Over the past two weeks, we’ve heard that neonicotinoids are linked to the decline in farm birds; more than 700 Britons a day are diagnosed with obesity-related diabetes; and food bank providers have warned of a sharp rise in ‘holiday hunger’ as kids can’t access free school meals over the summer.
Charities across the UK are working tirelessly to address such problems, lobbying government to take action. Some food companies are also taking positive steps like reformulating products to make them healthier, promoting Fairtrade and encouraging people to reduce food waste.
But frequently the solutions proposed by government and others fail to address wider issues, or create different problems elsewhere. That’s because food and farming policy lacks a joined up, long-term vision.
If we all came together and showed government how public health, conservation, and social and environmental concerns and their solutions go hand in hand, imagine how much better our food system could be.
That’s why 10 organisations – the Food Research Collaboration, the RSPB, the Food Ethics Council, Sustain, the Wildlife Trusts, the Soil Association, the National Trust, Eating Better, Friends of the Earth and Compassion in World Farming – have come together to launch a report called ‘Square Meal: why we need a new recipe for farming, wildlife, food and public health’.
The report demonstrates how food, farming, health and nature are inextricably linked. As joint authors, we call for a collaborative approach and an open discussion on the future of food and farming.
It’s the first time we’ve come together like this, and we’re using the opportunity to urge future governments to show strong leadership, tackle vested interests and take an integrated and long-term approach to farming and food policy.
We want a food system that delivers for people and nature. And we want wider public engagement on issues that affect the whole of society.
Food companies are uniquely placed to help promote that conversation. Creating a food and farming system that is resilient to shocks, provides healthy and affordable produce, nurtures the environment and encourages sustainable agricultural production, makes business sense.
We believe a well-functioning economy and society depend on well-designed regulation. It’s beneficial for business in the long-term, securing competitive advantage, reducing costs and protecting valuable resources.
We know many food businesses would welcome government leadership on this issue. That’s why we are calling for future governments to champion the role of effective regulation in protecting the interests of progressive businesses, society, animal welfare and the environment.
Our politicians need to step up to the plate, demonstrating leadership and political will, as well as long-term vision – something that seems to be in woefully short supply, in contrast to leading food businesses.
Today’s report is just a start. Our doors are open, and we’re keen to get food companies involved in the debate about how to develop a food and farming system that provides everyone with affordable, healthy and environmentally sustainable food, while enhancing our natural environment, and securing the livelihoods of our farmers and farm workers.