Though it is a small survey, I think it gives a fair 'big picture'
and a fair view of each organisation.
A number of patterns are revealed by the survey:-
Presentation. It is very interesting to look at the the self-presentation,
style and attitude of individual organisations, as demonstrated
by their web pages (the semiosis of their sites). I am not able
to analyse these visual factors in any depth, except to note that
they all tend to use natural colours and 'nice scenes', and that
they all use 'green rhetoric' - it is difficult to tell apart the
major industrialists and the conservation agencies.
An Imaginary Starting Point. At some point in the past,
all food in the UK was produced by natural methods. This was by
default, because there were no other techniques available - it was
'organic', even before this concept was invented. People had slowly
bred better types of plants and animals, worked out how to improve
the soil with manure, and improved yields and fertility. People's
bodies had adapted to their local diets over a time-span of thousands
Several main points can be made about this 'starting point' situation,
which existed about a century ago:-
1. There were major problems with this natural situation:-
a). insect and other pests ate the crops,
b). animal diseases and sicknesses were rife,
c). losses due to poor storage,
d). there was a high cost of feeding the horses which did the
work and which had to be fed a proportion of each farm's production,
with the same applying on the national scale,
e). it was highly labour intensive and dependent on the weather.
f.) famine and hunger were common, even in the west.
2. Because of these 'random' problems, farmers grew as wide a variety
of crops as possible, then if one crop failed, they would have something
else to sell or eat
This gives an interesting historical perspective, as:-
- These original problems are now nearly all solved (at least
in the west)
- We have effectively undergone a quantum leap regarding food
production in the last century, and particularly in the last 40
years. (for example, strawberries were once picked by casual labour
in a 3-week season, now this is mechanised, and they are in the
shops all year round)
- Many people now exist on diets where all the components of the
diet were unknown or even undreamed of in the UK 100 years ago
(curry, pizza, pasta, Chinese food with noodles beansprouts and
bamboo shoots, etc.)
Although this starting point (when everything was natural) is imaginary,
it serves as a point of reference for the progress and changes which
have occurred since.
Developments. Since then, the 'big picture' is that there
has been a gradual increase in the techniques and capability available
to farmers and food processors, so that farming has now clearly
crossed over an 'imaginary line' and become an industry, and is
likely to go even further in the direction of industrialisation.
Consequences. As industrialisation has increased, there
have been a number of consequences:-
|Stabilisation of food supplies, and (probably)
|The solution of the main problems that existed
in 1900 - such as crop losses to pests, storage losses, animal
|This industrialisation may have generated a reaction:-
||Complaints about residues and poisoning of food
caused by the new techniques
||Complaints about environmental and habitat damage
|| Movements to save species, landscapes, habitats,
||Moral protests about the treatment of animals
and 'loss of quality'
||Regrets about the loss of the old country lifestyles
(e.g. the Countryside Alliance)
||A counter-movement advocating a return to organic
|There are also concerns that the new methods may
not be sustainable - they contribute to global warming and that
they are powered by irreplaceable fossil fuels.
Fears. As industrialisation proceeds even further, the following
events could occur:-
- Major changes in local agricultures caused by global free trade
and the WTO system.
- Increased food testing might increase public fears of contamination.
- Increased complaints of environmental damage could occur as
more farms are rationalised and the smaller, less economic farmers
forced out of business.
- Some land is being taken out of use (set-aside), as it is not
needed for food production. This may return to wild if un-tended,
altering the amenity value of the landscape.
There are also concerns about economic and legal issues; diet,
nutrition and health; landscape, wildlife and nature; and also concerns
at ethical, philosophical and psychological levels.
Consensus. To use an old metaphor, the organisations all
seem to be 'singing from the same hymn sheet'. It is only natural
to wonder why, and to ask 'Where is the hymn sheet itself ?', 'Who
wrote it ?' and 'Is there an organisation that co-ordinates this
Sincerity. All of the pages I have drawn on seem to be entirely
sincere, with the deplorable exception of the children's book set
in a farmyard.
On the next page, Context Analysis, I try to convert this "picture"
into a more thorough analysis