Leading figures from industry, the public sector and charities have joined forces to call for fundamental changes in finance, trade and employment to make our food system fairer.
Food Justice: the Report of the Food and Fairness Inquiry , published today, finds that farmers, agricultural workers, the environment and consumers are paying a high price for the food we eat.
The Food and Fairness Inquiry committee was made up of 14 members from across the food sector, including Fairtrade Foundation CEO Harriet Lamb, Andrew Opie from the British Retail Consortium, Melanie Leech, Chief Executive of the Food and Drink Federation, Paul Whitehouse, Chair of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, and Jeanette Longfield, who runs the campaign group Sustain.
They heard evidence from vegetable packers, food producers, environmental organisations, public health experts and many others in their year-long investigation into our food system.
The report makes hard-hitting recommendations for government, business, the third sector and citizens:
• On healthy eating it urges government to tackle the reasons why people find it hard to eat well – from benefit and minimum wage levels to tackling obesogenic environments – and to give citizens a say in taxpayer-funded research and innovation on food.
• On regulating the City it says the government should show leadership in bringing down global food price volatility by strengthening financial regulation to limit speculation on the price of food.
• On food security it calls for farmers – particularly small-scale producers – to be allowed more say in research that is done in their name.
• On cheap food it argues we need to redefine the meaning of ‘affordable’. Everybody, including consumers, will have to recognise that ‘cheap’ comes at an environmental and social cost that hits the poorest in society.
• On corporate taxes it calls on businesses to back up their claims to good corporate citizenship by revealing their tax payments as share of turnover for every country they operate in.
Helen Browning, Chair of the Food and Fairness Inquiry said:
“This is the first time such a diverse group of people has got together to hammer out these difficult issues. It tested us all, but we’ve emerged with a common understanding of how deeply injustice runs in food and farming.
“The challenges ahead are formidable, but the Food and Fairness Inquiry process has shown me that together we can meet them. The recommendations in our report are realistic and practical, and will represent real progress towards a fairer food system.”
Melanie Leech, Chief Executive of the Food and Drink Federation agreed:
“Over the past five years I’ve seen more and more food businesses squaring up to the challenges facing the food system. We all want to make a real difference to enhance people’s lives and contribute to the future of our people and planet. This Inquiry has shown that what unites us should – and can – outweigh our differences. Together we can make a fairer food system.”
Sitting alongside representatives of the food and drink industries were leading members of high profile third sector organisations.
Harriet Lamb, Chief Executive Officer, of the Fairtrade Organisation commented:
“Food policy must be considered alongside other global challenges, such as inequality, global security and climate change. We can’t treat these as unrelated problems to be met through isolated policy approaches. This Inquiry goes a long way to showing how the thinking on ‘food security’ can and should be more coherent.”
Notes to editors
1. Food Justice: the report of the Food and Fairness Inquiry is available here
2. The committee members participated in the Inquiry in an individual capacity, not as representatives of the organisations that they work for or with. This report is the report of the Food and Fairness Inquiry committee; it does not necessarily represent the views of those organisations.
3. The Food and Fairness Inquiry committee members are: Helen Browning OBE, Chair of the Inquiry and Director of External Affairs at the National Trust; Dr. Charlie Clutterbuck, Director Environmental Practice at Work; Elizabeth Dowler, Professor of Food and Social Policy at the University of Warwick; Andrew Jarvis, Principal, GHK; Dr. Susan Jebb, Head of Nutrition and Health Research, MRC Human Nutrition Research; Terry Jones, acting Director of Communications, National Farmers’ Union; Harriet Lamb, Chief Executive Officer, Fairtrade Foundation; Melanie Leech, Chief Executive, Food and Drink Federation; Jeanette Longfield MBE, Coordinator, Sustain – the alliance for better food and farming; Ben Mepham, Special Professor in Applied Bioethics, University of Nottingham; Andrew Opie, Food Policy Director, British Retail Consortium; Christopher Ritson, Professor of Agricultural Marketing, University of Newcastle upon Tyne; Geoff Tansey, Joseph Rowntree Visionary for a Just and Peaceful World; and Paul Whitehouse, Chair, Gangmasters Licensing Authority.
4. The Food Ethics Council is a charity that provides independent advice on the ethics of food and farming. Our aim is to create a food system that is fair and healthy for people and the environment.
Our Council members include bioethicists and moral philosophers, farmers and food industry executives, scientists and sociologists, academics and authors.
We work on issues ranging from the power of supermarkets, food poverty and workers’ rights, to airfreight, genetic modification, meat and climate change, and water scarcity.