As discussions about the prospect of importing chlorine-washed chicken as part of a makeweight in trade deals resume in parliament, the British Poultry Council says why British standards must drive food security and guide how we trade.
Our standards will define our relationship with food production for a generation. We need our standards, and through them our food producers, to deliver food security for the UK. Part of that security is trade, but it mustn’t undermine the high standards that British farmers have hard-won through years of experience. When negotiating for any new trade deals we need to ensure that our ‘Great British Food Values’ are enhanced rather than diminished.
Food security should be at the root of our thinking. At the macro level that includes self-sufficiency, productivity, and how food production can benefit our environment. At the micro level it means ensuring our system can deal with food poverty, and that every individual has access to sufficient food. But our standards also need investment, whether that’s a new agricultural payment mechanism that rewards public goods, Government committing to British food in public procurement, or businesses supporting the voluntary sector in feeding the vulnerable in our society.
We have a ‘farm-to-fork’ model that is much prized, but if it can’t deliver at every level of society’s needs then we need to improve. British food means a secure supply, it means knowing where our food comes from, and it means standards everyone can trust. Government’s confidence in Britain’s world-leading farming standards is most important than ever. We need our Government to guarantee that imported food will meet our welfare and production standards and that new markets will only be opened with trading partners who value our standards.
But making trade deals is only one part of food security, and needs to sit alongside responsible production, affordability and availability, and a social attitude that feeds everyone. We don’t need a new agricultural policy, a new trade policy, and a new social policy, all proceeding in isolation. This country – facing the travails of Brexit – needs a single, comprehensive, and deliverable Food Security policy.