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Government blamed for neglecting food and farming issues

The UK government is the biggest hindrance to addressing the challenges of the food and farming system, according to a survey of civil society organisations (CSOs).

The Food Issues Census 2017, published by the Food Ethics Council, found 41% of respondents identified the government as the biggest barrier to tackling key food and farming issues around sustainability and food poverty, four times the number that cited farming unions – the next greatest hindrance.

Brexit and the EU were also referenced as hindering efforts as were certain sections of the food industry.

The actors most commonly cited as helping food and farming were CSOs such as Sustain, the Soil Association and Sustainable Food Cities, while forward looking businesses and celebrity chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall were also identified as being helpful to the cause.

The census also uncovered concerns about current and future funding of CSOs working on food and farming issues with one in five CSOs relying on European Union funding, which is at risk following Brexit.

Local food was the top issue for CSOs working on food and farming while food poverty moved from 15th place in the original 2011 census to 2nd place in 2016. Food poverty was also the issue that the largest number of respondents said needed more funding.

“Food and farming affects us all, and as we negotiate our exit from the European Union, sustainable food production and consumption should be key issues,” said Dan Crossley, executive director of the Food Ethics Council, and the report’s lead author. “A properly funded civil society sector can make sure these topics are on the agenda. If it isn’t adequately funded, it will miss a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shape food and farming policy for the better.”