From food prices to the environment, from animal welfare to farmers and other workers in the food system; our decision on 23rd June will have a huge impact on the food we eat and the people that produce it.

This debate – about how to feed our population fairly whilst providing a decent living for farmers, protecting the environment and delivering high animal welfare standards – should take centre stage in the referendum debate. As such, we welcome the NFU’s analysis of the impacts of ‘Brexit’ on UK farmers and food prices.

Dan Crossley, executive director of the Food Ethics Council said:

“Whatever the result of the referendum, it is clear that there is a need to rethink food and agricultural policy in the UK. Times have changed considerably since we joined the EEC in the 1970s, and issues that were not even on the horizon are now extremely pressing.

“Climate change, resource depletion, food insecurity and public health concerns are all highly important global, regional and national problems that can’t be tackled in isolation.

“We need to think about the implications of either outcome for the long term future of food, farming and fisheries, but in a way that goes beyond narrow vested interests and considers the long-term wellbeing of our planet, people and animals.”

If the UK left the EU, there is no doubt that in the short term UK food and farming would be subject to considerable chaos and uncertainty. It is debatable whether the current Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is fit for purpose, but would a future UK government be able to afford even the current level of CAP budget?

In the event of the UK leaving the EU, it is likely that policy makers would want to make sweeping changes to agricultural policy. This could lead to deregulation of many farming practices, such as use of pesticides and nitrates, which would be damaging to our flora and fauna. Deregulation may make prices cheaper on the supermarket shelves, but the costs for farmers could be great. Not least because to trade with Europe, the UK would still need to meet EU regulatory requirements including in relation to the environment, farm animal welfare and health and safety.

However, leaving the EU could offer an opportunity to wipe the slate clean on agricultural policy and create a new vision for food and farming that provides good, healthy food at affordable prices without costing the earth.

The Food Ethics Council believes that the citizens of the UK should be offered a genuine opportunity to discuss what kind of food and farming systems they would like to see in place; what level of animal welfare, environmental protections and workers’ rights should food and farming policies deliver?

That is why we are co-hosting a number of events on the issue. We’re talking to food businesses, parliamentarians and citizens to put food and farming in the spotlight, and examine what our decision about our relationship with Europe will mean for the food we eat and the people who produce it.

 ENDS  –

Notes to editors

1.     The Food Ethics Council is an independent charity that works to create fair food systems with food businesses, NGOs and governments.

2.     Our 17 Council members are all experts in their fields, and include ethicists, food policy experts, organic farmers and senior food business executives.

3.     Recent and upcoming Food Ethics Council events on food and farming and the EU Referendum include:

  • Tuesday 22nd March – a Business Forum on the subject of the EU referendum with senior food business representatives.
  • Tuesday 19th April – co-hosting an open event (EU Referendum: a spotlight on food and farming) with the Kindling Trust in Manchester.
  • Monday 25th April – co-hosting an event with the Food Foundation and the Food Research Collaboration in Parliament for MPs to discuss food and farming and the EU referendum