"FSA plan doesnt go far enough"
By Boyd Champness
THE blueprint for the creation of a Food Standards Agency (FSA) – designed to improve the UKs food safety record – doesnt go far enough, according to the UKs main organic farming body.
Soil Association director Patrick Holden said the report, compiled by Prof Philip James, deals mainly with issues from the consumer angle, and ignores problems associated with food production.
“In my view, most of the health problems that have arisen have been production-related, such as BSE, salmonella in eggs, pesticide usage and concerns over genetically-modified organisms. But the proposal for the FSA in its present form doesnt provide any means of addressing these concerns,” Mr Holden said.
Mr Holden is one of the first industry leaders to criticise the report since it was handed down by Prof James earlier this year. The report was the focus of the Transport & General Workers Union national food safety conference held in London this week.
Although Mr Holden supports many of the findings in the report, he said it concentrates too heavily on post-farm gate issues and not enough on pre-farm gate matters – which is where most problems stem from.
Mr Holden said he was not a supporter of downsizing the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF), despite its mishandling of recent health scares. On the contrary, he believes MAFF and the Departments of Health and the Environment should be incorporated in some way to deal with food-safety matters.
“The three should be linked under the FSA in some way, because all three play an important role in food safety. The Department of Agriculture is important on the production front, the Department of Health usually has to deal with the health consequences when things go wrong, and the Department of the Environment is usually faced with the task of cleaning up the mistake.”
He said the report makes the same old mistake of pitting farmers against consumers, with the only difference being that consumers now have the upper hand.
Mr Holden said issues such as pesticide usage and GMOs needed to be properly discussed. He said genetically-modified crops and raw materials “had no place” in agriculture.
In Mr Holdens view, the report should have also looked at pesticide reduction and the eventual banning of pesticides. He said those who believe a ban on pesticides was fanciful should take note of recent developments in Denmark, where the government has formed a committee to investigate the merits of such a ban.