Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of the Leon restaurant chain and the Sustainable Restaurant Association, has the first part of the National food strategy After his appointment by Environment Secretary Michael Gove, he led the first comprehensive review of the UK food system in nearly 75 years.
The aim of the interim report is to “answer the most urgent questions raised by both Covid-19 and the exit from the EU”. Part two, which will be released in 2021, will examine in more depth how Britain can "create a food system that restores our health and the environment"
“These recommendations are urgent, specific, and targeted. During this time of acute crisis they were able to save many thousands from starvation, disease and even death. They will also help create a more sustainable future for this country through enlightened trade deals, ”the report says.
British food standards protection
The National Food Strategy contains recommendations to protect the high environmental and animal welfare standards of UK farmers and food producers. "There are legitimate concerns about opening our markets to cheaper, low-standard imports that would undercut our own producers and make our progressive agricultural policies nonsense," it reads.
Rather than imposing a blanket ban that would make negotiating trade agreements “nearly impossible”, the report recommends a “more subtle mechanism” to introduce specific trade standards.
First, the government should only agree to lower tariffs on new trade deals on products that meet the UK's core standards. "There should be screening programs, such as those currently being carried out by the US Department of Agriculture, so that American farmers cannot sell hormone-treated beef to the EU," it said. "These certification systems should at least cover animal welfare concerns as well as environmental and climate concerns where the impact of certain goods is severe."
Second, the government should commission and publish an independent report on all proposed trade deals. “Verified decisions are probably better decisions. The scope of the impact report should include: economic productivity; Food safety and public health; the environment and climate change; Society and work; Human rights; and animal welfare. "
Third, the government should give Parliament the time and opportunity to properly review any new trade agreement so that relevant selected committees have time to report on a final agreement and debate in the House of Commons.
The legacy of Covid-19
Another area of the report looks at the impact of Covid-19 on the global food system, with a focus on the most disadvantaged children. “The effects of hunger on young bodies (and minds) are severe and long-lasting, and exacerbate social inequalities. Government must act quickly to support the feeding of the most disadvantaged children through established, proven mechanisms. "
Recommendations include extending eligibility to the Free School Meals Program, extending the Vacation Activities and Groceries program to all areas of England, increasing the value of Vouchers for a Healthy Start, and expanding the program and expanding the work of the Food to the vulnerable ministerial task force. It collects data on the number of people who will suffer from food insecurity by July 2021.
A recent report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Selection Committee also proposed the appointment of a new Minister for Food Security after the coronavirus pandemic. But Gareth Morgan, head of agricultural policy at the Ground clubsaid the remit should go much further than food security. “It would have to be cross-departmental and cover healthy eating, food poverty, resilience in the supply chain and the ecological footprint of food production at home and abroad.
“Food production and the environment cannot be viewed as conflicting interests given the climate and environmental emergencies we are facing. In order to ensure healthy and resilient food and farming systems in the UK, we need to focus on growing the food that people need to eat healthily. "
In response to the publication of the first part of the “ambitious” National Food Strategy, Christopher Stopes, Co-Chair of the UK Organic Forum said: “It is encouraging to see the vision of Mr. Dimbleby & # 39; Food-Topia & # 39; to see, which, among other things, recognizes the value of organic farming as part of a broad food strategy backed by investments in research and development that enables innovation, increased yields and resilience, while working in natural systems. "
Part two of the report is due for publication next year, followed by a formal government response.