Maybe my green credentials have been blown to pieces.
I have just voted in the European Parliament’s environment committee against calls to take action to combat ‘speculation’ that may lead to extreme price volatility in food prices, against the insistence that environmentally-friendly farming practices will increase the income of the agricultural sector and improve food security, and against demands that EU agricultural policy should focus on providing support for small-scale and organic farming systems.
On the agenda was a non-legislative report about food security. Italian and French colleagues within my group had sided with Green, GUE (far left) and some Socialist members to table a series of amendments that prompted a lively debate when we met before the meeting to discuss the Liberal Democrat (ALDE) voting intentions.
Emotionally I am opposed to the idea of ‘speculation’ in food, and I don’t have much time for commodity brokers (I always recall the film ‘Trading Places’ whenever they are mentioned), but I couldn’t agree with my French colleague who said that food could not be considered as just another product. What’s the alternative – some kind of state intervention, market control or limit on food prices? Speculation by traders may be nasty but the alternative is usually worse.
I support the idea that payments from the Common Agricultural Policy need to be linked to environmentally-friendly farming practices, but that’s a different matter from accepting that this will certainly increase the income of farmers or guarantee food security; I don’t think these claims can be accepted as a matter of faith.
Maintaining small scale farms is a nice idea but primarily is surely a matter of social policy. I don’t see that small scale farming contributes any more to guaranteeing food security than large scale farming. The same applies to organic production, which I welcome for a variety of reasons but food security is not one of them.
The sentiments behind the amendments were warm (and fluffy!), but I didn’t believe they stood up to scrutiny. We need to ensure that our agricultural policies are sustainable, but we also need to ensure that our cities are fed.
By a small majority, and with the ALDE Group split 4-2 my way, the committee rejected the amendments.