A petition launched in February by the NFU calling on the government to preserve and protect UK food standards against the threat posed by future imports of lower standard food has attracted one million signatures from the British public.
The milestone was passed soon after an Agriculture Bill amendment which would have banned low standard food imports under future trade deals from entering the UK was defeated. Part of the NFU’s ‘Back British Farming’ campaign, the cause was given extra impetus when celebrity chef and campaigner, Jamie Oliver, wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister which was subsequently printed in the Mail on Sunday, and posted a video on Facebook. In addition, TV presenter Jimmy Doherty wrote an opinion piece in the Daily Mail on the issue.
Writing in a recently published ‘Yorkshire Post’ article, NFU President, Minette Batters, said: “None of us want to see food on our supermarket shelves, or in restaurants, pubs or cafes, that falls below the standards British farmers adhere to. By signing our petition, a million people have urged the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his government to ensure future trade deals do not import food that would be illegal to produce here.”
The NFU has proposed a Trade, Food and Farming Standards Commission. This independent body would review trade policy and develop solutions to ensure food is not imported that would be illegal here. More than 80,000 people have now written to their MP urging them to support its introduction.
“Farmers, animal welfare groups, environmentalists and, most importantly, the great British public, have made their views crystal clear,” said Ms Batters. “Through our petition, they have pledged their support for our world-leading animal welfare and environmental standards – no one wants to see chlorinated chicken or hormone-fed beef on supermarket shelves or on our plates.”
The unamended Agriculture Bill is now passing through the House of Lords and the NFU is determined to keep lobbying Government and campaigning hard to achieve its objectives for a Standards Commission.
Buoyed by the huge and growing support of the British public, this is surely a campaign that the government can ill afford to ignore. Quite simply, they must remain true to the very clear commitments in the Conservative Party manifesto at the last General Election that they will not compromise British farming’s high standards.