Looking at sustainability and UK food policy
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In a new report, the Sustainable Development Commission reviews progress towards sustainable food policy in the UK over the last decade and looks ahead to policy implications of the increasing challenges of public health, climate change and oil prices.
Looking back, Looking Forward: Sustainability and UK food policy 2000 – 2011 argues for the four Governments of the UK “not to step back from the challenge of making our food systems more sustainable, calling on them to raise their game and speed up the pace and scale of change”.
Tim Lang, The SDC’s Food Commissioner and Professor at the Centre for Food Policy, City University said:
“The challenge of feeding growing populations healthily while minimising environmental damage – particularly as food and fuel prices continue to rise – should remind governments that this is not a time to step away from tackling our food system. Obesity and climate change are two huge market failures. Our review of the last decade shows that progress requires the hands-on participation of governments – not a ‘leave it to the market’ approach.”
Recommendations for sustainable food
While the story of UK food since World War 2 has been one of success in increasing production, lowering prices and reducing ill health from nutritional deficiency, the report stresses that our current food system fails on environmental, social and economic measures of sustainability.
Multiple values are identified for a more sustainable food system – from taste, pleasure and safety to biodiversity, resilience and transparency – with four priorities for action:
- Government leadership for sustainable food;
- Sustainable food supply chains;
- Sustainable consumption;
Amongst detailed recommendations under these headings, the report advises that the governments of the UK must:
- Prioritise reversing the decline in UK food production, helping expand vegetable crops sustainably and increasing UK fruit production;
- Enable the meat and dairy industry to reduce its reliance on grain feedstuffs to lower land use and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
- Work to create local food partnerships to harness local government, health authorities, community groups and local business to meet local sustainability goals;
- Increase efforts to reduce food waste, planning for zero food waste to landfill by 2015;
- Ensure practical food experience in schools including cooking skills and food growing;
- Reflect the cost of ensuring a nutritious and sustainable diet in minimum wage and benefit levels;
- Mandate health and sustainability standards for all publicly procured food.
Looking back, looking forward
In reviewing progress on sustainable food since 2000, the report draws on the SDC’s previous work, including numerous reports from 2001′s A vision for sustainable agricultureto Sustainable Development: the key to tackling health inequalities, published in 2010.
Over 145 experts in Government, business, academia and civil society contributed to a survey on the current state of the food system, informing the recommendations for future policy.
- Looking back, Looking Forward: Sustainability and UK food policy 2000 – 2011: full report available to download.
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