Would you sign this Charter if the NFU and government rethink their GMO and food export drives?

.

nfu charter

The National Farmers Union is urging the public to sign its charter and help to turn around a decline in self-sufficiency from 1991, when the country produced 75% of its own food, to the current production of 62%.

nfu charter2

It states that today, August 14, is the day British food supplies would run out if everything produced in a year was stored and eaten from January.

Producing as much of our food as we can is socially, economically and environmentally advantageous, but it will require middlemen to give food producers a transparently fair deal.

Two reservations:

The move to produce more food should not be used as a lever to introduce GM crops, supported by the NFU and government as this technology cannot be contained and would ‘infect’ crops of the same family grown many miles away, removing choice from conventional and organic farmers.

National and European governments should support the policy of greater self-sufficiency instead of prioritising food exports – see the 2012 delegation to China, headed by DEFRA minister Owen Paterson and Dacian Ciolos, the EU Commissioner travelling to China in July hoping to boost the global trade in food.

 

To sign the charter go to http://www.nfuonline.com/news/latest-news/nfu-campaign-calls-for-more-british-food/

 

 

 

Civil society ‘chalks up its first success’ in the Twitter Age; shades of things to come?

Prem Sikka, Professor of Accounting at the University of Essex Business School sends the news that the Twitter age is about to chalk up its first success in the grey world of corporate accounting.

the conversation logo

In an article in The Conversation, he records that – for the first time – activists have demanded and secured a standard against the wishes of the accountancy establishment.

prem tax post

Bloomberg has reported that the European Union will adopt country by country (CbC) reporting to enable citizens to scrutinise corporate practices and ask critical questions.  The aim is to make large companies disclose the taxes they pay and profits they make on a country-by-country basis.

Going through the usual channels

Meetings were sought with the more traditional accounting standard setters, such as the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) and the Financial Reporting Council (FRC), but they showed no interest.

Sikka records that considerable opposition came from the professional accountancy bodies, major accounting firms and corporations. The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales was vehemently opposed to it. Deloitte said “we do not believe that imposing incremental country by country disclosure in financial statements prepared under IFRSs is warranted”.

A survey in 2010 did not show enthusiasm for CbC among FTSE 100 directors. The usual arguments were that disclosure would be costly, even though companies should already have the information about the performance of their subsidiaries in each country of their operation. The cost of publishing this internally held information is negligible.

The ‘civil society’ process

premIn 2003, Professor Sikka – as director of the Association for Accountancy and Business Affairs (AABA) – encouraged Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK, a chartered accountant, to make the first draft of a proposal that could highlight flight of capital, profits and the mismatch between profits, employees, assets and tax. The draft was published in later 2003 and has continued to be refined.

The main turning point was the support given by NGOs, such as Christian Aid, Publish What You Pay (PWYP), War on Want, Tax Justice Network, Oxfam and many others, in the UK, the EU, developing countries and the US. The credit for this must go to Richard Murphy. This campaign was joined by some Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and also Labour MPs. Sikka adds:

“Much to the dismay of the accounting establishment, their pressure persuaded the EU to launch a consultation exercise in 2010 and has now resulted in partial implementation of CbC. No doubt, there is more to come”.

CbC is the culmination of a decade-long campaign by civil society organisations in the social media age. When fully enacted, it will be the first accounting standard formulated and developed by civil society rather than the traditional accounting standard setters.

He concludes that in the digital era it may well be possible to mobilise alternative centres of power . . .  

 

 

West Midlands MEP advocates the ‘Green Deal’ for social housing

phillip bennion2In a newsletter this week (not yet available on his website) Local Euro MP Phil Bennion expresses the hope that the government’s ‘Green Deal’ will be more widely extended to help people in rented social housing:

“Millions of homes in the UK do not have full double-glazing. More than half do not have enough insulation or an efficient condensing boiler. Most do not even have proper thermostats. The Green Deal will make a difference . . . The next step is to help tenants in social housing cut their bills too, using a similar approach”.

green deal defra logoPhil Bennion pointed out that not only could tenants facing growing fuel poverty be made more comfortable and enabled to cut their bills, but that there would be increased employment opportunities for those carrying out energy efficiency upgrades. He continued:

“In the European Parliament’s Employment committee, I’m working on a report on the financial pressure facing tenants in social housing. The big worry is fuel poverty, with soaring energy bills squeezing budgets for food and other basic essentials.

“Rolling out the Green Deal approach to social housing would be tricky, but it would help tackle fuel poverty where the need is greatest. In the West Midlands, many housing associations are already making the most of similar schemes (Ed. see Tipton and Walsall).

“I want to see the EU keep up the pressure so governments and local authorities are given the tools to help tenants in social housing to cut their bills too. The process needs to be as practical and accessible as possible.”

*

encraft logoOn the website of Encraft, the environmental engineering firm which prepared a full feasibility study for the city, working in partnership with Localise West Midlands, we read that the eventual aim of Birmingham’s Green Deal project is to retrofit over 14,000 private homes, small businesses and social housing units across Birmingham with the full range of energy efficiency and microgeneration technologies.

birmingham energy savers3An LWM consultant hopes that Birmingham Energy Savers* will indeed be given ‘the tools’ it needs to engage social housing providers with the Green Deal and to make it financially viable for them to improve their housing stock and reduce fuel poverty.

 

* website currently ‘under development’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Face-to-face caring and infrastructural renewal will provide the backbone for a labour-intensive future

colin hines 6A Guardian article by LWM’s co-founder and convenor of the Green New Deal Group, Colin Hines, is summarised here.

The neoliberal export-led growth model, the increasingly discredited single currency and the utterly unchallenged single market are wrecking Europe which is facing a real nightmare: a shrinking full-time job market and hence lack of demand to keep the economy soldiering on.

The EU single market countries must reject the impossible dream of export-led growth and concentrate on their domestic economies. The much lauded “single market” is 20 years old and its emphasis on the free movement of goods, money and people is rarely recognised as being at the heart of the present European crisis.

It allowed German banks to lend to Greeks to import German cars they couldn’t afford, and the national debts that resulted are being dealt with by taking money from pensioners and the less well-off.

Meanwhile, the flow of migration and the inability of countries to control their borders under the single market are increasing tensions across the continent.

It is time for the rest of us to ask the fundamental question: what will all these European countries, newly invigorated with lower social conditions and declining domestic demand, be able to export, and to whom?

An alternative?

Transform the EU into a co-operative grouping of countries that provides a secure future for its people. Cross-border issues like climate change, pollution and crime require intra-European co-operation, but the flow of goods, money and people must be slowed dramatically to enable nations to take back control of their future and protect their citizens.

It’s time for Europe to reject the single market and prioritise the domestic market, ditching austerity in favour of encouraging activity within the member states to rekindle demand, generate jobs and allow an eventual level of taxation to reduce national debt.

Europe must reject the impossible dream of export-led growth and concentrate on domestic-led growth. Face-to-face caring and infrastructural renewal will provide the backbone for a labour-intensive future for most countries. The former can be paid for by the state, particularly once domestic and international tax dodging are tackled.

With some modest state pump priming, most of the funding for infrastructure programmes, such as more housing, making every building energy tight, diverse and locally orientated transport systems etc, can be provided by pension and insurance funds and from personal savings via bonds and ISAs.

The secure returns that can be earned from such investments are just what such funding sources need. The local jobs and business opportunities provided will help to rebuild the tax base and allow, at last, for a sustainable revitalisation of Europe’s economy.

 

Read the whole article here.

 

 

Green New Deal, piloted in Birmingham, now advocated Europe-wide

The Green New Deal Group inspired Jon Morris of Localise West Midlands, a thinktank promoting local supply chains for sustainability, and Matthew Rhodes [far right] of low-carbon solutions engineering firm Encraft to present the award-winning business plan, developed and championed by Keith Budden [left] of the Birmingham Environment Partnership. This was the foundation for the City Council’s Birmingham Energy Savers scheme.

As EU leaders gather around the German Chancellor’s dinner table to discuss austerity versus growth, Colin Hines, LWM’s co-founder and convenor of the Green New Deal Group, sent a press release about a discussion paper Help Save Europe With A Green New Deal makes the case for crucial new topics and solutions to be put at the top of their menu.

Read more on http://ourbirmingham.org/?p=1679

New video for sustainable CAP reform and food sovereignty

LWM are a signatory to the European Food Declaration which has been promoted to guide CAP reform towards social justice and sustainability over the last year or so.

The ongoing campaign is hosted at www.nyelenieurope.net, home of the European food sovereignty forum,

They have produced a three minute video linked from their page on CAP reform to let people know what is at stake. Please do go to the site and watch it.

The campaign reports:

A lot has happened since the start of the European Food Declaration:
–  we submitted our suggestions for a better CAP in July 2010 and
– a paper called ‘The missing option’ last January;  we asked you to sign that as well in a first newsletter in January.
– in August we had a great event in Austria: the Nyeleni Forum on Food Sovereignty.
400 People from 34 European countries attended. See the website for reports, also for the Declaration that was agreed on and published on the last day, 21 August.

Now Commissioner Ciolos has presented his proposals for CAP legislation, on 12 October.

Their press release is copied below.

Karen Leach

Brussels, 12 October 2011

CAP 2104-2020:

European Commission proposals fail to tackle food speculation and environmental crisis.

sustainable family farming would continue to disappear

 

Brussels, October 12, 2011 – The European Commission announced proposals for the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) today. Essential steps towards tackling rising food speculation are missing, and the proposed policy will fail to bring substantial benefits to sustainable family farmers, citizens and the environment, according to the ‘European Movement for Food Sovereignty and Another CAP’ (Foodsovcap).

Instead of introducing clear market measures that stabilise farm prises at a fair level, the Commission suggests spending money on insurance schemes and on the so called ‘crisis and globalisation funds’which are said to compensate farmers for their losses in times of environmental or food crises, and for the adverse results of the liberalisation of the markets. These measures will do nothing to prevent rising prices for resources but low incomes for farmers, nor will they ensure better pay or working conditions for food workers, claim the Foodsovcap movement. The proposals will not counter the flourishing speculation on agricultural markets resulting in higher food prices for people in Europe.

Irmi Salzer, from European coordination Via Campesina said, “Europe is facing big environmental and farm crises and it is disappointing that the Commission has missed this golden opportunity to take a first step to ensure that European farmers will no longer lose out to agro-industry, supermarkets, speculators and the export companies. It seems that a trade- fixated food industry will still be able to continue making a lot of money, while farmers in Europe disappear, raw materials from the South are shipped to us at a high cost for the environment, and the people, and European rural areas abandon”

 

Stanka Becheva, food campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe continued: “Agriculture in Europe is in a mess – with farmers and wildlife disappearing at an unprecedented rate. We need a root and branch reform of European farming that benefits people and the environment. We need strict and bold measures addressing the challenges we face that also protect our soil, water, seeds and biodiversity for future generations. And today’s proposals don’t look any good.”

Alexandra Strickner from the European Attac Network emphasized: “Instead of acknowledging the failure of unregulated agricultural markets and consequently introducing measures such as the management of production, public food stocks and new mechanisms to allow the negotiation of fair prices for farmers, food workers and consumers on the one hand and less profits for the food industry, super markets and financial speculators on the other hand, the Commission continues to propose ‘business as usual’ policies.”

The Foodsovcap movement proposed a policy option that promotes a Common Food and Agriculture Policy in Europe that puts the interest of farmers, food workers, consumers and the environment in Europe and globally at its heart [1]. The future CAP must move European agriculture towards agro-ecologicalmethods of production. Such a CAP reform must include:

  • public supply management to balance supply and demand of agricultural products and avoid structural surpluses. This will prevent prices from fluctuating excessively. Various instruments adapted to the different productions have to be developed;
  • management of agricultural imports to avoid imports at prices below the European average cost of production. This should be linked to the banning of all forms of market dumping in other countries;
  • prioritizing the maintaince of sustainable family farming all over Europe, which involves numerous farmers producing food and caring for the countryside;
  • Setting a cap on direct payments as well as defining strict environmental and social criteria – only farmers respecting those criteria should be eligible for direct payments;
  • transparency along the food chain so that citizens know how their food is produced, where it comes from, what it contains and what is included in the price paid by consumers;
  • an end to the negotiation of ‘free-trade’ agreements between the EU and third countries (Mercosur, Canada, Ukraine,…) which would benefit companies and not citizens.

***

[1] The MISSING option for the Common Agricultural Policy post 2013: http://www.europeanfooddeclaration.org/documents

Proposal for a New European Agriculture and Food policy that meets the challenges of this century:

http://www.europeanfooddeclaration.org/documents

We are proud to present a short video (3 minutes only) that offers an analysis of what is wrong and some suggestions for alternatives. It can be found from October 12 on www.nyelenieurope.net

We also recommend the short film on food speculation which explains the basic mechanism of excessive speculation and why regulation is needed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpM9XxJ-vo4

***

For more information, please contact:

Irmi Salzer, European Coordination Via Campesina

E-Mail: irmi.salzer@gmx.at

Stanka Becheva, food campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe
Tel: +32 (0) 2893 1025, stanka.becheva@foeeurope.org

Alexandra Strickner, European ATTAC Network

E-Mail: alexandra.strickner@attac.at

Gert Engelen, advocacy officer Vredeseilanden

Tel.: 0032 497 38 13 77, Gert.Engelen@vredeseilanden.be

Greet Goverde, secretary of Platform Aarde Boer Consument, the Netherlands

Tel.: 0031 24 3443678, h.goverde@chello.nl

Is the free-market dream over?

In the Guardian on Wednesday Colin Hines agreed with columnist Martin Kettle that Europe’s free-market dream is over – adding, “not before time”.

He notes the crumbling of support for open borders, “with its damaging financial flows, relocation of manufacturing and destabilisingly rapid migration from east to west”, proposing “a socially cohesive, green Europe that can provide its people with a sense of long-term security and control over their own national future”.

As a first step, Colin Hines advocates a co-operative EU in which social and environmental measures designed to improve domestic conditions would no longer be undermined by short-sighted neoliberal strategies.

Protective borders should be reintroduced in order to address the UK’s growing inequality, job insecurity and economic slowdown and pan-European problems like climate change and the trafficking of people, weapons and drugs.