Petition’s one million milestone marks a ‘line in the sand’ on food standards

NFU president Minette Batters said the million signatures on a petition backing British farmers mark

NFU president Minette Batters said the million signatures on a petition backing British farmers marked a "line in the sand' for public opinion on food imports. Picture: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

More than a million people have signed a petition urging the government not to undermine British farming standards by allowing cheap, low-quality foods like chlorinated chicken to be imported under new trade deals.

NFU East Anglia regional director Rachel Carrington. Picture: Warren Page/Pagepix Ltd.

NFU East Anglia regional director Rachel Carrington. Picture: Warren Page/Pagepix Ltd. - Credit: Warren Page/Pagepix Ltd.

Farming leaders said the British public has “drawn line in the sand” by adding so many voices to the call to ensure future trade deals do not lead to an increase in food imports that would be illegal to produce here.

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 repeatedly 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 lower standards – and they want a commitment enshrined in law.

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NFU East Anglia regional director Rachel Carrington said: “It’s clear the public don’t want to see food on supermarket shelves, or in their restaurants or cafes, that fall below the standards British farmers adhere to.

“It’s fantastic that so many people have backed the petition. I would like to thank those who have signed and I hope our MPs will take note of this strong support when they next vote on the Agriculture Bill.

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“This response shows that people care deeply about their food, where it comes from and how it’s produced. The government must listen and respond to those concerns.”

READ MORE: Don’t allow trade deals to undermine our food standards, plead Norfolk farmersAfter the milestone was reached, NFU president Minette Batters tweeted: “I actually have tears in my eyes. You ALL did this. I’m so proud of what you’ve achieved. This great country has drawn a line in the sand with a million people BackingBritishFarming.”

The NFU says more than 75,000 people have also contacted their MP urging them to support the creation of an independent Trade, Food and Farming Standards Commission that can review trade policy and ensure future food imports are held to the same standards expected of British farmers.

Ms Batters added: “People do not want to see chlorinated chicken or hormone-fed beef on their supermarket shelves and nor do they want to see food imported which has been produced in lower welfare or environmental systems than is legally allowed in this country. 

“Given the clear commitments in the Conservative Party manifesto that they will not compromise British farming’s high standards, is it not a logical next step to put in place a panel of experts that can carry out that direction?

“These are decisions that will leave a legacy for decades and generations to come. It is so important that we get this right. Access to safe, traceable, affordable and nutritious food produced to the highest standards should be a right for all. We must not throw that away in the pursuit of free trade.”

The petition can be found on the NFU website.

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