Friends of the Earth is calling for a fundamental review of the Assured Food Standards “Little Red Tractor” labelling symbol to ensure that it lives up to its claims and provides genuine help to farmers and clear benefits for consumers.
Friends of the Earth believes that the “Little Red Tractor Standards” are not as exacting as consumers are being led to believe, particularly on pesticides, GM and animal welfare. The NFU has claimed, for example, that foods with the red tractor logo are produced “to exacting standards of food safety,kindness to animals and environmental protection” .
In letters to Sir John Krebs (Food Standards Agency) and Alan Knight (chair of the Advisory Committee on Consumer products and Environment), Friends of the Earth calls for the Little Red Tractor” scheme to be strengthened to include:
- targets for pesticide reduction and a prohibition of those pesticides with the strongest evidence of harm to human health and/or the environment
- food which is GM free
- food to be British and labelled to show the county or region of origin
- livestock that is raised to standards at least equivalent to the RSPCA Freedom Foods mark
The ACCPE have already discussed the schemes in December 2000 and commented:
“It was not clear that the schemes involved merited the claims being made… They appeared to incorporate only minimum legal requirements on the environment.
Claims of this kind could be counterproductive … It would be in the schemes’ interests for improvements to be made, to help them gain the confidence of consumers.
The existence of product labels like the Red Tractor could undermine the sort of schemes
ACCPE would like to see.” 
Farmers are also not convinced of the value of such schemes:
“…farm assurance schemes are a load of old cobblers. They cost a lot of money and prove nothing”  Dick Lindley, Vice Chairman Wakefield National Farmers Union
Friends of the Earth believes dramatic improvements should be made to some of the more damaging methods of agriculture . A reformed labelling system could reflect genuine higher standards,providing valuable information to consumers about which food they can trust.
Sandra Bell Real Food and Farming Campaigner for Friends of the Earth commented:
“We support branding schemes which help farmers and consumers but it is vital that the scheme sets truly high standards. Otherwise, the “Little Red Tractor” scheme is about as much use to farmers and consumers as a chocolate fire guard.”
Notes to Editors
- NFU – Press Releases British Farm Standard Gears Up for Launch in Shops May 2000
- Copies of the letters and press briefing are available from the Media Unit.
- DEFRA Summary Note of the 10th meeting of the Advisory Committee on Consumer Products and the Environment: Thursday 7 December 2000.
- Farmers Weekly 2 March 2001 Assured farms pig swill shock p 7.
- Get real about food and farming, a new publication from Friends of the Earth, spells out a sustainable future for farming that will provide quality, affordable food that consumers can trust. Executive summaries can be obtained from the Media Unit.Little Red Tractor Briefing