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Call for Clearer Labelling and Sustainable Farming

by 5m Editor
7 January 2009, at 10:49a.m.

UK - The UK is to push Europe to change regulations for clearer country of origin labelling (COOL).

The secretary of state for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs told the Oxford Farming Conference on Tuesday that the UK wants to see more explicit labelling for consumers, showing where an animal was born reared and slaughtered.

Mr Benn said: "When you buy a car you know its service history. When you buy a house you get a detailed survey. So why do we accept knowing so much less about what we are putting into our bodies?

"Under current European regulations, a pork pie processed in Britain from Danish pork can legitimately be labelled as a British pie. That's a nonsense and it needs to change."

He praised the quality and quantity of food produced by British farmers, saying that food security was a priority, and that environmental protection and increasing production went hand in hand.

"The idea that protecting our soil, our water, our habitats, our landscape, and the very climate on which all of these depend , and encouraging production, are in competition with each other is to miss the point completely. Why? Because our long-term food security depends on looking after those things.

"It's about looking after the land today to sustain our capacity to produce food tomorrow."

Mr Benn said that British farmers had a key role to play in striking the balance between sustainability and food production, describing them as "the producers of our food but also the stewards of our land."

He added: "Producing food in a sustainable way is the future for British agriculture," he said.

"The best way for the UK to ensure its food security in the 21st century will be through strong, productive and sustainable British agriculture, and trading freely with other nations.

"I want British agriculture to produce as much food as possible. No ifs. No buts."

Mr Benn also praised the work of the British pig industry and said he wanted to see that is was not penalised for having higher welfare standards than some other countries.

"On the pig industry, we want to ensure that the higher welfare standards to which UK pig farmers rightly adhere don't put them at a competitive disadvantage. Our pig farmers lead the world in terms of welfare and we need to support them. And the best way to do this is to buy their produce and I am proud that all of Defra's pork is British.

"As for consumers, an increasing number of us want to buy locally grown, high quality, seasonal British food. And we should be making this as easy as possible - providing better information about products, diversifying to satisfy demand, building the market in seasonal and organic produce. Raising the standards of the rest to meet those of the best."

He added that farmers also need to do more to cut carbon emissions and reduce the amount agriculture contributes to climate change. "Finding new ways to cut greenhouse gases, developing new sustainable farming techniques, increasing production by investing in the future," he said.