Farm leaders have dismissed this week’s Food Matters report from the Cabinet Office as a “missed opportunity” to show that farming really matters.

The report, put together by the Cabinet Office’s Strategy Unit over the past ten months, spells out the government’s vision for the food sector.

In particular it calls for:
• Fair prices, choice and access to food through open and competitive markets
• Continuous improvements in the safety of food
• A further transition to healthier diets
• A more environmentally sustainable food chain

Launching the report, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that recent food prices were a powerful reminder that access to ever more affordable food could not be taken for granted.

But he passed little comment on the need for UK farming to lift output as part of the effort to meet demand.

“The principal food security challenge for the UK is a global one,” he said. “Attempting to pursue national food security in isolation from the global context is unlikely to be practicable, sustainable or financially rational.”

The report stresses the importance of promoting a healthy diet at home, and sets out plans to bolster the 5 A DAY campaign to increase fruit and vegetable consumption.

It also includes plans for public bodies, such as the NHS and prisons, to subscribe to a “Healthier Food Mark”.

Reducing household wastage is another key objective. “Widespread concern about higher food prices sits awkwardly alongside evidence that consumers throw away 4.1m tonnes food that could have been eaten, worth an average £420/household every year.”

The government also plans to commission a report looking at how EU rules on approving GMs are impacting on livestock farming.

But the NFU has criticised the report for being based on dated analysis, with too little acknowledgement of the role productive farming can play.

“New circumstances require new thinking and new solutions, but this report fails to provide them,” said NFU president Peter Kendall.

“Food security cannot be uniquely tackled at the national level, but that should not preclude British farming from playing a crucial part in addressing this global issue.”