Soil Association: Consider resilience of supply chain and new food security minister

SOIL

Gareth Morgan, the head of farming policy at the Soil Association, says a recent proposal by MPs pushing for a new Minister of Food Security for the UK is welcome, but expressed concern that the bigger picture might get lost in the message.

"This should go much wider than food security: it would need to be cross-departmental and cover healthy diets, food poverty, resilience in the supply chain and the environmental footprint of food production, at home and abroad," Morgan said. "To ensure healthy and resilient food and farming systems in the UK, we need to focus on growing food that the population needs for a healthy diet."

A coalition of MPs said a food security minister should be considered after concerns over the handling of the food supply chain during the first few months of the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly communications between the government and the food industry. While the group lauded the response of many to helping those in need, they said the process must be overhauled quickly.

According to a report in The Guardian, there is fear among that committee that if solutions aren't made now to matters such as panic buying and food shortages, another spike of coronavirus through the UK might mean many more British citizens could be left vulnerable. The Guardian report also brought up two very critical issues moving forward: the potential shutdown of borders that would prevent trade and the looming Brexit decision.

To that end, Morgan said, "the Soil Association is campaigning for rapid progress towards a resilient and sustainable food system, which is less exposed to short term shocks and restores a safe climate, abundant nature and good nutrition. Farmers deserve the advice and support they need to transition their businesses to more ecological, regenerative systems; using public procurement to give much greater market support to UK farmers making this transition.”

Morgan reiterated that it is crucial for government to consider the potential positive impact a look at going to the ground can have on the future.

"Food production and the environment cannot be framed as opposing interests, given the context of the climate and ecological emergencies we face," Morgan says. “To ensure healthy and resilient food and farming systems in the UK, we need to focus on growing food that the population needs for a healthy diet. Farmers must be supported to protect and improve the health of their soils to be more resilient in the face of extreme weather like flooding and drought."

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