November 12th, 2020 Newsletter

UK Food Standards at Risk

Due to the Tories’ massive majority, no amendments got into the UK Agriculture Bill that would ensure that our high food standards are enshrined in law. Now that the Bill has gone for Royal Assent, there remains the deep concern that the Trade and Agricultural Commission is not going to prevent UK environmental, animal welfare and food safety standards being sacrificed at the altar of bilateral trade deals.

? Keep Up The Pressure

In a letter to Westminster orchestrated by the Save British Farming Campaign, a consortium of 22 food, farming and environmental organisations, raises concerns about the Trade and Agricultural Commission; “We believe this is not only designed to sidestep amendments that would write high standards for food and farming into law, but it also serves to bake in a temporary Commission whose composition was already poorly representative of farming, environmental, health and animal welfare concerns.”

“We need to urgently push together now to ensure that the Trade and Agriculture Commission amendment promised for the Trade Bill is good enough to ensure proper independent advice so parliamentarians can scrutinise all potential trade deals. We also need to push to ensure they can stop trade deals if food standards are at risk. Citizens can contact their MPs but also show support for UK high welfare farmers.”
Vicki Hird, Head of Sustainable Farming Campaign

Seaview Farms is just one of the UK’s high welfare farms that risk being undercut without these amendments. They are a diversified, grass-based, beyond organic farm with a focus on soil health and regenerative agriculture. They never use chemical fertilizers, do not plough the land and never use growth promoters or routine antibiotics. Unfortunately, many friends & partners in the hospitality sector have been hit hard from Covid disruptions so they’ve had to adapt quickly by transferring to an online presence and sell directly to customers. Here’s their story:

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?‍? How Will Farmers Adapt?

The Farm Gate podcast by Ffinlo Costain, explains UK agriculture’s transition from the EU Common Agricultural Policy to post-Brexit UK farm subsidies, based on public funds for public goods. The podcast includes interviews with Daniel Zeichner MP – Shadow DEFRA Minister, Vicki Hird – Head of Sustainable Food and Farming Policy at Sustain and Simon Hoare – Conservative MP for North Dorset.

In this excellent discussion, part of the #TradeUnwrapped series, Jyoti Fernandes, campaigns and policy coordinator for the Landworkers Alliance, blows away chemical companies’ global food market myth that protecting our standards will undermine some of the world’s poorest farmers from being able to trade with the UK. In fact quite the opposite is the case; when the EU banned the import of crops contaminated with dangerous pesticides, the Indian Government, to ensure access to EU markets, banned the use of 27 chemical pesticides. Thus by raising standards, farm worker’s lives were saved (in India every year 30,000 farm workers die of pesticide related deaths), biodiversity increased, soil health improved and toxic pesticides were prevented from contaminating our food.

? Free trade treaties = deregulation

This report describes how global free trade treaties (FTAs) undermine the UK’s diet, health and food security. “Over the past decade, our research has demonstrated that FTAs can indeed impact on the nutritional quality of the foods populations have access to, as well as peoples’ incomes and hence their ability to afford enough food to eat, on a consistent basis.”

In this #TradeUnwrapped podcast, Zac Goldsmith, Minister for Pacific and the Environment, assures Helen Browning, Director of the Soil Association, that the Tories will hold their promise to protect UK food and farming standards from substandard imports. When Helen asked why he thinks people are not convinced by these Tory promises, Zac reasons that people don’t trust politicians, there is an opportunity for opposition parties to “exploit and ham up people’s fears about what might happen”, and lastly “we haven’t fully explained how we are going to deliver on that commitment… DEFRA and DIT (Department for International Trade) are figuring out the best approach and have figured it out, but I am afraid that I am not at liberty to go into the details of that but, until we tell that story, until we explain what we are going to do, then that cynicism, that scepticism is going to continue to bubble away.” What on earth do the Tories have that will allay our fears? I imagine there is an almighty battle going on between DEFRA and DIT and if there was less secrecy in negotiating trade treaties, there would be less scepticism.

? A Biden Trade Deal

This Guardian article by Nick Dearden, Director of Global Justice Now, explains how the UK/ US trade deal will most likely go ahead under Biden so our fears of ractopamine injected pork flooding the UK food market may still be realised. “It was the Obama-Biden administration that pushed the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the US-EU trade deal that caused controversy across Europe, and that looked very similar to the US deal currently under discussion. If that deal is really so close to being completed, and should Johnson find a way of preserving the Good Friday agreement, it will be enticing for Biden to just push it over the finish line and satisfy the corporate demands”.

?? EU farmers not safe either

The battle to protect sustainable farming practices from vast corporate interests, has also been defeated in the EU. The EU’s agriculture and chemical giants successfully lobbied to weaken European Green Deal, by watering down the sustainability objectives of the New Common Agricultural Policy using myths such as pesticide reduction ambitions were “too high” and would “drive farmers out of business” and “more agricultural land is needed to maintain the same level of productivity and more greenhouse gas emissions are likely due to more interventions in the fields.” In their rush to please their corporate funders, EU bureaucrats have failed to read civil society and UN reports that describe how small scale sustainable, largely chemical free, mixed farming practices produce more food per acre, maintain biodiversity, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, employ more people in more meaningful work, keep money in the locality and are more resilient to local and global shocks.

? Small scale & local is the answer

Through world class photography, the book We Feed the World tells the little-known stories of the small-scale farming and fishing communities who sell produce via local community markets, providing 70% of global food security.

Forgive me for pointing out that, while we receive some one-off donations, I am funding Farms Not Factories myself, and if we are to continue to fight the cruel, antibiotic-led factory farm system, we will need some regular donations from like-minded people. Please consider a monthly subscription of £2/month and help us support a network of smaller scale, humane and healthy UK pig farms, local abattoirs and butchers.


Tracy Worcester, Director

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