

  3. @ambrose murphy
    “Oh, and it [organic] usually tastes better, too”

    I defy you to tell the difference in a properly constructed, statistically designed blind tasting trial.

  4. Yet another interfering trougher who not only wants to keep his snout deep in the swill but also wants to meddle in what I (or my kids) eat.

    Bugger off you Righteous arse!! Twice!!

  5. “There is absolute evidence that the wider, deeper and more international the food supply chain the less precarious it is.”

    Until you have an ash cloud or two breaking the chain. 😉 The food supply chain is all based on JIT and it only needs a slight problem in the transport to cause an big issue in the delivery. The ones who lose out aren’t us in the west who can change our habits but the suppliers who are dependant on their exports.

    Local grown food is better, especially when you have the satisfaction of growing it yourself even non-organically. If anything I appreciate food flavours more when the come into season than when they are always available. In season British strawberries compared to forced Spanish ones for instance. Asparagus is another one.

  6. “Local grown food is better, especially when you have the satisfaction of growing it yourself even non-organically”

    But I’m quite good at working in customer service and dreadful and growing at growing broccoli, gains from trade and all that.

    Most importantly though is that no, there’s not evidence that organic is particularly healthier than non-organic food, especially given the cost premium. As usual, Ben Goldacre covers this excellently.

  7. A bit off your point, which is basically right, but… Food miles are silly. But buying organic is the only way I’ve got to oppose the overuse of antibiotics and pesticides in agriculture, and almost the only way I’ve got to get meat that has been raised in a reasonably ethical and humane way. Oh, and it usually tastes better, too.

    The main reason it tastes better is correlation. When you’re producing premium meat or rare breeds that taste better, it’s not that much of a leap to go organic and it’s quite a sensible business decision.

    Butts Brewery went organic and I couldn’t taste any difference. Their beers taste good because they don’t cut corners and know what they’re doing.

  8. “Until you have an ash cloud or two breaking the chain. ”

    Yes, which is why we should have as diversified a chain as possible, you see that means having some stuff coming from country A by plane, some other stuff from country B by boat some third stuff coming from country C by truck and some fourth stuff being grown at home.

    Alas:
    – if there’s an ash cloud our imports from country A are screwed but not the others
    – if we have a tsunami only our imports from country B are screwed but not the others
    – if the french truck drivers strike then our imports from country C are screwed but not the others
    – if we have a crappy summer at home only the stuff grown here is screwed but not the other stuff…

    “The ones who lose out aren’t us in the west who can change our habits but the suppliers who are dependant on their exports.”

    1) what’s stopping the suppliers from diversifying their customer base?
    2) How the hell can these suppliers be any better off it their customers are not buying their stuff any more?

  9. start using healthy, environmentally friendly, sustainable food.

    As if schools, hospitals and care homes are currently providing unhealthy, earth-raping, unsustainable foods. They aren’t.

  10. The Pedant-General

    I’ll buy unhealthy. You should have seen the stuff they served my wife after our first child was born.

  11. I think the name ‘Soil Association’ sounds better in the original:

    Bodensverbindung

  12. For a moment, let us assume, against all evidence, that organic food is both healthier and more tasty than cheap stuff.

    Why the chuff should we be encouraguing this sort of thing in civil service canteens? I’d have thought we should be making the food less healthy and less appetising; that way the buggers might resign or die, thereby helping to cut the budet deficit.

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