ICMSA say UN Food Summit “won’t even address the core problem – let alone solve it”
Speaking days before Minister McConalogue represents Ireland at the U.N. Food Systems Summit, the President of ICMSA has said that the possibility of anything meaningful emerging from the conference was “virtually nil”. Mr. Pat McCormack said that until the dominant role of multinational retail corporations in global food systems was addressed, there was no chance whatsoever of introducing the kind of fundamental shift towards environmental and economic sustainability that these kinds of grandiose summits advertised.
Mr. McCormack said that Minister McConalogue carried the best wishes of Irish farmers with him to the summit, but there was no corresponding confidence that the core problems around food system reform would even be addressed – let alone solved. As an example, Mr. McCormack cited that the Irish ‘Pathway’ paper – published to coincide with the Summit – and noted that there was not a single reference in it to the pricing of food, the one element without which it’s not possible to understand either the challenge or possible solutions.
“I read the Irish ‘Pathways’ document that sets out our position and have to admit to being very disappointed. There is not a single reference in it to establishing the real economic and environmental cost of producing food and then ensuring that that cost is met by either the consumers or the retailers who sell to the consumers. I’ve said this before and I’m going to say it again: if we continue allowing the retailers to use their market dominance to sell food at below its real cost, then we just don’t have a chance of doing anything as regards reform of the food systems. If government won’t insist on the market paying the real cost and continues to allow retail corporations to underpay their suppliers and undercharge their customers, then everything else is just pointless and this summit can just join the already lengthy list of irrelevant events that make officials feel better but achieve absolutely nothing.”
The ICMSA President said that it was becoming more and more obvious that the only group who were singled out for regulation and mandatory measures were farmers and for everyone else it was just a case of: “See what you can do there – if you can be bothered, if you don’t mind.”
“We’re very aware of the dangers of oversimplification on this dizzyingly complex and overlapping issue. But farmers would feel that if there was ever a case for reverse-engineering our way to the starting point of an answer then reforming the food systems to make them more sustainable has to be the most feasible option. We have to start with the fundamental fact that there is a real economic and environmental cost to producing sustainable food and that once this price has been established then it has to be paid by the consumer. If we can’t even get to that self-evident truth, then, honestly, we haven’t a hope of getting to where we all know we need to get to”, said Mr. McCormack.
Ends 21 September 2021
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