Well-informed consumers can drive food change, Defra

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food Agriculture

Well-informed consumers can drive food change, Defra
Consumer power packs a punch when it comes to making food production more sustainable and healthier, says Defra chief, as the government publishes its priorities for changing the food system by 2030.

Food 2030 is the much anticipated follow up on the 2008 Food Matters report, which called for an integrated cross-governmental food policy. In August Defra (the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) published its assessment of food security in the UK. The new report is launched today at the Oxford Farming Conference, and is intended to bring together the perceived challenges.

Hilary Benn, secretary of state for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “There are challenges for everyone involved in the food system, from production to right through to managing waste.”

However he dwelt on the role of consumers in bringing about a revolution in the way food is produced and sold, saying that food businesses, including supermarkets and food manufacturers, would follow consumer demand for food that is local, healthy, and has been produced with a smaller environmental footprint.

Benn pointed to the Fairtrade sector and free range eggs as examples of changes that have already been driven by consumer demand.

Information and beyond

The report does place emphasis on the need for consumer to be informed so they can choose and afford healthy, sustainable food. “This demand is met by profitable, competitive, highly skilled and resilient farming, fishing and food businesses, supported by first class research and development,”​ it says.

The other goals for 2030 are to produce, process and distribute food to feed a growing population in ways that use global resources sustainably, protect food safety and animal welfare and contribute to rural communities; ensure food security via trade links; and is low-carbon, resource-efficient, and re-uses waste.


The report has already attracted comment from several stakeholders. Tom McMillan, executive director of the Food Ethics Council, said: “The government’s vision for a sustainable and healthy future will have wide appeal, but the ways it hopes to get there aren’t up to the job. There’s a lot about helping the market and consumers to be more efficient, but not much about people, power or politics.

“The irony is that a leaner, meaner food system squeezes people at the bottom of the heap – precisely those most at risk of eating unhealthily, being hurt by climate change or experiencing hunger.”

For food manufacturers, however, Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s foreword commends efforts they have made so far to bring change in the sector.

Melanie Leech, director general of the Food and Drink Federation, said:

“We share the Prime Minister’s pride in Britain’s food sector and are pleased that he recognises our economic and strategic importance for the UK. We have consistently called for a new Government approach that makes sustainable and competitive food production a key priority in its own right. Today’s launch of the Food 2030 vision marks the start of such a process.”

Leech pointed out that many of the points raised in Food 2030 are already on food manufacturers’ agendas. For instance, FDF members have been working to set of environmental ambitions covering issues like water use, waste reduction and reducing carbon emissions.

Food 2030 is available online here

Related topics Policy Sustainability

Related news

Show more

Follow us


View more