The House of Lords has voted in a significant majority for an amendment that would ban sales of lower quality food, such as chlorinated chicken from the US, in the event of a trade deal.
As an amendment to the ongoing Agriculture Bill, the result is a significant response by the Lords to public and campaigner pressure.
This summer, over a million people signed a petition, backed by Jamie Oliver, to state they did not want lower quality or welfare food to be sold in the UK in a groundswell of public backing for sustainable food and farming.
Campaigning from food and farming alliance Sustain, as well as farming union NFU, has kept the issue at the top of the agenda in political and lobbying circles.
A trade deal with the US, where standards are notably lower on things like antibiotic use and pesticides, could see food sold in the UK that could not legally be produced by British farmers.
The amendment voted for by the Lords would mean products can only be imported if they met domestic standards for animal health/welfare, protection of the environment, food safety, hygiene and traceability, and plant health. It took place yesterday (22 September) with 307 votes to 212.
The Bill now returns to the House of Commons, where the desire to protect standards via restricting trade deals is significantly lower, primarily down to the political sensitivity around trade deals and their links to Brexit. The vote by the Lords can be overturned but such a move is considerably harder with such a majority.
In a separate win for environment and ethics, the Lords also voted to protect rural residents and communities from pesticides, in an amendment that would ban the spraying of pesticides near to buildings for human habitation, recreation, childcare or health services.
The vote is a long-fought for win for the UK Pesticides Campaign, which has been campaigning for the issue for 20 years.
Writing to supporters by email, director Georgina Downs, said: “This is obviously a very significant result for the many millions of rural residents and communities throughout the country who, like myself and my family, have our homes and properties in the locality of pesticide sprayed fields.
“I have always maintained from the outset of my campaign this is definitely one of biggest public health scandals of our time.”
The pesticide amendment voted by the Lords will, like trade standards, be reviewed by MPs once the Agriculture Bill returns to the Commons where it is due for completion by November.