Which? welcomes the publication of DEFRA’s “Health and Harmony: the future for food, farming and the environment in a Green Brexit” White Paper and the opportunity for fundamental reform of food and farming policy. Leaving the EU presents an opportunity for a joined up approach that ensures farmers and food producers are delivering more effectively for consumers and therefore can rely on their confidence.
The approach within the White Paper, particularly a focus on high standards and excellence and a transition to an approach based on public money for public goods, is a significant step forward. Despite the title, however, the White Paper has two major weaknesses:
- The White Paper does not deal with how farming and food production relate to consumer health and meet consumers’ wider needs and expectations.
- The scope of the White Paper is largely limited to farming and agriculture, despite making reference to some broader food chain initiatives. This means that the opportunity for a truly joined up food and farming policy risks being missed.
The opportunity for a new and more sustainable approach to food and farming policy in the broadest sense must be taken. The goal must be a truly joined up food and farming policy with a much stronger focus on the end consumer. DEFRA and the many other government departments with an interest in food must work together to ensure a joined up and coherent approach. This should include ensuring that health, food safety, quality and wider consumer acceptability are explicitly considered and integrated as “public goods” to be incentivised through future policy. Consumer interests also need to be central to the drive for greater use of technology and innovation within the sector.