combine harvester in field crops harvest

British food businesses would welcome more government intervention on food security issues, according to a new report from WWF-UK.

The report, produced with the Food Ethics Council, is based on workshops, roundtables and interviews with representatives from major food companies including Marks & Spencer, Asda, Waitrose, Aldi, Tesco, Alpro, Coca Cola and Unilever.

It found there was an “appetite for greater sustainability regulation” among senior food executives, who recognised the need to work more collaboratively on food security issues.

Suggestions for government intervention included subsidies and tax relief to incentivise actions that contribute to long-term food security, a review of competition policy to better allow businesses to work together on sustainability and better support for British farmers.

There were also calls for government-led sustainability labelling to allow people to make “more informed choices about the food they buy”.

“There was a very strong call from businesses for more collaborative action,” said Duncan Williamson, WWF-UK expert on sustainable food security. “The government needs to set up the right framework to enable that collaboration and make sure there is a level playing field for all.”

Limited understanding

The report concluded that British food businesses currently have limited understanding of food security, and put too much focus on increasing production without taking other aspects, such as environmental impact, into account.

It called for sustainability to be put at the “core of food production” and said “defining the meaning of genuine long-term food security within a food business and across the sector is a crucial first step”.

“In working on this report with WWF-UK, it became increasingly clear that some food businesses have a narrow understanding of food security,” said Dan Crossley, executive director of the Food Ethics Council.

“We’d urge them to join forces to tackle the issues head on, to safeguard their own futures, and at the same time the long-term wellbeing of their customers, workforce, producer communities and the planet.”

The report outlines a number of recommendations to help businesses ramp up their food security efforts, and Williamson said WWF-UK would work with companies to create an action plan for implementing those recommendations.