The Labour Party is edging towards a policy of introducing carbon footprint labelling on food products.
Shadow Defra Secretary Sue Hayman said she was personally very keen to see movement on the issue, as Labour Party members voted to bring the net zero emissions target forward by 20 years, to 2030.
“It is absolutely hopeless if decisions we make mean we import more food, particularly from places like Australia or America – we have to look at that,” she told a CLA event at the conference.
“Any food which is imported by aeroplane does not have that carbon footprint taken into account.
“It is not fair if we are judging our own farmers on their emissions, but not looking at what importation means.”
At a separate event hosted by SERA, Labour’s environment campaign group, MP Helen Goodman suggested introducing a system similar to alcohol units to allow people to ‘make good choices’.
Morning farmers! Interesting talk at #Lab19 about labelling food according to its carbon intensity (including travel for imports). One MP suggested creating a system similar to alcohol units, providing a tool to reduce your food carbon footprint. Would you support this? Pls RT— Abi Kay (@FGAbiKay)
Morning farmers! Interesting talk at #Lab19 about labelling food according to its carbon intensity (including travel for imports). One MP suggested creating a system similar to alcohol units, providing a tool to reduce your food carbon footprint. Would you support this? Pls RT— Abi Kay (@FGAbiKay) September 25, 2019
FUW head of policy Nick Fenwick told Farmers Guardian it was time to start looking carefully at this kind of approach, but it must be realistic and fair, and include factors such as on-farm carbon storage and sequestration.
“The technology and data collection mechanisms required for such a system to be fair and accurate would be significant,” he said.
“We also need to be careful that the species which rely on grazing livestock for their survival are not threatened by such a system and family farms are rewarded fairly.”
NFU deputy president Guy Smith also raised concerns about the practicality of the approach, pointing out carbon auditing could be complex and selective.
“What weighting would you give to methane?” he said.
“Alcohol content is a simple lab test.”
Senior policy adviser at the National Pig Association Ed Barker warned there would be difficulties applying the same score to one product, such as pork shoulder, because it could be produced in different systems with varying metrics on carbon.
He said: “We always want to improve information on pork to consumers, but it must accurately represent the farm it came from, without generalising or conflation.”
NFU Cymru president John Davies pointed out shoppers could already reduce their food carbon footprint by buying Welsh meat and dairy, which has one of the lowest climate impacts in the world.