The UK government has failed to introduce decisive policies to tackle the impact the food industry, notably the meat and dairy sectors, has on the environment, according to Friends of the Earth.

Reacting to the food security assessment published by Defra today (10 August), Friends of the Earth senior food campaigner Clare Oxborrow said that more needs to be done to secure sustainable and fair food supplies.

“Ministers are still fixated on genetic modification but this isn’t a solution – GM crops do not have higher yields and the mythical drought and salt resistant crops still exist only as expensive PR promises rather than commercial reality.”

Friends of the Earth also pointed to the impact that the meat and dairy sectors have on the environment and argued that the Government had not set out plans to make the industries more environmentally-friendly.

Oxborrow added: “Although it has recognised the need to cut carbon emissions from the food industry, the government has neglected to set out plans for the most damaging sector – meat and dairy – which creates more climate-changing emissions than all the world’s transport.”

Last week, the UK dairy sector, through industry body Dairy UK, published data that claimed the “environmental footprint” of the sector was falling. Since 2006, the amount of water used by processors had come down by a fifth, while energy use had dropped 10%, the industry claimed.

The report by Defra today suggested that the use of energy intensive fertilisers and generation of methane emissions exacerbates greenhouse gas emissions, as does displacement of forests by agricultural expansion.

Oxborrow, however, believes that, although the Defra announcement noted the global footprint of UK food production and consumption, it neglected the impact of intensive meat and dairy and failed to make policy commitments to address the issue.

“Globally, the livestock sector requires ever-increasing quantities of energy, land and water, and leads to biodiversity loss and climate change emissions,” she said. “The UK’s reliance on imported animal feed is driving deforestation in South America as forests are cleared for soy production.”

Oxborrow added that the Government’s food strategy must tackle the hidden impacts of meat and dairy by measuring and reducing the global footprint of the supply chain, supporting alternative home-grown feeds to soy, and shifting taxpayers money from factory farms to small-scale planet-friendly systems.