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Towards a common food policy in the EU and the UK

News | Published  3 March 2019

A blueprint for agriculture, food, environment and health policy for the EU and UK.


Last week the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) published research and a blueprint for a common food policy for the European Union

The IPES plan is based on 3 years of participatory research with over 400 farmers, businesses, NGOs, scientists and policymakers. It provides a vision to address climate change, halt biodiversity loss, improve diets and make farming viable for the next generation.

The vision set out in the IPES report aims to move beyond the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) suggesting that a Common Food Policy can achieve what CAP cannot. The report sets out how an integration across interrelated policy areas wider than the set of policies concerned with agriculture, rural economies and land management would be beneficial.

An example that is mentioned several times throughout the IPES report is how the EU has made bold commitments to ‘policy coherence for development’ and to address climate change under the Paris Agreement, while promoting increased exports in the high-emitting meat and dairy sectors via new trade agreements.

Similarly, in the UK, meat and dairy production and consumption is a policy issue or has an impact across a number of Government departments, notably Environment Food & Rural Affairs, Treasury, International Trade and Health and Social Care. Meat and dairy production and consumption impacts both positively and negatively financially as well as for health and the environment.

The value of UK meat and dairy exports are important but are also much smaller than imports. In 2017, the UK exported £1.8 billion worth of meat, while imports were worth £6.7 billion. The value of dairy and eggs imports was £3.2 billion, compared to £1.8 billion worth of exports. Health and environment impacts are explained in further detail here

There is overlap between the IPES report and what we called for in 2017 in ‘Beyond the CAP: Policies to support better UK meat and dairy production post-Brexit.’  For example, both reports set out the benefits of bringing the policy areas of food, health and agriculture much closer together. Both should also prove informative for any future UK Food Strategy.

As has been recognised by IPES - agriculture, trade, food safety, environment, development, research, education, fiscal and social policies, market regulation, competition, and many others – have developed in an ad hoc fashion over many years, this is mirrored in the UK. As a result, objectives and policy tools have multiplied in confusing and inefficient ways. The impact of what happens after the Common Agricultural Policy both in the EU and in the UK will depend on buy-in across departments, and an alignment of objectives with sustainability and health at the centre.