Liberal Democrats

Kay Barnard

Working For You


On Fair Trade

Not just dusty academic research:

World trade and large-scale agribusiness impact on everyone's food supplies and on the environment on which our children's future depends. It is hugely important not just to everyone in the South West region, which has superb record on environmentally-friendly farming, but to all of us in Britain.

The world's food supplies remain a contentious issue. People in the developed world continue to suffer from obesity and the diseases it brings like diabetes and joint problems. There are clear links with some forms of cancer, not to mention heart disease and strokes. Meanwhile there is still hunger and poverty in less developed countries and even in growing countries like China and India.

Something had gone wrong with food production, trade and distribution across the world. The market is dominated by large companies like Cargill, which sells food stuffs as commodities, and Monsanto which introduced genetic modification, increasing sales of crop strains resistant to its weedkillers. Our supermarkets dominate food sales in the UK to an extent that many think undermines suppliers' ability to achieve fair prices.

How can we change things?

We can act ourselves to change the things we eat. That action itself changes the market. If we don't eat pizza or doughnuts, shops will stop selling them. With climate change on the near horizon, we should be thinking very seriously indeed about where our food comes from, who supplies it and the choices we make.

The World Trade Organisation remains the place where countries fight disputes over trade. The EU represents European countries as a bloc, to counter the power of bigger countries like America and China.

But there is no international framework to police the actions of companies who trade across the world's state boundaries. This is just as true of food sales as it is of international banking.  Lack of oversight inside the EU of its banking sector certainly played a role in the collapse.

We will undoubtedly need international cooperation for a fair-trade framework and to control the financial sector which nearly bankrupted the world.

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