The Government's Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food does "not intend to recommend any radical change" on the key areas of CAP reform and international trade liberalisation its chair, Sir Don Curry, has told Friends of the Earth.

The admission seriously weakens the role of the Commission. The reform of CAP, and what replaces it, will have major impacts on the way the countryside is managed and how food is produced. Trade liberalisation may make it more difficult to protect consumers and farmers from practices undesired or unsuitable to the UK such as the use of hormones in farm animals and GM crops.

Sir Don was responding to a letter from FOE raising concerns about the narrow terms of the Commission's remit, given the state of crisis in the UK's food and farming sector. FOE also raised concerns about the short time period in which the Commission had been asked to report to the Cabinet Office and DEFRA, and pointed out that the Government guidelines specify a 12 week period for public consultation. The Commission only has slightly longer to both consult and report (by 31st December). FOE is worried that the Commission's short timetable will lead to important areas, such as food safety and animal welfare, being side-lined.

In his reply to FOE, Sir Don reveals that the haste in which the Commission is being asked to report is because "the Comprehensive Spending Review and CAP reform discussions will need to draw on our work". Sir Don also admits the the Commission will need to "work hard to meet our deadlines".

Liana Stupples, Policy and Campaigns Director at Friends of the Earth said
"The Government Commission investigating the future of British farming has been placed in a policy straight-jacket and won't be able to recommend the type of radical action that is so desperately needed to safeguard the future for both industry and the environment. CAP reform and international trade liberalisation are key issues, but the Government has effectively kept them off the Commission's agenda. Despite its grand title the Commission on the Future of Farming and Food will deliver very little unless it is given more scope.