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Joined up sustainable food policy needed

12/09/12
In May this year [2012] the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) called on Government to do much more to provide the strategic policy framework for achieving a fair food system that provides healthy and sustainable food for all.
Joined up sustainable food policy needed

Today’s response from the Coalition Government, despite a commitment to put sustainability at the core of its agenda, does not go far enough in setting out a long-term, joined-up vision for our food system.

The Food Ethics Council asks: Who is leading the Government’s promise to put sustainability at the heart of its agenda? Which Government department has responsibility for ensuring sustainability is embedded across health, welfare, business, the environment, education and infrastructure?

Our key concerns are that:

• The Government has rejected the EAC’s recommendation that competition policy needs to be revised to allow businesses to collaborate to promote sustainable food. It is clear from our conversations with business leaders that this is a very real barrier to progress.

• The Government’s answer to securing food supplies is sustainable intensification, yet we argue that tackling food insecurity requires getting to grips with supply, demand, waste, efficiency and population too. The more successful we are in these areas, the less we will need to increase yields.

• Responsibility for ensuring consumers eat healthily and sustainably is devolved to the Public Health Responsibility Deal (PHRD). But RDs focus on how companies influence consumers, not on how they reform their own business practices. Government should seek to change markets and institutions, not just individuals.

Our work with business leaders over the past few months has shown that they need a clear sense of direction from government, in order to plan and invest. And they report that consumers need help in understanding what sustainable food means in practice. This response to the EAC inquiry into sustainable food gives support to neither group.

Liz Barling, head of communications said:

"In this report the Coalition goverment talks the talk on sustainable food, but the jury is out on whether they will walk the walk. A truly joined-up approach to a sustainable food system would include long-term goals that provde the strategic framework for a fair, healthy and sustainable food for people and planet.

“Business wants strong leadership, consumers need clear guidance on how to eat sustainably, and environmental groups require reassurance that our natural environment won’t play second fiddle in the rush to increase food production.

"It is, however, encouraging that the Government is committed to public sector research to support the transition to sustainable food systems and that the Groceries Code Adjudicator is shaping up to have sufficient powers to be an effective supermarket watchdog."

Notes to editors

1. You can read the Environmental Audit Committee's report on sustainable food and the Government's response on the Parliament website by clicking on the following link:

Environmental Audit Committee's report on sustainable food and the Government's response.

2. The Food Ethics Council is a charity whose aim is to create a fair food system where it is easy to eat healthily, and where animal welfare and ecological and social justice are the norm.