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LETTERS – George Monbiot’s lab food plan gives power to bosses

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Issue 2687
Should we switch from producing food from animals and plants to growing food in labs?
Should we switch from producing food from animals and plants to growing food in labs? (Pic: Oli/Flickr)

What if, instead of producing our food from animals and plants, we could grow it all in a lab?

Environmentalist campaigner George Monbiot argued for this in the Guardian newspaper last week.

It is already possible to make a type of flour from bacteria that could be used in a wide range of foods.

The first artificial beef burger was produced in 2013. Scientists used a small number of cells from a real animal but these were reproduced in a nutrient-rich serum.

These technologies can seem attractive. Monbiot and others say that enough food could be produced to feed everyone worldwide, but with no animals being killed.

Vast areas of farmland could be used for wildlife instead. Monbiot says this could destroy farming and mentions that millions of people will lose their jobs.

It is true that capitalist agriculture is bad for the environment. It is responsible for about a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The climate emergency means we will have to consider what kinds of technology might help.

However, farming itself is not the cause of environmental degradation. The problem is that food production is run by a few huge multinationals in the interests of profit.

The food industry has marketed sugar-filled breakfast cereals, ready meals and drinks.

Producing more of these from lab grown ingredients would do nothing to address this problem.

Peasants and small farmers have fought long battles for access to land and to defend traditional practices.

Along with workers in the food industry, they should be central to the transformation of the food system. But lab grown food risks sidelining them and handing more power to the bosses.

Camilla Royle, East London

Rig worker celebrates XR action

Great to see Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists occupy a drilling rig in Dundee port. The rig is due to drill two new gas wells for Shell in the North Sea.

Unfortunately the occupation ended due to the poor weather conditions as the risks to the activists scaling the jack-up towers were too high.

Pity Shell isn’t carrying out a “risk-assessment for the planet” when planning new oil and gas exploration.

We need a just transition to clean, safe, renewable energy such as offshore wind.

Not more development of fossil fuels that we can never safely burn.

Gordon, Offshore worker for a just transition

Central banks are worried about the climate. Extreme weather will mean vast insurance bills and dud loans. They fear governments might start taxing fossil fuel firms and heavy polluters.

The Economist magazine last month warned that if banks start tilting borrowing away from these potentially risky areas it will “politicise” them.

It then asked, “If it becomes normal to tilt capital allocation in a desirable direction, why stop at climate change?”

Why not penalise firms with “pay structures that offend”? The ruling class can no longer afford to be climate deniers.

Miriam Scharf, East London

Brexit Party – a warning from Barnsley

Socialist Worker’s coverage of the election was very important in flagging up the challenges we face when organising against Boris Johnson and his large majority.

The analysis pointed out that in a small number of areas the Brexit Party made significant gains.

Barnsley was one such area.

In the two main seats the Brexit Party came second, taking over 11,000 votes in each.

This does not mean that there are 22,000 hardened racists in Barnsley.

The Brexit Party’s first leaflet in my constituency had three doctors saying how they would save the NHS.

Among the large audience that turned up to a Nigel Farage rally were many ex-miners fed up with large cuts being made by Barnsley Labour council.

However there were also ex-British National Party people involved in the Brexit Party operation.

There is a danger that an attempt will be made to regroup far right and fascist sympathisers.

The need for strengthening Stand Up To Racism in Barnsley is very clear.

George Arthur, Barnsley

More police can help poor victims of crime

Charlie Kimber lists “a raft of vicious attacks” including recruiting 20,000 police officers (Socialist Worker online, 19 ­December).

He is presumably referring to the use of police to oppress strikes, or to aggressive police patrols stop-and-searching in working class and ethnic minority neighbourhoods.

However, recruiting more officers will also give the police the resources to investigate crimes fully.

Police, short of money and staff, cut corners in investigating crime.

It’s more likely for serious crimes, such as rape and assault, to be dropped due to lack of evidence or for police to arrest the wrong person.

Rape prosecutions, for example, follow only a fraction of rape complaints made.

In part this is because forensics, investigation and interrogation takes time and money.

Rebecca Dale, Newcastle upon Tyne

Sign petition on BBC bias

A petition is demanding a full public inquiry into the BBC’s coverage of the 2019 general election.

The petition asks for an inquiry to “ascertain the truth about grave accusations” of anti?Labour bias.

If Socialist Worker readers could sign the petition and share the link (, it will reduce the possibility of similar bias at subsequent elections.

Dr Richard House, Stroud

On Packham and population

The most mis-informed & dangerously inaccurate slice of propaganda for a while (Don’t buy Chris Packham’s view of overpopulation, Socialist Worker, 8 January).

Shame, because we share some views on capitalism but if you imply I’m racist again I’ll sue you if I can.

@ChrisGPackham, On Twitter

Let’s hope he’s correct. The demise or drastic reduction of the human race would be the best thing for this planet.

@RavenArts2, On Twitter

There should be more encouragement for people to have less or no children.

@sarahcrowsnest, On Twitter

The “population bomb” is a Malthusian ideology not an objective fact. The producers of emissions are in the global north, the victims are in the global south.

Capitalism knows no bounds, the desire for accumulation is endless. The solution is to prioritise the common good.

@mjw0212, On Twitter

I agree with the article. No to #climatecapitalism.

No to eugenic population control and reduction of the developing world.

@jonstern100, On Twitter

Danny Dorling does a great job of explaining with evidence why population decline is much more likely than overpopulation.

@podusted, On Twitter

Don’t dismiss our resurgent women’s movement

We read with interest the report of the debate at the recent SWP Conference (Socialist Workers Party conference debates where next for the left, 6th January 2020).

We note that the only reference to women’s rights is in the session on defending trans rights – a glaring omission such as this is precisely why Woman’s Place UK (WPUK) was set up, to make sure that women’s voices will be heard.

Your report refers to WPUK “spreading misinformation about the GRA” and “only offering criticisms of trans people”.

Both these allegations are false, as the thousands of people who have attended our meetings or who have endorsed our five demands could tell you. We have never “criticised” trans people and are pleased to have had trans people attend our meetings and speak on our platforms.

Your casual dismissal of what is a resurgent women’s movement in this country does us, and yourselves, a disservice. You should withdraw, and apologise for, those particular statements.

We welcome the fact that you will not organise or support protests outside our meetings, but you should go further and condemn attempts to stop us meeting as having no place in our movement.

On 1 February WPUK is hosting a conference, organised by women for women, in central London, tickets for which have already sold out.

Anyone on the left who ignores this is isolating themselves from a growing movement.

Judith Green, Ruth Serwotka, Kiri Tunks, Co-founders WPUK

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