Nature

How to turn the food system around - for humans, animals and the planet

Far-reaching changes in UK food and agriculture policy are needed - Compassion in World Farming has the answers

By Peter Stevenson, Chief Policy Advisor at Compassion in World Farming

We have a food system that does the opposite of what it is supposed to do: it makes us unhealthy. This is a crisis. Poor diet is one of the major contributors to disease in the UK and the more deprived people are, the more diet-related diseases they suffer from. Intensive farming is undermining the natural resources on which the future health of agriculture depends, whilst farmers have been swamped by retailers and receive too little of the revenue generated by the food chain.

If we want a better system we need to embark on far-reaching changes, underpinned by a bold and vision that is developed and communicated by Government (Leon restaurants co-founder to lead review of UK food system, 27 June), before it’s too late.

The fostering of a healthier food culture is essential, as is better consumer information about dietary choice. Public bodies should procure food produced to high nutritional and animal welfare standards and the use of cereals as animal feed should be reduced - freeing-up cropland for horticulture, agroforestry and rotational crop-livestock systems.

On Monday 1st July, the world’s leading farm animal welfare organisation, Compassion in World Farming, presented a new report at an All-Party Parliamentary Group event on Turning the Food System Round.

Policy-makers are beginning to recognise that far-reaching changes in UK food and agriculture are needed, but are unclear as to how to achieve those changes. At the session, Compassion in World Farming launched a report examining the steps that should be taken by Government to help evolve to a food system that is nourishing, sustainable, equitable and humane.

The report looks at how to address a number of core issues including:

  • the detrimental impact of intensive agriculture on soils, water and biodiversity;
  • the value of moving to agroecology and other forms of regenerative farming including rotational crop-livestock systems;
  • the need for farmers to receive a larger share of the income generated by the food chain;
  • how to develop policies that ensure that everyone including the most disadvantaged can access nutritious food that enhances rather than undermines their health;
  • the need to build animal welfare standards that respond to our obligation to them as sentient beings.

Peter Stevenson, Chief Policy Advisor at Compassion in World Farming and author of the report said,

“We are facing an emergency. Intensive farming is undermining the natural resources on which the future health of agriculture depends, whilst farmers have been swamped by retailers and receive too little of the revenue generated by the food chain.

“If we want a better system we need to embark on far-reaching changes, underpinned by a bold vision that is developed and communicated by Government before it’s too late. Compassion in World Farming’s new report looks at the steps Government should take to address this crisis. The fostering of a healthier food culture is essential, as is better consumer information about dietary choice. We now have a major opportunity to play our part in shaping the future food system”

Over 70 participants discussed the measures that are needed to turn our food system round.

The panel included George Eustice MP, former Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and Peter Stevenson of Compassion in World Farming. The event was also attended by Kerry McCarthy MP, Chair of the APPG on Agroecology.

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