Industry leaders have hit out at suggestions that food production damages the environment as much as private transport and housing.
Meurig Raymond, NFU deputy president, criticised comments environment minister Ben Bradshaw made to food industry experts this week.
Speaking at a New Statesman discussion on health and climate, Mr Bradshaw said it was better for the environment to buy locally produced fruit and vegetables than meat and dairy products.
But Mr Raymond said Mr Bradshaw’s comments undermined the efforts British farmers had made towards combating climate change.
“There are lots of messages the farming industry has started to get across, such as the [environmental] benefits of local and regional foods,” Mr Raymond told delegates at the Meat and Livestock Commission’s Outlook 2007 conference in
“These sorts of comments from within the industry undermine the good work that’s been done.”
Kevin Roberts, MLC director general, agreed that Mr Bradshaw’s comments were “unhelpful”, and said farmers were working on reducing their impact on the environment.
Mr Bradshaw’s comments followed the launch of a government website which advised consumers to make “greener choices” about their food by avoiding produce which has a high impact on the environment, such as meat and dairy products.
Production of meat and dairy products had a “much bigger effect” on climate change than production of most grains, fruits and vegetables, the site said.
A Defra spokeswoman said Mr Bradshaw’s comments were made on the back of scientific research and said doubted people would cut down on eating meat because of what he said.
“Mr Bradshaw didn’t recommend people should cut down on meat to save the environment. The public can make a decision about eating meat once they have the facts about what they eat.”