We recommend the Government sets up a Public Inquiry, led by a senior Judge.
Its concern would be to advise on the structure or body to be an authority to ensure food system players act ethically in the protection, promotion and maintenance of delivering access to sufficient supplies of safe, nutritious food for everyone in the UK and, if there are shortages and scarcities, there is fairness and equity in decision-making about roles and responsibilities.
Our current way of responding to ethical dilemmas about and within our food system is ad hoc and fragmentary, subject to self-appointed authority. This has already led to inequity, with its associated costs for people, households, communities and our health and social services.
We ended our last blogpost,(#19: Rights, responsibilities, principles and an elephant) with the question: How are we going to decide what to we do? This is a question to which there appears to be no answer.
Hence our recommendation:
We recommend the National Food Strategy puts in place the relevant people to draw up the Public Inquiry Terms of Reference in the light of at least the following:
- Every aspect of the National Food Strategy Call for Evidence (see right) requires an ethical analysis and a separate understanding of how decisions are made about, inter alia, subsidies, research funding, regulation and relationships among and with current corporate vested interests.
- Such an analysis and understanding of our food system is required as soon as possible.
- If there is access to sufficient supplies of safe, nutritious food for everyone in the UK, what does that mean for any player in the system to ensure that right is available? If they fail in delivery, what happens? Indeed, where do the limits of their responsibility lie?
- Is it possible for each player to act ethically? If not, what do they need?
- There are bigger questions too. What does it mean for the system to act ethically? In the minutia as well as other levels in the system?
- Additionally, the Inquiry will need take regard of how flexibly the system will respond in the face of inevitable future shocks.
These shocks will generate qualitatively different demands on all of us, from the individual to the powerful few who wield great authority on commercial and/or socio-political entities, some of which are supranational organisations. Pre-crisis thinking about the ethics of decision-making under such circumstances is urgent.
A link to our submission is here. Previous blogposts in this National Food Strategy series are:
#19: Rights, responsibilities, principles and an elephant
#18: The price of plums and other social exchanges
#17: A statutory funding body?
#16: A UK Food Security Institute?
#15: Drug foods and their specific risks to the food supply system
#12: Local risk and resilience
#11: City level responses to food insecurity
#10: The space between farm gate and food outlet
#9: Three scenarios and their risks to the supply chain
#8: Supply chain permutations are endless
#7: A simplified fresh produce supply chain map
#6: UK resilience to global risks to food supplies
#5: Global risks to UK food supplies
#3: The global competition for safe, nutritious food
#2: Responsibility, resilience and ethics