UK urged to protect food standards in trade deals

4 June 2020

A petition calling on the UK government to ensure high British farming standards are not undermined in future trade policy has received over 350,000 signatures. 

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU), which launched the petition, said the government should not to allow imports of food that would be illegal for British farmers to produce when it looks to secure trade deals after the Brexit transition period, due to finish at the end of the year.

The petition said the government should “seize the opportunities of 'Global Britain' to promote sustainable models of production and consumption across the world”.

“Farming throughout the UK has high standards of safety and welfare with an ambition to be net-zero in greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. There are very strict controls on farming methods allowed in the UK and I expect the same of all food which is imported here so the food I eat is as safe, traceable and produced to high welfare and environmental standards,” it continued. 

“Before the UK begins to negotiate trade deals with countries around the world, I call on the UK government to put into law rules that prevent food being imported to the UK which is produced in ways that would be illegal here.”

The petition comes as after attempts to write a legal minimum standard into the Agriculture Bill failed in the House of Commons. The bill is now with the House of Lords.

TV chef Jamie Oliver has also backed the cause. Writing for the Mail on Sunday Oliver said: “We could be about to open the floodgates to a whole raft of low-quality food that would normally be illegal in the UK. 

“Chlorinated chicken is just the tip of the iceberg. We’re talking about genetically modified food, stuffing animals full of hormones and antibiotics, banned pesticides that kill our bees, and an avalanche of foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar.

“What’s more, we’ll be threatening the future of our farmers and food producers who, despite extraordinary challenges, have worked so hard to keep us fed throughout the Covid-19 crisis,” he said. 

NFU president Minette Batters said: “For food and farming, we have the potential to be at the very top. But we need a trade policy that safeguards our farmers and British food production from the damaging impact of importing food that would be illegal to produce here. Failure to do this would undermine our values of animal welfare, environmental protection and food safety, all of which are incredibly important to the public.

“Our trade policy must reflect our moral responsibilities to the planet and the people and creatures that live on it – protecting our natural environment, caring for our farmed animals, and working toward a more sustainable, climate-friendly way of farming and food production.”

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