The UK government today (10 July) published the latest attempt to try to encourage the food industry to build a more sustainable sector as it faces feeding a rising population. Campaigners gave a cautious welcome to the Green Food Project but warned the coalition needed to be more bold.

The Food Ethics Council executive director Sue Dibb

“What’s clear is that a focus on food production alone isn’t enough. What we’re eating, how much we waste, how we feed people fairly and treat animals humanely all need to be part of the picture. Business as usual – even with a green tinge – is not the answer.”

Mark Driscoll, head of WWF UK’s food programme

“We support the collaborative approach taken by the Green Food Project as a – very small – first step. However, what’s really important is the need to take action so we move towards a more equitable and sustainable food system which addresses the twin global challenges of sustainability and hunger.

“The establishment of a consumption forum is a useful initiative, but this has to be much more than just a talking shop. It must report back with clear recommendations and a timetable for action from government, business and civil society.”

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Jim Paice, UK farming minister

“We never expected this to suddenly produce a blueprint or manifesto, but it has set out a framework from which we will then go on to develop specific policies so I strongly recommend it to you all. It’s a first class piece of work.”

Tom MacMillan, director of innovation at The Soil Association

“We particularly welcome the report’s call for ‘two-way flows of knowledge, ideas and innovation’ from the lab to the field and back again. A big part of fixing our food system is to make sure that farmers and the public have a much bigger say in the research that is done in their name.

“The big risk is this report goes the same way as previous reports and recommendations for greening the food system. They failed because government didn’t take the lead that industry and the public need it to, particularly on the tough but crucial issues of sustainable consumption.

“This report is weak when it comes to the key challenge of making it easy to eat a diet that doesn’t seriously damage our own health and that of the planet. We believe that the government should be bold enough to lead a much more robust discussion about the links between production and consumption, if we are to tackle the twin challenges of environmental degradation and the growing problem of diet-related ill-health.”

Food and Drink Federation director of sustainability Andrew Kuyk

“This has been a genuinely collaborative project addressing fundamental questions about the future direction of the UK’s food system.

“We have not come up with all the answers, but we have set a clear course for what needs to happen and shown that it is only by working together that we can reduce the risks and maximise the benefits of what we are able to produce, now and in the future, to help deliver safe, secure, affordable and nutritious food supplies for generations to come.”

National Farmers Union president Peter Kendall

“It’s not quite the end of the journey but it is a significant body of work that identifies the key issues that will need to be addressed by government, industry and other stakeholders.

“We now have some clear actions to move forward with. In particular, the report identifies some of the steps that need to be taken by the science community, government and farmers in delivering more user-inspired, applied research. It pushes us to think smarter about knowledge exchange.

“Stimulating investment is critical if Defra is to consider how it can better support a more competitive, resilient industry. A step that government could take quickly is to overhaul the capital allowances to create more generous incentives for farmers to invest in new buildings, water lagoons and slurry stores.”