‘I have a very sober view of the food system’

“Are you going to be part of the problem or part of the solution?” Tim Lang asked NRCC delegates in February. Professor Lang, who lectures on food policy...

“Are you going to be part of the problem or part of the solution?” Tim Lang asked NRCC delegates in February.

Professor Lang, who lectures on food policy at City University in London, encouraged co-operative retailers to actively engage in promoting healthy eating.

In his speech at the conference he assessed current food market trends, and noted that the gap between rich and poor in terms of life expectancy (18 years) is almost as bad as in Victorian lines. Healthy eating plays a key role in this, he said, adding that food was also the single biggest driver of climate change.

“I have a very sober view of the food system. We’ve never had so much food produced but it’s catching up on us,” said Prof Lang, who has advised many international bodies, including the World Health Organization.

He argued that although Britain was not confronted with problems such clean water or food contamination, the over-supply of food remained an issue of concern across the UK.

He explained that according to a study conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization, greenhouse gas emissions from livestock could be cut by 30% if farmers across the world adopted better techniques. However, if other countries started consuming as much meat and milk as the UK and the US, all of these advantages would be lost.

Prof Lang also expressed concerns over the fact that people are being squeezed into buying cheap products of low quality. He said retail co-operatives should play an active role in providing healthy food, by selling not only what people want, but also what they need.

“Can you reduce your range? Can you get more money to growers? Are you committed or are you not?” he asked delegates.

More from the conference:

James Walton: ‘There is no room to be complacent’
Lukáš Nemcik: ‘Get to know the Customer’
Todor Ivanov: Euro Coop encourages European co-operatives to share best practices
Professor Johnston Birchall: Governance lessons from the world’s largest co-operatives
Steve Murrells: ‘We have fallen out of love with food’
Neil Turton: ‘We are a business-owned co-operative’

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