Monthly Archives: August 2015

What have BSUFN been talking about? A website word cloud

The Brighton and Sussex Universities Food Network covers a very diverse range of topics related to food. Our website hosts blogs and articles written by members about their work or areas of interest. Here’s a word cloud which gives a visual representation of the topics on our website created using the most frequently used words in our articles.

The most common words to appear on the BSUFN website

The most common words to appear on the BSUFN website

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The Global Food Nexus goes into Orbit

One of BSUFN’s special interest groups is the Global Food Nexus. We might need to review the name of this SIG because recent news from the International Space Station means that the global food system now stretches beyond the globe.

Last week NASA announced that astronaunts on the International Space Station orbiting Earth are now able to eat the lettuce they have been growing. Known as the ‘Veggie’ project, over the past year or so NASA have been undertaking a study on the International Space Station to grow food from seeds with the intention of developing a more sustainable means of space travel.

Astronauts are now able to grow and eat their own food – with some safety precautions and testing. This takes the global food system into orbit.

Crops growing on the International Space Station for the Veggie research project. Image: NASA, 2015

Crops growing on the International Space Station for the Veggie research project. Image: NASA, 2015

It is possible to argue that although the produce is grown and eaten in space, it is really still part of the global food system because all of the resources required for this process – people, physical infrastrucutre, soil, seeds – come from Earth. However, this current study on the International Space Station is being done with a long-term view to being able to provide a sustainable source of food for sapce travel to other planets, possibly with a view to growing crops on Mars in the future.

Other reports on the ‘Veggie’ project on the International Space Station can be found via NASA, The Guardian, and New Scientist, among others.

New Speakers Announced for our Governing Food Policy Workshop

Governing Food Policy Workshop

Friday 25th of September 2015

14:00 – 17:30

Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Room 2.10 – University of Sussex campus, Falmer

This workshop sees the launch of a new Food Policy and Governance special interest group (SIG) hosted by BSUFN. The purpose of this workshop is to discuss the broad topic of governing food policy in the context of work being undertaken by BSUFN members. Food policy is considered broadly as any policy of an organisation or governing institution which is related to food. Discussion among workshop participants aims to inform any areas of interest and priorities for activities and collaboration within the Food Policy and Governance SIG and BSUFN more broadly.

The workshop will centre on a series of questions to provoke discussion but these questions should not be considered to be exhaustive and other related topics for discussion are welcomed.

  • In what ways are local, national, and global food policies and priorities interlinked?
  • Does existing local, national, and international food policy reflect the needs and priorities of society?
  • Which stakeholders currently influence the production of food policy?
  • Through what means can society engage with and influence the production of food policy? Is society currently successful in this?
  • In what ways could BSUFN interact with food policy research, governance, and societal engagement?

Sessions will be structured as ‘quick fire’ introductions followed by a period of open discussion among workshop participants. Speakers will each be given ten minutes to introduce a topic concerning food policy within their area of interest. A provisional programme is now available below.

The workshop will be followed by a BSUFN social in Brighton to start the new academic year. Booking for the meal is essential. Details are available here.

Time Session
14:00 Welcome and Introduction

Rachael Taylor (SPRU, University of Sussex)

14:10 Food Policy and Sustainability at an International Scale
Saurabh Arora (SPRU, University of Sussex) Sustainability Standards
Ruth Segal (SPRU, University of Sussex) International Agricultural Research Agendas
Elise Wach (Institute of Development Studies) Seed Sovereignty
14:40 Open discussion
14:55 Food Industry and Food Policy in Governing Bodies
Erik Millstone (SPRU, University of Sussex) Food Industry and the EU
Peter Senker (University of East London) Economics and Innovation
Durwin Banks (The Linseed Farm and Brighton & Hove Food Partnership) Health and Diet
15:25 Open discussion
15:40 Tea / coffee break
16:00 Local Food Policy in Brighton & Hove and East Sussex
  Emily O’Brien (Brighton & Hove Food Partnership) Local Food Systems
Bella Wheeler (Social Work, University of Sussex) Food Poverty in Brighton
16:20 Open discussion
16:35 Break out group discussions

Rachael Taylor (SPRU, University of Sussex)

16:55 Feedback and open discussion
17:30 Close

Contrasting Food Corporations and Economics with Peasant Farmers and Sustainability

This is the second in a series of posts to provoke discussion about the global food system and influences on food policy prior to our Governing Food Policy Workshop to be held on the 25th of September 2015. In this post, Peter Senker contrasts the current role of multinational food corporations with peasant farmers and contemporary efforts to consider human health and environmental sustainability in the food system. Peter presents a discord between economically-driven food production and marketing industries and small-scale farmers and independent retailers.

Peter Senker worked as a Senior Fellow in SPRU, University of Sussex, from 1972 until 1995 when he retired. Despite retiring 20 years ago Peter is still very active in academic research and continues to publish his work. Peter has recently taken a position on the BSUFN steering group representing the Food Cultures and Technologies special interest group.

Contrasting Food Corporations and Economics with Peasant Farmers and Sustainability

We all know in general  about  the literature that Adam Smith wrote  more than a couple of hundred years ago about the benefits of markets in which suppliers compete with each other to meet the needs of consumers; and about how an ‘invisible hand’ ensures that each supplier striving for his own advantage benefits Society.

This sort of thinking still dominates the minds of most policy makers worldwide. But enormous quantities of research has clearly shown that this stuff does not apply to the modern multinational agricultural, food production, marketing and distribution industries.

Massive quantities of research have shown clearly that these industries are dominated by small numbers of huge multinational corporations whose central objective is to increase their profits.  They do this mainly by means of strenuous efforts to reduce the costs of the inputs they buy – from agricultural products to labour to transport – and by increasing the price they get from the sale of the products they produce, market and distribute. In reducing the costs of their inputs, the nutritional qualities of the foods they produce and market are of little interest to these corporations. In fact, from a nutritional point of view, a huge quantity of foods sold –particularly packaged foods sold at high prices in supermarkets – is not particularly nutritious, and indeed, is often harmful to their consumers’ health (obesity, diabetes etc.).

Large-scale food processing factory

Large-scale food processing factory

The corporations are happy so long as billions of customers can be persuaded to buy their products in vast quantities. The corporations spend many millions of pounds – including expenditure on research & development and innovation – on reducing the costs of inputs –taking some ingredients out, substituting cheaper ones etc. They spend billions on advertising etc., in persuading customers that the products they produce are tasty and nutritious.

In contrast, billions of peasants and small farmers around the world produce nutritious traditional tasty foods mainly for themselves and their families, largely by traditional means, and sell any surplus on markets.  Over the centuries, and all over the world, traditional farming has often produced and deployed substantial positive innovations to cultivation. But the huge resources derived by multinational corporations which they secure from their profitable operations are used continually to increase the proportion of land used, and agricultural and food production and distribution undertaken by those corporations.

Peasant farmers in Amhara Region, Ethiopia

Peasant farmers in Amhara Region, Ethiopia

In addition, there is a small but growing number of independent farmers, food producers, restauranteurs, etc., who treat the production and sale of nutritious food at the same time as minimising its harmful environmental impact – as their “profession”. This is analogous to the way in which doctors treat their patients with the main aim of helping them to recover from illness and stay healthy.

In summary, the present world agricultural and food production and distribution system is rubbish (“Dysfunctional” is the more respectable word used in my academic publications).

 

BSUFN would like your thoughts on this topic. Do think the current global food system is dysfunctional? What works well in the current food system? What do you think needs to be changed? What role can BSUFN play in this dialogue? Is there a need for BSUFN to support or undertake cross-disciplinary research? Could BSUFN take a role in publicising information to a wider audience? Could BSUFN get involved in advising policy-makers in the food sector?

You can get in touch with us by posting in the comments section below, via the Creating a Network for You page, or by e-mailing us at food.network@sussex.ac.uk.

 

Peter’s comments are drawn from two of his recent publications:

  • Senker, P. (2013)  ‘Arable agriculture, food, technology choice and inequality’, In: Cudworth, E., Senker, P. and Walker, K. (Eds) Technology, Society and Inequality: New Horizons and Contested Futures, Peter Lang, New York, NY, pp.105–19
  • Senker, P. (2015) The triumph of neoliberalism and the world dominance of capitalism, Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation, available here

Network Social – Meal and Drinks in Brighton – 25th September

We’ll be starting the 2015-16 academic year with a network-wide social evening. The social will be on the evening of Friday the 25th of September, following our Governing Food Policy Workshop that afternoon.

Meal – 18:30 – Silo restaurant – Upper Gardener Street, North Laines, Brighton – Booking is essential, see below

Drinks – 21:00 – North Laines pub and micro-brewery – Glouster Place, North Laines, Brighton

You can find more details about the social evening and reserve you place for the meal at Silo here.

The workshop, held on the University of Sussex campus in Falmer, will finish at 17:30. We will then make our way to Silo Restaurant in the North Laines for 18:30 where we will be treated to their tasting menu.

The meal will cost £28 per person which excludes drinks – regretably, BSUFN are unable to pay the cost so you will be responsible for paying for your own meal. Vegetarian and vegan diets are catered for but if you have any other dietary requirements or food allergies it is essential that you let us know when you reserve your space to ensure that Silo is able to cater for your needs.

Spaces for the meal at Silo are limited so booking to join us is essential. You can book your place for the meal using the form here. The restaurant will charge a surcharge if you book a place to attend and don’t come.

After the meal we will move to the North Laines pub which has an onsite micro-brewery. You do not need to book a space to join us at the pub so if you are unable to come for the meal for any reason you can meet us at the pub at 21:00.

We hope you will join us for our social evening and celebrate some of the best of Brighton’s catering outlets and an excelent food waste reduction intitiative. Please feel free to bring family but note that space for the meal is limited. Come and get to know others in the Network in a social setting as we gear up for the new academic year.