The UK’s lead organic body the Soil Association says that if the UK Government is serious about its pledge of delivering a ‘Green Brexit’ it should to look to France for inspiration.
Last month, the UK environment secretary gave a major speech to farmers in which he said that “conserving natural capital’ should be placed at the heart of future food and farming policy after Britain has left the European Union.
The speech was a ‘trail’ for a new Government policy paper, outlining a 25 Year Environment Plan.
While the overall tone of the speech and report were welcomed by some senior figures on the UK organic scene, there is mounting concern at the lack of detail in both, together with a complete absence of the word ‘organic’ in the latter.
The Soil Association has contrasted this with the rather different picture in France, where the Macron-led Government has committed to a plan which will require half of all food served in public kitchens to be organic or locally sourced by 2020.
Commenting, Rob Percival, senior policy and campaigns officer, said: “Michael Gove should sit up and take note of this new French policy, which highlights the power of public procurement to support better farming practices, while also improving diets. The UK public sector spends £2.4 billion each year procuring food and catering services, providing an enormous opportunity to spend public money for public good.
“Michael Gove already has the tools he needs at his fingertips. He must move now to implement mandate Defra’s Balanced Scorecard approach across the whole public sector including education and health, while requiring public procurement decisions to place a weighting of at least 60% on quality relative to cost.
“ … As France is showing, public procurement can be a powerful tool for supporting local and organic farmers, and it can make an important contribution towards improved public health. Give must seize the opportunity presented by Brexit to implement a procurement policy at least as ambitious as his French counterpart”.