The popularity of the new rhetoric of food security is shown by its adoption by British Conservative Party leader, Dave Cameron, in address to the 100th anniversary conference of the National Farmers' Union. He revealed that he is himself a NFU member, although presumably one of the 'green welly' variety.
The job of the Leader of the Opposition is to question government policy and one can't blame him for jumping on any convenient bandwagon that comes on. Food security gave a coherent theme to a speech that was otherwise trying to push every possible button. Raising the spectre of a return to food rationing is a good way of dramatising some of the current changes in global food supply.
It's a bit harder to tease out from the speech what his remedies are. What he does make clear is that he is against a return to protectionism and trade barriers and to production linked subsdidies.
He seems to think that British farmers could produce more food for the domestic consumer if the burden of regulation was reduced. Standards in Britain are claimed to be more onerous than elsewhere in the EU. So, it is argued, one needs regulation that is based on outcomes, not processes, and on trust. What this seems to mean is more self-regulation and reliance on peer pressures with penalties only for the tiny minority of farmers who abuse trust.
All fine in principle, but how does this square with his emphasis on failings in animal health regulation at the beginning of his speech? Of course, the NFU is now blaming 'hobby farmers' for the second wave of the foot-and-mouth outbreak in Surrey last September. Smallholders have hit back by claiming that they often spend more on proper prevention practices than do commercial farmers, while others have argued that hobby farmers should not be demonised.
In time Dave Cameron may come to learn that the politics of farming brings you few votes and a lot of grief.