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Government overlooks overseas wisdom on sustainable agriculture and food planning

Media Release
Rachel Siewert 18 Oct 2011

Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens agriculture spokesperson has raised concerns about the formation of a national food plan when important international efforts have been overlooked by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

“Knowledge and information is essential for addressing the joint issues of food security and sustainable agriculture,” Senator Siewert said today.

“I am concerned that the Government is not embracing international efforts that would help us develop effective food plans in Australia.

“Back in 2008, the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development released a report and recommendations that effectively rebuilt the preconceived views we held about the future of agriculture. When I asked them about this at Senate Estimates, the Department seemed unaware of the findings and recommendations of the assessment, despite its age.

“This is an international initiative designed to improve knowledge and understanding of agriculture and how it ties in to sustainable food security. We should be looking to this kind of research to improve our knowledge and planning methodology.

“There are a range of projects being undertaken overseas that would help inform the Government’s efforts to develop a national food plan.

“One such project, the USA’s Food Atlas would seem to me to be a prerequisite step for Australia to take before any food plan is established.

"A Food Atlas allows for the aggregation of information about the sources and availability of food down to a local council level. It is incredibly useful for identifying areas where healthy food in unavailable or is prohibitively expensive.

“A holistic picture of food availability is important for developing a food plan that meets the needs of vulnerable people.

"In Senate Estimates, the value of such a project was acknowledged by the Department, but they said there were no resources available to deliver it.

“This level of information is essential to forming long term plans to deliver food security to Australia," Senator Siewert concluded.

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