Today, we stand on the brink of a longer-term problem. In the words of Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy at City University, London: ‘We are sleep-walking into a crisis.’
The phrase ‘nine meals from anarchy’ sounds more like the title of a bad Hollywood movie than any genuine threat.
But that was the expression coined by Lord Cameron of Dillington, a farmer who was the first head of the Countryside Agency – the quango set up by Tony Blair in the days when he pretended to care about the countryside – to describe just how perilous Britain’s food supply actually is.
Crisis: Britain’s food supply is in peril
Long before many others, Cameron saw the potential of a real food crisis striking not just the poor of the Third World, but us, here in Britain, in the 21st Century.
The scenario goes like this. Imagine a sudden shutdown of oil supplies; a sudden collapse in the petrol that streams steadily through the pumps and so into the engines of the lorries which deliver our food around the country, stocking up the supermarket shelves as soon as any item runs out.
If the trucks stopped moving, we’d start to worry and we’d head out to the shops, cking up our larders. By the end of Day One, if there was still no petrol, the shelves would be looking pretty thin. Imagine, then, Day Two: your fourth, fifth and sixth meal. We’d be in a panic. Day three: still no petrol.
What then? With hunger pangs kicking in, and no notion of how long it might take for the supermarkets to restock, how long before those who hadn’t stocked up began stealing from their neighbours? Or looting what they could get their hands on?