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Politics   |   Environment & ethics

MPs reject calls to put UK food standards into law

MPs have rejected huge public and campaigner pressure to enshrine food standards in law in the latest debate in the Agriculture Bill and what’s been called some of the most important Brexit votes to date.

With a majority of 53 votes, MPs voted to remove the amendment around trade standards, which would make it effectively illegal to import food that does not meet UK standards, such as chlorine-washed chicken or hormone-pumped beef, as well as fruit and veg produced with high levels of pesticides.

In a much-anticipated debate last night (12 October), MPs also voted to remove other amendments including an interim net zero climate change target for UK agriculture, and an amendment to ban pesticides being sprayed near residential areas, schools and hospitals. The Lords had previously voted to add in these amendments in a review of the Bill in the House of Lords last month.

The vote follows a campaign headed by chef Jamie Oliver alongside other high-profile figures to #SaveourStandards to bring the issue to public attention, and urge them to write to MPs.

Houses of parliament
The House of Commons has voted to remove environmental amendments voted in by the Lords. Image Alex France.

The government argued that putting trade standards into law was unnecessary because ministers have committed to ensuring UK standards of food quality and animal welfare are met under any new trade deal.

In impassioned speeches, several MPs from the Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems and Greens spoke in favour of the amendment, including Green MP Caroline Lucas, who tweeted: “Government just voted with majority of 53 to strip amendment 16 from #AgricultureBill, which would have safeguarded food standards in trade deals – demonstrating beyond doubt that their promises are totally utterly and completely worthless – even when enshrined in their manifesto,” she said.

The Conservative manifesto on the issue states that: “In all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and high standards.”

Vicki Hird, head of farming at sustainable food alliance Sustain, tweeted that: "Sad to see MPs turning their back on the public, farmers and welfare experts by voting against the food standards amendments in the Agriculture Bill. Now it's for the Lords again to get acceptable amendments to protect us, animal welfare, the environment and farmers."

MPs were expected to reject the amendment on food standards because of the Conservative majority in the Commons and the desire to keep the path free for trade deals.

The Agriculture Bill will now return to the House of Lords where they will have a chance to reinstate their own amendments in what is being described as a potential “ping pong” situation.



11 Months

I guesses that there would be nothing significant written into law on the food standards. However I shall never buy or consume any commodity produced in any other country where food standards are known or suspected to be less than those we have been used to. I shall make it a point to buy only produce which is clearly labelled and verified to be organic and local to me where possible. There will be no chlorinated chicken or hormone boosted meat in this home and if our government can’t protect me from this stuff I shall do it myself by simply not buying it. They can import all they like we do t have to buy it! We need to make clear what we want and not be bullied into accepting what we don’t want. Everyone should do the same even if it costs slightly more. This is very important if we are to protect our democratic rights. I hope this doesn’t sound overly political I just thing it’s important to exercise our right to personal choice especially over something as important as food and all the climate issues related to it.

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11 Months

I completely agree; it is a sad fact that the government have no interest in the nations health and always put the economy and possibly their personal interests (?) first

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11 Months

The USA has already started pushing for food labelling to change in the UK so that country of origin/where produced is never mentioned (there are already a number of food stuff that do not mention the country where something was produced, but there are a minority of cases)..

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11 Months

This is not a democratic government but a government of occupation which is doing exactly what it likes without due process - I am disgusted at the way they ignore the people and treat us as children.

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11 Months

I thank you for letting me know about the USA pushing to alter our labelling of food. I believe however there are suppliers who will be loyal enough to their customers to provide the correct labelling. It would benefit them in the long run Other than that I will restrict my buying to operations like Riverford and my local farmers market. They can provide me with everything I need and I know where it has come from and how it was produced. One thing I have learned from this pandemic is how little I need to rely on supermarkets. The key is to consume less And to insist on the quality you want. I urge everyone to do the same.

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M Bennett

10 Months 4 Weeks

The problem is that the government secure in their enclave in another world does not believe the government, particular when its leader has a reputation for being a serial liar. This is Trumpian economics where the criteria of profit pushes any other relevant criteria, like the impact of ill health - the American pharmaceutical companies are doing very nicely thank you, is a myth.

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