Christian conference to explore future of food

Mary Colwell

Mary Colwell

International speakers on sustainable food and agriculture will be gathering in Derbyshire on 16-18 July at a conference on the theme ‘Our Daily Bread: Food Security, People and Planet’. Around 400 people will attend the annual conference of the National Justice and Peace Network of England and Wales, a liaison organisation of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

Food was chosen as a topic because the global food system upon which we depend is increasingly fragile. One in six people in the world goes hungry, low-income groups in UK have trouble accessing nutritious food, and small farmers are struggling everywhere in the world. The conference will explore the food system and exciting new initiatives to help individuals and groups reconnect to sustainable agriculture and food. It will also highlight insights into ‘our daily bread’ offered by faith and worship.

Keynote speakers: Vandana Shiva, an award-winning Indian ecologist whose books and articles uphold the rights of small farmers - particularly women - and support campaigns challenging food patenting and the imposition of genetically-engineered crops. Shay Cullen is an Irish Columban priest based in the Philippines whose Preda Foundation has a Fair Trade project benefiting farmers’ co-operatives and indigenous people. Elizabeth Dowler is professor of food and social policy in the Department of Sociology at Warwick University and a director of the Food Ethics Council. Alastair McIntosh specialises in the field of human ecology and contributes regularly to BBC Radio Scotland’s Thought for the Day.

A ‘Big Food Debate’ on the Saturday evening will be chaired by John Vidal, The Guardian’s Environment Editor, and address the subject, ‘Feeding the world: What are the roles for small-scale and industrial food production to achieve food security?’  Debate speakers include: Patrick Mulvany, Chair of the UK Food Group and activist in international civil society lobbies on food; David Howlett from the University of Leeds Africa College who has worked for the British Government’s Department for International Development on food and climate change policies; and Alison Austin, an independent consultant working with businesses – particularly Sainsburys - to put sustainable development issues at the heart of their activities.

20 workshops include: ‘Why People Go Hungry’, led by Christine Allen, Executive Director of Progressio; ‘Transition Towns and the Future of Food’, led by Tim Gorringe, author of Harvest: Food, Farming and the Churches; ‘Biodiversity and Food’, led my Mary Colwell, a freelance consultant on faith and the environment; ‘Is Meat a Moral Matter’ by Deborah Jones, General Secretary of Catholic Concern for Animals; ‘GM Crops – How not to Feed the World’, led by Mae-Wan Ho, author of Genetic Engineering: Dream or Nightmare; ‘Farming or Farmers in Crisis?’ – led by Rev Sarah Brown, Chief Executive of the Farm Crisis Network; ‘Mining or Food’ – Led by Geoff Nettleton of Philippine Indigenous People’s Links and Richard Solly, Coordinator of the London Mining Network.
and ‘Tunnel Vision’ – An Art workshop led by artist Christine Dawson.

Fr Sean McDonagh, a Columban priest who has written a number of books on Christianity and the Environment and on the issue of food and patenting of life, will be involved with conference liturgies.


Share this story