At the Food and Drink Federation, we see the recent report by the Sustainable Development Commission as a recipe for disaster one that fails to understand the nature of the challenge or the importance of the UK food chain in an increasingly uncertain world.

The Commission's efforts to define a healthy, low environmental impact diet is at best simplistic and at worst deliberately disingenuous. This is a complex debate that needs to encompass hard trade-offs that reflect the personal preferences, incomes and cultures of the many different population groups that inhabit our crowded island.

For instance: vegetables grown in greenhouses in the UK may have a high carbon footprint; but then vegetables grown elsewhere may have a damaging water footprint. Which is more important for the environment? Do we want to encourage consumers to eat more vegetables or encourage them to eat only UK field-grown, seasonal vegetables? The answer to each of these questions and a myriad more represents different challenges, choices and trade-offs for the food chain, government and consumers.

We cannot, as the report suggests, address these issues as if we exist in isolation from the rest of the world and from the global impacts of ballooning population, climate and demographic change, environmental degradation and future shortages of fossil fuels and water.

If we reduce the production of meat and dairy in the UK, we run the risk of externalising environmental impacts in the short term (as imports increase) and undermining our ability to respond to long-term changes in food production and sourcing.

Companies in our sector clearly recognise their responsibility to engage with efforts to reduce the food chain's carbon footprint, to cut unnecessary waste and to promote increased efficiency of resource use. Only this week, members of the FDF announced they had reduced carbon emissions 19% since 1990.

I fear the hot air generated by the SDC report is more likely to make a negative contribution to global warming than the positive one no doubt originally intended.
Melanie Leech, director general, FDF