Sustainable food system

A SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEM

We need healthy and affordable food. A sustainable food system will prove resilient to future crises, promote biodiversity, and protect profits for farmers. Better labelling will help us make informed choices, understand the food we are eating and reduce food waste.

THE PROBLEM

  • In the UK, agriculture is responsible for 11% of our greenhouse gas emissions and is the leading driver of biodiversity loss.
  • Approximately 50% of our food is imported, often from countries that are intensively farmed and at high risk of deforestation.
  • COVID-19 has highlighted how our reliance on a global supply chain makes us vulnerable to external shocks.
  • UK agricultural productivity currently lags behind international competitors. One report estimates UK consumers pay an extra 100 billion pounds per year to cover biodiversity loss and food-related health costs caused by industrial farming practices.

THE SOLUTION

  • Support local food systems over large supermarkets by boosting regional supply chains and reorganising markets.
  • The government must guarantee that future trade deals reflect the high standards of regulation in the UK and do not undercut domestic producers. The government must commit to introduce incentives that increase our domestic supply of sustainably produced fruit, vegetables, nuts and pulses.
  • We must prioritise nature-friendly farming – systems such as agroecology or permaculture have been proven to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions whilst improving productivity and protecting farmer’s incomes.
  • Farming subsidies must be aimed at minimising livestock’s impact on the environment through regenerative techniques such as holistically managed grazing and the prohibition of soy feed.
  • Promote sustainable diets – Research shows that people need to move towards plant-based diets in order to meet emissions reduction targets in the UK.
  • The principles of a circular economy should be incorporated into the production, distribution and consumption of food products.

THE OUTCOME

  • More powerful and resilient strong local food economies that can withstand political and environmental challenges.
  • Transforming our food system along these lines will lower our carbon footprint and restore our natural ecosystems, whilst guaranteeing greater food security and fair economic returns for producers.

LEARN MORE: POLICIES IN ACTION

France

France is one of the first industrialised nations to start to re-orient its agriculture sector towards methods that give equal weight to environmental and social goals as well as to economic ones. The 2014 French Law for the Future of Agriculture, Food and the Forest actively promotes agroecological approaches and set a target of implementing these on 200,000 French farms by 2025.

 

Middlesbrough

Winner of the 2019 Sustainable Food Places Award, Middlesbrough has developed an extremely effective whole food system approach to healthy and sustainable food, embedding it into the fabric of the town. The Middlesbrough Food Partnership is a city-wide initiative that has worked to shift the food culture in the area, which has seen the number of local independent food businesses opening in the town and the demand for healthy and sustainable locally grown food increase. Schemes such as the Middlesbrough Town Meal offer the opportunity for individuals to sample local and sustainably sourced food, as well as introducing people to community growing and volunteering. Middlesbrough is well on the way to developing a strong circular food economy that benefits the whole community.