soya for use in European animal feed. A German study has shown that 80 per cent of Brazil's oranges go into the making of orange juice that is drunk in Europe. If German rates of drinking orange juice became standard around the world, 32m acres would be needed just for growing oranges.

Last month, the Curry report recom�mended that the government should encour�age local food as a means of reviving Britain's agriculture, after foot-and-mouth. The Policy Commission hopes Britain will emulate France, where shoppers may be given precise details of the provenance of their fare.

But the concept of localisation is not with�out problems. As the economist *David Flem�ing says, it is very difficult to define what is meant by local. What food could be regarded as local to London, or New York? Furthermore, as Curry acknowledges, local food is a frail vessel that will have to be rowed hard if it is to make headway against contrary world trends.

Trade liberalisation continues. The World Trade Organisation, driven by the US, wants food to be treated as a commodity like any other. It has little truck with governments that fear health risks (it does not accept the precautionary principle), and none at all with those who raise environmental objections.

The Common Agricultural Policy must be reformed before the EU can embrace countries such as Poland, where the average farm size is 10 hectares and 18 per cent of the population works on the land. Reform will leave British, French and German farmers further exposed to world prices.

Above all, the multiple retailers that con�trol the food system in Britain are not likely to change their ways without pressure. More than four-fifths of British food is bought in supermarkets. Chief executives such as Sir Peter Davis of Sainsbury's, who sat on the Policy Commis�sion, may like the idea of locally produced food, but supermarket buying teams, incen�tivised to reduce costs, will only take such food if they can do so at the price of the industrially produced equivalent.

Like civil servants, these buyers are moved on every couple of years, from meat to cheese, from cheese to dried goods. This prevents them developing the expertise in any area that would allow them to source from specialist or local producers. Instead, they use the threat of importing vegetables from Zimbabwe to drive down the price of those grown on the Fens.

Conditions in Britain are well suited to growing apples - tasty ones - and the coun�try could be self-sufficient in them. But most of the apple orchards have been grubbed up. As a result, British apples are marketed as a speciality product in supermarkets, where much of the fruit on offer will have arrived by air freight or tanker from the other side of the world. By value, only about a quarter of the apples eaten in Britain are grown in the country. On present trends, it is difficult to imagine that other sectors of agriculture will not follow the apple orchards into decline.

The one straw of hope that concerned shoppers can grasp is their own purchasing power. Rightly or wrongly, consumer opin�ion turned so violently against genetically modified crops that the big retailers were forced to declare themselves GM-free zones. If the vogue for farm shops and farmers' markets catches on, consumers could force supermarkets to source more food regionally, with proper labelling and promotion.

If not, it may be goodbye to the British farmer, much as southern England is saying goodbye to the frog.

Clive Aslet is editor of Country Life.

*In Mumbai on February 1st, I heard Lady Caroline Cranbrook speaking on World Service Radio. She emphasised that we must not rely on imported food, which entails pollution and traffic congestion, because in a few years there will be a shortage of oil and the whole oil-based system will eventually collapse.

*David Fleming has also made this point in an article �After Oil�; note his forthcoming book, �The Lean Economy�.

Barbara Panvel: 25.2.02



Crossing Borders: Japanese Lending and U.S Borrowing

Seth Sandronsky Published on Saturday, February 23, 2002 by Common Dreams


"The Japanese economy must restructure, and must deal with her loans, her bad loans," President Bush told Asian reporters before his recent trip to Japan, South Korea and China, according to an article in the Feb. 18 New York Times. The article did not mention that the U.S. borrows mainly from Japan.

So are Japan's loans to the U.S. bad? If so, it stands to reason that U.S. borrowing from that nation could cause future problems. Further, a Japanese economic restructuring, which the president wants, could have unclear effects on the U.S. economy.

What's one current purpose of U.S. debt held by Japanese lenders? That would be to fund the U.S. trade deficit, the difference between what America buys and sells worldwide.

A past purpose of Japanese lending was to fund public deficit spending on the U.S. military during the 1980s. Public indebtedness rose sharply during the Reagan era. This was done to protect Americans from the threat posed by the Soviet Union, which fell as the 1990s began.

It has been said that history repeats itself, firstly as a tragedy and secondly as a farce. Take President Bush's current plans to increase funding for military/security spending to keep Americans safe from the "axis of �evil"-Iran, Iraq and North Korea. This will also help to push the federal budget from surplus into deficit.

A Feb. 19 Knight Ridder article cast doubt on Japan's ability to, in part, cope with its indebted banking sector. Why? Because "Japanese culture favors cozy political and personal ties over clear-eyed business decisions." Is American culture different? Corporations that command the Bush administration would suggest otherwise.

When it comes to reporting world affairs, the U.S. corporate news media deprives Americans of a critical context. This can weaken the political consciousness of the general population. Independent media is one cure for this condition.

In the meantime, Japan has had a post-financial bubble economy, with slow/no growth, for roughly the past decade after years