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UK public want imports to meet domestic standards

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Two-thirds of people in the United Kingdom want future meat and dairy imports to be up to the same standards as those produced domestically, a survey has found.

The Yonder poll, commissioned by Eating Better, the Food Ethics Council, and Hubbub, interviewed 2,095 people in the UK in September.

A quarter believed the UK should not bring in any meat and dairy and only 3 percent of respondents said it should import such products regardless of quality.

More than three-quarters of those surveyed agreed that the government should assess future trade deals for their impact on human health and the environment.

Dan Crossley, executive director of the Food Ethics Council, said the survey shows a majority want the government to ensure food imports are of high quality.

Simon Billing, executive director of Eating Better, said people care about where their meat comes from and under what conditions it’s produced.

“In the face of climate and ecological emergencies, leaving the EU should be the opportunity for the UK to raise its game, and at the very least not see our farmers undermined by imports of lower standards.”

Increased oversight of trade deals
The UK government recently gave the Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) a more active role in scrutinizing trade deals. The body was initially launched for six months in July but will now be around for at least the next three years.

It will produce a report on the impact on animal welfare and agriculture of each free trade deal the government signs after the EU transition period ends in January 2021. Politicians will have 21 days to debate and vote on the findings before deals are approved by parliament.

George Eustice, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: “By putting the Trade and Agriculture Commission on a statutory footing, we are ensuring that the voices of our farmers, as well as those of consumers and key environmental and animal welfare groups, continue to be heard while we are in the process of scrutinizing future trade deals.”

Tim Smith, chair of the TAC, said: “From a standing start in July the Trade and Agriculture Commission has been able to cover a huge amount of ground and I know that it will play a key role in establishing independent scrutiny of Britain’s new trade deals.”

National Farmers Union president, Minette Batters, said the commitment to primary legislation on food standards, in the Agriculture Bill and Trade Bill, is what it has been wanting.

“This decision means everyone who cares about our trading relationships with the rest of the world …will see independent expert advice from the Trade and Agriculture Commission on future trade deals before they are ratified.”

Sue Davies, head of Consumer Protection and Food Policy at consumer watchdog Which? said it was a positive step that could help build trust in the government’s approach to negotiations with other countries.

“However, if the Trade and Agriculture Commission is to be put on a statutory footing, its membership must change so that the needs and concerns of millions of consumers who will ultimately judge the success of new trade deals are properly represented.”

Also this week, the House of Commons again voted against a House of Lords amendment to the Agriculture Bill on ensuring imported food met equivalent standards to those followed by UK producers.

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