NFU import standard petition reaches 250,000 signatures as campaign receives Jamie Oliver backing

The campaign to protect UK food standards in future trade deals has received high-profile backing from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

NFU petition calling for the Government to ‘put into law rules that prevent food being imported to the UK which is produced in ways that would be illegal here’ has just passed 250,000 signatures, a number that is growing rapidly .

If you haven’t done so already, you can sign the petition here

Last month, attempts to introduce the legislation to the Agriculture Bill were defeated by MPs, despite some Conservatives rebelling and increasingly vociferous calls from a range of food, farming, environmental and animal welfare organisations, alongside a growing profile of the issue across the media.

The Government also rejected calls to add any legislative safeguards on food standards as the Trade Bill began its path through parliament.

This coincided with with the start of formal talks on a US-UK trade deal, with Trade Secretary Liz Truss reported to be planning to offer a big cut in import tariffs to help facilitate a deal. The move that has reportedly put her odds with other Ministers, including Defra Secretary George Eustice and former Defra Secretary Michael Gove.

On Sunday, the Mail, which is campaigning on the issue, published the results of a survey on the public’s views on food safety, which showed 79% of those surveyed believed Great Britain has better standards for food and farming than the US.

It showed 73% of people prioritised maintaining our existing standards over a new deal with the US, with 62% ‘worried’ about the future of farmers.

Jamie Oliver letter to PM

The Mail also published an open letter to Boris Johnson by Jamie Oliver, who told the Prime Minister: “I write this letter because I believe you’re about to seriously undermine public health and unpick the delicate patchwork quilt of farmers and food producers who are the backbone of this country.

“While we’ve all been focused on the fallout from this dreadful pandemic, most people reading this probably won’t know that you’ve whipped your MPs to vote down the Agriculture Bill amendments that would have maintained British food and animal welfare standards for future trade deals and imports.

“We could be about to open the floodgates to a whole raft of low-quality food that would normally be illegal in the UK.

“Of course we want trade, but not at any cost. Having standards – in law – will actually strengthen your hand in negotiations. I believe you have it in you to find the right balance. What looks like a simple piece of legislation will mark you in history either as a guardian to the land and its prosperity, or as someone who opened Pandora’s box to the quick erosion of the food and farming industries.

“This is a pivotal moment – an opportunity for us to build a stronger and better food system.”

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies welcomed Jamie Oliver’s support for the campaign, which she said was increasingly resonating with the media and public.

“This is an issue great of huge importance to the pig sector and we urge any members and supporters who have not yet done so to sign the petition.”

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About The Author

Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.