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Food for Thought

At 4.30pm on Monday 28 June, 2010, a Community Garden in Lewes Road, Brighton, England, will be cleared and ‘secured’ by landowner Tesco ready to build a new store there.

A long campaign to retain the garden has, predictably, failed.

I was a retail journalist covering the supermarket industry at national level throughout the 80s. The average person does not realise how toxic the food industry is. No room here to detail the horrors, just read the book Tescopoly by Andrew Simms.

There is already a Co op right next door and a Sainsbury within spitting distance of the community garden. Giant Tesco, Asda (two) and Sainsbury out of town stores ring the city.
There is absolutely no good reason for building yet another Tesco here other than profitability. Don’t they already have vast chunks of the World’s wealth? Why squish a community garden just to make more?
I tend not to patronise Tesco although it’s really hard, when you don’t have a big income, to shop at Waitrose and in farmers’ markets all the time. I sometimes wonder if the corporate machine rolls on for no reason whatsoever, a self sustaining, mad, bad Leviathan which even insiders can no longer control,much like the latter stages of Nazi Germany.
‘Sir’ Terry Leahy recently resigned as Tesco CEO recently so maybe they will reduce or even withdraw their policy of World domination.
One example of this madness is a statement a few of years ago to the effect that he would not rest until there was a Tesco in every city in every country in the World.
That particular year, I was in Egypt. Egyptian civilisation always relied entirely on the fertile strip averaging only 2.8km, that the Nile carves out of the rainless desert, for its home produced food. A Second World country, with an unimaginable wealth-poverty gap, food prodcution and retailing was, until ten years ago, aside from Parisian lunches flown in to the super rich in the hotels along the Nile, all sourced from traditional family smallholdings on the river. Sometimes these go back literally hundreds of generations. The guy grows his crop, puts it on a donkey, takes it to market, everyone from granny down the road to the restaurants in the big cities buys it there. Everybody happy.
But no, this cannot be allowed to continue for there is money to be made in persuading Egyptians that now more women work, and there’s more exotic food available to import, and they need ‘cleaner’ ‘better’ ‘packaged’ ‘modern’ food.
This is rubbish of course. Sainsbury, Carrefour, et al have been at the Egyptian trough for some years now for no other reason that mindlessly, pointlessly increasing profitability. (Source:
In the context of people here in the First World becoming increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of large scale food importation and exportation, this makes no sense on a human level at all.
For grocery corporates to march into another country and disrupt a perfectly workable food production and retail dynamic merely in order to insert itself into the chain of profitability, is obscene.
The Community Garden in Lewes Road was just a scrubby patch of urban land, not much bigger than a plot which would contain three or four small houses.
The Co Op, a reasonably ethical supermarket chain which does not need to deliver corporate profit for the sake of it, is right next door.
Someone, somewhere, got out their retail map, saw their ‘gap in the market’ manipulated the local authority with their sheer power, (Tesco rarely loses a planning enquiry) and bam! the city’s eleventh Tesco store opens.
In a city with a population of just on 160,000.

Rhiannon Hill

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