Friday, September 14, 2007

Who pays for 'cheap' supermarket food??

'There is no such thing as truly cheap food' is something I've long believed. There are many hidden social and environmental costs here and around the globe, now and on into the future, that purchasers just dont have reflected in the cost of goods or supermarkets in the size of their profits. Action Aid illustrate one cost of 'cheap' food with their latest campaign.

I've been involved with Action Aid for some time now as a child sponsor and strongly support its work on reducing global poverty (especially extreme poverty), HIV/AIDS, women's rights, food and hunger, emergencies, and rights to education, security and fair governance. I especially support its current Who Pays? campaign aiming to highlight the fact that its not the major supermarkets like Tesco, ASDA, Sainsbury's, and Morrison's who pay the costs of the price war (they make massive profits in fact). The costs are passed to the workers making what many buy, who work long hours for little pay in poor conditions (Action Aid cite examples from South Africa, Bangladesh, Costa Rica and India). Supermarkets force very hard bargains from suppliers who in turn force low pay and conditions, including health, safety and environmental standards.

Action Aid are asking people to sign a pledge card (which I have just done). The pledge says 'Many people around the world who produce goods for the UK supermarkets endure exploitation and poverty. I want government regulation to tackle this problem so I know no-one has suffered producing the goods I buy.'

An independent watchdog, binding rules and keeping supermarkets from abusing their power sounds good to me. I dont really use supermarkets that much anymore (I belong to an organic/local fruit and veg box scheme, use my local corner shop a lot and have meat, fish, dairy and misc. delivered by ordering from an online supplier). Supermarkets are useful for some things now and then though and many people will rely on them for some time yet.

More on Action Aid and their campaign.

Cant change the past but can help shape the future - stop slavery today !

‘As regards the current debate on apologising for Bristol's role in the slave trade during the 17th and 18th centuries, a recently published book (50 Facts That Should Change The World) stated that there are 27 million slaves in the world today. Perhaps rather than focussing on the past and seeking an apology for it, we should actually learn from that horrendous episode and now focus our attentions on stopping slavery in the modern (enlightened?) age’, said Damian Wardingley from Eastville (‘Learn from the past – help today’s slaves', Bristol Evening Post, Open Lines, 13 Sept 2007).

This is a very good point. We cant change the past but can help shape the future so that there is no more slavery.

Slavers literally own and control people, giving them little or no rights or freedoms, little or no pay for work, and basic subsistence only. The 27 million figure probably means a definition involving these aspects – use only slightly broader thinking and definitions means there are many more.

For more on slavery today.