Ethical food campaigners wrote SOS for ‘Save our Standards’ in pumpkins in a Halloween stunt in front of parliament as a last ditch attempt to persuade MPs to protect British food and farming in law.
Members of the farming union The Landworkers’ Alliance (LWA) laid out the 1,000 pumpkins at the weekend to highlight what has become a landmark issue in the new Agriculture Bill, which would effectively ban things like chlorinated chicken produced in the US.
The Ag Bill returns to the Commons tomorrow (4 November) where MPs will once again vote on whether to legalise British standards of food quality and animal welfare, which any new trade deal would have to meet.
Citizens have been urged to write to their MPs ahead of the vote to express their concern over the issue, which will effectively determine what imported food will allowed to be sold in British supermarkets, restaurants and other food distributors in the future.
It comes as the government continues in its Brexit talks with the EU, with the prospect of a no-deal meaning trade deals with other countries in the world are a priority.
MPs have already voted down the amendment to legalise food standards once, despite huge campaigner, celebrity and citizen pressure. The government has since strengthened its new Trade and Agriculture Commission, which it says will have powers to review trade deals, but seems unwilling to go further.
Vegetable farmer Humphrey Lloyd, one of the farmers involved in the pumpkin stunt, said: “The idea that parliament should open up our market to food produced to US-style standards of pesticide and antibiotic residues is crazy. We need more local veg, not more imported chlorinated chicken.”
After the stunt, the pumpkins were delivered to local catering services that provide food for people in food poverty.
The LWA’s campaigns and policy coordinator, Jyoti Fernandes, said: “Farmers need to receive a fair price for their products in order to stay financially viable. If the UK allows in food that is produced to lower standards of farming practice - like pork injected with ractopamine - this food will be sold at a cheap per price, which undercuts UK farmers- meaning they won’t be able to compete with the prices of the food produced to lower standards and they will either be driven out of business or the UK will need to lower our farm production standards.”
Vicki Hird, sustainable farming campaign coordinator at Sustain said: “We don’t want MPs to squash the hopes of farmers, consumers and all who care about nature and animal welfare - they want to see our higher food standards protected from lower standard imports through changes to the Agriculture Bill.”
Since the time of writing, and during the debate on 4 November, MPs voted against putting food standards into law in the Agriculture Bill ahead of any future trade deal.