The organisation, which advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that promote health and fair treatment for people and animals and environmental awareness warned the government was unlikely to act on its recommendations.
The report itself is scathing and makes potent reading and is summed up by the following statement from the Committee: “The government must develop a joined-up strategy to change the UK’s unhealthy and environmentally damaging food system, as fears mount about global food security.”
No overarching food strategy
The statement accuses the government of having “no overarching food strategy in place”. It also calls for investigation of the meaning and implications of the government’s focus on sustainable intensification, recommended in the Foresight report on The Future of Food and Farming, published in 2011.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is due to address the issue in its Green Food Project, due to be published in June.
The report warns that the UK “does not currently have the basic science base to deliver more sustainable food production practices” and must incentivise research institutions to train agriculture and food scientists.
Food waste the largest issue
Food waste remained “the largest single issue across the whole supply chain” the report states. Other recommendations include establishing an independent body to evaluate the impact of genetically modified crops on the environment and examining the scope for clear and consistent labelling on the sustainability of food products.
Sustain singled out proposals to protect children from junk food marketing, improve government buying standards and extend them to hospitals and protect food-growing land.
All of these policies had been backed by large and growing volumes of evidence and hundreds of organisations had been campaigning for them to be introduced, said Sustain. Unfortunately, it continued, the government had been blind to the evidence and deaf to these calls.
“It’s a terrific boost for Sustain and all its members and supporters of this cross-party expert group to endorse many of the policies we’ve been arguing for, for years,” said Sustain coordinator Jeanette Longfield. “I would love to be proved wrong, but this government’s track record is to quietly shelve reports that produce the ‘wrong results’.”
The UK’s Food Ethics Council called on the government to act on the report’s guidance. “The strong message from this report is that government needs to do much more to provide the strategic policy framework for achieving a fair food system that provides healthy and sustainable food for all,” said Sue Dibb, the Food Ethics Council’s Executive Director, who gave evidence at the Committee’s inquiry. “We hope the government will respond positively to this recommendation."