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New food quango gets rural OK

[Monday 19 January 2009]

THE creation of a new quango is often greeted with a groan of despair in rural areas – more civil servants at the taxpayers’ expense creating even more red tape – but a new food safety body created by the Government lat week has been greeted with enthusiasm by landowners and the rural business community.

We need to produce more healthy, safe food in the years ahead to feed a growing global population but we have to do it in way that does not damage the natural resources

Henry Aubrey-Fletcher - CLA

The food and environment department Defra is amalgamating the Central Science Laboratory, which is based at Sand Hutton, near York, the Plant Health Division, Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate, Plant Variety Rights Office and Seeds Division to form the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA).

This is more evidence of the growing concern about Britain’s food security since climate change policies were removed from Defra, allowing it to concentrate more directly on food and farming problems, and it has been welcomed by the Country Land and Business Association.

According to the CLA, the creation of the new agency fits in with Secretary of State Hilary Benn’s thinking, recently expressed at the Oxford Farming Conference, that “with growing public interest in the environment and in our food - where it comes from and how it is produced - these two challenges are now increasingly becoming one and the same”.

CLA President Henry Aubrey-Fletcher said: “I am delighted the Secretary of State is acting as matchmaker in this desirable marriage.

“We need to produce more healthy, safe food in the years ahead to feed a growing global population but we have to do it in way that does not damage the natural resources that future production depends upon and in a competitive global market that may not take its environmental responsibilities as seriously as we do in the UK. This is the great 21st Century land use challenge”.

The CLA has been campaigning for more accurate food labeling in the UK, because present regulations allow foreign foodstuffs imported but processed here to be labeled as UK produce. This caused massive confusion two weeks ago when Irish pork products polluted with diesel oil had to be removed from supermarket shelves – but it took days to decide which food actually came from the infected Irish source.

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