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What if... Government bought green?

Sustain has criticised the government for not buying enough local or fairtrade produce

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Can Defra deliver its 2030 food vision?

Ecologist

11th August, 2009

Pressure groups question whether Defra has the power to drive reforms in the food sector

The UK will need to radically change the way food is produced and processed over the coming decades, according to Defra.

Outlining its vision for the UK's food system in 2030, Defra minister Hilary Benn said we needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve water efficiency and ensure people have access to healthy, safe and affordable food.

However, pressure groups are already questioning whether Defra will be able to deliver on its vision.

'Although it has recognised the need to cut carbon emissions from the food industry, the Government has neglected to set out plans for the most damaging sector - meat and dairy - which creates more climate-changing emissions than all the world's transport,' said Friends of the Earth's Senior Food Campaigner Clare Oxborrow.

'Growing soy for UK animals in intensive farms is driving deforestation and biodiversity loss in South America - the best solution is a switch to small-scale, local farming and home-grown feeds. We should support farmers in the UK to produce planet-friendly food that will boost the economy, cut carbon emissions and improve food security,' she said.

Defra clout?


Both Sustain and the Food Ethics Council criticised existing Defra policy and questioned whether Defra had enough, 'clout across government to do what's required.'

'One of government’s most important commitments in Food Matters was to push for European climate agreements to take account of methane and nitrous oxide from farming, yet so far all that’s happened is a seminar with the French,' said executive director Dr Tom MacMillan.

'Defra is obliged to turn a blind eye to issues that raise questions about the fairness and sustainability of the wider economy, however important they might be. To achieve its aims, the department needs a stronger mandate from the government,' he said.

Public sector

Sustain highlighted Defra's inability to get the government to buy Fairtrade or British produce.

Only 8 per cent of tea and coffee purchased last year by the Department of Communities and Local Government was Fairtrade certified. In addition, the new £48 million School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme will not be used to support British farmers.

Soil Association policy advisor Helen Browning said the jury was still out on whether Defra could transform the food system. 'The solutions are already largely available; it's now about the political will to implement them,' she said.

See also
Ecologist investigation: what if the government did buy local and sustainable food?


Useful links

Defra food 2030
Food Ethics Council - Food and Fairness debate

 

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