OFC 2020: British environmental standards a ‘red line’ for food imports

British environmental standards are “a red line, that as a society we must defend vigorously”, businessman and cookery writer Henry Dimbleby told the Oxford Farming Conference.

Henry Dimbleby, the Defra non-executive and independent lead of the National Food Strategy, used his speech at the conference to argue that the UK needed to design a food system that “we would be proud to leave for our children.”

Addressing the crowd, Dimbleby heralded the role of farmers in solving the last crisis in our food system and made the case for farmers being at the heart of the transition.

“We cannot only consider the environmental impact of the food we produce in the UK, but must also apply the same standards to food imports,” he said.

We need to create a food system that we would be proud to leave our children.

“Farmers saved billions of people from starvation in the Green Revolution. Modern-day problems of hunger are about distribution, not production. But the solution to one problem created others.

“The obesity epidemic has been coming towards us like a tidal wave far offshore, and we need to do even more to tackle it.

We can pivot the system to restore and enhance our environment, sequester carbon and stop making us sick, but we cannot only consider the environmental impact of the food we produce in the UK but must also apply the same standards to food imports

“If Britain can lead the world in this transition, we will be able to benefit from exporting that knowledge abroad. True change will take dispersed leadership from all of us in the system.

“If we can align behind a common vision – as, for our children’s sake, we surely must – we can pivot this system that has been so good at delivering sustenance, pleasure, jobs, and (some) profit, to one that does that while simultaneously restoring and enhancing our environment, sequestering carbon, and that stops making us sick.”