Defra denies claims it is failing on the environment

DEFRA has refuted claims that it is failing on a promise to reduce the impact of UK farming on our environment.

Friends of the Earth gave a damning assessment of Defra’s record on green farming in a ‘Report Card’ published today (Tuesday, April 3).

The environmental campaign organisation said Farming Minister Jim Paice had promised at a Friends of the Earth farming conference last year that the Government would ‘play its part’ in making UK farming more sustainable.

But it said its Report Card shows progress has been ‘mainly poor’. It claimed the Government has: 

·        Failed to push for planet-friendly farming reforms to Common Agriculture Policy (FoE awarded them a D);

·        Failed to encourage the use of more food waste for animal feed (F);

·        Failed to produce clearer public advice and industry guidance on healthy diets (F);

·        Missed a major opportunity to promote better ingredients and healthier menus in canteens in schools and hospitals (D).

But it gave Defra a ‘B’ for commissioning research into alternatives to soy for animal feed and a ‘C’ for its Green Food Project, which is investigating how to increase production whilst protecting the environment.

The environment charity also urged the Government to keep its promise to announce a new Grocery Code Adjudicator Bill in the Queen’s Speech.

Friends of the Earth food campaigner Vicki Hird said the Government ‘must do better’.

“Ministers are failing to tackle the enormous impact food production has on our wildlife and landscapes - they must step up to the plate and insist on planet-friendly food and farming,” she said.

But Defra denied that it was failing in this area. A Defra spokesperson stressed that ‘feeding a growing population while protecting our natural environment is vitally important’ to the Department.

She listed a number of areas where she claimed Defra was promoting environmentally-friendly farming, including:

·        Spending around £400 million a year on agri-environment schemes, which now account for nearly 70 per cent of England’s farmlands.

·        The publication ‘shortly’ of a Sustainable Livestock Report as agreed at the Sustainable Livestock Symposium in March 2011.

·        The Green Food Project, a joint initiative between Government, the food and farming industry, environmental and consumer organisations.

·        Fighting for ‘ambitious reform of the CAP that both delivers value for taxpayers’ money whilst helping farmers to meet future challenges’.

She added that the feeding of catering waste (swill) to farmed animals was banned in the UK, and subsequently the rest of the EU, following the 2001 foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak because of ‘potential risks of spreading serious animal diseases’.

But certain foodstuffs such as bakery waste, vegetables and other products of non-animal origin where it can be more easily separated from animal by–products, are eligible for feeding to farmed animals.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Before and during W.W.II pig farmers collected swill from agreed sources, boiled it up to a high temperature and fed it to their animals. I don't recall hearing of any problems.

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