Sunday, 23 August 2009

AM Calls on Welsh Farmers to "Blaze a Trail" with Climate Labelling for Food

A Labour Member of the Welsh Assembly, has called on Welsh farmers to emulate their Swedish counterparts, by introducing a climate labelling system for produce to enable consumers to make environmentally friendly choices when it comes to buying food.

The call comes from Wrexham's AM, Lesley Griffiths, who has written to Wales' two farming unions - the NFU and FAW - urging them to look closely at the successful Scandinavian model.

In the Swedish model referred to by Ms.Griffiths, major food companies, the Federation of Swedish Farmers, two food labelling organisations and variety of dairy and meat co-operatives came together to create a climate labelling system.

The scheme primarily aims to reduce the impact of food production on the climate and give consumers the opportunity to make a conscious decisions about the impact of what they buy has on global warming. The scheme also encourages greater competitiveness between food producers.

Under the recently introduced Swedish scheme, products with at least 25% greenhouse gas savings will ultimately be marked in each food category, starting with plant production, dairy and fish products.

The project oversees standards developed for climate marking of food that has an average climate impact of 25% lower than a reference product in the same category. It will also create a monitoring system to measure and follow-up the achievements.

Criteria for plant production, dairy and fish were launched earlier this year and standards for other product categories will follow later this year.

In May, the Welsh Assembly Government published a comprehensive strategy document titled,‘Farming, Food & Countryside – Building a Secure Future’, however, a climate labelling scheme for food was not proposed in the final document.

Lesley Griffiths - a Member of the Welsh Assembly's Sustainability Committee - believes the introduction of a climate labelling scheme, would bring great benefits to Welsh farmers and give them a competitive 'edge' over producers in other parts of the UK and Europe.

As part of its recently published Food Security Assessment, the UK Government mooted they were considering consulting on green labelling scheme for food products. However, no details have been published to date and Ms.Griffiths believes no such scheme will come into operation in the foreseeable future.

She is now urging farmers and producers in Wales to seize the initiative and introduce a uniquely Welsh climate labelling scheme.

Commenting on her proposal,
Lesley Griffiths AM said:

"Consumers are becoming increasingly more aware and sensitive about the impact their purchasing power can have on climate change. I believe this awareness should be viewed by Welsh farmers as an opportunity to produce food that is not only sustainable but can be proven so.

"Swedish farmers have been quick to spot this opportunity and are now developing a set of standards that helps consumers make choices about about climate change.

"The beauty of the Swedish scheme is that it was not imposed on producers. The scheme grew out of a joint initiative with the full involvement of farming organisations. They were quick to realise the potential benefits - not just in terms of climate but also in terms of their profits.

"Food production is an absolutely crucial component of the Welsh economy. The quality of our food is now gaining a huge reputation across the world. I believe this reputation could be given an extra dimension by pro-actively helping consumers make informed decisions about how environmentally friendly Welsh produce is. Introducing a climate labelling scheme would give Welsh food a competitive edge both in both domestic and export markets.

"The UK Government has recently mooted a green labelling scheme but nothing 'concrete' has been proposed at this stage. I want to see Welsh farmers and producers blaze a trail on this by taking the initiative and committing themselves now, to devising a scheme akin to that introduced in Sweden.

"I am writing to the Farmers' Union of Wales and the National Farmers Union Cymru, to ask them to look closely at the Swedish scheme and how successful it has been for their counterparts and consumers in that country. I believe once they have examined the potential of having a climate labelling scheme here in Wales, they will quickly see the benefits it could bring in terms of increased demand for Welsh food."


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