Based on what they are currently reading in their newspapers, or watching on tv, consumers would be right to think they are the unwitting victims of an evil business empire called the food chain which is responsible for supplying goods in a way that is unsafe, unethical and unsustainable. If the questions I am being asked by friends and family are anything to go by, consumers are starting to believe there is a lot of truth in all of this. Clearly, everybody should be concerned about the provenance of the food they are buying ­ particularly as the rapid spread of foot and mouth would appear to support the arguments against intensive farming methods. But as genuine concern turns in some quarters into near hysteria, isn't it time we all took a reality check? Mine came last week at a major food safety conference in Uppsala organised by the Swedish government as part of its presidency of the EU. What struck me about the conference was the broad agreement among speakers and delegates that, while food scandals such as BSE prove the chain sometimes goes too far in its search for productivity, intensive agriculture is not to blame per se for the problems we are experiencing. A bold statement, given the neurosis that now seems to surround food issues. But I was just as intrigued by one of the themes that underpinned much of the discussion in Uppsala, namely: no matter how bad we think things have got, we must not lose sight of the fact that society continues to benefit from having food produced in a modern' way. We were reminded that the good old days' were actually a time when food wasn't all that safe, and certainly wasn't plentiful; disease was rife; animals were treated far worse than they are today; people lived in terrible conditions; and most had no chance of reaching their allotted three score years and 10. It's a really simple point. But it doesn't seem to have been properly articulated by our industry. Or is it that nobody is listening? Whatever the reason, it is vital we all try harder to inject more reality into the debate about the integrity of our food chain ­ before it is too late. Julian Hunt, Deputy Editor {{OPINION }}