Six members from our WI attended the seminar and workshops arranged by the Education and Current Affairs sub-committee at Cheddington. The title set was Feeding 9 Billion in 2050 which was pretty daunting but we knew that these meetings were always very interesting and there would be informed speakers.Geoff Tansey, a writer and broadcaster working at Bradford and Newcastle Universities, started the day by clearly but at a great speed setting the scene for more world poverty in the future. Geoff pointed out where the power for change was held and the dangers ahead and listed what was required to provide healthy food systems for all. He challenged us to think of what action could be taken by whom and to what end. What levers could the different nations and even the WI use? Who could they approach constructively in order to have some sort of power and control? Climate destabilisation and geo-political shifts and competition for resources all contribute to world poverty. We were heartened to know that there were organisations such as the Food Ethics Council and the Food and Poverty Group working on ideas and publicising their findings in scientific journals and via the media.
Dr Olga Sayanova from the Rothamsted Research Centre talked about her work on designing seeds for nutrition and health. She talked about making fish oil in plants using the land already available for agriculture. Fish oil is an unsustainable resource which is an essential element of a healthy diet. Genetically modified camelinan sativa had been in use for ages with the same results as that naturally produced.To produce 1 kilo of factory farmed salmon it needs 4 kilos of fish oil Olga's answers to questions from the floor were particularly good and she dispelled many of the concerns about genetically modified foods that the audience had held.
After an in-hall picnic lunch, Thelma Sackman arranged everyone into small workshop type groups to see what thoughts the members could come up with and perhaps tease out a resolution to go to the NFWI Annual Meeting next year.The reports back tended to be very similar because the statistic given in the morning session of the vast sums of money spent on advertising and packaging by the global food chains (often more than several national economies possessed) had so shocked the members that it had partially blinded them to the bigger picture.They considered that that money would be better used in helping the poverty stricken parts of the world and on educating our own people about the growth of food and its use---bring back home economics on the school curriculum etc. Geoff Tansey had asked us for ideas to transform food systems with global action and we were thinking too locally. I hope he wasn't disappointed and went away thinking it was what he called "tinkering" with the problem. But the subject is so huge and requires the adoption of vast concepts. It is an even greater problem, involving the whole world as it does, than struggling to cope with population shifts across a few nations.
It was a very interesting and challenging day and the members all learned a great deal. I hope that we can all make a worthwhile contribution by spreading the word whenever we have the opportunity, by shopping responsibly and voicing our concerns with supermarkets and by educating future generations.
After such a brain testing day at Cheddington, it was very pleasant to hear one of our own members talk on the theme of Tales of a Travelling Wife. Some of it was relevant to the poverty topic of the afternoon because Daphne had worked with local charities and hospitals wherever her husband was posted.Twenty shawls which the members have been working on since March were presented to Greg Morris for the Fustula victims in Ethiopia.Items for the Christmas Fayre stall in Buckingham on 31st of October were requested. Notice was given of a meeting to try to form a second WI in the town. Our WI is still living in temporary accommodation which is becoming rather annoying when we have over 60 people squashed into a confined space and then the coffee runs out! Let's hope that 2016 sees us back at the proper venue.
The book group met this afternoon to discuss "And when did you last see your father?" by Blake Morrison. This had proved a difficult biography to tackle and some members didn't enjoy it at all. Mind, considering the theme it wasn't a book one could claim to have enjoyed as it described the death from cancer of a rural Yorkshire doctor who was a bit of an authoritarian type. His son, the author was obviously torn between love and despair in his memories of his father's eccentricities. I don't think the characters were appealing; although there were touches of humour throughout it was a tough read.The descriptions of the countryside and the small town politics were good. I imagine it is a very accurate telling of the doctor's life in the 1960s.