Food standards petition reaches 1m signatures

By James Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

More than 1m people have signed the NFU's petition calling for the safeguarding of food standards post-Brexit
More than 1m people have signed the NFU's petition calling for the safeguarding of food standards post-Brexit

Related tags: Brexit, Supply chain, Regulation

More than 1m people have signed a petition urging the Government to ensure future trade deals do not lead to an increase in imported foods that would be illegal to produce in the UK.

The petition, led by the National Farmers Union (NFU), accumulated the support in just over two weeks, with more than 78,000 signatories also writing to their local MPs, urging for the introduction of a food and farming standards commission to review new trade policy.

This public wave of support followed renewed calls from the union for the Government to implement a free trade agreement with the EU.

Overwhelming support

NFU president Minette Batters said the overwhelming level of support for food standards to be maintained post-Brexit, shown in the petition, revealed how passionate the British public felt about the issue.

“It is now clear that it is simply not credible for the Government to continue to just pay lip service to this issue, when there is such public support for action,”​ said Batters. “They must now give guarantees to the British people that they have listened to their concerns and will make firm commitments to address them.

“Trade policy is complicated, but what the public are telling us is quite simple – they care deeply about their food, where it comes from and how it is produced.”

A ‘simple solution’

Batters positioned the proposed trade, food and farming standards commission as a simple solution to people’s worries surrounding food standards, be that the threat of chlorinated chicken entering the country,​ animal welfare or environmental issues.

“Given the clear commitments in the Conservative Party manifesto that they will not compromise British farming’s high standards, is it not a logical next step to put in place a panel of experts that can carry out that direction?” ​she asked.

“Access to safe, traceable, affordable and nutritious food, produced to the highest standards, should be a right for all. We must not throw that away in the pursuit of free trade.”

NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick, said: “We were deeply disappointed when the House of Commons recently failed to back important amendments to the Agriculture Bill which would have ensured all food consumed in the UK is produced in a way that matches the high welfare, environmental and traceability standards expected of UK farmers.

Public shared our dismay

“The response to this petition shows clearly that the public shared our dismay at that vote. That support has simply strengthened our resolve now that the Bill has moved to the House of Lords before returning to the Commons later in the year.

“The very strict controls on farming methods practised in the UK should be the minimum legal requirement placed on all food which is imported here. Our commitment to producing food to the highest standard must not be sold away in a bid to secure any trade deal unless the standards expected by our consumers are guaranteed in any imports.

“We especially want to thank those Scottish consumers who have signed up and are as keen as we are that we don't import food into the UK which is produced in ways that would be illegal here.”  

Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic has had a “significant” impact on the fishing industry, but calls remain for Britain to become an independent coastal state.

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