Provoking Discussion on Health and Governing Food Policy

In the lead-up to our workshop on Governing Food Policy on the 25th of September 2015, we will be sharing a number of posts from BSUFN members to get people thinking and provoke discussion around a range of areas related to food policy.

This post addresses the issues surrounding human health in response to the five questions we are presenting for the workshop. This post was written by Durwin Banks and presents some of his thoughts on the topic. Durwin will be speaking during the Governing Food Policy Workshop in September.

Durwin Banks is a local linseed farmer (The Linseed Farm) and sits on the Board of the Brighton & Hove Food Partnership. Durwin is a representative for BSUFN’s Food Health and Education SIG and has recently taken up a place on our sterring group. You can find more of Durwin’s articles on the links between food and health here and you can follow him on Twitter @flaxfarmer.

Provoking Discussion on Health and Governing Food Policy

  •   In what ways are local, national, and global food policies and priorities interlinked?

World trade debates at high levels between powerful nations are the link to many policies and often priorities are about big money and not at all about providing good and healthy food for the world population. Commodity trading of food can distort markets but it is not wholly bad and does provide a kind of warehousing effect.

  • Does existing local, national, and international food policy reflect the needs and priorities of society?

These policies often do not reflect the need of society for good and healthy food but unfortunately does pander to the fast food which society at the moment sees as a priority.

  • Which stakeholders currently influence the production of food policy?

The largest stakeholders influencing food policy at the moment are big Pharma. They use The Food Standards Agency and the trading standards departments to ensure the lid is kept on food information that could lead to healthier populations. Laws are formulated and passed to ensure the dominance of cure rather than prevention. Examples are the Cancer Act 1939 and EU directives bringing herbal healing under the control of the MHRA. The Cancer Act largely prevents an integrated approach to cure and the EU herbal directives make it more difficult to use herbs traditionally used for thousands of years. These herbs have not damaged health and caused death but pharmaceuticals have and there is plenty of evidence of this.

  • Through what means can society engage with and influence the production of food policy? Is society currently successful in this?

For the reasons above it is very difficult to influence policy and society has been unsuccessful in ensuring health through food. The only means society can engage and have influence is through buying power and this requires food information and educating individuals in groups or one at a time. Finally the sugar debate is bearing some fruit and that shows there can be influence brought to bear but creating laws to regulate its use will be a long time coming.

When governments do act pressure can result in bad law and this happened in Denmark when a fat tax was brought in. Instead of taxing for instance manmade fats margarine, saturated fats were taxed making a mockery of any drive for a balance of healthy fats. (We are animals and have saturated fat in our bodies and have the mechanism to both assimilate and expel excess. We do not have this ability with abused fats.)

  • In what ways could BSUFN interact with food policy research, governance, and societal engagement?

The BSUFN could interact by using evidence of the impact of food on health and it would be good to formulate research in this area. Southampton University have done work on the blood of pregnant women testing for the balance of omega three and omega six. My suggestion would be a project of testing the sperm for the same things and looking at the food regimes of the suppliers of the sperm. I have not heard of any research in this area so as sperm is the beginning of new life this would be a good place to start.

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