27 February 2007

Eco-labelling - our saviour or our undoing.

According to the Daily Telegraph, UK Environment Minister David Milliband is to announce today that he is considering eco-labelling for food that will outline the amount of greenhouse gases used in production and transport of food. This will be greeted with cheers from European farmers, even keen to suckle the Brussels tit and ever keen to block out food imported from more efficient food producers. However, as has already been explained it should not be a matter of simple reporting “food miles” – one of the greatest green crocks of our time, but the total cost of production.
Now I oppose compulsory labelling. If the producer doesn’t want you to know something about the food then you have the choice of buying it or not. However, New Zealand should agree to provide input into this analysis, which will surely be impossible for all food imports, but also provides an opportunity to do two things:
First, is to transparently and objectively determine the entire carbon impact, which in many cases benefits New Zealand farmers. However this wont happen without a fight. British farmers will baulk when NZ cheese appears in supermarket coolers with a lower greenhouse rating. However, lest Britain be hauled up in front of the WTO, it must not be a barrier to free trade.
Secondly, how about identifying food by subsidy levels, e.g. 25% of the cost of producing this block of cheese was paid for by EU subsidies, or US subsidies etc etc. Now that wont happen, but the first could be pushed for. We can’t sit back and let this be defined by those with the loudest voices, as the “Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will work with producers and retailers” according to the Daily Telegraph. This doesn’t mean our producers or importers. Stop sitting back New Zealand, bloody well do something!

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