LETTER: Food production - Honest and ethical food

Regarding the current issue of horse meat in the food chain, I’d like to make the following observations.

I’d like to stress that none of what I say is intended to trivialise the specific problems highlighted by the current crisis, but I’d simply like to offer a broader perspective. The high level of public concern over horse-meat illustrates that when the consumption of a product is something that involves our own bodies, we are likely to show a higher level of concern than if the product’s production harms the workers who produce it.

For example, since the year 2000, the campaign to promote Fair Trade bananas has shown that the production of non-Fair Trade bananas (especially non-organic ones) involves the use of harmful pesticides that causes serious harm to plantation workers’ health (causing tens of thousands of workers in South America to become sterile due to the effects of nematicides).

Sadly, this campaign has often been seen (or perhaps misperceived) by some people in the UK as a peripheral and unimportant issue.

It is my sincere hope that at whilst unethical practices in horse meat will result in dividends for those companies that are honest and ethical, this crisis will also encourage all of us to think more broadly about what we consume so that our purchasing decisions won’t just result in benefit to our own health, but that the lives of those who produce the bananas and the tea, coffee, sugar, and cocoa (and the numerous other commodities that we consume), will be improved too.

David Young

By email