Food standards in the UK

East Devon’s MP: “I completely share the strength of feeling many have felt.”

“I have been assured by ministers that they have no intention of lowering our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards in transitioned trade agreements.”

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There is increasing concern from all quarters on the quality and standard of our food.

There are several campaigns under way:

foodwatch International

Our food standards campaign: The journey so far | Countryside Online

Save our food standards | Which? Campaigns

Projects and campaigns | Sustain

Food standards petition | nfuonline.com

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Last month, the MP for Honiton and Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, pushed for changes to government proposals for the future of food and farming in its Agriculture Bill:

The Agriculture Bill and the future for England’s farmers – Vision Group for Sidmouth

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Here’s a summary from Business Green:

 

Agriculture Bill ‘on track’, but Green Brexit plans face fresh challenges

The government introduced the updated Agriculture Bill in January. It outlines plans to replace the EU’s system of ‘direct payment subsidies’ for farmers, which pays based on the amount of land farmed with a new system dubbed the Environmental Land Management Scheme, which would use public money to reward farmers for ‘public goods’, such as environmental improvements or enhanced animal welfare.

The plan to reform agricultural subsidies to help enhance UK ecosystems has been broadly welcomed by environmental and farming groups. However, the government has faced fierce criticism over its failure to back amendments to the Bill that would have effectively blocked the import of food products made to lower animal welfare and environmental standards, such as chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-fed beef from the US…

However, the Government’s significant majority prevailed during the Bill’s second reading in the Commons in June, when two amendments intended to ensure that new post-Brexit trade agreements do not permit imports produced to lower standards than in place were rejected.

Agriculture Bill ‘on track’, but Green Brexit plans face fresh challenges

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There are indeed several issues at stake – with opportunities and threats seen in equal measure:

Five reasons environmentalists should oppose Britain’s agriculture bill

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Which have been covered on these news pages:

Farming and public goods – Vision Group for Sidmouth

DEFRA ‘Providing Public Money for Public Goods’ – Vision Group for Sidmouth

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Including what sort of food we are prepared to import:

Our appetite for cheap beef is destroying the Amazon rainforest – Vision Group for Sidmouth

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And that includes the chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-fed beef, which the failed amendments to the Agriculture Bill sought to exclude – as covered extensively in the press. Here’s one impression from the veterinary profession:

Would you like some chlorine with your chicken? | Vet Times

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Meanwhile, in parallel, the Trade Bill is making its way through parliament:

Trade Bill – GOV.UK

With all sorts of pressures on MPs to vote a certain way:

What’s wrong with the Trade Bill

The Trade Bill is an opportunity for MPs to ‘take back control’ and protect the environment | Inside track

Here’s an excellent overview of the issues from the Telegraph:

Britain and US enter game of chicken on trade

And here’s a petition organised by Which:

Save our food standards | Which? Campaigns

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A member of the VGS wrote to East Devon’s MP earlier this month – and his correspondence is published with permission:

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Would YOU eat chlorinated chicken, Simon?

Dear Simon

As a constituent, I ask you this: Would you support the lowering of standards of meat and vegetables in the UK? I choose to avoid hormones and chemicals in meat, and pesticides on and in vegetables.

Imminently,  you have the opportunity to vote on the Trade Bill. It’s your chance to protect UK food standards.

I support Which?’s petition to Save Food Standards. We’ve heard commitments from the government but we want them set out proactively in law. 74% of people think that food should not be available if it’s imported from countries with lower food standards than the UK. Don’t let them down.

You need to reassure your constituents that the current high food standards enjoyed in the UK will be protected in future trade deals. There is concern that if a clear and explicit government commitment to uphold food standards isn’t included in the Trade Bill, existing food law – including retained law – could be easily changed with little scrutiny. This cannot be allowed to happen.

Meanwhile, trading partners like the US continue to push to be able to export lower-standard food to the UK. To send a strong signal to trading partners and reassure consumers across the country, I’d urge you to:

  • vote for New Clauses 4, 7 and 11, and amendment 20, to the Trade Bill
  • ask the government to set out the precise details of its commitments.

Thank you

Sincerely

Peter Murphy

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However, not all these efforts have not born fruit:

Parliament loses right to vote on trade deals as Trade Bill amendment is defeated by government – The Institute of Export and International Trade

Brexit: Tory MPs lose bid to put future trade deals through parliament | The Independent

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However, a commission has been set up:

New Trade and Agriculture Commission fuels green group’s post-Brexit fears

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As laid out in the reply from East Devon’s MP to the letter above, from earlier in the week, also published with permission:

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Dear Peter

Last night, the House of Commons debated amendments to the Trade Bill.

It’s right that how I vote for East Devon is scrutinised. I’m your MP and represent you. I completely share the strength of feeling many have felt over the past 24 hours, as shown on local East Devon Facebook groups and emails I’ve received.

The Trade Bill debated last night is all about transitioning Free Trade Agreements we have already agreed so they continue after the transition period with the EU ends. To implement new agreements with global partners, the government will bring forward separate primary legislation. The Trade Bill cannot be used to implement future trade deals.

I have been clear that any trade deal the UK strikes must be fair and reciprocal to our farmers, and must not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards. I have been assured by ministers that they have no intention of lowering on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards in transitioned trade agreements.

I made my views clear when I supported an amendment to the Agriculture Bill put forward by Neil Parish MP working closely with the NFU. A few weeks after this vote, the Government agreed to establish a Trade and Agriculture Commission. By forming this Commission, Ministers can ensure close engagement with the agriculture industry to help inform, shape and guide agricultural trade policy, so that this is recognised throughout our trade negotiations. Once the Commission has finished its work, it will produce a report in line with its terms of reference that will be presented to Parliament by the Department for International Trade.

We have always protected our right to choose how we would deliver public services in trade agreements, and we will continue to do so. Rigorous checks and balances on the government’s power to negotiate and ratify trade agreements are in place via the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010.

Kind regards

Simon

Simon Jupp MP

Member of Parliament for East Devon

In any trade negotiations, the NHS will not be on the table | Simon Jupp

   
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