What would you advise the Sustainable Food Commission?
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What would you advise the Sustainable Food Commission?


On Tuesday we’ll be in Parliament presenting to the Sustainable Food Commission on the challenges of creating a food system which is worthy of a civilised planet, and can last indefinitely.

To have the greatest impact during our 15 mins, we need to show a clear and coherent vision, what challenges exist and will arise, and hint at how to solve them.

What would YOU say? Please post comments below, and share around. It’s an informed and experienced commission, so feel free to dive in at the deep end.

We’ll try to include as many points as possible – the more specific the better.

The commissioners are:

  • Dr David Barling, Reader in Food Policy, City University
  • Bill Bartlett, Corporate Affairs Director, McCain Foods (GB) Ltd
  • Russell Brown MP, Food and Drink Manufacturing All-Party Parliamentary Group
  • Deborah Cawood, Head of Food Chain, National Farmers Union
  • Dr Rosemary Collier, Academic Lead for the Warwick Global Research Priority (GRP) on Food, University of Warwick
  • David Croft, Director of Quality and Technical, Waitrose
  • Professor Liz Dowler, University of Warwick and Food Ethics Council Trustee
  • The Lord Dykes, Food and Drink Manufacturing All-Party Parliamentary Group
  • The Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen OBE, Food and Health All-Party Parliamentary Group
  • The Lord Grantchester, Science and Technology in Agriculture All-Party Parliamentary Group
  • Michelle Hanson, Commercial Director for UK and ROI, Sodexo
  • Julian Hunt, Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications, Coca Cola Enterprises Ltd
  • Huw Irranca-Davies MP, Shadow Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
  • Andrew Kuyk CBE, Director of Sustainability and Competitiveness, Food and Drink Federation
  • Paul Lindley, Chief Executive Officer, Global Infant Toddler and Kids division, Hain Celestial Group Inc
  • The Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer, Chair of the Food and Health All-Party Parliamentary Group
  • Professor Richard Norman, Emeritus Professor of Moral Philosophy, University of Kent and Food Ethics Council Member
  • The Baroness Scott of Needham Market, Chair of the EU Sub-committee D on Agriculture, Fisheries, Environment and Energy
  • John Stevenson MP, Chair of the Food and Drink Manufacturing All-Party Group
  • Sophi Tranchell MBE, Managing Director, Divine Chocolate


  • Sue Dibb says:

    A sustainable food system needs to address consumption issues as much as production issues – the policy and business focus has been too much on production to date. Yet the most significant changes that can be achieved to make our food systems greener, healthier and fairer (which is essential not a nice-to-have) do require a focus on what and how we eat. Our focus at Eating Better is on raising awareness of the need for sustainable diets – particularly the need to shift our diets to lower impact/more healthful eating – with more plant-based eating and less (and better) meat consumption. There is growing interest in eating less and better meat (our YouGov survey published Nov 13 found one-in-three people open to eating less meat (25% say they already are) and around 50% saying they would be willing to pay more for ‘better’ meat. The top three +ve env and health impacts are: 1) eating less meat & dairy 2) wasting less food 3) eating less, particularly foods high in fat, sugar & salt (research by the Sustainable Development Commission for Defra) This is what policy and business need to prioritise.
    Hope this is helpful. Sue

  • Tom says:

    GM Food has not been properly tested and puts other plants at risk of contamination.

    Subisdies should be taken away from rich industrial farmers and more done to support organic/sustainable forms of agriculture.

    Once everyone recognises that it would be better not to have pesticides on our food surely we should support peoiple working towards this ideal.

    Is it possible to implement a carbon footprint per calorie to food labelling – to include travel & other resources used (water/land/cutting down trees for animal food)

    This would enable consumers to choose low impact food

    I would like to see food stamps introduced for people on benefits but those stamps only allow them to buy low carbon or British fruit & veg.

    Caged Eggs should be prohibited from being sold.

    People on benefits doing their forced work should be assisting farmers and learning permaculture methods or assisting local growing programmes.

    Working back from our ideal – organic, local, seasonal food we should be putting into place policies that work towards this ideal not just working around the status quo

  • Luke Owen says:

    A question I seem to be asking is ‘how do we strengthen food systems which are typically characterised by shorter, more transparent food chains; systems that point towards a more sustainable future?

    In line with what Food Trade is all about, I believe it is essential that we have more dialogue about how small-scale, independent food enterprises can best make use of increasingly popular interactive technology. Platforms such as social media have the potential to create new networks and consolidate existing ones in this sector; creating space for knowledge exchange and fostering otherwise absent short supply chains.

    How this can happen and how the potential of online networks can be harnessed is something policy makers, academics and businesses need to seriously consider if we are to genuinely shape a sustainable future.

  • Margaret Campbell says:

    We would like the Government to deregulate current market franchise rights because they are archaic, and impeding the development of a modern sustainable local food system.

    We are a group of local residents who would like to organise a monthly Farmers’ Market in the centre of our town in order to support and develop local farming and encourage sustainable food production and consumption. We are currently prevented from doing so because the preferred venue for our market is 6.5 miles from a statutory market in another town which holds a Market Charter covering the area. Common Law gives the holder of the Charter the right to prevent rival markets within the distance of 6.67 miles.

    The Markets Charter legislation dates from a different era, when markets were a more
    central part of a less mobile community. It takes no account of the social, economic and technological changes of the last seven hundred years; the rise of supermarkets and internet shopping. In our Borough there are eight large supermarkets within 6.67 miles of the statutory market, and these are open for a total of 26,348 hours per month. It seems clear that the main competition for the statutory market is the presence of these large supermarkets, and it is unreasonable to prevent the development of a monthly Farmers’ Markets in the area.

    Our proposal is that market franchise rights be deregulated. This would still leave
    other legislation in place for the control of markets, namely The Food Act 1984. Part III (sections 50-61), gives power to local authorities to establish markets and make bylaws for the purpose, to appoint days and hours of operation and to take fees for stalls; and also gives powers to prevent rival markets (Section 56).

    In conclusion, we see a community-led, sustainable local food system as a priority for our area, but are being impeded in developing this due to archaic legislation, in place since feudal times. We are aware of similar difficulties in other parts of the UK. English law has failed to adapt to changing circumstances in this area, and we would like the Government to intervene, to deregulate market franchise rights and thereby permit our community to support local farmers and begin to shape its own sustainable food future.

    • eddowding says:

      That is a fantastic point, well made. I had not idea. It reminds me a little of the minor change Gordon Brown made to progressive beer duty relief for small breweries which unlocked the whole microbrewery culture.

  • There’s so much that has been written about this that it’s difficult to pick out the priority issues. I agree that any policy must look at both production and consumption, in fact, the whole food system and its impacts must be considered – a whole systems approach. So distribution, packaging, waste at every stage in the food chain, and ethical and social considerations such as animal welfare, fair returns to producers, and affordability.

    With all the information now available about what might constitute a sustainable food system (and this will be subject to continual change as more research is done) the main challenge is how to make the transition, or maybe first of all, to gain the political will to determine to make the transition, to a sustainable food system. Action cannot wait for global agreement, but at the same time, it will need cooperation from many countries. A start might be to target key areas at different points in the system and to build on examples of success such as the whole school approach developed by the Food for Life Partnership. The hospitality sector and supermarkets are other obvious targets on the consumption side. Support for production needs the right fiscal incentives for farmers and growers to change practices. Government needs to use its legislative powers where necessary and not rely on voluntary agreements with large corporations.

    Finally, do not underestimate the potential of a growth in micro-scale production in gardens, allotments, community growing projects etc. These tend to produce the highest yields/acre, have the shortest supply chains, use low input/high labour systems, and often be organic by default. They also have the added benefits of increased physical and mental well-being.

  • Oliver Dowding says:

    Sue Dibb has it in a nutshell.
    Less meat – and none if reared on grains.
    Less eaten
    Less wasted
    Less water and oil needed to produce our diet.
    Less costs for the NHS.
    Win win win win!
    May not make the UK self-sufficient but who cares?!

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