Corporations and scientists in the pockets of big pharma are always on the lookout for a perfect opportunity to peddle their creations on an unsuspecting public. Brexit and the pandemic have given these capitalist opportunists a perfect situation to push for the loosening of legislation controlling the quality and safety of our food; both locally grown and imported from abroad. Westminster is hell bent on removing environmental and health safeguards that environmentalists fought for in this country for decades. So, what is happening now at Westminster? The Tory government in London has introduced a Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill which would set different rules from the EU following Brexit and has asked all devolved nations including Scotland to allow gene-edited crops to be grown. The Scottish governments environment secretary MSP Mairi McAllan dismissed the idea saying that Scotland will set its own food standards under devolution and will not accept any constraint placed on its food policies.
What is gene-editing? Gene editing basically allows scientists to change a plant or animal’s DNA. Many experts would consider it one step before GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organism) which is currently banned in Europe and the UK as a whole. Since Brexit, the UK government is hell bent on eroding all our food and environment safety laws that we as a country fought so hard to achieve over the past many decades. I have previously in my columns highlighted citizens to be vigilant against corporations, lobbyists and greedy politicians who are now convinced that the only way to grow and feed the population in the UK post-Brexit is via gene-edited or GMO foods!
Under the UK’s internal market legislation, introduced by the Tory government at Westminster, anything approved for sale in one part of the UK must be available across the whole of the UK. This legislation basically undermines “Devolution” in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We are already seeing the chaos caused by the “Northern Ireland Protocol Bill” and its hasty signing off as an election promise in their manifesto by the Tories in the 2019 general elections. MSP Mairi McAllan has written to her Westminster counterpart saying: “If the UK government is determined to press ahead with this legislation, it must take steps to ensure that its revisions to the definition of a GMO (genetically modified organism) do not force products on Scotland which do not meet standards here without the consent of the Scottish Parliament”. Simultaneously, also raising concerns about the impact of the bill on Scotland’s food exports to the European Union which currently still has a ban in place for GMO’s.
So, what can we do in Scotland to stop this mad onslaught on our food and its impact on Scottish soil and water in the coming decades if this bill is passed? Once again be informed about the technology that is being promoted, ask questions to your elected MSP/MP and try to understand the link between corporations like Monsanto, politicians and large-scale food producers. The citizens always pay the price when things go wrong, let’s make sure this does not happen to Scotland’s land, water, air and health of its population.
*Originally written & published in the Peeblesshire News and WION.
This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on the good food nation bill introduced in the Scottish Parliament last year in a two-part series.
Last Sunday I was invited to be part of the BBC Radio 4 “The Food Programme”. You Can Cook along with Locavore; Edinburgh’s new organic and ethical supermarket. Our organisations were the only two social enterprises that took part in this programme that assess the country’s health and food system, and looked at what opportunities and hurdles lie ahead as the Good Food Nation Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament last year by MSP Mairi Gougeon for Angus North and Mearns and Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands.
So, what is the Good Food Nation Bill? The Bill requires the Scottish Ministers and certain public bodies to create Good Food Nation Plans. The relevant bodies identified in the Bill are health boards and local authorities (or councils). Other public bodies may be required to produce plans in the future. The Scottish Ministers and relevant authorities need to have regard to these plans when carrying out certain functions. These functions will be set out by the Scottish Ministers in secondary legislation that will be considered by the Parliament. The Bill was created to support the ambition of the Scottish Government that Scotland becomes a ‘Good Food Nation’. In 2014, the Scottish Government published a discussion document titled ‘Recipe for Success: Scotland’s National Food and Drink Policy – Becoming a Good Food Nation’ which made a commitment that by 2025, Scotland will be “a Good Food Nation, where people from every walk of life take pride and pleasure in, and benefit from, the food they produce, buy, cook, serve, and eat each day”.
The Bill encompasses the following key concepts:
1. the people of Scotland taking a keen interest in their food;
2. the people who serve and sell food ensuring that it is good quality food;
3. everyone in Scotland having easy access to the healthy and nutritious food that they need;
4. dietary related diseases declining;
5. the environmental impact of food consumption decreasing; and
6. Scottish producers ensuring that what they produce is increasingly healthy and environmentally sound.
Children in Scotland have responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the Good Food Nation Bill, calling for the right to food to be incorporated into Scots law. Some readers may be aware that the ‘right to food’ Scotland bill covers very different aspects of food and was proposed by Labour MSP Rhona Grant and the intention is to incorporate the bill in Scots law. In the final part of my column, I will look at what the Good Food Nation Bill actually does in practice and the importance of linking it with the Right to Food Scotland Bill in order to have a positive and long-term impact on Scotland’s population and environment.
Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 4th March 2022
This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on global warming and the opportunity we have right here in Scotland as the host nation of the upcoming COP26 global climate event in Glasgow.
It’s been over a year now since the pandemic struck all humanity no matter where you lived in the world, rich or poor. We are now facing a double whammy from mother nature vis-à-vis Covid and climate catastrophes all across the planet. Scotland is to hold the next United Nations Climate Change Conference later this year. For nearly three decades the UN has been bringing together almost every country on earth for global climate summits – called COPs – which stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’. During this time climate change has gone from being a fringe issue to a global priority. This year will be the 26th annual summit – giving it the name COP26. So, what can we look forward to with COP26? Leaders of more than 190 countries will be attending the Scottish event and we are hoping that our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will seize the opportunity to highlight Scotland’s pioneering role and contribution in renewable energy across these four nations.
Before COP26, many countries from around the world were signatories to what came to be known as the Paris agreement. This was COP21 and took place in Paris in 2015. The Paris Agreement’s central aim was to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Under the Paris Agreement, countries committed to bring forward national plans setting out how much they would reduce their emissions – known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or ‘NDCs’. They agreed that every five years they would come back with an updated plan that would reflect their highest possible ambition at that time.
What have we done collectively since this historic signing of the Paris Agreement? Rich and powerful countries like the US, had left the treaty in 2020 under the Trump administration but have formally re-joined this year under current President Biden. Iran, Iraq and Libya – all among the 14-member Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) – as well as Yemen and Eritrea have not ratified the agreement. Some of the pros of the Paris agreement are that it has global support as 197 countries have signed the document and will have the ability to bring all parties together to address the real issue of keeping the earth’s temperature to a rise of 2 degrees Celsius maximum wile aiming for 1.5 Celsius by the end of this century. The temperature increase would decrease water supplies and crop levels. In addition, melting ice would raise sea levels, flooding coastal communities and destroying thousands, if not millions of homes. By committing to reduce greenhouse gases, the Paris agreement is aimed at preventing these ecosystem disruptions.
The cons of the Paris agreement are that its difficult to enforce on a global level and has a massive impact on energy related jobs e.g. Fossil fuels. On top of this you have complex rules that varies from country to country and actually may not go far enough to slow global warming. Thirdly the rich countries are manipulating the process and figures to protect a backlash from their own citizens.
Finally, where does that leave us as citizens of Scotland and what can we do to influence politicians of all ideologies and the big corporations that are driving this profit-making madness to human extinction? Please check out my next column in September for the real reasons behind the apathy from pursuing urgent policies both locally and nationally, the current status-quo’s main benefactors along with possible ideas and solutions to empower citizens of the world to help save our only home!
Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 6th August 2021.