Ethical Dilemmas

ETHICAL DILEMAS DEBATE AT BIRMINGHAM BUSINESS SCHOOL, BIRMINGHAM UNIVERSITY (NOV 2011)

On Tuesday 1st November, 6 U6th girls went to the ESRC Festival of Social Science “Ethical Dilemmas” Debate at the University of Birmingham’s Business school.  The debate was hosted by Andrew Miles in a BBC Question Time format with a diverse panel ranging from a representative from the Fair Trade Foundation (David Meller) to a local strawberry producer (Vicarage Nurseries-Bal Padda) to Katie Knaggs who is responsible for the food produce supply chain to ASDA.

The debate discussed matters such as what fair trade really is and does it really help the poorer nations who are funded by the scheme. This lead to background information being given by David Meller who explained what the non profit organisation does and, why the products cost more
than the regular packet of sugar or a bunch of bananas.

A discussion took place about migrant workers after the question was asked from the audience  on why 90% of workers on the strawberry plants are migrant workers when the UK unemployment rate is currently so high.   Bal Padda, the founder of Vicarage Nurseries explained how  he has tried to promote the strawberry picking job to many of the local resident s but has been unsuccessful as people have complained it was too demanding for them to do. He commented on the work ethcis of the British as being poor compared to migrant workers.  An interesting point he mentioned was that a few years ago When Poland became a member of the EU, the company employed many Polish migrants to do the strawberry picking.  However, now even the Polish workers are starting to move on and find other jobs as the agriculture employment is seen as a “low” job for them to do. The strawberry farm is employing Romanian and Bulgarian workers as a result of this and there is now a worry about who is going to do the job in the future when the workers from these countries “move on”.

One of the most interesting debate points was when the question was asked on whether we should be buying locally produced products or Fair Trade products. The discussion examined the benefits of supporting local UK farmers as opposed to the ones abroad in Kenya. This lead to an extremely interesting realisation that if seen from an environmental point of view, some products at certain times of the year, have to be flown into the UK from Kenyan producers and in fact, these will have less carbon emissions contributing to the environment, than growing the produce in the UK.  This is because the UK does not have a natural comparative advantge in particular food production.  The UK does not have a natural climate for growing products and so by trying to create the environment for these products it will use more energy adding to
the carbon footprint of the product.  However,  in a country such as Kenya, the climate is naturally the perfect condition to grow these crops and so to have them grown there and then sent to the UK via air transport will mean there are lower carbon emissions contributed to the environment. It has been calculated that the carbon footprint for Fair Trade products from another country is about 10 times less than those produced in the UK!

By Natalie Tran and Mim Bourne U6th

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