Henry Dimbleby’s publication of the National Food Strategy, Part 2, ‘The Plan’ comes at a critical moment in history as we face the challenges of health, poverty, climate change and nature. Dimbleby is right that our current food system no longer serves the planet or human health.
The report provides a powerful road map for a food and farming revolution and we urge the Government to act on its recommendations. This is a chance to make food and farming part of the solution, not the problem, for the environment, poverty and health.
If the recommendations are to be put into practice, we need a standard measure of sustainability at the farm level – including water, soil and carbon – to measure where we’re starting from and create a tool for driving change. As such, we strongly support the report’s backing of a Global Farm Metric, providing a common framework for measuring farm sustainability which will form a pivotal tool for the transition to regenerative agriculture. As the report states, this initiative is now being taken forward by a coalition of farmers, retailers, banks, investors, government officials and NGOs – all working together to build consensus on a common metric and roll out its use on all farms across the UK and all over the world.
We also believe that the Global Farm Metric could be used to inform global trade agreements, for which the report recommends the need for common ‘minimum environmental standards’. This is particularly important in light of the forthcoming UK / US trade deal negotiations and the UK government should take heed and use the COP26 platform to highlight the need for a common framework.
On food education, we passionately endorse the report’s conclusion that the education system must be transformed in a way which links each element of the curriculum to food education. We also believe that farm visits and giving every child the opportunity to have a direct connection with the land should be a key element of this change.
On future diets, while we welcome the report’s acknowledgement that the issue of meat and livestock is complex and that grazing livestock can play a positive role in rebuilding soil fertility and restoring habitat, we feel the report misinterprets key evidence in concluding that the intensification of livestock is better than extensification, and grain better than grass, in order to meet our greenhouse gas reduction targets.
We need to differentiate between the intensively farmed animals which are part of the problem and the pasture-fed cattle and sheep which are absolutely part of the solution. In other words, ‘It’s not the cow but the how.’
On the land sparing and land sharing front we remain concerned that the Government’s determination to take areas of agricultural land out of production all together will force intensification on the remaining area. We believe the Government’s environmental and climate change targets can be reached by farming more in harmony with nature.
On local food, we were pleased to note the report’s recommendation that, ‘The Government should conduct a review of small abattoirs to ensure that the capacity exists to serve the expected increase in numbers of farms using livestock in their rotations.’ This is a critical issue which must be addressed across the UK and is one we have been campaigning on for some time, most recently as part of the Abattoir Sector Group. In order for many of the report’s recommendations to be viable, the correct supply chain infrastructure must exist to support them. We would therefore go further and recommend a specific strategy to develop and support local and regional food systems, with greater investment in short supply chain infrastructure, as a key part of the National Food Strategy’s wider plan for healthy and sustainable food.
For further comment or information on any of these issues please contact:
Megan Perry, Head of Communications, Sustainable Food Trust
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