To strike a trade deal with the US, the government is set to lower British food standards. This will allow the importing of lower quality food into the UK. But, what does this mean for you, the person buying and eating this food and what impact will this have on our farmers?
The Current British Food Standards
To understand the situation, it’ll help to look at the current British food standards… probably taken for granted by the lay Briton.
Here in the UK, we have some of the highest standards for plant and animal-based foods in the world. The result of numerous farming laws that have been introduced during the last 40 years.
These farming laws ensure the following:
- Good animal welfare.
- Prevention of the use of growth hormones on animals.
- Preventing the misuse of antibiotics – only permitted to maintain health.
- Stringent regulations for levels of pathogenic bacteria in dairy.
- The banning of crop pesticides and herbicides that are detrimental to our health, the wildlife and the environment.
Having these laws ensures the food we purchase – whether that be from UK farms or overseas – is of a high standard.
This should give us confidence that the food we buy will not have any negative impacts on ours and our family’s health as well as the environment.
Also, we can rest easy knowing the animals we eat have had a decent life with no suffering.
I’m not saying that there isn’t room for improvement… If I had my way, all animals would be free-range, pastured, living as close to their natural habitat as possible, as is the case at some farms. Fortunately, it’s becoming more popular, and hopefully, this trend will carry on in the coming years.
We should be proud of these standards we take for granted. It’s taken years to get to this point and we should be looking to carry on the tradition of improving the food standards in the years ahead.
The Risks of the UK-US Trade Deal
With Brexit in full flow, our government is in the process of negotiating trade deals with the rest of the world. The deal with the US being one of the biggest and most important.
Striking a good trade deal with the US is clearly important and will be beneficial for a good number of reasons. For example, the removal of export tariffs will make it more viable for UK based businesses to export to the US.
But, as part of the deal, we’re under pressure from the US to lower our food standards to allow inferior quality US grown and reared food to be imported over here and sold in our stores.
Lower quality and lower cost food will take significant market share away from our British farmers.
This puts them in a situation where they would need to drop their standards to compete. But, in doing so run the risk of losing their market share of exporting to Europe as they will no longer meet their stringent standards.
Either way, they lose and could potentially suffer dire consequences.
Our UK international trade secretary – Liz Truss – affirmed that we’ll stand strong and protect our farmers by ensuring our food standards are not compromised during the negotiations stating…
“We will always ensure that UK FTAs [free trade agreements] are fair and reciprocal. British farmers will not face unbalanced competition.
We will continue to consult and engage with representative organisations, including the NFU and AHDB, in our trade negotiations.
As we leave the EU, we will maintain the same import standards. No UK import standards will be diminished as part of an FTA.
We will never undermine our high domestic environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards – ensuring that in any agreement British farmers are always able to compete.
I am committed to negotiating the best possible deal for UK farmers and involving the industry in trade negotiations.”
Despite these promises, the Agriculture Bill has passed its third reading in the House of Commons with just one Tory – Helen Grant – rebelling against the bill.
It’s devastating that as we move in the final phase of passing the bill in the coming days, the promise will be broken and our standards dropped.
Is There Hope?
With British farmers and the general population feeling betrayed by our government, the National Farmers Union (NFU) have launched a petition in an attempt to fight back. You can sign the online petition here.
They’re also asking us to send a pre-written email to our local MPs. This can be done here. Simply fill in a few details and press send… it’s very quick.
Along with our beloved Jamie Oliver writing a letter to Boris Johnson asking for the bill to be reconsidered, there is hope yet for the standards to be maintained.
Hundreds of thousands have signed the petition helped along by Jamie’s Facebook plea.
There is still hope, but we’re running out of time. If we cave into the demands of the US, it’ll open the door to other countries when deals are negotiated.
I make no secret that the quality of my food is important to me. Living in the UK we’re very fortunate to have such high standards… if those standards are lost and our farmers suffer as a consequence, I’ll be very disappointed.
It’s not just disappointing for the farmers or myself, but also for my family and future generations of my family. It’ll feel like a massive jump backwards after a long slog of progress.
If you don’t want meat injected with hormones and fruit and vegetables treated with harsh chemicals, then join the fight. Sign the petition and send your local MP an email.
It takes little time and effort but could make a big difference.
Have a nutritious day!
There you have it! Just a reminder that I’m no doctor, dietitian or any other profession for that matter. I’m simply a bearer of information for you to do what you want with; question it, research it, erase it from your mind, you are in charge of you.