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The Role of Government

The role of government in the food chain.
Hi, my name is Ian Marshall. I am currently Business Development Manager at the Institute for Global Food Security in Queen’s University Belfast. I’m also a Senator in Seanad Éireann, which is the upper house or legislature of the Irish government as well as I manage a dairy farm business at home. Formerly for 35 years, in my life I was a full time dairy farmer. Now I just work in the university, the Irish government, and part time in the farm. So if we consider the role the government plays in the food chain, pretty interesting because, for me, this is fundamental to delivery of sustainable, secure, healthy food to address the challenges of climate change, food security, and to feed a healthy nation.
It’s important to provide to consider the four main pillars of government and role here will evidenced-based policy making as with funding that, to the monitoring of it, and the enforcement of that. And it’s important to note that actually agri food plays a vitally important role to all the economies. Sometimes it’s something that’s slightly overlooked. When we look at the issues with the government’s role in this food chain, the government has a role to support and develop sustainable food production. They have a role to enhance the environment and it helps biodiversity, and to improve the quality of life for flora, for fauna, for the animals and wildlife comes with the people that live there.
It’s also a bit supporting, strong sustainable economy and very much a focus on rural economies. And that’s addressing deficit, and reduction, and growing in economy. And when we will look at how the government functions, what government’s role is, it’s about improving the supply to the food chain’s competitiveness. It’s about growth and integrity within that food chain. So things that we consider are threat, research and development, innovation, and addressing market failure. So that’s important to make the food chain competitives. The second thing we look at is about encouraging sustainability in that food chain. So it’s about resilience in the food chain, it’s about resilience in food and the material sectors. It’s about global food security. It’s about green food projects.
And it’s about a low carbon footprint industry. It’s also about resource efficiency, and it’s about resilience. We also need to consider from a government perspective about improved food information to consumers. It’s about better enabling. It’s about country of origin labelling. It’s about legislation around the composition and the ingredients of food and the nutrient value of food for that product. And it’s about the communication of that message directly to a consumer. And finally, it’s about the social economic benefits of food production. It’s about the consumption and promotion of availability and consumption of healthy food. Because, ultimately, we have to have a healthier nation. Healthier food feeding healthier people will be a much better place to be.
So if we look at all of those issues, and we look at who government actually engages with, it’s important to note that governments engage with various actors, various organisations. So we have local directors, we have sector specialists, we have economists, we have statisticians. We engage with operational researchers, we engage with policy and evidence specialists not only from their own department in agriculture, figures from all other departments. We engage with funders within the state, with enforcers, and with researchers. And that’s a huge, huge breadth and depth feed of information and data that’s fed into forming government policy around food chain.
And if you look at the future and where government’s role will go, we’re certainly going to look at more development of evidence-based policy making. In a current era where we’re being heavily lobbied by lobby groups left, right, and centre, it’s important to make good government policy, it has to be evidence-based. Water scarcity, it’s going to be a huge global concern, climate change adaptation will be central. It’s actually been an interesting central component for all government policy as opposed to an afterthought than it’s been in many occasions up till now. Certainly the demographics are changing, and there is social change happening. So eating patterns, dietary concerns, concerns are global obesity, and a healthy nation, certainly, that’s going to influence government policy.
And that’s coupled with the food trends and the food consumption patterns. There’s certainly going to be more engagement from government innovation and research and development and technology adoption. Because technology will deliver the solution to some of our problems. Government will focus more on security and resilience in that supply chain. And there’ll be an evaluation from a government perspective on the value for money and the impact that will have. So all in all, government are arguably more engaged now with the food chain and will have more focus on security, resilience of that supply chain. So that’s basically where we are as with the government’s role in the food chain.

Senator Ian Marshall, business development manager at the Institute for Global Food Security (IGFS), independent senator in the Seanad Éireann and dairy farmer in Northern Ireland, discusses the role of government in the food sector.

The overall role of the government in the food chain is to deliver sustainable, secure and healthy food to address the challenges of climate change, food security and to feed the nation.

There are four main pillars of government policy:

  • Evidence based policy-making
  • Funding
  • Monitoring
  • Enforcement

In particular, the government has a number of key objectives:

  • To support and develop sustainable food production
  • To enhance the environment and biodiversity
  • To improve the quality of life for the flora, animals, wildlife and people
  • To support a strong and sustainable economy

In relation to the agri-food chain, the government has a key role in:

  • Improving Competitiveness: Helping to improve the food chains competitiveness, growth and integrity. The government considers trade, research and development, innovation and addressing market failure.

  • Encouraging Sustainability: Improving the resilience of the food chain and materials, achieving global food security, encouraging ‘green projects’, ensuring a low carbon footprint and resource efficiency.

  • Consumer Information: Better labelling in terms of country of origin; legislation around the composition and ingredients of food and the nutrient value of food; and communicating that message to the consumer

  • Socio-economic benefits: Promotion of availability and consumption of healthier food for a healthier nation.

Evidence Based Policy

Government engages with various actors in order to support the integrity of the food chain and make evidence based and informed decisions:

  • Directorates
  • Sectoral specialists
  • Operational research
  • Economists
  • Statisticians
  • Policy and evidence specialists
  • Other government departments
  • Funders
  • Industry
  • Enforcers
  • Researchers

A look to the future

As we look to the future, the government will continue to make evidence based policy making. Water scarcity is going to be a massive global concern and climate change adaption will be a central component of all government policy. The demographics are changing and consequently there are social changes happening – shifting eating patterns, dietary trends, concerns around global obesity and healthy nations will continue to influence government policy, coupled with food trends and food consumption patterns.

Governments will be more engaged in innovation; research and development; and technology adoption to deliver solutions to some of our problems. Governments will increasingly focus on security and resiliency of and in the supply chain, including an evaluation on value for money and impact.

What we would like you to do

Please share your thoughts on the government’s role in the food chain:

  • Do you think the government’s role in the food chain is important?
  • Do you think government’s can influence the resiliency of the food chain and the health of our nation? Explain your reasons.

Please note that due to Covid-19, all our video contributors had to record themselves using a laptop or smartphone. As a result, the audio quality is not optimal. We apologize for the inconvenience. Should you want to better understand the video content, we have provided the English audio transcript in the downloads section below

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Understanding Food Supply Chains in a Time of Crisis

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