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Saturday 12 January 2013
Letters: End the scandal of edible food going to waste
The news that half of all food in the world is thrown away (report, 10 January) blows rather a large whole in the GM companies' latest campaign to convince people that their technology is required to feed the world. These figures illustrate that it is the market system of distribution that is at fault for food shortages, not a failure of production.
The GM companies are after control of the food chain, pure and simple. Once they have achieved this, prices will be set even more according to companies' bottom lines. It is time to dismiss their arguments once and for all and set about redistributing the food now being produced to the people who live on this planet.
Of course we should all stop being faddy and eat edible food. We should do this to keep costs down when many are short of money, to protect our stretched environment and morally because the system as it is keeps the poor hungry.
Although obesity has overtaken hunger globally, for over a billion of our global fellow citizens chronic hunger limits development, cuts life expectancy and stunts the growth (physical and mental) of millions of children.
There may be hi-tech solutions but they may cost money people don't have. We need structural changes as well as personal changes. These can be taken by governments, and David Cameron, as chair of the G8 this year, has the opportunity to give a lead from the top.
The longer-term answer doesn't lie in shipping food around the world. It largely lies in promoting food sovereignty so people can be self-sufficient and in cutting the hidden profiteering of those who control the food markets.
The Institute of Mechanical Engineers' report shines a spotlight on the levels of food waste globally. Over £1bn-worth of the food wasted annually in the UK is food still in date and so is perfectly edible. While responsible food companies and retailers have long sought to minimise this volume, the overwhelming majority of the food industry could do more.
No good food should go to waste. FareShare is a charity that rescues good-quality surplus food and sends it to over 700 charities and community projects across the UK. Last year we diverted over 3,600 tons of surplus food to feed over 36,500 people in need every day. But we have a mountain to climb. The demand for our services has grown dramatically by 59 per cent in the past 12 months, and we estimate that we handle less than 0.1 per cent of the surplus food available. We desperately need more responsible food companies to work with us. If just 1 per cent of the surplus food in the UK was given to FareShare, we could provide 70 million meals for people in need.
Culture change needed to tackle sexual violence
If we are to tackle rape and sexual assault ("The rape of justice", 11 January) we have to bring up our male children to be less aggressive and to treat females with proper respect, and a big culture shift will be required. You only have to go to a Saturday morning children's football match to understand the way that fathers are still inculcating aggression and disrespect for others and disrespect for the rules into their boys.
We must not underestimate the size of the change that is needed; it will be huge and difficult and it will have to extend into many areas of life – areas into which politicians will not want to go. Teenage magazines, pop music, films, internet porn and computer games are among the media which encourage and glorify the aggressive attitudes which underlie violence towards women. We will not reduce the incidence of rape until we are prepared to tackle these things. It is no good simply trying to deal with the problem after the event by prosecution. The difficulties of obtaining a conviction are very real and will not go away – it will always be her uncorroborated word against his.
Of course, no amount of culture shift will entirely eliminate the problems. There are always going to be some men who will not take no for an answer and the only thing to do with them, if you can catch them, is lock them up or castrate them.
Maresfield, East Sussex
Your report on the new government statistics on sexual offences shows starkly that the vast majority of rapes and sexual assaults go unreported and only a tiny fraction ever result in a conviction.
The release of the distressing report on Jimmy Savile's abuse, and what we know about sexual violence in Rochdale and many elsewhere, adds to the picture of a country where violence against women and girls is far more widespread than is commonly thought and perpetrators often act with impunity.
This absolutely must be a turning point for how we deal with sexual violence. Everyone has a role to play in challenging the victim-blaming attitudes that stop women and girls from reporting assaults.
But we also need to prevent abuse in the first place. The key is to start with young people at school – we must have compulsory and comprehensive sex and relationships education which goes beyond biology and talks about consent and healthy relationships, and assures young people that if they are assaulted the help they seek will be there.
End Violence Against Women Coalition
Lazy lecturers aren't the problem
Ian Ray-Todd (Letters, 7 January) talks of lazy lecturers, of which no doubt there are some, but he misses the point that, for many students, the lecture is an uncongenial vehicle for learning, no matter how good the lecturer.
Most students coming from the state sector have become accustomed to learning interactively in small groups. Close listening skills and note-taking abilities remain underdeveloped and many students struggle in the lecture hall – hence the increasing reliance, openly or surreptitiously, on electronic devices.
As tutorials have all but vanished in many universities and seminars have grown in class size, the discussion and feedback students need become harder to get.
And this is relevant to David Fitzpatrick's comments on the same page, as he seems to think that a university's function is to instruct, whereas I would venture it is to enable the student to learn. If course factual content were to be delivered by serial lectures or even in bitesize chunks via a web network, then no doubt all could be done within even less than his suggested two years. What students need three years for is the opportunity to understand in depth and interpret their studies. Most other countries allow four years for degree studies.
Dr Philip Brindle
Shod like a rock star
Your front-page piece "He's got shoes like Jagger" in reference to Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood (8 January), reminds me of a day back in the 1970s.
I wandered into the Jermyn Street suppliers of shirts, hosiery and, via their Poulsen and Skone co-brand, shoes and boots, to the incumbents of Eton, Oxbridge, the Brigade of Guards and other über-establishment pillars.
I was after another pair of suede loafers of a type I had become particularly fond over the years, and was somewhat taken aback by the response to my request. "I am most sorry, but a Mr Michael Jagger came in, only a day or so ago, and bought the entire stock in your size, sir." Henceforth, among friends, the loafers have been nicknamed "Jaggers".
The evil and inhumanity involved in inducting child soldiers into Africa's militias and armies, is unparalleled in the modern age (leading article, 11 January). To gain just a partial insight into the loss of innocence and emotional suffering these children suffer as a result is heart wrenching. The Independent should be commended for making this the subject of its Christmas appeal.
All in favour of reading aloud
I am baffled by the headline "Reading aloud in class 'does children no good'", in your article (8 January) covering my publication of a series of 36 plays for children to read aloud. Considering that as the Children's Laureate one of my missions is to encourage acting, performance and reading aloud by children and teachers, this misquote is going to give a completely false impression. The only thing I said remotely resembling this is that beginner readers sometimes read in rather a wooden monosyllabic way and that play-reading can encourage them to read with more expression.
Unnecessary chat in shops
I, too, initially found the cheerful greeting by staff at the tills in our high-street stores and supermarkets disconcerting (Letters, 7 January). Having become accustomed to and enjoying this friendly approach, I now find myself the recipient of further overtures! Have I found everything I am looking for today? And would I like to purchase a variety of "loss leaders" which have included chocolate, water, batteries or bird food?
Am I alone in finding this unnecessary and irritating?
Thank you, Lady Barber
In his review, "Portrait of a Lady: the Life and Passions of Lady Barber" (10 January), Michael Glover did not touch on the concert hall around which the art is displayed. He invited us to thank Lady Barber for building the Institute 80 years ago. University students should also thank her for decreeing that they should not pay to hear concerts given there. Between 1950 and 1954 I heard, among others, Fischer-Dieskau, Schwarzkopf, Seefried, Danco and Pears all free. Thank you very much Lady Barber.
One of the astonishingly greedy MPs calling for a huge pay rise (report, 11 January) complains that he earns less than his local deputy head teacher, pharmacist or GP. Maybe that's because what he does is less useful.
Shoreham-by-Sea, East Sussex
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