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Food for thought

Mark Popescu | 15:14 UK time, Monday, 17 December 2007

My first duty as a BBC TV journalist is straightforward - to tell viewers the most significant news from Britain and around the world. At its simplest, we cover events and announcements as they happen and offer additional context and intelligent analysis. But there are also important trends that have the power to change the way we live - but which are not yet marked as news "events".

BBC One and Six O'Clock News logoHow much time should a news programme give to covering these big themes?

Four or five years ago, climate change was something talked about by environmentalists and climate scientists - it was not part of the main news agenda. But we were in at the beginning with our reports on its impact across the globe. Now there's an emerging debate about a complex but related subject - food sustainability. Can we continue to consume food - refrigerated and transported from around the globe at a time when we should be reducing our carbon emissions? And what about the impact of using corn to produce bio-fuel? It is directly leading to an increase in the price of food here and potentially could lead to food shortages in other countries.

Trawlermen sort through fishTwo weeks ago, in the first of our 'Mad about Food' series, Jeremy Cooke gave a graphic visual account of the waste of our fishing stocks when he watched buckets of prime cod being thrown dead back into the sea because the quotas for this particular fish were exhausted. Ministers here and in the European Union agreed the rules needed to change.

This week the British consumer will spend a record amount on food in the run up to Christmas and we'll be carrying a series of reports exploring emerging issues around food sustainability.

BananasSupermarkets deliver huge choice, convenience and often low prices - it's where the majority of us choose to buy our food. We'll be reporting on some of the local food initiatives but also the overall environmental impact of the sourcing, transportation and refrigeration of the food industry. But we won't ignore the positive results of the international trade for emerging markets like Kenya - where deals with British supermarkets lead to employment and economic development.

A report from AC Neilson today says consumers here are increasingly concerned about where their food comes from and how far it has travelled. The supermarkets we have spoken to tell us they are well aware of the trend, and some of the biggest have given us unique access to the work they are doing to ensure they find the most sustainable sources of food.

We'll be carrying a range of reports from around Britain on the work being done to grow food efficiently and ensure it travels as short a distance as possible from field to plate.

Further afield we'll be reporting from Chile on how the demand from fresh cherries all year round has led to the growth of a new food chain and we'll be finding out why a major fish producer says it makes economic sense to send prawns on a journey around the world before they return to be sold in supermarkets a few miles from where they were caught.


  • 1.
  • At 06:03 PM on 17 Dec 2007,
  • robert wrote:

"we'll be finding out why a major fish producer says it makes economic sense to send prawns on a journey around the world before they return to be sold in supermarkets a few miles from where they were caught"

even an economist should not be able to prove THAT.

regards from down under.

  • 2.
  • At 07:15 PM on 17 Dec 2007,
  • ShakenbutNeverStirred wrote:

Climate change? Food sustainability?
Yep, the politicians and the experts fly to Bali burning the fuel we're not allowed to burn and as for the 'all new' complex debate about food sustainability, well, 'Soylent Green' comes to mind - now that (story] was a long time ago wasn't it?

We humans will never really 'wake up' will we. Ah well, perhaps we get to die in our sleep then.

Merry Xmas!

  • 3.
  • At 07:47 PM on 17 Dec 2007,
  • JG wrote:

Oh no, save me from more BBC 'green' agenda campaigning.

have you noticed how fruit and veg always looks so perfect now?
When I was younger you'd get fruit all different and have to pick out the good ones in supermarkets for ages.
That is GM food for you.
I think we should all use local produce where possible to cut transportation clogging our roads and make local business prosper and to make use of our pleasant land.
My apples from my garden are lovely once the worms are removed!!!

  • 5.
  • At 12:52 PM on 18 Dec 2007,
  • Robert wrote:

Well being disabled and I mean disabled, I've seen the other side of the BBC, the side which says well we better be good to the government.

When the welfare reforms came out the government used a number of programs to prove the disabled were cheats, the ITV did the same but they also did a program which showed people the other side, sadly the BBC have and always will be a tool of the government.

And yes my disability is real my legs do not work anymore.

  • 6.
  • At 12:55 PM on 18 Dec 2007,
  • David G wrote:

How about a report on the sustainability of BBC journalists flying around the world in order to lecture us ?

  • 7.
  • At 01:29 PM on 18 Dec 2007,
  • K Maguire wrote:


Can you confirm you didn't actually send Jeremy Cooke + camera crew + ... to Chile to "investigate" the cherry market there, and instead used locally based reporters?


  • 8.
  • At 01:37 PM on 18 Dec 2007,
  • JulianR wrote:

As usual the debate seems devoid of commonsense. We are all delighted to buy local fruit and vegetables in season, and it would be great if the supermarkets make that easier, but, until we suffer a great deal more global warming, there will be no locally grown bananas, oranges, grapefruit or peaches.

Is anyone seriously saying that we should turn the clock back 150 years to stop us buying these - or indeed that we should be unable to buy tea, coffee, chocolate, peanuts, or even north European fruit and veg out of season?

And what would the effect of this be on the many developing nations around the world who grow these products? And why is so little said about curbing population growth, which is the real long term issue when it comes to food sustainability?

I come to two conclusions - first, there is a very unpleasant undercurrent among environmentalists who are not so much after a reduction in carbon emisions for its own sake, but actually hate and wish to reverse the "consumer society" that gives us such a wonderful choice; and secondly western politicians are too consumed by guilt over our consumption to raise the population growth issue for fear of offending poorer countries. The reality is that climate change can never truly be tackled whilst world population continues to grow at its present rate.

  • 9.
  • At 01:39 PM on 18 Dec 2007,
  • Dave wrote:

The BBC fly a reporter and film crew to Chile to report on the energy wasted shipping cherries to the UK - yet seem oblivious to the obvious irony.

If we're going to waste energy anyway, I'd rather have the cherries!

  • 10.
  • At 02:24 PM on 18 Dec 2007,
  • Alex Swanson wrote:

'At its simplest, we cover events and announcements as they happen and offer additional context and intelligent analysis.'

Mmm. I feel obliged to point out that whenever you touch on any subject which I personally am well-informed on, said context and intelligent analysis invariably turns out to be evidence-free left wing twaddle.

  • 11.
  • At 03:33 PM on 18 Dec 2007,
  • Adam wrote:

I saw your piece on cherries from Chile on the news today. My first thought was the deep irony in reporting a piece which seemed to be about the environment when you had flown your reporter half way round the world. Surely it would have been possible to discover that cherries are grown in Chile without such a totally gratuitous addition to the BBC's carbon footprint? Shame on you!

  • 12.
  • At 04:26 PM on 18 Dec 2007,
  • kevin Jones wrote:

I hope you point out that growing roses in the tropical Kenya is much more more preferable in terms of CO2 production than having them grown in winter in a gas heated greenhouse in Holland. Likewise shipping grass fed lamb from New Zealand is much kinder to the environment than eating lamb produced in the UK fed on ebergy using animal feed.

  • 13.
  • At 06:32 PM on 18 Dec 2007,
  • Justin Kerswell wrote:

I wonder if the BBC will look at the negative effects meat and dairy have on the environment? According to the UN, livestock is responsible for 18% of global warming gases, which is more than the world's entire transport system. The BBC ignored that important report when it appeared at the end of last year. It seems that they are cherry picking green stories again.

I wish the BBC would stop campaigning. Please report the news and stop trying to make it.

If you want to change the world try getting elected.

  • 15.
  • At 04:06 AM on 19 Dec 2007,
  • Brian wrote:

I find that BBC is spending too much time on the green issue. The story that ran on the cheeries was good as it showed both sides of the issue. However it left me wondering if the cargo ship was using a 7,000 mile extension cord to refrigerate the cherries? I struggle to understand the environmental impact that the ship was having and the concern it allegedly raised. Granted it adds some CO2 into the atomsophere but would the reporter rather have the cherries sent via plane. The plane is much quicker, probably cheaper, but probably pollutes more per item of food. The ship most likely is refrigerating the food using its own power and is probably quite environmentally friendly approach.

Another question that the story raised but neglected to mention was the health impact on the consumer. If the consumer cannot get fruit and vegs at reasonable prices year round that means eating a healthy diet becomes more expensive which then means it becomes unattainable for many people. So by getting our food from green sources, which limits our choices and drive up price due to demand, is imcompatible with the recent government campaign for people to eat a healthy diet. By going green does this mean that the government has abandoned the push for people to eat less fat and obese? Does it mean the government is going to subsidized food prices to keep it reasonable? Does it mean that being green has it limitations, just like everything else?

In any event too much time has been devoted to the green campaign and it appears almost to the extent that it detracts from the ongoing problems with the Brown administration. Hopefully BBC will get the balance right and move on from this green thing.

  • 16.
  • At 09:01 AM on 19 Dec 2007,
  • John wrote:

I agree that the BBC should bring us the news.

But looking at this, you are bringing us a whole week of your spin on one topic. It is not news: it is an attempt to influence.

Seperately, the editor of the BBC news website has stated an editorial policy that 'global warming' will no longer be covered in a an impartial manner: only pro-MMGW opinions/events will be reported.

Obviously you are both carrying advocacy journalism, otherwise known as spin. But at least the website editor is honest in stating a clear editorial policy - readers know that the 'climate change' coverage is spin, can read it critically and seek other sources for balance. (The policy really should be publicised on the 'news' pages, but that's a seperate matter)

If BBC are now the propaganda ministry for the green movement then you should clearly state that - the public should not be mislead into thinking that BBC news is still impartial and trustworthy.

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