A Financial Times Global Food Systems Summit heard how changes to agricultural policy will disrupt the status quo and an MP admitted she was wrong to call for a meat tax to curb red meat consumption. Abi Kay reports.
Changing the food system to make it more sustainable will create ‘quite large losers’, including some farmers, food Tsar Henry Dimbleby has said.
Mr Dimbleby, who is due to publish the second part of the Food Strategy commissioned by Government next year, wants to shift the industry to focus on biodiversity, health and reducing carbon emissions, as opposed to delivering high volumes of food and calories.
Speaking at the Financial Times Global Food Systems Summit (November 3), he said: “These are not problems of the soul which require me to do a lot of new thinking. A lot of the thinking has been done.
“But politically, it is incredibly difficult, because it is about system change and there are going to be quite large winners and losers, even though we as a country, if we get it right, will become more prosperous.”
Asked by Farmers Guardian who the winners and losers would be, Mr Dimbleby pointed out the creation of a land strategy would mean significantly changing subsidies, incentives and regulation on land.
“You have really got to think about how you measure this carefully, but there are a lot of farmers who are from a certain tradition who are really struggling to manage the change,” he said.
“We need to move to a very different form of farming, [so we must think about] how you either retrain, or make it possible for those people to do something else with dignity.”
Mr Dimbleby went on to say future pesticides regulation would be ‘up for grabs’ as the Government moves away from EU rules.
He also suggested Ministers would need to intervene in future to ensure polluters in the food system pay for the damage they do.
In 2018, chairman of the Natural Capital Committee Professor Dieter Helm, who advises Government, told FG a more effective application of the polluter pays principle would see farmers paying more for fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and slurry storage facilities.