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WWF: Government must show leadership on food

10 July 2012

Responding to the publication today (10 July) of the conclusions of Defra’s Green Food Project [1], WWF said that, whilst the project was an encouraging first step, the Government urgently needed to show much more leadership to fix the ‘broken’ food system.

WWF said that the need for action on the food system was undeniable. The group said that the Government’s own Foresight report [2] gave a compelling account of the urgent need to redesign the food system, and pointed out that the current system is not only a major cause of the destruction of our natural world but is also causing health problems like obesity and heart disease, costing the NHS billions.

WWF also said that simply trying to ramp up food production was a ‘fool’s errand’, arguing that the question was not how much food the UK should produce – it is not the UK’s role to feed the world - but how we address the underlying problems of our food system such as waste, access and diets.

Mark Driscoll, head of WWF-UK’s food programme, said: “We support the collaborative approach taken by the Green Food Project as a - very small - first step. However, what’s really important is the need to take action so we move towards a more equitable and sustainable food system which addresses the twin global challenges of sustainability and hunger.

In addition, WWF reiterated the need not to shy away from the need to address difficult issues such as consumption and sustainable diets. Mark Driscoll said: “The establishment of a consumption forum is a useful initiative, but this has to be much more than just a talking shop. It must report back with clear recommendations and a timetable for action from government, business and civil society.”

WWF said that it was vital that this Project brought ‘added value impact’ on the issues and that it was ambitious, radical and innovative in approach rather than re-hashing existing initiatives. WWF felt some of the Project’s recommendations were ‘woolly’ in places and lacked specific targets and milestones.

The group argued strongly for a cross-departmental strategy on food, with clear commitments and a timetable to take action to look at the whole food system, from production, manufacturing and retail to food consumption.

WWF also emphasised that retailers and food manufacturers have a key role to play in boosting sustainable diets, which must go beyond merely giving consumers information to help them make informed choices. The group argued that retailers and manufacturers have the ability to be a major influence on consumer’s consumption patterns and that placing all the responsibility on consumers was unrealistic.

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. Defra is publishing the findings of the Green Food Project, which brings together Government, industry and environmental partners to look at how we might reconcile the goals of improving the environment and increasing food production in England, on 10 July 2012: defra.gov.uk/food-farm/food/environment/.

2. The Foresight Report, The Future of Food and Farming (January 2011).

3. WWF’s Livewell Report with the Rowett Institute of Nutrition (January 2011) shows what a sustainable and healthy diet might look like, based on the Government’s own healthy eating advice.

For more information:

George Smeeton, WWF-UK senior press officer, Tel: 014830412 388, Mob: 07917 052 948, email: gsmeeton@wwf.org.uk


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