It is not just the farming industry which needs to change, says South East Green MEP Keith Taylor. The whole food system needs a radical overhaul.
Green MEPs have just submitted our response to the Government’s consultation on its vision for a so-called ‘green’ Brexit.
We have been clear that we believe Brexit is anything but green.
However, while the moniker is misleading, the consultation is an important opportunity to talk about the future of farming in Britain.
Brexit or no Brexit; the current agricultural system is unsustainable – for producers, consumers, animals and the planet.
In our submission to Defra, we laid out our positive vision for a food and farming sector which puts high environmental and animal welfare standards at the heart of a resilient and sustainable system; a system that would make Britain more food-secure.
In a nutshell, we want to build local food networks of small producers and markets, and more organic production to deliver quality local food, more jobs, a profitable enterprise for producers and a reduction in ‘food miles’.
It is a common sense proposal, but it requires a holistic approach to reforming not just farming but the whole food system; everything from processing to distribution, and consumption to waste.
Outside of the food system, a consideration of issues like housing, transport, education, and rural connectivity are also vital to delivering our vision.
Not all of the issues are within Defra’s remit, but food and farming cannot be removed from the wider political and societal context.
The environment and our countryside are continually called upon to fulfil a range of different, and often competing, functions: from tourism to food, from amenity to energy, from carbon capture to water management, from homes to habitats.
Balancing these different demands necessitates a joined-up approach which must be done sensitively.
Ultimately, we need to return to developing policy influenced by the best available evidence. Recently, there has been a move away from expertise towards rushing through proposals which have immediate – and often superficial – appeal to voters or politicians.
As a result, we have policies like the badger cull, which are contradictory, evidence-free, have hugely negative impacts and fail to deliver value for money. As we head towards Brexit, the inclination is becoming more pronounced.
I continue to believe EU membership is in Britain’s best interests. But short of the people of Britain being given the opportunity to change their minds on Brexit in a People’s Poll, I am urging the Government to maintain the closest possible relationship with the EU to, at the very least, safeguard our food standards and environmental, animal welfare and workers’ rights protections.