Appendix 1Government response |
The Government welcomes the Environmental Audit Committee
(EAC) report on Sustainable Food, published on 13 May 2012. The
Government agrees that this is a global issue driven by a number
of factorspopulation growth, changes in diets in developing
countries, and pressure on natural resources worldwide.
As the Committee recognise these pressures were clearly
set out in the Foresight Report on the Future of Food and Farming.
The UK Government accepts the call for action to respond to these
challenges, and welcomes the work of the Committee to aid direction
on these issues. The one year review
of the Foresight Report published in May this year highlights
actions taken across Government, and in all sectors to address
the challenges posed.
As the Foresight Report makes clear, it is widely
accepted that we must produce more food to feed a growing population
in a sustainable way. The UK is committed to playing its part
in this global challenge. But we also recognise that there are
other factors that can play an important part, such as reducing
waste throughout the food chain.
This Government understands that sustainable food
requires looking at the social, economic and environmental aspects
of the food chain. This Government has put sustainability at the
core of its agenda to ensure that it is central to the way we
make policy, run our buildings and purchase goods and services.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
(Defra) is the lead for the Government on sustainability and food.
The Defra Business Plan sets out the top three priorities, which
- Support and develop British
farming and encourage sustainable food production.
- Enhance the environment and biodiversity to improve
quality of life.
- Support a strong and sustainable green economy,
including thriving rural communities, resilient to climate change.
Department for Health leads for Government on healthy
diets with business plan commitments to:
- Establish the Public Health
i. Begin to develop initial plans with representatives
from business, voluntary and community sector organisations and
local government, looking at the issues of food, alcohol, physical
activity and health in the workplace, and incorporating insights
from behavioural science.
ii. Launch the Responsibility Deal.
Defra and the Department for International Development
(DfID) jointly sponsored the work of the Chief Scientist Sir John
Beddington and the Government Office for Science in the preparation
and follow up to the Foresight report on the Future of Food and
Farming. This is a strategic cross department initiative which
draws together expertise from many departments to address the
challenges of a sustainable food system.
The UK Government believes it can play its part in
addressing these challenges in three ways: by ensuring the UK
is taking action to feed a growing population sustainably; by
taking action where we have direct influence on these issues in
other countries; and through our work at a global level in our
participation in multilateral organisations.
In the Government's Natural Environment White Paper
(NEWP) there is a clear commitment to enhancing the environment
at the same time as increasing food production. This recognises
that any intensification of agriculture and food production should
not be at the expense of the natural environment. The Government
also published the UK National Ecosystem Assessment (UK NEA) which
is the first analysis of the UK's natural environment in terms
of the benefits it provides to society and our continuing economic
The Government is looking at how we can increase
food production in the UK whilst simultaneously enhancing the
environment through the Green Food Project. The Project is a partnership
between Government and industry and will set a direction of travel
for tackling these challenges. It will not have all the answers,
but will identify areas where more work is needed. Some of these,
such as on research and development, are consistent with the Committee's
We have been working with the Waste and Resources
Action Programme (WRAP) and industry to improve business resource
efficiency, emissions of greenhouse gases, and the amount of waste
sent to landfill. We recently launched a new voluntary agreement
to promote action on these issues with businesses in the hospitality
and food sector.
There is an increasing focus on sustainability in
the food chain, and many companies are now seen as leaders in
managing their environmental impacts, such as the British Retail
Consortium's Better Retailing Climate and the Food and
Drink Federation's Five-fold environmental Commitment.
It is also important that the UK works in partnership
with other countries to deliver its objectives on sustainable
food. We are already looking at ways to make use of our expertise
and knowledge in agricultural techniques and life sciences to
help developing countries feed their populations, delivering £71.8
million for international agricultural research programmes in
the last two years.
But we recognise that there is more to be done by
all sectors in terms of addressing the impacts of UK consumption,
in identifying better what constitutes a sustainable diet.
The UK food chain is already making efforts to understand
and address their impact on global food systems, such as Unilever
working with farmers in their supply chains to minimise their
impacts on biodiversity, or Nestle and SAB Miller minimising water
use in their supply chains.
Internationally, the Government is active in promoting
sustainable food systems. The UK has been instrumental in putting
sustainable agriculture at the top of the agenda for Rio+20, and
continues to push forward the agenda of sustainable food through
the G8 and G20 summits.
In Europe the UK is pressing for ambitious reform
of both the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries
Policy, to create sustainability in global food systems.
The Government welcomes the Committee's recommendations
on sustainable food, and has set out its response to each one
in this document. The Government wants to make clear how seriously
it takes the issues raised in this report, and the importance
of working together to tackle these challenges.
This is not just work for Government. Other players
in the food chain hold the levers and tools to help meet these
challenges. The Government's role is to do what others cannot
do, to add value and focus its energies on the areas where it
is most needed.
Government response to the recommendations of
1. We do not currently have the basic science
base to deliver more sustainable food production practices. Relying
on markets to identify and to direct where this research is needed,
and on sufficient scale, is likely to fail. The Government must
be prepared to intervene with universities, colleges and the Research
Councils to develop incentives for them to train more agricultural
and food scientists. It must also take a more active role in directing
the Technology Strategy Board and the Agriculture and Horticulture
Development Board to focus research on sustainable food production.
In developing the Green Food Project, and a subsequent food strategy,
the Government must explicitly recognise the need for more research
- the interactions between
the impacts of food production practices and the environment,
so that these can be better managed to increase production in
a sustainable way;
- the impacts of agriculture on climate change,
to provide a basis for encouraging farmers to adopt more sustainable
practices and behaviours;
- the life-cycle impacts of food, to give producers,
suppliers and customers the information they need to be able to
make decisions which would have less impact on the sustainability
- soil science; and
- the benefits of new farming practices, such
as those in fresh water fish farming. (Paragraph 27)
Government Departments have been working with other
public funders, industry (including Agriculture and Horticulture
Development Board) and academics to consider how they can stimulate
the skills, research and development (R&D) and innovation
needed to address the challenges posed by food security and climate
change, under the Food Research Partnership, chaired by the Government
Chief Scientific Adviser.
The Food Research Partnership Skills Subgroup published
a report in 2010 which reviewed the high level agri-food skills
and research capability
and concluded that while there was no immediate shortage of skills,
there was a need to promote the importance and track needs and
supply of skills in the food and farming industries.
Government is one partner within the Green Food Project,
and recognises the importance of research and development as a
tool to deliver more sustainable food production practices. The
partners of the Green Food Project are working together to deliver
a more joined up approach to research and knowledge exchange,
to make sure that the research we already have is useful on the
ground to make farming practices more sustainable and build on
this by addressing the need for more work into specific areas
such as soil science.
Defra has supported the development of the industry
led Agri Skills Strategy, which aims to communicate the business
benefits of skills and support continuous development. The Agri-Skills
Forum is continuing their work in this area. The Apprenticeships
Programme is continuing to expand to £1.4 billion for apprenticeships
training for 2011-12. The Biotechnology and Biosciences Research
Council (BBSRC) is also providing £12 million for four Advanced
Training Partnerships, which provide post-graduate training for
sustainable efficient food production; advancement of the UK agri-food
industry; food quality and health; and livestock health and production.
The BBSRC's Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTP) competition supports
PhD studentships across its remit with an increased emphasis on
strategic priority areas (this includes both broad and 'niche'
research skills relevant to food). To support these new partnerships
BBSRC also funds collaborative PhD training with industry (including
in areas relating to food) through its CASE schemes.
To support the research base, BBSRC is distributing
£250 million in grants to fund their strategic research through
26 research programmes in 8 institutes associated with the biosciences
which includes sustainable production.
Directing the Technology Strategy Board and
the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB)
The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) Sustainable Agriculture
and Food Innovation Platform (SAFIP) provide the main mechanism
for funding industry-led research to support a more sustainable
and competitive food chain. Defra and TSB recently held an innovation
summit for farming and food industry, to jointly promote research
mechanisms to improve sustainability and competitiveness. Government
funders, levy boards and industry work in partnership through
the STB SAFIP steering group, to direct the research agenda on
Defra also maintains close dialogue and seeks opportunities
for collaboration on research with AHDB, which is leading on improving
coordination and recognition of demonstration activities and through
the Government Chief Scientific Adviser's Food Research Partnership
stakeholder group and Horticulture Round Table.
Areas for further research
As committed to in the Natural Environment White
Paper, Defra Ministers initiated the Green Food Project looking
at how we can increase food production whilst simultaneously enhancing
the environment. The Government want to be clear that this Project
is a useful foundation on which to build.
The Government welcome the direction set by the Committee.
The Green Food Project does not have the remit to cover all the
areas of research and development set out in the Committee's first
recommendation. But the Green Food Project has identified areas
of research and technology that require more investment, such
as on improving the environmental, productive and economic performance
of agricultural land management.
The UK Government does spend over £400 million
per annum on research on farming and food. The multi-partner
Global Food Security research programme co-ordinated by the BBSRC
and delivered jointly with relevant Research Councils and Government
Departments, and including close engagement with industry and
the third sector aims to strengthen co-ordination and partnerships,
across this research, and to add value in prioritising areas for
further research. This research is addressing the topics where
the Committee felt more research was needed, however some challenges
Interactions between production and environment:
Previous research has focused on the impacts of different production
systems, farming practices and land management activities on the
environment, notably biodiversity and water quality. This work
informed the development of Agri-environment Schemes and the industry-led
Campaign for the Farmed Environment. The Government-funded Demonstration
Test Catchments provide a platform to assess how best to deploy
measures in the landscape to protect water quality with minimum
impact on production, and the need to take a more holistic view
of the impacts of farming at the landscape scale to identify opportunities
to increase food production, in collaboration with land managers.
Agriculture and climate change: Previous
research has quantified greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture,
developed a wide range of GHG mitigation measures and assessed
their effectiveness, potential tradeoffs and economic impact on
businesses. This work generated robust evidence to inform the
industry-led Voluntary Action Plan on GHG Emissions. The Government
has invested over £12 million, co-funded with the Devolved
Administrations, the GHG platform to refine the agriculture GHG
inventory, to reduce uncertainty and capture the effects of mitigation
Defra is also funding research to assess options
for reducing GHG emissions from fertiliser use, assess the value
of legumes in crop rotations and assess the potential for improved
dietary formulation and livestock breeding to reduce emissions
from the dairy, beef and sheep sectors. Research is also ongoing
to understand the relationships between measures to tackle greenhouse
gas emissions from agriculture and farm productivity, competitiveness,
efficiency and delivery of other ecosystem services. So there
is considerable research activity to identify opportunities for
reducing GHG emissions from agriculture and provide the robust
evidence of their effectiveness and wider impacts.
Life-cycle impacts of food:
Defra has funded research to assess life-cycle impacts of agricultural
commodities and compare impacts of different supply chains, reviewed
the evidence and tools available and engaged industry to develop
guidance on how to use these for water and GHG. Beyond agriculture
and primary production, Government-funded research has focused
on GHG emissions, resource use efficiency and waste generation,
concentrating on those sectors where evidence and/or action have
been limited or fragmented to date.
Defra and WRAP are engaging industry to identify
opportunities and scope for collaboration in quantifying and addressing
these impacts, but further research is needed to develop evidence
and tools for assessing a wider range of impacts and decision-making.
We are aware that there is considerable research activity in this
area, including databases and tools developed by the private sector.
Government has a role to play in facilitating collaboration and
supporting research where there is market failure, and will consider
priorities for action in discussion with stakeholders.
Soil science: Defra currently
spends approximately £5 million a year on soils and water
management research covering a wide range of themes including
the sustainable use of agricultural soils, the role of soils for
climate change mitigation and adaptation, and peatland restoration.
Defra contributed to a report by the Royal Agricultural Society
of England which
found that current numbers of soil and water specialists are considered
to be adequate but these may well decline due to a number of factors.
The report also concluded that over the past three decades the
emphasis has been mainly towards soil and water research for environmental
management rather than productivity, and therefore to meet future
challenges in relation to sustainable production, there is a need
for a change in direction for research and development. The Natural
Environment White Paper committed Defra to undertake a significant
research programme over the next four years to explore how degradation
can affect the soil's ability to support vital ecosystem services
such as flood mitigation, carbon storage and nutrient cycling
and how best to manage our lowland peatlands in a way that support
efforts to tackle climate change.
We are also considering ways of better integrating
research on agriculture and the environment towards a goal of
sustainable intensification within the context of appropriate
land use scenarios. This would include improving our understanding
of the role that soils can play in relation to both agricultural
productivity and the natural environment.
The benefits of new farming practices such as
those in fresh water fish farming: As
detailed above, the Government supports a range of research into
a more sustainable and competitive food chain, including the impacts
of different farming practices. In the specific case of fresh
water fish farming the Government does not believe any research
is required. The issues that affect this sector are well known,
as are the benefits and risks. Any research should address the
challenges faced by the industry and not be targeted at the benefits
of this sector. It should also be noted that marine aquaculture
has an important role to play in the development of a sustainable,
farmed fishery resource. The Government believes any growth in
the industry must be market driven and industry led.
2. Unless and until there is both clear public
and political acceptance of GM, it is proven to be both beneficial
to the environment and to producers, and evidence that demand
for these products is based on understanding by consumers and
transparent product labelling, the Government should not license
its commercial use in the UK nor promote its use overseas. The
Government must ensure that the public and Parliament is well
informed on this issue. It should establish an independent body
to research, evaluate and report on the potential impacts on the
environment of GM crops, and their impacts on farming and on the
global food system. An initial focus of such research should be
on the scope for, and risks of, the co-existence of GM crops with
conventional and organic farming regimes. (Paragraph 28)
The Government recognises that GM technology could
deliver benefits providing it is used responsibly, in particular
as one of a range of tools to address the longer term challenges
of global food security, climate change and the need for more
sustainable agricultural production. The Government therefore
supports farmers having access to developments in new technology,
including GM, and being able to choose whether or not to adopt
them. The Government takes a science-led approach to GM, and the
protection of human health and the environment are our overriding
priorities. We will only agree to the planting of GM crops, the
release of other types of GM organism or the marketing of GM food
or feed products if a robust risk assessment that has taken full
account of the scientific evidence indicates that it is safe.
As far as licensing GM crops is concerned, decisions
on the marketing of GM products, including seeds for cultivation,
are taken at European Union (EU) level. Two types of GM seed
have received EU authorisation and have been grown in certain
Member States. However, they are not being sold in the UK because
they are not relevant or suitable for our conditions. GM crops
are not expected to be grown here commercially for some years
at least, but in principle the Government is open to this possibility,
providing it is undertaken safely and responsibly.
The Government does not agree with the Committee's
recommendation that there should be additional conditionalities
applied to GM crops beyond those which form part of the EU environmental
risk assessment and authorisation procedure. The EU regime focuses
on protecting human health and the environment, leaving the normal
operation of the market to determine whether or not an approved
GM product gains acceptance. The Government believes that this
is the right approach, taking account of the need for regulation
to be proportionate. Some GM crops in the research and commercial
pipeline can potentially offer enhanced health or nutritional
benefitshowever, requiring all GM crops to deliver, for
example, additional environmental benefits as the recommendation
implies could in itself become a barrier to such developments
in the technology; developments that we can expect to be of significant
interest to potential consumers.
To facilitate consumer choice, which the Government
strongly supports, the EU has also adopted rules which require
clear labelling of any food or feed products made from a GM organism.
The Government will do its bit to foster an informed and balanced
debate around GM issues and listen carefully to what people have
to say, but everyone has a role to play in thisincluding
scientists, farmers, consumers, civic society, media and the food
industry. In relation to the use of GM overseas and in developing
countries, the Government believes that they should have fair
access to GM technology and make their own informed decisions
regarding its use.
The Government does not agree that a new independent
body should be established to research, evaluate and report on
the potential impacts on the environment of GM crops, and their
impacts on farming and on the global food system. There is a wide
evidence base that already exists on this subject, as well as
significant practical experience of GM cultivation globally. In
2011, it is reported that almost 16.7 million farmers around the
world planted GM crops on 160 million hectaresover 11%
of the world's arable land. The environmental impact of proposed
GM crops is already robustly evaluated by independent scientists
as part of the EU regulatory process. In 2010, the European Commission
published a report entitled "A decade of EU-funded GMO research"
which summarised the results of 50 research projects addressing
primarily the safety of GMOs for the environment and for animal
and human health. The findings of these projects confirmed that
GMOs potentially provide opportunities to reduce malnutrition,
especially in lesser developed countries, as well as to increase
yields and assist towards the adaptation of agriculture to climate
change providing there are strong safeguards in place to control
any potential risks. The Commission also concluded that there
was no scientific evidence associating GMOs with higher risks
for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional
plants and organisms.
In terms of other impacts, the EU is setting up a
Technical Bureau to examine the socio-economic implications of
GM cultivation, and has a separate Technical Bureau which is producing
detailed guidance on the coexistence of GM and non-GM crops.
There is no reason in principle why GM and non-GM crops should
not coexist and work has been undertaken previously to inform
how coexistence arrangements might operate here. If and when GM
crops are grown in England commercially, Defra will implement
pragmatic and proportionate measures to segregate these from conventional
and organic crops, so that choice can be exercised and economic
interests appropriately protected.
3. The National Planning Policy Framework potentially
provides local authorities with more powers to provide communities
with better access to local food and to be able to grow their
own food. However, the NPPF lacks the detail that could assist
planning authorities in drawing up local plans to provide for
this. The Government should make clear in the subsequent guidance
it provides for local authorities that for Local Plans to be consistent
with the NPPF they should take account of communities' access
to sustainable food and ensure that they are provided with alternatives
to unhealthy food options. There should also be provisions in
Local Plans to ensure that communities are provided with open
spaces to grow their own produce, including for example options
for communities or co-operatives to buy land for these purposes.
To help develop such guidance, the Government should also identify
best practice from leading local authorities in this field and
quantify the benefits of developing local food strategies. (Paragraph
The Government welcomes the Committee's focus on
the importance of local food in a sustainable food system. The
Government agrees that local food can play an important role in
developing a sustainable food system in the UK. The Government
has developed initiatives such as the Food Growing in Schools
Task Force and published documents on local food such as the How
to guide on Space for Food Growing.
The Government is considering how to take forward
planning guidance across a range of matters. In doing so we are
considering carefully all of the submissions that have been made
in response to our consultation on the draft National Planning
Policy Framework which asked for views about supporting guidance.
4. Food systems are more likely to be sustainable
if food reflects value or cost of the environmental impacts of
producing it; an area we identified as needing more research.
In the absence of such mechanisms food prices have been relatively
low particularly when supplied through supermarkets which are
able to bring economies of scale to bear. The Groceries Code Adjudicator's
role in delivering fairer prices to producers will be vital in
helping all food producers to achieve a fair price for their produce
and with the means to invest in less impacting methods of production.
The Groceries Code Adjudicator should be established so that it
is able to begin investigations following representations from
third parties, and it must have the power to fine retailers for
breach of the Code. (Paragraph 42)
Reflecting environmental impacts
In the Natural Environment White Paper the Government
set out a range of measures to ensure the decisions of both Government
and business take better account of the value of the services
nature provides and the underpinning natural assets.
The Natural Capital Committee has been established
to provide expert independent advice on the state of English natural
capital. Other initiatives will help business play their part;
for example, the Ecosystem Markets Task Force - a business-led
Task Force - will review the opportunities for UK business from
expanding green goods, services, products, investment vehicles
and markets which value and protect nature's services.
The Government also published the UK National Ecosystem
Assessment which is the first analysis of the UK's natural
environment in terms of the benefits it provides to society and
our continuing economic prosperity.
The project has produced an independent and peer-reviewed
assessment of the state and value of the UK's natural environment
and ecosystem services, identifying what has driven change observed
in the natural environment and the services it has provided over
the last 60 years, and what may drive change in the future. It
includes an investigation into the monetary and non-monetary value
to the economy, society and individuals from various ecosystem
services, including how some of these may change in future.
Groceries Code Adjudicator
The Government recognises the importance of producers
being able to manage excessive risk and unexpected cost.
The role of the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA)
will be to enforce and monitor the Groceries Supply Code of Practice,
which was introduced in response to the Competition Commission
finding that the retailers had the power to transfer excessive
risk and unexpected costs to their direct suppliers. It will
not be the Groceries Code Adjudicator's role to reflect the value
or cost of the environment in the pricing of food.
The GCA Bill has already begun its progress through
Parliament, and had its Second Reading in the House of Lords on
22 May. The Government has heard arguments made by stakeholders
representing both retailers and suppliers, and has considered
the points raised by Parliament in the course of pre-legislative
scrutiny. As a result of this consultation, the Bill has been
amended from its earlier draft form to allow the Adjudicator to
consider information from any source, including trade associations.
If retailers do break the Code, the Adjudicator will have tough
sanctions, including the ability to make recommendations and to
require retailers to publish information about a breachso
called 'name and shame'. Furthermore, if these sanctions prove
to be insufficient, the Bill allows the Secretary of State to
grant the Adjudicator a power to impose financial penalties.
5. The Government should amend the Office of Fair
Trading's remit to take account of sustainable development while
protecting competition, and task the OFT and the Competition &
Markets Authority to investigate and clarify the scope for supermarkets
to cooperate in developing shared sustainability good practice.
Whether any individual example of supermarket (or
manufacturer) cooperation to develop shared sustainability good
practice is compatible with competition law depends on its specific
details. Some agreements may not restrict competition at all,
or not do so in an appreciable manner. Even cooperation agreements
that do have an appreciable impact on competition may benefit
from an exemption. In broad terms, this will likely be the case
where the agreement results in efficiencies and consumer benefits,
the restrictions are indispensable to the obtaining of these benefits,
and competition is not eliminated.
Regarding the scope for the Office of Fair Trading
(OFT) (or Competition and Markets Authority) guidance on the matter,
since Modernisation of European competition law in 2004, parties
must self-assess the compatibility of their actions with competition
law. The OFT and European Commission have produced a wealth of
guidance material to help parties self-assess; this is available
on the OFT and European Commission websites. The European Commission
has published new guidance on horizontal cooperation agreements
in 2010 (available at http://ec.europa.eu/competition/antitrust/legislation/horizontal.html).
The OFT has published further comment on the application of Article
101(3) of the EU Treaty, which allows for anti-competitive agreements
where there are efficiency benefits.
In addition, to help parties self-assess novel and
unresolved questions around horizontal collaboration, the OFT
introduced the Short-form opinion tool in 2010. This allows businesses
(or Government departments) to seek a detailed opinion from the
OFT on prospective horizontal collaboration agreements in a relatively
short timescale of around three months. The OFT's opinions are
also published for the benefit of a wider audience. Details on
the tool are available at http://www.oft.gov.uk/OFTwork/competition-act-and-cartels/short-form-opinions/
Given that competition assessments are highly dependent
on the exact circumstances of the proposed cooperation, it is
not clear what further general guidance could be of assistance
without significant numbers of caveats. It is recommended that
businesses use the current guidance options referred to above.
However, the Government welcomes the role of industry
in incorporating sustainability into its practices. Some good
examples of this include, the Food and Drink Federation and the
British Retail Consortium agreed sustainability targets (the FDF's
5-fold Environmental Ambition and the BRC's Better Retailing Climate),
which many of their members have signed up to. Each company that
has signed up to the scheme will consider how it can best meet
the specific targets around reducing its environmental impact
and thus remain in compliance with competition law.
6. The Government Buying Standards for food should
be extended to cover the wider public sector, to ensure healthy
and sustainable food is made accessible to more people and to
help establish new markets for producers. Though it is proven
that the Standards can be adopted for minimal cost, voluntary
measures to promote them have not achieved the necessary improvements
across the sector. The Standards must be extended to require local
authorities to adopt them across schools and hospitals. It should
also continue to raise the Standards further, to reflect existing
best practices in particular for eggs, dairy and meat. Effective
public food procurement standards could also allow Government
to lead by example, and make any new food strategy more credible.
The Government is leading by example on sustainable
procurement through the Government Buying Standards (GBS). For
the wider public sector, the Government's work on localism and
transparency will give local people the tools and information
they need to address issues that are important to them. Local
people have a number of options available to them in how they
make their public bodies respond to their requirements. There
is the Food for Life catering mark for example, as well as the
sustainable and local sourcing policies of a number of small and
medium catering firms.
We do not believe that the Government in Whitehall
should regulate how every school, hospital and care home should
provide food. Each of these organisations will have a different
set of requirements and the people concerned with them (parents,
patients, governors) will have different priorities, making them
best placed to decide how to achieve the objectives we are aiming
for. This local prioritisation is even more pertinent given the
current financial pressures on all public expenditure.
The Government does believe that the GBS for food
and catering is a credible and workable example of sustainable
catering criteria that can deliver what many local people look
for from their public bodies. To help those that want to take
up GBS, we have developed a sustainable food procurement training
module aimed at procurers in Local Authorities and other public
We have also worked with the major public sector
buying organisations to include GBS-compliant products in the
offer available to Local Authorities. In addition, we are shortly
to complete pilot studies in a number of schools and hospitals
where GBS criteria have been introduced in order to learn what
barriers and opportunities exist, and to provide guidance to those
that want to take up these principles. Working with Department
of Health the adoption of GBS has been encouraged for all NHS
organisations in the 2011 NHS Operating Framework and is part
of the recommendations for the Boorman (2009) review of health
and well-being on the NHS implemented by NHS Employers. The Government
is committed to support local decision-making in the NHS, however,
we are considering appropriate measures to more actively promote
GBS within NHS organisations.
The Government has published practical guidance,
supporting the roll out of GBS, to help caterers provide food
that meets the nutritional needs of adults working in or in the
care of the public sector and is currently developing plans to
update previous guidance on food served to older people.
Defra's own catering provision is fully compliant
with GBS and we have encouraged all departments to report their
own performance as part of their Greening Government commitments.
7. The Government has a vital role to play in
advising consumers on the environmental and health benefits of
eating well, by ensuring that they have clear and easily understood
information. The sustainability of food, however, is a multifaceted
concept, as we have described in this report, covering a range
of health, animal welfare, environmental, climate-change, resource-efficiency
and ethical dimensions. As a result there is a wide range of different
food label claimsrecyclable packaging, food miles, organic,
local, carbon footprint, fair trade, lower fat, low salt, etc.
Recognising the multi-faceted nature of sustainable food, the
Government should examine the scope for simple and consistent
labelling on the sustainability of food products, perhaps through
a weighting system to produce an overall score. (Paragraph 52)
The Government agrees with the Committee, that it
is vital consumers have clear information about the food they
eat. This will empower them to make decisions on an affordable,
healthy and sustainable diet.
The Government also agrees that sustainable food
is a multifaceted concept, involving a wide range of environmental,
social and economic aspects. Whilst labelling has a role to play
in providing information to consumers, we do not believe that
they can convey all the information.
There is an important role for industry, suppliers
and trusted third parties to contribute to consumer information,
and provide the information to give consumers the chance to make
informed choices about the food they eat.
Providing consumers with a clear label on what food
is sustainable is a complex and difficult task. This is in part
due to the diversity of the issues it needs to cover, such as
animal welfare, impacts on wildlife, fair treatment of producers,
management of natural resources. But also because of a lack of
common metrics; a given quantity of water used in Spain does not
imply the same environmental impact as a cubic mega-litre of water
used in Scotland, for example.
The evidence on how effective labels are as a tool
to stimulate change is lacking. However, the Government agrees
that food labelling could play a role in encouraging more sustainable
consumer behaviour. In 2010 the Department for Environment, Food
and Rural Affairs undertook research
looking at effective approaches to environmental labelling of
food. The principal conclusion from the work that has been undertaken
in this project is that we do not believe that the science is
sufficiently robust to develop an outcome-based, environmentally
at this time. Additionally, the costs that such a scheme
may incur could be unacceptably high in relation to the potential
benefits that could be realised.
There will continue to be a role for environmental
labelling alongside other initiatives to improve the sustainability
of food production and consumption. For example, within industry,
food chain information, including environmental impact data, can
be valuable to help manage issues and identify areas for improvement.
With respect to consumers, labelling can educate
and empower consumers to make informed choices through provision
of information in relation to food. However, efforts to reduce
the environmental impacts of food should not focus primarily on
labelling as this is unlikely to deliver desired outcomes on its
own. Labelling should be one element alongside Government regulations
and industry schemes designed to provide the right information.
In practice, there have been a number of private
sector-led initiatives which have been developed to address some
of the information gaps in the food chain. Examples of this include
the Marine Stewardship Council sustainable fish label, and the
But this has led to a situation where there are a
large number of different categories of food labels making different
types of claim about sustainability. The research undertaken
by Defra suggests a single sustainability label is not the right
solution at this time. But the Government acknowledges that the
current situation does leave consumers significantly confused
(such as research undertaken by Which?)
and there may be other ways than via individual labels of providing
information to consumers to explain the difference between the
different types of claims and to give some indication of how they
relate to each other.
Working on Defra's behalf WRAP has created the Product
Sustainability Forum to encourage the public and private sector
to work collaboratively to strengthen the evidence base for measuring
the environmental impact of products and identify the "hot
spot" areas which are priorities to address. The Government
is also currently seeking to assist the European Commission with
their development of a general methodology for assessing the environmental
footprint of products (including food) to try to ensure that it
is supportive of UK policy and business needs.
As noted in the report, under the 2011 Guidance to
the Application of Date Marks to Food, food packaging should only
carry either a 'use-by' or 'best-before' date. 'Sell-by' and
'display-until' labels used for stock rotation should be removed
to avoid confusion for shoppers, with retailers finding different
ways of stock control. This will help to reduce the 5.3 million
tonnes of perfectly edible food that is thrown away each year,
with a knock on effect on the sustainability of food worldwide.
Health and nutrition
The Government has a key role to play in supporting
individuals to improve their diet, by providing accessible information,
and in creating an environment which makes it easier for people
to make healthy choices about what food they eat and drink.
The Change4Life campaign continues to provide information
to support individuals to make healthy choices around diet and
nutrition. NHS Choices also provides advice and tools to help
individuals eat more healthily. In addition, guidance is provided
on dietary areas which have parallels with sustainability issues,
for example, advice to reduce red meat consumption in some groups.
Accessible and consistent nutrition labelling also
has a very important part to play in helping consumers make healthier
food choices. Much is determined at EU level and the Government
has worked hard to secure an effective framework for nutrition
labelling in the new EU Food Information Regulation (FIR, No.1169/2011).
Within this framework, we have launched a consultation
on what a consistent, clear front of pack label should look like
and are considering what action needs to be taken by the Government
and partners to make a single scheme a reality. The shared objectives
of all four Governments across the UK are:
maintain and extend the use of front of pack labelling across
the widest possible range of food and drink products;
· to achieve
the greatest possible consistency in the content and presentation
of front of pack nutrition labelling, in a form which is clearest
and most useful to consumers.
As part of the Public Heath Responsibility Deal,
we are working with the food and drink industry to agree practical
actions which will support individuals and help them to make healthier
choices. For example, we are encouraging companies to introduce
calorie labelling in out of home settings. There are now more
than 40 out of home businesses committed to putting calories on
menus. This year we will see labelling in around 9,000 outlets
across the country.
8. We welcome the findings of the Food Growing
in Schools Taskforce. Good food education and skills, such as
cooking and gardening, should be part of the curriculum in all
schools. The current review of the national curriculum provides
an opportunity for the Government to promote that. The Government
should consider stricter advertising limits, to extend the protection
for children from junk food marketing on children's television
to all media viewed by children, including the internet. (Paragraph
The Government recognises that cooking is an important
skill, and it is currently an element of design and technology
in the National Curriculum. In his announcement on 11 June, the
Secretary of State for Education confirmed that design and technology
will continue to be compulsory in all maintained schools in Key
Stages 1 and 2, and the Department is now considering what the
content of design and technology should be. Decisions on the Foundation
subjects to be included in the secondary National Curriculum will
be announced in due course.
The rules covering non-broadcast advertising are
the responsibility of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)
who are independent of Government. The ASA's codes specifically
recognise the social imperative of ensuring that advertising is
responsible and that children and young people are suitably protected
from harmful or inappropriate advertising.
The ASA's non-broadcast Advertising Code, which covers
online promotion (including promotional activity by companies
on their own websites, on social networking sites and the use
of advergames and user generated content), already contains strict
rules on all food and drink advertising aimed at children.
These rules already prohibit food and drink ads from
condoning or encouraging poor nutritional habits or an unhealthy
lifestyle in children. In addition, with the exception of adverts
for fresh fruit or fresh vegetables, adverts that are targeted
at children of primary school age or below must not include licensed
characters or celebrities popular with children or include promotional
However, the Government continues to keep this area
under review and recognises that there are calls for increased
restrictions on High in Fat Sugar and Salt food and drink advertising.
We recognise that it is widely accepted that advertising has
a modest, direct effect on children's food choices but is just
one aspect in determining children's choice of food. It is also
recognised that advertising can play a positive role in promoting
healthier choices. This is why food promotion has been identified
for further consideration as part of the forward work programme
of the Food Network of the Responsibility Deal. Over the coming
year we intend to look at all forms of advertising and promotions,
especially those aimed at children, and we will work with key
partners to identify what further steps, if any, need to be taken.
9. We welcome that the Government will now enable
local authorities to use the £250 million Weekly Collection
Support Scheme to initiate food waste collections. Without such
collections, there is a risk to the use of food waste in anaerobic
digestion, as well as for packaging recycling rates. The Government
must ensure that there is sufficient funding available for all
councils to be able to make sufficiently regular and separated
food collections, to help develop a healthy anaerobic digestion
sector. (Paragraph 61)
The Government agrees with the objective of a healthy
anaerobic digestion (AD) sector producing renewable energy from
waste. We support AD through subsidiespaid for by the
electricity consumerfor renewable energy. Some AD plants
have also received capital grants. Over the last year, the number
of AD plants has increased by about a third.
Our AD Strategy and Action Plan aims to ensure that
this growth continues. This includes identifying potential sources
of feedstock and promoting food waste collections. The Waste
and Resources Action Programme has launched a £500,000 Challenge
Fund to support demonstration projects that encourage the development
of food waste collection services from businesses in England.
The Weekly Collection Support Scheme is intended
to help support local authorities provide the waste collection
services that their residents expect. A number of local authorities
have indicated that they want to use funding from the Scheme to
introduce food waste collections. However, it is too early in
the bidding process to say how many of those bidding will receive
Government provides funding through the Local Government
settlement to enable local authorities to fulfil their duties
on waste management. However, decisions about the exact configuration
of waste collection services are for local authorities to make
taking into account local circumstances and the needs of their
residents. This includes whether to provide a separate food waste
collection service or not.
10. The Government should undertake new research
to consider the opportunities and risks in using food waste to
feed livestock. (Paragraph 62)
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
is currently conducting a review of the situation regarding disposal
and recycling of food and catering waste, and exploring the feeding
of food and catering waste to farmed animals as a future option.
The outcome will be reported at the end of 2012.
Feeding of catering waste has always been tightly
controlled because of the potential risks of spreading serious
animal diseases. The practice was banned in the UK and subsequently
throughout the EU following the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak.
Some food waste that originates from manufacturers
and retailers such as bakery products, fruit, and vegetables,
can be fed to livestock if it comes from premises with appropriate
procedures to keep it separate from animal by-products. Defra
and the Food Standards Agency have been working with supermarkets
and feed businesses to ensure this can be done safely.
11. The overarching aim behind the Government's
work in improving the UK's food system is 'sustainable intensification'.
The Foresight report presented sustainable intensification as
the solution to the global food crisis. The challenge for the
Government is to define what this term means in practice, and
particularly for the UK. Sustainable intensification must be
more than simply increasing yields: The emphasis should be on
'sustainable'. Policy must take account of social and environmental
impacts of the food system, including retaining space for small
scale production practices and local food networks. (Paragraph
The Government recognises the need for clarity over
the term sustainable intensification. As the Committee state,
the Foresight Report set out the need to produce more food sustainably,
in order to feed a global population that is projected to reach
9 billion before 2050.
The Foresight Report
defines sustainable intensification as:
"Simultaneously raising yields, while increasing
the efficiency with which inputs are used and reducing the negative
environmental effects of food production. It requires economic
and social changes to recognise the multiple outputs required
of land managers, farmers and other food producers, and a redirection
of research to address a more complex set of goals than just increasing
The Green Food Project, which has looked at how to
reconcile the tensions between increasing food production and
improving the environment, has given equal importance to both
aspects of sustainable intensification. The project has recognised
that the food production system is intimately linked with biodiversity
and natural resources and that a healthy, functioning natural
environment is a foundation for food production, economic growth
and prospering communities. Through the process of developing
the Project's conclusions the Government, with partners, has begun
to look at what sustainable intensification means for the UK in
practical terms, focussing on specific geographic areas and sectors
such as wheat and dairy production. This is the first step in
a longer process of determining how the UK will respond to the
food and environmental challenges of the future, within which
policy will continue to take account of the social and environmental
impacts of the food system.
Sustainable intensification is not just about large
scale intensive farming, given rising demand for food. There
is a place for any kind of farming enterprise that can be profitable
in the future and the Government will not advocate particular
approaches to farming. To some extent the structure of the industry
will change naturally over time in response to market forces.
12. The Government must use the Green Food Project
to provide a foundation for developing a broader food strategy
that takes into account the health, environmental, social and
economic consequences of the way that the food we eat is produced,
sold and disposed of. Such a strategy should explicitly shape
the way policy is to be coordinated across departments to provide
a sustainable food system. It must provide information on the
trade-offs that need to be examined when considering food sustainability
and give direction on the types of foods considered sustainable.
It must also provide an impetus to shift food policy to deliver
a more equitable food system so that healthy and sustainable food
is available to all. (Paragraph 71)
The Government agrees that the Green Food Project
is a useful foundation on which to continue strategic work on
sustainable food policy. However, a single project or document
will not be able to provide a comprehensive answer to the wide
range of challenges posed in trying to create sustainable and
healthy food systems.
The challenges posed by food security and feeding
a growing world population create real opportunities for the farming
and food industry, in responding to market challenges and public
demand. Government should not be closely supervising the industry
or limiting its ability to react to those signals. The challenges
are not for Government alone and many of the instruments of change
do not belong to Government, which should be delivering those
services that only it can provide.
This is why the approach taken by the Green Food
Projectto bring Government, industry, environmental and
consumer organisations togetheris a useful starting point.
It is through our agenda to embed sustainable development, the
delivery of departmental business plans combined with cross government
initiatives such as the Foresight project on the Future of Food
and Farming, the Public Health Responsibility Deal and the UK
Food Security Assessment that coordinated tangible outcomes will
be delivered. The Government's role should be to add a strategic
direction by focussing resources through better collaboration
along the food chain, which is key to delivering sustainable,
safe and healthy food that consumers want and can afford.
The Green Food Project identifies areas where Government
and other sectors can take on challenges and bring people together
on problems that are difficult to tackle, and where a joined-up
approach across Government will be beneficial. These include
land use, innovation and consumption and demand for food. The
Green Food Project was undertaken within short timescales and
therefore reaching consensus on all of these issues was challenging,
but Government and the other Green Food Project partners recognise
that the project was the start of an ongoing dialogue, and will
be following up actions after publication of the initial conclusions.
There is work underway within Government and beyond
to identify sustainable production and consumption methods. This
is however a complex area, but Government can help to provide
information to allow businesses and consumers make informed choices
in their day to day purchases. Initiatives such as the Products
Sustainability Forum, Defra's Green Claims Code and Shoppers Guide
to Green Labels are helping to ensure that consumers can have
confidence in the sustainability of the products they buy, and
the claims that businesses make about them.
The Government will continue to maintain a strategic
approach to sustainable food; we will continue to work with all
sectors and will focus our activities on the areas where Government
alone can add value.
13. A key theme of the Rio+20 Earth Summit will
be sustainable food production. The Government should review its
food policy in the light of the Summit agenda, and after the Summit
it should build any commitments agreed into that strategy. That
review must ensure that UK food policy is consistent with the
global aspirations for delivering a sustainable food system. (Paragraph
The Government welcomes the Committee's recognition
of the importance of Rio+20 in setting the global food security
agenda. The Government worked hard in the preparation to Rio,
to ensure that food security was one of the top issues addressed
at the summit.
In addition to this the Government pushed for food
as one of the themes for a Sustainable Development Goal, as a
part of a nexus of issues (food, water and energy), and will continue
to do so as themes develop.
The Government hopes that the work to influence the
outcomes of Rio, as well as the G20 and G8 agendas on food security
and sustainable agriculture, will mean that the UK's food security
policy will play a key role in the global food security challenge.
The Government will continue to work globally to ensure work
progresses towards a sustainable food system.
High-level Skills for Food, Report from the Food Research
Partnership Skills Subgroup, 2010 Back
A Gap Analysis on the Future Requirements of Soil & Water
Management in England. Back
matters which the OFT may take account of in deciding whether
agreements infringe the prohibition of anti-competitive agreements
in Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European
Union are a matter of European Union jurisprudence and are not
therefore open to the Government to amend. The jurisprudence on
the related Chapter 1 prohibition in the Competition Act 1998
is also substantially derived from European Union jurisprudence. Back
5 http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Document.aspx?Document=FO0419_9996_FRP.pdf Back
Omni-labels seek to convey information on a range of different
environmental impacts, integrating these into a single, easy to
understand format. Back
sustainable food choices easier, Which?, 2010. http://www.which.co.uk/documents/pdf/making-sustainable-food-choices-easier-which-report-231317.pdf