Food conference votes for government intervention

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food policy Sustainability Government

Paws for thought: Government should take a more active role in food policy, according to a recent conference
Paws for thought: Government should take a more active role in food policy, according to a recent conference
Government should take a far more active role in leading and implementing food policy, according to an informal vote at conference organised by City University London.

Invited to identify the key priorities for UK food policy, more than 50% of the audience of industry representatives, academics and stakeholders voted for more intervention from government. The priority for government should be “taking a leadership role in food across public settings and in food production, while not being afraid to regulate the industry and introduce taxes”.

Dr David Barling, from the Centre for Food Policy, said that the “food sector and food policy needs strategic government led interventions for the long-term”.

His research showed growth of policy engagement in the 2000s, but “a more confined status” ​during the past 18 months.


Speakers at the event also urged government to integrate policy more effectively. Laura Sandys, Conservative MP for Thanet South, highlighted the discrepancies across government departments, but showed new coordinated action was possible across at least six ministries.

“We need a food policy refit with food security obligations outside of DEFRA​ [Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] and more integration with other departments,”​ she said. “The current food supply chain is efficient, not resilient.”

Other policy priorities identified by the audience were food security and the availability of food.

It also highlighted the need to break up the concentration of power in the food supply chain and address risks and lack of resilience. 45% of the audience said this should be a priority.

More than 70% of the audience agreed that the key action for civil society should be to increase food citizenship and the moral basis of food policy at all levels, everywhere.

Sue Dibb, incoming executive director of the Food Ethics Council, warned that many consumers were unfamiliar with what sustainable food means.

“Consumers are thinking about health when they are doing their weekly shopping, but they are less acquainted with issues to do with sustainability,"​ she said.

‘Not up to scratch’

Meanwhile, Professor Tim Lang, head of the Centre for Food Policy at City University London, concluded that the government’s food policy wasfragmented and unnecessarily hesitant”, ​and “not up to scratch​”.

“The priority for future food is simple to say, but seems to defy political will to deliver,”​ said Lang. “Food policy is surely about ensuring we all have access to sustainable, affordable and sufficient food well into the future. Sustainability is not a choice of health versus environment versus costs. It’s about lining up all three.”

The all-day event was organised by the Centre for Food Policy at City with support from the Worshipful Company of Cooks – a livery company of the City of London.

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1 comment


Posted by steveg,

Be careful what you wish for ... you may just get it. Worse, government(s) will be grateful to you for asking; thus giving a reason for being, absent of being able to work one out for themselves. Laura Sandys seemed half right. Food is sufficient and affordable, and it's supply efficient. But, then it goes awry. Of course policy should be 'joined up' Surely policy effectiveness is not evaluated by that basic requirement? We shouldn't have to spell that out! Additionally, basing any policy on popular clamour, rather than agreed evidence, may feel well-intentioned; but, it may also be paving on the road to hell. Being resilient can be construed as the opposite of being vulnerable. Presently, the exigencies of the market place (with all its faults) seem more able and likely to guarantee sufficient, affordable food than government. As to sustainable ... the limits to food supply seem more socio-political than natural: national and international trade-barriers; local subjugation of agriculture; and the absence of modern technologies among others.

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