Friends of the Earth today called for radical measures, including a new legally enforceable code for supermarkets, to safeguard the future of farming in the UK – for the benefit of consumers, rural economies and the countryside.

Launching Get real about food and farming, a new report spelling out Friends of the Earth’s vision for the future of farming in the UK, the organisation said the Government must act  now to protect the farming economy which has been seriously undermined by successive food scares, disease and the impact of cheap imports.

Friends of the Earth is calling for a legally enforceable code of conduct to govern the relationship between supermarkets and supplier.  The major supermarkets currently dominate the food retail sector, and can exert severe pressure on farmers to keep prices low.

The organisation also called for a commitment to scrap the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) by 2006, replacing it with a sustainable development policy, which would reward landowners for good stewardship of the land, high animal welfare standards, biodiversity, and natural resources.  More support for local food production and distribution would strengthen local economies and provide valuable employment, as well as developing alternative markets to supermarkets and other massive food companies.

Food and agriculture should be removed from the control of the World Trade Organisation, the report says.  Instead a new international agreement on food and agriculture should promote and protect human rights to safe, healthy and nutritious food.

Launching the report Liana Stupples, Campaign Director for Friends of the Earth, said:

“Farming in this country has hit rock bottom.  Farmers and consumers are crying out for change.  We cannot remedy this situation overnight, but we must face up to the price we are paying for a policy of cheap food.  The supermarkets currently have UK farmers in an arm-lock – we must look at the role of food production in the wider economy, at the impact on our countryside and at the quality of the food we eat.  People have a right to decent food at a price they can afford – and the Government must act to support this right.”