The UK’s three Green MEPs have presented the government with a visionary future for food and farming [1]. Responding to a Defra consultation, which closes today, the MEPs call for much greater self-sufficiency in food production and the highest possible environmental and animal welfare standards. They also say there should be far more organic production together with an interconnected network of small producers and local markets prioritising local food for local people. The proposed measures would, they say, result in securing farmer’s livelihoods into the future and revitalise rural communities.

Molly Scott Cato MEP is a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. Last year she commissioned two reports on the future of farming post-Brexit, which formed the basis for the submission to Defra. Molly said:

“Greens have always advocated farming and food production systems which protect the soil and environment, improve biodiversity, support small scale farms and relocalise food production. Michael Gove’s promise of a Green Brexit is a true test to see whether these ideas will blossom or simply be composted.

“Of course, we also need to look at a host of wider issues related to farming such as food processing, distribution, consumption and waste. We also need to look at how taxation, tax rebate and subsidies can play a role in helping drive a greener vision. Neither must we forget the wider social impact of access to quality, affordable food on public health.”  

Keith Taylor MEP is a member of the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee and is Vice President of the Parliament’s Animal Welfare Intergroup. Earlier this year he produced a report on animals and Brexit. Mr Taylor, who is Green Party Animals Spokesperson, said:

“The UK prides itself on being a nation of animal lovers but the reality of Britain’s widespread factory farming industry demonstrates anything but love for our fellow animals.

“We must aspire to be a global leader in animal welfare and prohibit the cruel practices still legal in the UK: including the use of farrowing crates for sows, the use of cages for hens, the intensive indoor rearing of chickens for meat and zero-grazing in the dairy industry.

“Britain could take that lead now, but instead it is using the positive Europe-wide animal welfare wins achieved by the EU as a ceiling rather than as a foundation for further progress. Brexit is not the silver bullet to end animal suffering in the UK. In fact, leaving the EU poses huge animal welfare risks. I will continue fighting to protect animals across the EU.”

Jean Lambert MEP, a member of the European Parliament’s Employment and Social Affairs Committee, said:

“With the average age of farmers in the UK being around 60, we need to explore ways to encourage young people to become farmers and focus on how to make jobs in the sector both exciting and rewarding. This will be all the more vital if EU freedom of movement is stopped or dramatically curtailed since UK agriculture and food production currently relies so heavily on EU workers, including seasonal labour.

“We will continue to argue for the positive value of freedom of movement – socially, economically and culturally. The UK Government has yet to produce any firm proposals to solve the workforce problem that food producers face.”

Molly, who is Green Party speaker on Brexit, concluded:

“We continue to believe EU membership is in the best interests of Britain. Short of stopping Brexit, we advocate the closest possible UK relationship with the EU. It is clearly in farmers best interests for the UK to remain in the Single Market and Customs Union. Indeed, leaving the internal market is likely to undermine high EU standards, especially in relation to food standards, environmental protection, animal welfare and the rights of workers. This would leave the idea of Green Brexit as little more than rhetoric.”

Notes

[1] Health and Harmony: the future for food, farming and the environment in a Green Brexit – a consultation response produced on behalf of the UK’s Green MEPs: Molly Scott Cato, Jean Lambert and Keith Taylor. Full response here.

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