Last week was my first foray into Prime Minister’s Questions. With fertile East Lothian priding itself on its food and drink sector, any reduction in standards is a huge threat.
With the Tories failing to enshrine protections in the Agriculture Bill and ministers prevaricating a few days previously, I asked Boris Johnson to ensure that his US trade deal wouldn’t see chlorinated chicken on our tables along with Kentucky Fried Medicine in our hospitals. All I got was bluster about the great new dawn coming post-Brexit.
But the threat to our food standards, as with our NHS, is real. The American food sector is raw capitalism at its worst. At every juncture there’s exploitation and a crushing of regulation, all in the interests of big business. The only real profit is made in corporate boardrooms.
Small farmers have been wiped out by agribusiness. Little House on the Prairie no more, as it’s been blown away for big bucks. Employees involved in production or distribution crushed, as union rights are stamped underfoot. Even consumers, who are meant to be king, cast asunder as the lobbying powers of business dictate standards and even ingredients.
Scottish food and drink is predicated on quality. Years of effort at every level of the production cycle have built that up. They can’t compete with the scale of US agribusiness and nor should we want what’s on their shelves. It’s not just chlorinated chicken but the entire American food production system that’s unpalatable and a threat.
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