Food strategy for England is likely to be watered down | Farming

It is expected that the government will lower its next food strategy for England, ignoring the ambitious recommendations proposed in two government commission reports, activists say.

The white paper, scheduled for later this month, was supposed to be a groundbreaking plan to address the natural and climate crises in response to glaring recommendations urged by restaurateur Henry Dimbleby in his reports.

Activists also hoped it could address the obesity crisis making healthy foods more accessible, including expanding free school meals.

There was hope that a food bill would be introduced, bringing measures such as the reporting of nutrient content in food served in schools and hospitals into law. Experts consulted on the strategy have pushed for a reduction in intensive animal farming and mandatory reporting for retailers on how much animal protein, compared to plant protein, they sell.

This, they said, has become even more crucial in view of the cost-of-living crisis, and the war in Ukraine under pressure from international food chains.

However, those who have worked with the government on the strategy say none of this is happening, and some critical points from the government such as its poverty record will be removed. There will also be no food bill, so none of the recommendations will be enshrined in law.

Even measures on childhood obesity already announced, such as a ban on the promotion of junk food, are likely to be watered down, postponed or completely removed after pressure from a small group of right-wing backsliders, those familiar with the report said.

The independent National Food Strategy, developed by Dimbleby, was commissioned in 2019 by then-Secretary of the Environment Michael Gove and produced du reports.

Rob Percival, head of food policy at the Ground Association, said: “We have worked closely with Henry and the team throughout the process to form his recommendations. I cannot say for sure that we will see an ambitious response from the government or even an appropriate response to be honest.

“The government has already said they will not offer a food bill, which is extremely disappointing. This would be a way to make recommendations into law. We are not sure the government will follow our recommendations.”

Ambitious measures have been proposed by experts, including a change in where people get their protein.

Greenpeace has called for a switch to plant-based protein, and the Soil Association agrees, arguing that all meat should be produced in a regenerative system, where more land is used to grow crops for human consumption rather than to be fed to animals or used. for intensive animal farming.

Rebecca Newsom, Head of Policy at Greenpeace UK, said: “Our long-term food security depends on a healthy natural environment and resilient soils, with broad reductions in agrochemicals, a 70% reduction in meat and milk production and consumption by 2030, and land. used effectively to produce healthy, mostly plant-based food for humans, rather than grains for fodder or crops for biofuels.

“To achieve this, land that can grow food directly for humans should be used for that purpose, and much more financial and technical support is needed for farmers to move to sustainable methods.”

Percival agreed, adding: “We waste so much grain, feeding it to animals in intensive farming systems when we are at the cost of a life crisis. A sustainable system would require us to eat less, better quality meat and more unprocessed plant proteins such as beans and pulses. “

However, it is understood that this recommendation will not be included in the strategy and instead all changes except those already covered by the one already announced. Environmental Management (ELMS) will be voluntary.

Ben Reynolds, deputy chief executive of the agricultural NGO Sustain, said:

“Government intervention is needed to achieve a safe and sustainable food system that makes good food available and affordable for all, while supporting farmers and businesses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and restore nature. What we fear will be a small shopping cart of measures designed to capture headlines for the PM while achieving little for our families, health or environment. “

Dimbleby declined to comment, and Defra did not respond to a request for comment.

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