Archive for the 'Climate change' Category

Why food crime can’t be ignored

OAT_A handbook of food crime [FC]We’re pleased to announce that A handbook of food crime, by Allison Gray and Ronald Hinch, has been chosen as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title. Find out more about the award here.

In this blog piece, author Allison Gray explains what food crime is and why it can’t be ignored.

“When people learn that my research involves food crime, they often gasp, lean toward me and ask ‘so, you study people stealing a lot of food’? Even for the hundredth time, I offer a small laugh in return, followed by a deep breath, and proceed to watch their eyes widen and eyebrows furrow as I turn their forks into weapons.

Food crime involves the range of systemic harms, injustices, and crimes involving the production, processing, marketing, distribution, consumption, and disposal of food. It includes the use of slave labour in the cocoa industry, deadly salmonella outbreaks, genetic dehorning and the unethical care provided to ‘food animals’, food waste and the impact of food production on climate change. The consequences impact human, animal, and environmental victims, often simultaneously.

“Food crime involves the range of systemic harms, injustices, and crimes involving the production, processing, marketing, distribution, consumption, and disposal of food.”

These issues are happening around the world, yet people are not aware of them. This should not be a surprise given the physical and psychological distance between individuals and food today. Food systems today are run by corporations (agribusinesses) using highly industrial processes, within a political-economic context of ‘cheap capitalism’. Local farming populations are dwindling and food manufacturing occurs in poor rural areas, hidden from the bulk of urbanite populations. Home gardens and backyard animals are being replaced by microwavable meals and manoeuvring through a drive thru at a fast-food restaurant.

One of our goals in A handbook of food crime was to draw attention to these social conditions that facilitate food harms and crimes and their consequences. To think criminologically about food means recognising that these systemic issues are not mere coincidences or weaknesses of our risk-based society. Nutritiously-poor, unsafe, and fraudulent food, produced through unfair, unjust, and dangerous labour, marketed for profit, distributed unevenly, harming ecological systems, is not normal. It is unacceptable.

“Environmental harm, particularly anthropocentric climate change, is arguably the most pressing issue today.”

Environmental harm, particularly anthropocentric climate change, is arguably the most pressing issue today. The United Nations (UN) Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) announced this year that the world has only 12 years to drastically transform its practices and avoid catastrophic consequences associated with climate change. Unprecedented changes are urgently needed to avoid the danger in moving above 1.5o C and the deadly floods, fires, droughts, and poverty that accompany it.

Food systems, particularly animal agriculture, are leading contributors to climate change. The production of livestock and animal products dominates environmental impacts involving carbon footprints, air and water pollution, and land use. Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 51% of anthropocentric greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and meat-free human diets can reduce GHG emissions by up to 50% of current levels. Unfortunately, it is a vicious cycle where agricultural land, increasingly subject to devastating droughts, floods, and carbon dioxide levels, becomes less efficient and produces less nutritious food.

“Big problems require big solutions, and there is a role for everyone.”

Big problems require big solutions, and there is a role for everyone. Producers need to act ethically, manufacturers need to accept corporate social responsibility, and governments need to create and enforce regulations that mitigate food harms and crimes. Consumers need to make informed purchasing decisions – however, they are largely unsure of or underestimate the connection between animal agriculture and climate change.

It is our hope that this food crime perspective can be part of the sustainable and just food movement that is so urgently required today. Food literally invades and builds our bodies and fuels our social livelihoods. We need to recognise that our intimate consumption practices have global political, social, and criminal connections, so we can give ourselves and our environment a ‘helping fork’.


OAT_A handbook of food crime [FC]A handbook of food crime by Allison Gray and Ronald Hinch is available on the Policy Press website. Use discount code POHFC19 (valid until 31/1/19) here to get it for £42.50 (RRP £85.00), or get the EPUB for £21.59.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

How behaviour change can help with our ‘wicked problems’

Marketing academic, Fiona Spotswood’s interdisciplinary view on behaviour change is explored in her book Beyond Behaviour Change which publishes this month. Spotswood argues that understanding the complexity of behaviour change, including the diversity of approach and its history, will be key to tackling issues such as climate change and obesity.

FSpotswood photoSadly, wicked problems like obesity and climate change aren’t going anywhere fast. As such,‘behaviour change’ has become a buzzword in academia and amongst policy makers. Research councils fund it, academics research it and policy makers do it.

But like all topics of social scrutiny, behaviour change is evolving. A mind map of key issues would include things like ‘interdisicplinarity’, ‘nudge’, ‘systems thinking’, ‘individual responsibility’ and ‘rigorous evaluation’. Continue reading ‘How behaviour change can help with our ‘wicked problems’’

So, whose land is our land?

In today’s guest post Peter Hetherington, author of Whose Land is our Land?, explains why he believes reform of land ownership is necessary to mitigate the approaching challenges posed for food, energy and housing by climate change.

Peter HetheringtonPeople often assume that those like me who advocate land reform, no matter how minimal, must be on one side of the political fence.

Calling for measures to clamp down on speculation driven by tax avoidance seems to only reinforce a belief by some that us moderates are quasi‐revolutionaries conspiring to end ownership as the establishment knows it – be they the old landed class or the newer rich seeking to offload spare millions.

Spiralling farm land prices

So it was, when I appeared on BBC Radio’s Today programme at the end of August, I suggested (sensibly, I thought) that spiralling farm land prices are serving the country badly and was met with a hostile ‘back to the old interventionist days’ response by a spokesman for the Country Land and Business Association (which has morphed from the Country Landowners’ Association but is still known as the ‘CLA’.)

Of course the spokesman was right to suggest that of the – say – 100,000‐plus acres of agricultural land sold annually in England only a small proportion involves the super rich seeking a safe, recession‐proof haven for their spare millions.

“…these new rich are driving up prices…making it even more difficult for young aspirants to get on the farming ladder”

However prices, according to land agents Savills, have risen by a staggering 277% in a decade, making agricultural land a much safer investment bet than prime central London property and gold. One driver is that agricultural land offers generous breaks on inheritance and capital gains tax: it is exempt from the former after two years, for instance, if it is actively farmed.

But the point is this: these new rich are driving up prices in the whole market, distorting prices and making it even more difficult for young aspirants – there are plenty of them ‐ to
get on the farming ladder.


I’ve been investigating issues around this land of ours for my book, ‘Whose Land is Our Land’. I’ve explored ownership and the old, landed rich through to the challenges of farming – with self‐sufficiency in the foods we are capable of growing falling when it could (and should) be rising.

I’ve looked at issues such as housing the nation, in the face of a ‘shadow’ unregistered market in which potential building land is being effectively rationed.

I’ve asked searching questions about our ill‐preparedness for addressing rising sea levels, induced by climate change, in our most productive farming area, the east of England. Various agencies, including the National Audit Office, warn that we face tough choices: either raising our flood defence investment, or abandoning big tracts of land.

“…public or charitable ownership equals ‘good’…is a gross over‐simplification”

One advantage of coming to this issue as a journalist – let’s be blunt, a ‘hack’ – and not as an academic is that, after interviewing scores of people (individual and institutional landowners, farmers, tenants, politicians) pre‐conceived ideas sometimes go to the wall.

Thus, public or charitable ownership equals ‘good’ and private ownership equals ‘bad’ is a gross over‐simplification. It so happens that the second largest landowner (and largest tenant farming landlord) , the National Trust, has been embroiled in a dispute with its tenants (and the Tenant the Farmers’ Association) more associated with private landlordism. There are, in short, good, bad, indifferent owners in all camps.

Ownership, in short, is no determinant of either progressive land use or tenure. So the good private landlord, progressively farming, has to be balanced against another owner who assumes that what is beneficial for the family firm is automatically good for the surrounding community. Generalisation can be dangerous.

Modest reform

Inevitably as a messenger, rather than a polemicist – and not a farming journalist – I have naturally relied on the help and guidance of others. Philip Lowe, professor of rural economy at Newcastle University, proved invaluable. His argument for modest reform, involving farmers and landowners abiding by a charter setting out rights and responsibilities to ensure the better use of all land proved compelling – particular after one expert in Norfolk (farmer of the year in 2014) spoke of his concern about slack practices on land farmed by contractors on behalf of the new rich.

Lowe’s other point is that farmers in receipt of generous rural payments, courtesy of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy – overall delivering £2‐3 billions in subsidies annually in Britain – should be obliged to sign up to basic principles of responsible land management “specifying responsibilities to maintain the land in their care.”

And, so, back to tax.

“..we should be adapting to…the impact of climate change on that most basic resource: our land…”

On the basis of my investigations I believe that we are approaching a collision of extremes ‐ increasing demand for food, energy, water and housing – when we should be adapting to, and hopefully mitigating, the impact of climate change on that most basic resource: our land.

Sadly, our approach as a nation, through successive governments, is piecemeal and short term. In truth, England needs an active land policy to address feeding, watering and housing the nation.

In November I’m off to the Scottish Parliament, for an informal event based on my book, facilitated by the chair of its rural affairs committee. In Scotland reform is high on the Scottish Government’s agenda. It wants the power to intervene if the scale of ownership, and the conduct of a landowner, is seen as a “barrier to sustainable development.” And in England? I’ve just been to the annual conference of the governing party to try to find out.

Whose land is our land [FC]Whose land is our land? is available to purchase here  from the Policy Press website. Remember that Policy Press newsletter subscribers receive a 35% discount – if you’re not a member of our community why not sign up here today?

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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