TV chef among 250,000 names on petition to protect farmers against cheap food imports
- Credit: PA
More than 250,000 people have signed a petition urging the government not to undermine the high standards of British farmers by allowing cheap, low-quality foods to be imported under new trade deals.
The petition launched by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has also been backed by TV chef Jamie Oliver as well as food and farming industry leaders in East Anglia.
As the UK begins to negotiate post-Brexit trade deals around the world, the campaign calls for the government to “ensure all food imports are produced to the same high standards as British farmers”.
It follows the debate on the Agriculture Bill last month, which provoked an angry reaction from East Anglian farmers after a majority of MPs voted against an amendment which would have guaranteed that the UK’s environmental, animal welfare and food safety standards would have to be met by any imported produce entering the country under post-Brexit trade deals.
Ministers including South West Norfolk MP and international trade secretary Liz Truss have pledged that these standards will not be undermined during the pursuit of new trade deals.
But farmers remain concerned about the threat of damaging competition from cheap food imports produced to standards that would be illegal in this country – and they want a commitment enshrined in law.
NFU East Anglia regional director Rachel Carrington said she was “really encouraged” by the initial response to the petition.
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“More than 250,000 people have signed it in just a few days, showing strong support for our world-leading food and farming standards,” she said. “They don’t want to see them compromised in future trade negotiations.
“This petition is sending a clear message to ministers that the government must legislate to prevent food being imported to the UK which is produced in ways that would be illegal here.”
READ MORE: Don’t allow trade deals to undermine our food standards, plead Norfolk farmersThe food standards petition, on the NFU website, asks people to sign a statement saying: “I want the food I eat to be produced to world-leading standards. “Our government should ensure that all food eaten in the UK – whether in our homes, schools, hospitals, restaurants or from shops – is produced in a way that matches the high standards of production expected of UK farmers. Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of food security and traceability.
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“Before the UK begins to negotiate trade deals with countries around the world, I call on the UK government to put into law rules that prevent food being imported to the UK which is produced in ways that would be illegal here.”
The NFU has also called for the creation of a new trade, food and farming standards commission to review policy and promote free trade while holding all food imports to the UK’s high standards.