Monday 7 August 2023

The Dubious Ethics of the Great Food Reset

Picture “for a school project”

By Martin Cohen

There’s a plan afoot to change the way you eat. Meat is destroying the land, fish and chips destroys the sea and dairy is  just immoral. Open the paper and you'll see a piece on how new biotechnologies are coming to the rescue. It's all presented as a fait accompli with the result that today, we are sleepwalking to not only a "meat-free" future, but one in which there are no farm animals, no milk, no cheese, no butter - no real food in short. And that's not in our interests, nor (less obviously) in the interest of biodiversity and the environment. There's just the rhetoric that it is "for the planet" 

According to researchers at the US think-tank, RethinkX, “we are on the cusp of the fastest, deepest, most consequential disruption” of agriculture in history. And it's happening fast. They say that by 2030, the entire US dairy and cattle industry will have collapsed, as precision fermentation” – producing animal proteins more efficiently via microbes – “disrupts food production as we know it”.
Theres trillions of dollars at stake and very little public debate about it. Instead, theres a sophisticated campaign to persuade people that this revolution is both inevitable and beyond criticism.

No wonder Marx declared that food lay at the heart of all political structures and warned of an alliance of industry and capital intent on both controlling and distorting food production.

The Great Food Reset a social and political upheaval that affects everyone, yet at the moment the debate is largely controlled by the forces promoting the changes: powerful networks of politicians and business leaders, such as the United Nations Environment Program, the so-called EAT-Lancet "Commission" (it's not really a commission, how words mislead!) - and the World Economic Forum, all sharing a rationale of 'sustainable development', market expansion, societal design, and resource control. Vocal supporters are the liberal media and academics who, perversely, present the movement as though part of a grassroots revolution.

There have been plenty of political programmes designed to push people into ‘the future’. Often, they flirt with increasingly intolerant compulsion. So too, with The Great Food Reset. Governments are already imposing heavy burdens on traditional farming and attempting to penalise the sale of animal products in the marketplace - either on the grounds that they are ‘unhealthy’ or, even more sweepingly, that they are bad for the environment.

In recent months, the steam has gone out of the “vegan food revolution”, mainly because people like their traditional foods more than the new ones, which typically are made from the four most lucrative cash crops: wheat, rice, maize and soybean. Incredibly, and dangerously, from over half a million plant species on the planet, we currently rely on just these four crops for more than three-quarters of our food supply. Animal sourced foods are our link to food variety.

But there's another reason to defend animal farming, which is that for much of the world, small farms are humane farms, with the animals enjoying several years of high quality life in the open fields and air. The new factory foods have no needs for animals and the argument that, well, better dead than farmed, just doesn't hold water – at least for traditional farms. It's the fundamental ethical dilemma: yes, death is terrible – but is it worse to have never lived?

In recent decades, we’ve seen many areas of life remodelled, whether we wanted them to be or not.. But to dictate how we grow food, how we cook food, and how we eat it, may just be a step too far.


Anonymous said...

It's a terrifying issue. I feel that 'dubious ethics' is an overly polite phrase and would prefer 'dastardly plan' or 'arrogant stupidity'.

Anonymous said...

It's a terrifying issue. I feel the phrase 'dubious ethics' too polite and would prefer 'malicious intent'. Vandana Shiva rips apart their arguments. . ;

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comment, Anon, which I appreciate has been a bit split apart by our system here. Yes, of course, "dubious" is a bit tongue-in-cheek! But I also feel there is an element of inconsistency and contradiction in the anti-farming movement. After all, you might expect such groups to advocate for better, more humane farming. But often they instead attack this as also "evil"!

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