Mostly hidden by covid-19 and Brexit, the agriculture bill is steadily going through parliament. This bill will define the shape of farming, wildlife, water management and the quality of food we eat.
It will determine whether we continue to push money to big landowners simply because they own land, or whether it is aimed at supporting smaller farmers who are key to protecting our environment. It will decide if we take a serious step towards avoiding climate catastrophe or keep on maintaining the same damaging practices we have so far used. In short, it’s key to what our countryside will look like in the future.
Government ministers repeatedly claim there will be no reduction in food quality or animal welfare standards. In February 2019, Michael Gove (then the environment secretary) pledged that British food standards would not be lowered “in pursuit of trade deals”.
Why then did the government reject an amendment to the bill which guaranteed that UK farmers would not be undercut by lower standard imports? Clearly, the words they say are not worth anything. Without the safeguard of the law, anything can be negotiated away. Hormone treated beef and pork plus chlorinated chicken may soon be on our shelves. With our food labelling standards also up for negotiation, if the US have their way you will not even be allowed to know what you are eating!
The most recent statement from Cabinet Office minister Penny Mordaunt is that we should trust the consumer to decide and put our faith in government. This shows exactly what they plan to do; to sell the consumer, our farmers and our environment down the river.
Trustworthy? Remember, this is the government which counted one pair of surgical gloves as two pieces of PPE!
Read more about food standards legislation on Which?