Food and Agriculture

Page updated:

Major revision February 2012

Latest amendment October 2015

Introduction

FA100 In richer countries, food prices are at an historically low level relative to average incomes, yet millions live in ‘food poverty’, access to healthy food is often limited and many chronic diseases are linked to over-consumption. In poorer countries, malnutrition and starvation are commonplace and increasing prices of staple foods can make the difference between life and death. Market pressures favour cash crops to supply affluent markets, while subsistence farmers are continually forced to give up their land and local food supplies on which large populations depend are diminished.

FA101 Market forces and government policies have favoured increasing industrialisation of agriculture, mass-produced food and dependence on fossil fuels. This comes with great ‘external costs’ to the environment, human health and animal welfare. Soil erosion, depletion of water resources, pollution, loss of biodiversity and animal suffering are commonplace. In addition, agriculture accounts for a significant proportion of greenhouse gas emissions and pressure on land resources is linked with deforestation in many parts of the world.

FA102 The Green Party believes that substantial changes are needed to ensure that food production is sustainable now and remains so for future generations. Changes in food markets and in patterns of production and consumption of food can achieve future food security locally and globally and ensure that everyone has access to a sufficient diet of nutritious and safe food. The Green Party believes that rather than creating problems, agriculture can be part of the solution to climate change, biodiversity loss and other contemporary challenges.

Principles

FA110 Everyone has the right to a sufficient supply of nutritious and safe food to lead a healthy life. Future food security must be ensured at the individual, local, national and global level.

FA111 Agricultural production, processing and distribution must: 

(a) be sustainable over the short and long term;

(b) provide nutritious and healthy food;

(c) support diversity and local food markets;

(d) be fair to farmer, distributor and consumer;

(e) respect animal welfare.

FA112 Our use of land and demand for food must not be detrimental or cause suffering to people elsewhere. Production for human need must be consistent with the wider need to protect and restore natural ecosystems and biological diversity.

Policy Instruments

FA120 We will use the following policy instruments as appropriate to specific areas of policy:

(a) Economic measures: we will support environmentally and socially beneficial practices through subsidies and financial incentives, balanced with taxation of practices that are environmentally or socially detrimental.

(b) Standards and regulation: we will set higher minimum environmental, ethical and safety standards than at present and will restrict or ban harmful practices.

(c) Education and information: we will promote sustainable food production and healthy eating through education at all levels, including public health campaigns, school curriculum activities and higher education programmes. We will provide better public information, for example through food labelling and government websites.

(d) Research and participation: we will base our policies – including economic measures, regulation and public education initiatives – on well-funded, evidence-based research. We will involve all stakeholders, including farmers, growers and consumer groups, in decision-making.

FA121 Our decisions on any specific foods and food production systems to encourage will be based on evidence of what constitutes healthy and sustainable diets and on ethical considerations such as social fairness and animal welfare.

Food Consumption: Healthy and Sustainable Food for All

Introduction

FA200 Everyone has the right to enjoy a sufficient diet of nutritious and safe food for a healthy life. A market-led approach has failed to provide this, so that there are now increasing levels of food poverty and diet-related ill health. Our current pattern of food consumption also causes significant environmental and social harm.

Government intervention and regulation are clearly required to correct these failures and to ensure that everyone has access to a healthy, balanced diet and the knowledge and means with which to make the best food choices.

Promotion of Healthy and Sustainable Food

FA210 The Green Party will ensure that there is a well-funded, strong, independent body with a wide-reaching mandate to commission research and act on food issues, taking a holistic view and working across all relevant government departments including Health, Education, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Communities and Local Government, Culture, Media and Sport, Transport and the Treasury.

FA211 The Green Party will support research into the factors which affect people's choices to eat in healthy and unhealthy ways and apply the findings to our policies. We will support research on programmes used to encourage healthy eating such as 5 a day, Sure Start, Change4Life and educational programmes in schools. We will ensure that the findings of such research are applied to improve existing successful programmes and to target funding. If necessary we will stop funding to programmes which are not successful in improving diet and health. High levels of funding would be available to programmes with a proven track record of improving diet and health. Successful programmes are likely to be a sound investment because they will lead to significant reductions in health and welfare spending.

FA212 The Green Party will introduce a fiscal food policy to foster a healthy diet.

Public Sector Procurement

FA220 The Government spends £2 billion each year providing food for the public sector. Decisions made by the Government can drive the food industry towards better practices and promotion of healthy, sustainable food.

FA221 The Green Party will introduce mandatory standards for food served in the public sector, set out in a Code for Sustainable Food.

This Code will be managed and developed by a committee of expert stakeholders including representation from consumer groups. They would be responsible for responding to emerging research on the health, social and environmental effects of food production and consumption, and developing, implementing and enforcing the Code. As a minimum the code would encompass the following:

(a) extensive use of local and regional produce to support rural communities and reduce food miles;

(b) clear, unambiguous nutrition standards, to ensure that food purchased and prepared by public organisations is healthier and suits the nutritional requirements of the people in their care;

(c) strict ethical criteria including animal welfare and the use of Fairtrade products.

FA222 Healthy vegetarian and vegan options and options for people on restricted diets and religious diets will be provided in all public sector establishments.

FA223 Public sector caterers will be provided with guidance on adopting the Code for Sustainable Food and on providing food for specific dietary needs. There would be a budget to allow caterers to be trained in these areas.

Children's Diets

FA230 The importance of promoting children’s health is widely recognised. Obesity and ill health caused by diet place large future burdens on the health service.

FA231 The Green Party will ban all advertising of processed food and drinks high in sugar, saturated fat or salt on television before the 9pm watershed.

FA232 The Green Party will prohibit all marketing targeted at children whose purpose or effect is to promote unhealthy food or drink. This would cover not only traditional advertising methods but anything that acts as advertising, such as promotional websites, text messages, in-store placements and cinema advertising.

FA233 All schools will be required to provide an area for children to learn how to grow food and education about food and farming will be part of the curriculum. (See also FA641)

FA234 Cookery classes and education on nutrition will be included in the curriculum for primary school and secondary school children.

FA235 There would be provision for adequate training in nutrition for health workers, nursery staff, child minders and other workers, as appropriate.

FA236 The Green Party will ensure that funding is available for all schools to have their own kitchens and trained kitchen staff where practicable and produce a fresh, tasty and nutritious lunch every day which will be free for all children.

FA237 Fresh fruit will be provided every day. Vegetarian, vegan, religious and other dietary requirements will be catered for. Meals will use fresh, organic and local produce wherever possible. Schools will be required to provide enough time and space for children to eat their meals in a relaxed and healthy way. (See also AR404, ED190, HE322)

FA238 Vending machines in schools will only supply healthy snacks. Where appropriate products should also be locally produced / sourced. (See also ED190, HE322)

Food Labelling

FA240 Clear and honest food labelling is important, as it allows consumers to make informed choices.

FA241 The Green Party will press for a single unified European Union scheme for labelling while retaining the right to set tighter national standards and restrictions.

FA242 The Green Party will work to ensure that a single system of nutritional profiling and labelling based on traffic-light colours is used on all packaged foods.

FA243 The Green Party will ensure that funding is available to develop a scheme of wider scoring for sustainability, to encompass water and land usage, greenhouse gas emissions, animal welfare, support for rural communities, encouragement of biodiversity, fair trade and other relevant criteria. This would then be incorporated into a labelling scheme. (See also IN717)

FA244 Producers will be required to label food clearly with the country or countries of origin (of the main ingredients). If food is processed in a different country this should be listed, but the initial country of origin will still have to be identified.

FA245 Producers will be required to include on labelling the origin and production method for all meat, eggs and dairy products used, and the source of all seafood.

FA246 Palm oil will have to be specifically declared as an ingredient where used, not just listed as vegetable oil, and whether or not it has been certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

FA247 Regulations and guidelines on claims about health, sustainability and ethics (such as ‘heart healthy’, ‘locally produced’ and ‘fairly traded’) will be developed to ensure that customers are not misled. The meaning of such terms would be protected so that consumers could exercise their choice to support sustainable food, unscrupulous companies could not apply ‘greenwash’ to products and practices and good companies with high standards could compete fairly against companies with low or no standards trying to undercut them.

FA248 The Green Party will ensure that there are adequate resources to fund proper enforcement of food law and proper monitoring and traceability. There would be appropriate and substantial fines for misleading labelling.

Food Taxation

FA250 The Green Party would reform the taxation of food which is outdated and confusing. While some foods and drinks are zero-rated for VAT others, for example fruit juices, are not. The Green Party would phase out VAT and replace it with alternative taxes, such as eco-taxes. (See EC771)

FA251 Changes made to the food production systems and supply chains will address the imbalances that make much unhealthy food artificially cheap and healthier food more costly. (See FA442-447, FA630-641)

FA252 The Green Party does not propose a 'fat tax' as there is evidence that this would be a regressive tax without other reforms. We believe that policies such as supporting healthy school meals, teaching children about nutrition and how to grow and cook food, and policies which encourage better overall physical and mental health would be more effective. We will only increase taxation on food if there is clear evidence that it is necessary in addition to our other policies.

Food Poverty and Food Access

FA260 Food poverty is the inability to afford, or to have access to, food required for a healthy diet. Food poverty results in a poor diet and leads to diet-related ill health and adverse personal and economic consequences. Green Party policies on the Economy and Workers' Rights and Employment would combat poverty and ensure that everyone can afford sufficient healthy food. 

FA261 Many of the problems of food poverty relate to structural inequalities such as living in ‘food deserts’ or having poor transport to retail outlets. Community food mapping will be carried out to identify where the most severe food poverty exists.

FA262 Priority support will be given to not-for-profit community-based projects to tackle food poverty including food co-ops, community cafes, community chefs, cooking and nutrition programmes and courses, local food markets, breakfast or lunch clubs and peer training in areas identified as suffering from food poverty.

FA263 The planning process will be altered such that it is a requirement to consider the provision of healthy food enterprises in any new development.

FA264 Grants will be available for enterprises selling healthy food in an area of food poverty.

Restaurants and Takeaways

FA270 The planning system will be used to ensure that there is a limit on the number of takeaway food establishments selling food high in saturated fat, salt and sugar in a given area.

FA271 There will be an exclusion area set around educational establishments within which planning permission would not be granted for takeaways and restaurants selling food high in saturated fat, salt and sugar.

FA272 Restaurants will be supported and encouraged to use seasonal produce.

FA273 Restaurants will be encouraged to meet sustainability and health criteria. These criteria would initially be voluntary, but would eventually become mandatory. Large restaurant chains would be required to meet these criteria before smaller restaurants.

FA274 Restaurants will be required to identify the origin of the main ingredients in each dish and encouraged to use more local ingredients.

FA275 Restaurant menus will be required to show the origin and production method for all meat, eggs and dairy products used and the source of all seafood.

FA276 Any food prepared and/or cooked off the premises will have to be labelled as such.

FA277 Restaurants will be required to label menus with a basic traffic-light type logo demonstrating the total fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar content within bands (high, medium and low). Training and support would be available for smaller restaurants. 

FA278 We will encourage restaurants, cafes and takeaways to offer a range of portion sizes, to help children to eat healthy food, to help customers to maintain a healthy weight and to minimise waste.

FA279 Restaurants will be encouraged to offer tap water (or filtered tap water) on all tables.

FA280 Restaurants will be required to pay all employees at least the minimum wage with 100% of tips added on top. Tips should be distributed to workers with no hidden charges or deductions. Where restaurants are paying a living wage, including regional variants, tips must again be given on top of this.

FA281 All restaurants and takeaways will be required to display the result of their latest food hygiene inspection in a prominent position.

Food Waste and Packaging

FA290 It is reported that in the UK we throw away up to one third of the food we buy each week. This has significant environmental implications as well as costing an average household several hundred pounds a year.

FA291 Rules on labelling will be changed to ensure that only date information relevant to health risks is presented.

FA292 Buy one get one free (BOGOF) offers, and similar, will discouraged on food that has a short shelf life. Instead retailers should concentrate on improving the marketing and promotion of healthy foods.

FA293 The Green Party will ensure that funding is available for public education campaigns to reduce food waste, including information and education about purchasing decisions, recipes and food safety.

FA294 We will ensure that food waste can be collected from all households, including those in flats and student halls of residence, who often don’t have space for composting.

FA295 Restaurants and takeaways will be required to have a plan in place to minimise the wastage of food due to it going out of date. They will be required to separate food waste for collection for composting, anaerobic digestion or swill feeding, according to what is considered most appropriate.

FA296 We will set strict targets for supermarkets and food processors to reduce all food packaging and to phase out particular packaging that cannot be composted or recycled. Supermarkets will be required to provide facilities on their premises for collecting all the types of recycled packaging they use. We will support and encourage restaurants, cafes and takeaways to work with their suppliers to reduce packaging and ensure that it is composted or recycled.

Food Waste Redistribution

FA300 A register of organisations permitted to redistribute surplus food to people should be created and controlled by all local councils. Councils should be responsible for checking the credentials of the organisation on application and making sure they are properly equipped to handle surplus food, with periodical reviews.

FA301 When such an organisation contacts a large food retailer (defined square footage of stores) requesting to redistribute that specific stores surplus, it should be a legal requirement for them to hand it over, where there is no existing food redistribution arrangment in place. This food only constitutes food items still legally fit for consumption. Where this does not occur fines should be payable by the retailer to the council.

FA302 Any food uncollected by redistributing organisations, or unfit for human consumption but permissible to be consumed by livestock, should then be directed to animal feed producers, where they have asked for it.

FA303 Any food not redistributed for human consumption, or directed to animal feed producers, should be sent for composting, or to produce fertiliser, or fuel for electricity and heat, or transport.

FA304 Local councils should facilitate forming of effective distribution networks by bringing together relevant organisations and resourcing them where appropriate. Councils should register all partnerships between retailers and redistributing organisations, mapping them and encouraging collaboration between different redistributing organisations where collection efficiency could be improved.

FA305 It should be made unlawful for any food retailer to refuse fresh produce based purely on cosmetic standards - i.e. the shape, size or weight of the item.

FA306 Retailers should face penalties, payable to the local council, for intentionally spoiling surplus food, rendering it unfit for consumption.

 

Food Safety

FA310 The Green Party will ensure there is a well-funded body with a remit to carry out research into food safety and ensure that foods are regularly sampled and monitored.

FA311 The food safety body will also be involved in research and monitoring of the components of animal feed stuffs.

FA312 Synthetic food colourings will be banned from foods marketed to children and no new synthetic additives will be allowed unless they demonstrate a significant benefit to health as well as being free from adverse effects. Existing synthetic food additives would be phased out over a defined period if they do not meet these criteria. (See also EU496)

FA313 Levels of pesticide and drug (including antibiotics) residues in food will be closely monitored and programmes put in place to eventually eliminate these residues. Food irradiation and sale of irradiated food and imports will be banned. (See also EU496)

FA314 The Green Party supports a moratorium on production and import of genetically modified (GM) foods, including food from animals fed on GM feed. Whilst such food is available, it must be labelled as including GM ingredients. (See FA720-721)

FA315 There will be substantial fines for breaches of the regulations on food safety.

Food Supply: Food Security and Food Markets

Introduction

FA400 Agriculture has made huge strides in recent decades in supporting a growing world population. Yet many people still go hungry, food is not distributed to the people who need it most, rural livelihoods are being lost and the prospects for future food security look bleak.

FA401 The Green Party believes that globalisation of the food supply has exacerbated many environmental and social problems and that answers lie in sustainable agriculture, re-localisation, shortening of food supply chains and self-reliance on a regional and local basis. We must reform markets to support farmers and rural livelihoods, to reduce any negative impacts of food production and distribution, and to ensure food security for future generations.

Food Security and the Right to Food

Background

FA410 The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) defines food security as follows: “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. The FAO says further that: “The right to food is a human right. It protects the right of all human beings to live in dignity, free from hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition.”

FA411 It is clear that many people, particularly in poorer countries, do not currently have food security and that their right to food is not met. Changes are needed both at the global economic level and in food supply chains to ensure that universal food security exists in future and that the right to food is protected.

FA412 The ability to produce a greater proportion of food within each country is a measure of national food security. Partly as a result of government policies, Britain has for many years imported more agricultural produce than it has exported, making it vulnerable to changes in global food markets. There are opportunities to increase self sufficiency in UK agricultural products and reduce vulnerability to international commodity markets. However, a narrow view of national food security can lead to decisions being made to the detriment of the environment, other (usually poorer) countries, farmers and animal welfare. 

FA413 The globalised ‘free market’ has failed to:

(a) make efficient and sustainable use of land and other resources, to conserve them for future generations;

(b) ensure equitable incomes for farmers and distribution of food to the people who need it most;

(c) minimise harmful outputs from agriculture, such as greenhouse gases and pollution, and minimise wider impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity.

Globalised food markets are often less resilient to changes in supply and demand than local food markets.

FA414 The Green Party believes that answers lie in sustainable agriculture, self-reliance and reform of markets and food supply chains. Our policies are designed to ensure that rather than adversely impacting on food security in other countries, we support food security globally and for future generations.

Policies

FA420 The Green Party has diverse policies on Food and Agriculture and in other areas that are aimed at increasing future food security both locally and globally. They are summarised and cross-referenced below:

(a) The Green Party supports the right to food as recognised by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Our policies on the economy, food supply and international trade aim to support this universal right. (See FA260-265, FA500-502)

(b) We will support sustainable agriculture and farming practices to help conserve and enhance land and other agricultural resources for future generations. Sustainable agriculture must be used to prevent loss of soil structure and nutrients and the soil erosion, desertification and salinisation that currently threaten the availability of agricultural land and future food security. (See FA630-641) 

(c) To reduce fossil fuel use and the vulnerability of global food supply to climate change and rises in the price of fossil fuel, we will support localisation, self-reliance and a shortening of the food chain, together with more equitable trade and distribution of food globally. (See FA440-448, FA500-502)

(d) High rates of consumption of meat and other animal products in richer countries, and rising demand elsewhere, means that the increasing requirement for animal feed competes with food production for direct human consumption. We will encourage healthy and sustainable consumption patterns, including a shift towards more plant-based foods. Such a shift would enable an increased world population to be fed sustainably and would help to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss. (See FA211, FA222, FA237, FA662)

(e) World population is expected to reach about 9 billion by 2050, which means that more food will need to be produced from limited resources. Policies elsewhere, for instance those that foster greater equality and universal provision of health services and education, will contribute to stabilisation of world population levels and assist in achieving future food security. (See policies on Education, Health, Population and Workers’ Rights and Employment).

(f) High levels of food waste, especially in richer countries, waste scarce agricultural resources and reduce the ability to feed populations sustainably. We will use public information and education campaigns, and legislation on food labelling and marketing to reduce food waste. We will encourage appropriate recycling of food waste. (See FA290-6, FA632)

(g) We will support agricultural employment and thriving rural communities, helping to reverse the trend towards increased urbanisation which makes larger populations dependent on intensive food production. (See FA463-465, FA501, CY511)

(h) Our policies on the Common Agricultural Policy will foster food security in preference to global competitiveness. (See FA521)

(i) We will restrict the growth of biofuel production to reduce competition with food crops. (See FA741)

(j) Our policies to protect wildlife and biodiversity will help to conserve genetic resources, on which future agricultural diversity may depend. (See FA680-684, CY500-505)

(k) We support a moratorium on the use of genetically modified organisms in agricultural systems. The introduction of such novel technologies tends to move control of food production to a minority of mainly corporate interests. (See FA720-723)

(l) We will support research and development on small-scale and appropriate technologies and innovation to increase efficiency and to conserve resources. (See FA640)

(m) We will encourage greater agricultural diversity and aim to reduce reliance on intensification and globalised trade. This will increase resilience to climate change and market fluctuations and will reduce susceptibility to pandemics and pest and disease outbreaks. (See FA501-502, FA521, FA636, FA660-1, FA700)

(n) We will support stringent restrictions on commodity speculation and foreign ownership of land, which can destabilise markets and threaten food security. (See FA501-502)

(o) We will encourage the maintenance of adequate food reserves at local and regional level to offset ‘shocks’ and scarcity in food supply.

Localisation and Local Food

Background

FA430 Localisation implies local production and consumption, as well as local decision-making and preservation of local culture. In the context of food supply, the benefits of localisation can include:

(a) a reduction in ‘food miles’;

(b) provision of fresher, healthier and more seasonal food;

(c) promotion of a sense of community and local food culture;

(d) resilience to changes in global food supply;

(e) contribution to future food security;

(f) support for small-scale, more environmentally friendly farming and growing;

(g) support for the rural economy.

FA431 There is a diverse range of local food initiatives and their number and popularity are growing. Local food can be promoted through public sector procurement, partnerships between farmers and the local community (‘community supported agriculture’) and community food growing.

FA432 Small areas of land, including public gardens, parks and open spaces, private gardens, allotments and community orchards can make a significant contribution to food supply and food growing promotes health and general wellbeing. Much land which is currently unproductive could be used for small-scale production, for instance in schools, parks and unused urban areas.

Policies

FA440 The Green Party will minimise transportation of food and other agricultural products by supporting local food distribution and pressing for transport costs, especially air freight, to fully reflect environmental impact. (See also FA502, EC786, EU443, TR541, TR542)

FA441 We will press for local food procurement policies to be allowable under European Union and World Trade Organisation rules and will encourage local food policies in public services, institutions and government departments. (See FA221)

FA442 We will require local authorities to draw up Local Food Plans to safeguard and encourage the local processing, distribution and retailing of produce and will encourage initiatives promoting and marketing local produce. (See also LP417, TM022, TM042)

FA443 The Green Party will encourage community supported agriculture, including farm and community box schemes, local farmers' markets and other direct links between growers and local consumers. We will assist locally owned and controlled organic marketing cooperatives. (See also CY521)

FA444 The Green Party will promote a ‘local food culture’ and regional and local self-reliance in food and other crops, with the long-term aim of being able to fulfil most basic food needs locally. We support the ‘food sovereignty’ movement which promotes the right of peoples to define their own food and agriculture systems, in contrast to food supply being largely subject to international market forces. (See also EC911, EU544, IN302)

FA445 We will encourage non-commercial food production and community involvement in food growing, for instance, allotments, urban food growing, community orchards, community gardens and school gardens. In the long term, we will aim to enable all communities to have access to, and control of, land that can be used for growing for basic needs.

FA446: In order to provide skills and land for localised food production, local authorities should be obliged to guarantee funding to support, or to organise, at least one community skills and food sharing project in each local authority area.
The aims of such projects should be to provide knowledge and skills for sustainable, organic, seasonal food cultivation to local people, reconnecting them with nature, green spaces (including green belt land if appropriate), and the origins of food, and enabling them to grow food at home, on allotments, or participate in other community food-growing schemes.
Biodiversity should be encouraged within the projects by also requiring the inclusion of a variety of plant species (including those not for human consumption,) so that the non-human community also benefits; both directly and through educating people about habitat loss and other potential impacts of food production.
Those who take part in these growth projects should be able to share in the produce, and joining should be free (or 'paid for' by a minimum number of volunteering sessions) to enable the least well-off to participate.

FA447 The Green Party will require local authorities to proactively provide allotments at affordable rents and to promote their benefits. New allotment sites will be created in areas where they are lacking and access to allotments and facilities will be improved.

FA448 The Green Party will discourage the sale or amalgamation of smallholdings owned by local authorities. We will encourage local authorities to increase the number, diversity and total area of their smallholdings. We will require local authorities to actively promote and publicise their smallholdings, to enable people who have no capital to become farmers and growers.  

The Agricultural Economy

Background

FA450 The Green Party recognises the fundamental importance of those who work on the land and the contribution that farming makes to the rural economy and to wider society. 

FA451 Sustainable farming can attract new entrants, contribute to job creation and support stable, thriving rural communities. Conversely, industrialised farming methods can destroy rural communities and have a devastating impact on the farming community through amalgamation of farms into single or corporate ownership, increased mechanisation and consequent loss of jobs. The number of people working in agriculture has fallen markedly in recent decades and fewer young people are taking up farming.

Policies

FA460 Substantive policies on the Rural Economy can be found in Green Party policies on the Countryside. (See CY511 and following)

FA461 Currently, many farmers do not receive fair reward for the food they produce or for the many ‘public services’ that they provide, such as conservation and protection of land, agricultural resources, wildlife habitats and wider ecosystems and biodiversity. The Green Party will support appropriate intervention in markets to help ensure stable and fair prices for both farmer and consumer. We support measures to recognise the diverse public services provided by farmers. (See also FA481, FA521, FA680)

FA462 Producer organisations can help to protect the interests of farmers and growers and help to stabilise markets. The Green Party will support appropriate producer organisations and involvement of producer organisations in supply-side management of production volumes, setting fair and stable farm-gate prices, public procurement and in shortening supply chains. 

FA463 The Green Party will discourage large land holdings, the amalgamation of farms and land speculation. We will support job creation in agriculture and secure farm incomes. (See also CY522, FA636, EC952, EU546iv))

FA464 We will improve access to land for new entrants to farming and horticulture, particularly local people, the young, women and ethnic minorities, for example through land trusts and community land access schemes. We will encourage co-operative ownership patterns. Through planning guidelines, we will favour the setting up of sustainable, small-scale and labour-intensive enterprises and their associated dwellings. (See also FA448, CY522)

FA465 Diversification of the rural economy to reflect wider demands can create a range of opportunities for young people.  The Green Party welcomes this diversification and will support non-agricultural jobs which strengthen rural communities. (See CY511)

Supermarkets and Agribusiness

Background

FA470 In the UK, the grocery market is increasingly controlled by a few very large food processors and retailers, making large profits. Their success is partly based on trading practices that are having serious consequences for suppliers, farmers and workers worldwide, local shops and the environment.

FA471 The dominance of large food processors and supermarkets:

(a) encourages unnecessary transportation of food;

(b) results in closure of small, local retailers and a net loss of jobs;

(c) makes farmers increasingly reliant on one or two large customers for their livelihood;

(d) forces down ‘farm gate’ prices through an unacceptable level of control over the prices paid to producers;

(e) often results in unfair contractual terms with farmers and rejection of food that fails to meet size, shape or cosmetic criteria; 

(f) prioritises ‘shelf life’ and favours mass-produced food of low nutritional value;

(g) favours larger farms and industrialised farming practices;

(h) can reduce resilience to ‘shocks’ in the supply chain, since food processors and supermarkets are less flexible than consumers to changes in supply. 

FA472 Multinational agribusiness companies increasingly control global supply chains, commodity markets and the supply of seeds and other agricultural resources, including land. This tends to disadvantage poorer countries and threatens the independence and livelihoods of farmers globally.

Policies

FA480 We will use competition legislation and other legislation to reduce the power of large food processors and retailers, strongly discourage mergers and prevent monopolies from emerging. (See also IP244)

FA481 A legally binding supermarket Code of Practice will be introduced to ensure that all farmers and suppliers, in the UK and elsewhere, are treated fairly, and that the grocery market also operates in the interests of small retailers and consumers. A fully independent supermarket Ombudsman will be introduced to monitor the compliance with and effectiveness of this code. (See also FA461)

FA482 Planning policies will be introduced to favour local shops and protect the high street. When dealing with a planning application for a new supermarket, local authorities will be required to take into consideration the full extent to which the supermarket would affect local shops, employment, transport links and the amount of local produce being sold in the area. Caps on retail floorspace may be imposed and smaller retailers supported with lower business rates. (See LP417). 

FA483 New rules will be introduced to protect workers' rights and the environment in both this country and overseas. It will be the responsibility of supermarkets and food processors to ensure that their suppliers meet these rules.

FA484 The Green Party will introduce new corporate accountability legislation making companies, including supermarkets and food producers, accountable for their impacts on communities and the environment. (See IN606)

FA485 The Green Party will work to reduce the hold of global agribusiness companies on food supply, commodity markets and on agricultural resources such as seeds. Our policies on Localisation and Local Food (FA440-448), the Agricultural Economy (FA460-465) and International Trade (FA500-502) would favour local and regional self-reliance, support smaller agricultural enterprises and producer organisations, reduce dependence on global supply chains and restrict speculation on commodity markets and land.

International Trade 

Background

FA490 In global food markets, many factors put poorer countries at a disadvantage. Poor countries typically rely on a small number of ‘cash crops’ and are forced to compete with each other for access to markets. Historically, cash crops have been traded on terms unfavourable to poorer countries and commodity markets are now mainly controlled by transnational corporations and banks. In addition, ‘export dumping’ has undermined local production of staple foods.

FA491 Dependence on cash crops reduces availability of land for local food supply and often results in the loss of rural livelihoods and environmental destruction. However, local and regional self-reliance can help to ensure future food security. (See also IP202)

FA492 Increasingly, land in poorer countries is being acquired by overseas investors (‘land grabbing’) for speculation and production of cash crops and biofuels. 

Policies

FA500 Substantive policy on International Trade can be found in other Green Party policy as noted below.

FA501 The Green Party will encourage local and regional self-reliance by pressing at national, European Union and international levels for:

(a) An end to food dumping and the export of food at prices below the cost of production. (See also EC952, EU546i))

(b) Reform of World Trade Organisation rules to allow countries and regions (particularly poorer countries and regions) to use import and export controls to protect their domestic agriculture from foreign imports and to act cooperatively to encourage local and regional self-reliance. (See EC945, EC951, EU443, EU461, EU544, IP243, IP245)

(c) Support for small-scale, local import substitution (production rather than importation of staple foods) as a priority, rather than export promotion, and support for local food growing in preference to cash crops. (See DU422, EC911, IP242, IP243)

(d) Support for smallholders in poor countries to improve rural livelihoods and prevent excessive urbanisation.

(e) Restrictions at United Nations level on ‘land grabs’ and foreign ownership of agricultural land.

(f) An international forum to freely share and promote sustainable best practice with shared problems, such as crop pests and diseases, salinisation and soil depletion.

FA502 The Green Party seeks to reform international trade to respect the principles of equity, social justice and ecological sustainability by pressing at all levels for:

(a) Comprehensive restrictions on speculation and investment in food markets.

(b) Progressive reform of commodity markets to support fair prices for exports, including cash crops, from poorer countries and to reduce corporate control of markets. (See also IP244)

(c) Reform of World Trade Organisation rules to allow countries and regions to restrict imports on the basis of the same environmental and ethical criteria that are applied to their domestic agriculture (‘Qualified Market Access’).

(d) A ban on imports of food products produced using exploited labour.

(e) Support for fair trade partnerships.

(f) A ban on imports of crops linked to habitat destruction such as soya beans grown on cleared rainforest land and unsustainable palm oil.

(g) Transport costs, especially air freight, to fully reflect environmental impact. (See EC786, EU443, TR541, TR542)

(h) Minimisation of import and export of identical foodstuffs.

Europe and the Common Agricultural Policy

Background

FA510 Despite some positive reforms, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has failed to support true sustainability in agriculture and to ensure long-term food security. The current aim to increase the ‘global competitiveness’ of European Union (EU) agriculture, the increasing industrialisation of farming and the large proportion of subsidies going to the largest farms conflict with the aim to make farming more sustainable. The accession of new EU members in Central and Eastern Europe has presented new challenges, particularly over levels of funding.

FA511 The Green Party supports greater subsidiarity (ie decision-making by nations and regions) in agricultural policy because Europe embraces diverse climates, geographical conditions, cultures and agricultural systems. However, we believe that protection of the environment and future food security should be prioritised at European level.

FA512 The current CAP structure does not adequately address the above challenges and the Green Party believes that it must be replaced. However, while the CAP exists, there are opportunities at a Europe-wide level to encourage a transition towards more sustainable agricultural practices and rural development, and to support farmers more equitably. 

Policies

FA520 Substantive policy on the Common Agricultural Policy can also be found in Green Party policies on Europe and Countryside. (See CY526-527, EU540-546)

FA521 The Green Party will work towards replacing the Common Agricultural Policy. While it still exists, we support a progressive reorientation of the CAP to:

(a) support global food security and regional self-reliance, rather than ‘global competitiveness’;

(b) support sustainable agricultural practices, farming livelihoods and the rural economy, and phase out subsidies which encourage highly intensified farming, pesticides, artificial fertilisers, pollution, large land holdings and habitat damage;

(c) support a restructuring of subsidies to encourage all farmers to make a transition towards sustainable practices and ‘best practice’, and to establish sustainability as the rule rather than the exception;

(d) protect soil and water resources;

(e) promote agricultural systems that sequester carbon in soils and have a low greenhouse gas footprint;  

(f) support habitats and biodiversity throughout farmland, and particularly in woods, orchards, hedges, ponds, headlands and designated areas of farms;

(g) respect animal welfare;

(h) support secure and fair farm incomes and farm gate prices, especially for smaller farms, and link payments to the labour force employed on farms; 

(i) ensure fair, non-discriminatory CAP payments for all Member States, particularly those that have joined the EU more recently;

(j) end export subsidies and dumping of exports on poor countries (See also FA501(a));

(k) support the ‘Qualified Market Access’ principle of restricting imports based on environmental and ethical criteria applied to domestic agricultural production (See also FA502(c));

(l) support innovation and diversity in agricultural systems;

(m) return decision making on agricultural policy to local and national level, while keeping a role at European level for coordination and regulation.

FA522 The Green Party will press for a European Union Directive on Soil to protect soils across Europe. We will press for greater protection of water, habitats and wildlife through the EU Water Framework Directive and the EU Habitats Directive. (See also CY505)

Food Production: Agricultural Systems and Practices

Introduction

FA600 Most of our food supply is totally dependent on a fragile layer of topsoil that has been formed over thousands of years. Soil is often depleted and lost at greater rates than it is replaced. We are custodians of the soil and must conserve it for future generations.

FA601 Sustainable farming techniques can improve soil structure and health, minimise pollution, support wildlife and biodiversity, and provide many other ‘public goods’ such as rural employment and aesthetic landscapes. At best, agricultural systems are a benign part of wider ecosystems, minimising non-renewable inputs, minimising external losses of nutrients and returning all organic wastes to the soil.

FA602 However, current industrialised agriculture, which is dependent on high inputs of fossil fuels, inorganic fertilisers, pesticides and water resources, results in depletion and loss of soil organic matter and nutrients, causes significant pollution and results in loss of wildlife and biodiversity. Cheap mass-produced food and pressure from large supermarkets and processors for low farm-gate prices can hide many of these ‘external costs’.

FA603 While agriculture currently contributes a significant proportion of greenhouse gases (over 30% globally according to the UK Foresight Report), there is potential for large-scale sequestration of carbon in agricultural land that could mitigate fossil fuel use while it continues.

Sustainable Farming

Background

FA610 Sustainable farming systems and practices:

(a) protect and enhance soil, including its structure, organic matter, fertility and soil life;

(b) return organic wastes and residues to the soil and use sustainable methods such as green manures and leguminous intercrops to maintain fertility;

(c) minimise greenhouse gas emissions and promote carbon sequestration;

(d) conserve water resources;

(e) minimise or eliminate use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides and pollution of soil, air and water;

(f) support wildlife and biodiversity;

(g) are diverse in their resources, methods and outputs, increasing resilience to environmental and market ‘shocks’; 

(h) supply healthy, safe and nutritious food;

(i) support farmers, rural employment and the rural economy;

(j) conserve and enhance farm landscapes and buildings and protect cultural and archaeological heritage;

(k) are appropriate to the local climate, soil, geography and food markets. 

FA611 In contrast, industrialised farming systems and practices are not sustainable in that they tend to:

(a) destroy soil structure and lead to soil depletion, compaction and erosion through use of synthetic fertilisers, heavy machinery, over-stocking and from lack of soil cover;

(b) contribute to climate change through the use of synthetic fertilisers, greater fossil fuel use and release of carbon in soils from continuous tillage;

(c) deplete groundwater resources;

(d) use arable crops rather than pasture for animal feed and risk pandemics through intensive animal rearing;

(e) risk pest and disease outbreaks and threaten food security through the use of large-scale monocultures;

(f) pollute soil, air and water and consequently threaten wildlife, water courses and groundwater through the use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides and inappropriate disposal of organic wastes;

(g) cause harm to the health of farm workers, rural dwellers and consumers;

(h) operate in an unsustainable economic system as most of the environmental and social costs are ‘externalised’ and not included in current calculations of costs.

FA612 A range of agricultural systems and practices meet or aim to meet the above criteria for sustainability, including organic, stockfree organic, permaculture, agroecology, agroforestry and forest gardening. 

FA613 Organic farming and growing are well-established in the UK, with reputable and recognised organisations, certification schemes and retail markets. Organic production aims for long-term sustainability and has a central role to play in the transformation towards sustainable agriculture and food security.

FA614 It is feasible to change agriculture from a net emitter of greenhouse gases to net sequestration through greater use of trees, permanent pasture and other perennial plants and by reducing fossil fuel inputs. Grass and other perennial plants, particularly trees, can sequester carbon from the atmosphere and prevent carbon loss from the soil by minimising tillage.  (See also FA655

FA615 Appropriate use of organic residues and wastes, manures, green manures and compost can maintain and enhance soil fertility and structure. 

FA616 Species-rich permanent pastures have high value for biodiversity and soil conservation compared with ‘improved pasture’ dependent on synthetic fertiliser inputs which are associated with high greenhouse gas emissions.

FA617 The intensive raising of farm animals requires high inputs of fossil fuels, synthetic fertilisers and imported feeds and is therefore unsustainable. By comparison, well-managed pasture on mixed farms can promote soil, animal and human health. 

FA618 Fruit and nut orchards produce health-giving foods and provide attractive landscapes but have been undervalued. Their value as wildlife habitats has now been recognised with their designation as a priority habitat within biodiversity action plans.  

FA619 It has been shown that small, labour-intensive farms can produce more diverse and higher output per unit area than large, capital-intensive and fossil fuel dependent farms.

FA620 There is a growing demand for sustainably and locally produced food, held back by higher prices (compared to the artificially low price of produce from intensive agriculture based on synthetic fertilisers and pesticides), lack of availability and lack of information.

Policies

FA630 The Green Party will use subsidies, financial incentives, regulation, education, research and participation to support a transition towards more sustainable farming systems that foster long-term soil health, conserve water, reduce non-renewable inputs, minimise pollution and greenhouse gases, support habitats and greater biodiversity, enhance landscapes and cultural heritage and produce healthy and nutritious food. (See also CY523-7, FA521)

FA631 We will support a rapid increase in the proportion of land designated as organic, including stockfree organic, by giving financial help and advice to farmers making the transition to organic, increasing subsidies for organic farming and by funding the maintenance and promotion of organic standards. 

FA632 We will encourage a reduction in the use of synthetic fertilisers by supporting alternative methods of retaining soil fertility, such as green manures and appropriate recycling and composting of organic residues and wastes, including manure and treated sewage. We will support the safe recycling of food wastes as animal feed through reform of current legislation. (See also PL429

FA633 The Green Party will impose a tax on the use of synthetic fertilisers. This tax would be progressively increased and the revenue used to support agricultural systems using alternative methods to retain soil fertility, such as organic farming and growing. We will press for such a tax to be applied across the EU.

FA634 To conserve soil and sequester carbon, the Green Party will support a shift towards farming systems based on perennial crops, including extensive grazing, permaculture, agroforestry, orchards and tree crops through targeted support and funding. We will support local nurseries for plants which are productive and beneficial to the environment and support local council schemes to distribute free or very low cost trees for householders. 

FA635 For greater sustainability and the health and welfare of farm animals, we will encourage a shift towards extensive grazing on species-rich pastures, small-scale free-range units and mixed farms using organic techniques. We will encourage low stocking densities, based on research, and will set stocking limits for farms which receive agri-environment funding. 

FA636 The Green Party will shift subsidies away from highly mechanised, fossil fuel-dependent agriculture towards low-input and low-impact agriculture. We will assist farmers in making a transition to more sustainable and more labour-intensive methods of production. We will use taxes, regulation and subsidies to discourage large land holdings, amalgamation of farms and the use of monocultures in agriculture and to support smaller farms and greater agricultural diversity. (See also CY522-3, EU542)

FA637 The Green Party would remove some of the tax rebate on red diesel (fuel for agricultural use) as a means to discourage fossil fuel use in agriculture. This would be done progressively so as not to impact on farmers and food prices in the short-term and we would support sustainable long-term alternatives to fossil fuel use.

FA638 The Green Party will ban the use of the most harmful substances used in the treatment of soil, crops and animals and support a progressive reduction in the use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides which do not meet organic standards, through the promotion of benign forms of pest and disease management and maintenance of optimal soil, plant and animal health. (See also CY525

FA639 We will introduce stringent regulations to protect wildlife, farm workers, rural dwellers and consumers from the effects of harmful substances used in farming. We will increase resources available to monitor water quality and farm spraying activities and will ensure better enforcement and higher penalties for any harm to human health and pollution of air, soil, watercourses and groundwater. (See also CY525, IN623, PL420, PL429)

FA640 The Green Party will fund research into:

(a) Lifecycle costs of different farming systems, including greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental and social impacts.

(b) Sustainable growing systems and methods, including organic, stockfree, agroecology, permaculture and agroforestry.

(c) Farming systems and strategies to maximise carbon sequestration. 

(d) Development of small-scale, appropriate farm technology and machinery, and methods (such as conservation and evergreen agriculture) which do not harm the soil.

(e) Methods to safely return biodegradable organic waste, including sewage, to the soil. 

(f) Breeding programmes for crops and farm animals, to improve sustainability, productivity, diversity and animal welfare;

(g) Sustainable and ethical methods to reduce methane emissions from farm animals.

FA641 To increase understanding of sustainable agriculture, the Green Party will:

(a) Include practical experience of growing and healthy nutrition in the curriculum of all schools (See also FA233-234).

(b) Support ‘eco-schools’ and school orchards and forest gardens.

(c) Encourage educational links between schools, farms and community food projects.

(d) In agricultural education and advice establishments, give immediate priority to sustainable production methods.

(e) Set up a network of research, advice and demonstration centres, based on existing farms, to provide extension services and outreach as well as on-site training.

(f) Give support and advice to those currently employed in intensive agriculture so that they can learn appropriate new skills.

Farmed Animals

Background

FA650 Extensive grazing, free-range units and mixed rotational farming can support soil health, habitats and biodiversity, improve animal welfare and conserve agricultural resources.

FA651 However, high levels of consumption of meat, dairy and other animal products in richer countries and rising demand in poorer countries threaten global food security and lead to deforestation, pollution and other environmental problems, in addition to many of the ‘diseases of affluence’. 

FA652 The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation reported in 2006 that 70% of land globally is devoted to farmed animal production, yet this contributed only 15% of all human food. About 40% of cropped land in the UK is used to produce animal feed, using large quantities of synthetic fertiliser, depleting water resources and increasing soil erosion. This land could be used more efficiently to feed humans directly.

FA653 Green Party policy aims to rebalance farming in favour of food production for direct human consumption and to reverse the present market-driven trend towards the production of feed for animals. With a growing population and increasing malnutrition, a transition towards diets based on plant foods is necessary, particularly in richer countries, to address increasing pressures on land. Such a rebalancing would also enable more extensive and sustainable food production methods to be employed.

FA654 High-input intensive farming of animals lowers the farm-gate price of meat and other animal products at the cost of creating many environmental, social, health and animal welfare problems. Farmers using extensive, low-input and free-range systems find it hard to compete with the artificially low price of products from intensive farming. 

FA655 A significant proportion of the emissions of the three major greenhouse gases are directly and indirectly attributable to animal farming. Use of arable crops for feed results in carbon losses from soil cultivation, whilst use of artificial fertilisers and inappropriate disposal and application of manures result in nitrous oxide emissions. Ruminant animals, including cattle and sheep, are responsible for a significant proportion of methane emissions. In addition, pollution from artificial fertilisers and animal manure poses a growing threat to wildlife and habitats. A transition towards plant-based diets would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and could free large areas of land for other uses, particularly carbon sequestration.

FA656 In the UK, close to a billion animals are slaughtered for food every year. Many of these animals are farmed intensively, kept in unhygienic and cramped conditions, with high levels of distress and injury. Antibiotics are used routinely to prevent outbreak of disease, resulting in antibiotic resistance and threats to human and animal health. Intensive farming techniques and, in some cases, the associated long-distance transport of animals, have been associated with the outbreak and spread of diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), foot and mouth disease, avian flu and swine flu. 

FA657 Intensive fish farming (aquaculture) is not the answer to global food shortages and dwindling fish stocks in the oceans. Intensively farmed fish are fed on fish from unsustainable fishing and on land crops that compete with food for direct human consumption. Intensive aquaculture causes widespread pollution of inland and coastal waters and spreads disease to wild fish. However, small-scale farming of herbivorous fish in freshwater ponds can provide a useful and sustainable source of food.

Policies

FA660 The Green Party will phase out all forms of 'factory farming', including intensive poultry, dairy, pig and fish farms, which involve overstocking, inhumane conditions, pollution or excessive use of imported feed, fertiliser, pesticide or fossil fuel inputs. (See also AR403, AR406)

FA661 The Green Party will shift support towards small free-range units, the use of crop residues and food wastes for feed, mixed rotational farming and extensive grazing. We will restrict the use of fishmeal and imported crops for animal feed and discourage the excessive use of arable crops for feed. (See also AR403, AR406, CY525, FA635

FA662 The Green Party will support a progressive change from diets dominated by meat, dairy and other animal products to healthier diets based mainly on plant foods, through the use of economic measures, research and education, coupled with support for more sustainable methods of production such as organic and stockfree farming. (See AR403-404)

FA663 We will encourage appropriate uses of land, including orchards, woods and wildlife habitats, of land not needed to produce feed for farm animals. Such land would also sequester carbon and help to tackle climate change. (See also FA634)

FA664 The Green Party supports the highest levels of animal welfare in farming. We will ensure that the Five Freedoms of the Animal Welfare Act are applied to all farm animals and will ban painful mutilations such as beak trimming of poultry and tail docking of pigs. We will prioritise small, local abattoirs, minimise live transport of animals and ban live exports, except for breeding stock. We will press for EU and international rules permitting restrictions on imports based on animal welfare considerations. (See AR406, FA502(c)) 

FA665 We will maintain a ban on the use of growth hormones and imports of food from animals treated with growth hormones. We will phase out routine and prophylactic use of antibiotics in farm animals.

FA666 Cloning of farm animals has major animal welfare implications and there are related threats from reduced genetic diversity. We will maintain a ban on the use of cloned animals or their offspring and on importation of products from cloned animals or their offspring.

Wildlife and Biodiversity

Background

FA670 Wildlife and biodiversity are not separate from agriculture but integral, providing many ‘ecosystem services’, such as protection of soil and water, enhancement of landscapes, pollination and natural pest control.

FA671 Through inappropriate soil tillage, increased mechanisation, use of monocultures and extensive use of synthetic fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides, the biodiversity of agricultural land is reduced and wildlife on farms and in surrounding areas is diminished. More significantly, over the long term, pressure on land resources from agriculture results in deforestation, habitat destruction and loss of biodiversity. 

FA672 Conversely, more benign agricultural systems, such as small-scale organic farming and use of perennial plants, can increase biodiversity and encourage wildlife. 

FA673 A reduction in the volume of animal production and consumption would significantly reduce pressure on land resources and free land for conservation use and carbon sequestration.

Policies

FA680 The Green Party will protect wildlife habitats from further encroachment by agriculture, through regulation, for example of pollution, and support for habitat and biodiversity protection and enhancement. We will support diverse and sustainable farming systems that have a benign or positive influence on wildlife and biodiversity. We support agri-environment schemes such as Environmental Stewardship, Tir Gofal and the Woodland Grant Scheme for all farmers and growers, rather than a targeted approach which unfairly prevents some people from even applying. (See CY500-507, EU546ii), FA630-634)

FA681 In arable systems, we will encourage diverse uncropped areas around fields to support wildlife and natural pest control (at least 10% uncropped on intensive farms). We will encourage an increase in the abundance of wildflowers in both arable land and pasture through good management of grassland, planting of hedgerows and sowing of wildflower-rich margins around arable fields. 

FA682 The Green Party will encourage a landscape-scale approach, supporting partnerships and networks amongst farmers and land managers to consider the mix of food production, uncropped land and wildlife on neighbouring farms. ‘Joined-up’ wildlife refuges will be encouraged. 

FA683 We will increase tree cover generally by encouraging appropriate tree planting or woodland creation from natural regeneration on agricultural and non-agricultural land, including fruit and nut orchards, copses, hedgerows, small farm woods and shade and windbreak trees.

FA684 The aim to reduce the volume of animal production (see FA662) would reduce the need for agricultural land both at home and overseas. We will target a reduction in intensive animal rearing, reducing the overall area of arable land and enabling a shift towards farming systems that protect and encourage wildlife and biodiversity.

Genetic Diversity

Background

FA690 Increased agricultural diversity can contribute to food security and security of farming livelihoods. However, industrialised farming methods force reliance on a small number of crops and animals with narrow genetic diversity. This results in loss of long-term diversity and resilience, tends to give large agribusiness companies a monopoly on seed supply and threatens farming livelihoods and food security with large-scale crop failures, pest and disease outbreaks and pandemics. 

Policies

FA700 The Green Party will make it easier to register new and traditional seed varieties. We will encourage producers to use their own local or traditional seed varieties and to plant mixed cultivars. We will ensure funding is available for national and local seed banks, seed libraries and the conservation of locally selected seed varieties. 

FA701 We support conservation groups who ensure the survival of crop varieties and animal breeds. We will ensure funding is available for national and local plant collections, such as botanical gardens and the National Fruit Collection, and rare breed collections. (See also NR431)

FA702 We oppose the patenting of genes and living organisms and will press for a national and international ban on the patenting of life-forms, including agricultural crops and animals. (See also AR413, EC1015, IP353, ST360)

Genetic Modification

Background

FA710 Genetic engineering will not solve the problems created by industrialised agriculture and it may add to them. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) tend to secure large profits for a few multinational companies, rather than making farming easier or more efficient. 

FA711 Many environmental problems have been associated with genetically modified (GM) crops:

(a) GM crops may cross-breed with wild varieties or wild species and transfer genes to other plants, posing a long-term threat to wildlife and biodiversity.

(b) Herbicide-resistant genes have been transferred to other plants, creating ‘super weeds’.

(c) Herbicides used with GM crops have been shown to harm both wildlife and human health.

(d) GM crops producing bio-pesticide toxins may be toxic to wildlife and encourage resistance in the target species.

(e) GM crops undermine organic and conventional farming through cross-contamination and by creation of resistant pests. 

FA712 The use of GM crops in poor countries has proved disastrous to farming communities. Not only have the crops failed in many cases, but they undermine the diversity of local seed varieties with monoculture GM crops designed to secure profits for multinational biotechnology companies. There is no evidence that GM crops will ‘solve’ the problem of world food shortages through increased productivity: there are many social and economic issues that need to be addressed to prevent food shortages in poorer countries. (See also ST362, ST370)

FA713 Despite widespread introduction of GM foods in the United States and elsewhere, the potential dangers of GM foods to human health have not been properly investigated and risks remain considerable.

Policies

FA720 The Green Party supports a moratorium on the use of GMOs in all agricultural systems including production of human food and animal feed and on importation of GM food or feed. (See AR413, EU489 and ST364

FA721 We define GM food as any:

(a) that is genetically modified or includes ingredients from genetically modified crops; or

(b) that is from genetically modified animals; or

(c) that is from animals that have been fed genetically modified feed.

So long as any such food is available in this country, it must be labelled as containing genetically modified ingredients or coming from genetically modified sources. 

FA722 The Green Party will establish and uphold the rights of consumers, farmers and local authorities to choose GM-free food and to establish GM-free zones. We will legislate for a strict liability regime which makes biotech (GM seed) companies and GM food producers fully liable for any losses through contamination or harm caused to the environment or human health. (See ST364

FA723 We will apply the precautionary principle and place strict conditions on research using genetic engineering to ensure that GMOs do not escape, pollinate other plants or cause other damage. (See ST363)

Biofuels and Non-Food Crops

Background

FA730 There is potential for plants to provide many of the raw materials currently derived from fossil fuels, for instance building materials, textiles and industrial chemicals. On a small and local scale, wood and agricultural wastes can be used efficiently as fuels or for biogas generation. 

FA731 Biofuel and bio-energy crops, however, generally represent an inefficient use of land resources and are usually in direct competition with the use of agricultural land for food, threatening food security. Environmental and social impacts are greatest in poorer countries.

Policies

FA740 The Green Party will encourage diversification to non-food crops on an appropriate and sustainable scale, for instance on land of marginal agricultural value and to provide materials currently derived from fossil fuels. We will encourage small-scale and appropriate use of crop residues and by-products, including retention on the land to maintain soil organic matter, composting and biogas generation. (See also EN222, EU545 and NR413

FA741 Within Europe and the UK the Green Party calls for a suspension of all biofuel targets, incentives and subsidies until clear environmental and human rights standards for biofuel production accompany such targets. We call for an immediate moratorium on biofuels from large-scale monocultures and genetically modified crops.

FA742 The Green Party supports the appropriate siting of wind turbines on agricultural land and solar energy systems on farm buildings. Every farm would be entitled to a free survey by an approved body to determine the most appropriate renewable energy source for their farm and to provide information on ways of funding and enhancing their investment. (See also EN240).