Sustainability chair lambasts UK food and farming policy

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Climate change, Greenhouse gas

The UK government’s policy on sustainable food and farming has been overtaken by developments in climate change and obesity and is no longer fit for its purpose, says the chair of the Sustainable Development Commission.

Speaking at the annual Campden BRI lecture this evening, Jonathan Porritt, who is also founder director of the Forum for the Future, will address the bearing that related policy areas and geopolitical factors like energy prices and resource shortages have on food.

He will recommend that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs completely rethink its “somewhat complacent approach to food security, in the light of the government’s own policies on climate change and obesity”.

The Climate Change Act sets out statutory targets for assessing the UK’s carbon budgets: at least a 34 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 – rising to 40 per cent if agreement is reached in Copenhagen later this year – and 80 per cent by 2050.

Porritt points out that the farming is currently based on high carbon emissions and low prices.

“That is going to have to be completely reversed,”​ he will say. Moreover, every aspect of the food supply chain will have to be “dramatically decarbonised”​ – right through to the point of sale.

As for the government’s strategy to tackle obesity, Porritt calls efforts so far “patchy and poorly implemented”.

Food-related ill health is said to cost the National Health Service an estimated £7.7bn – 7 per cent of its annual budget.

The government department launched its Healthy Weight Healthy Lives​ strategy in early 2008. A key element of the strategy is promoting healthy food choices (as well as improving education and fostering a healthy environment). The aim is to curb the obesity epidemic that has been 30 years in the making – an ambition it recognises will not be achieved overnight.

Related topics: Sustainability, Policy

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