A parliamentary committee in the United Kingdom has put forward an amendment to the Agriculture Bill to protect food standards.

Members of the cross-party Environment Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee made the move after a hearing with representatives from the agriculture, animal welfare and trade sectors this week.

Members of Parliament (MPs) heard from Emily Rees from Trade Strategies, James West of Compassion in World Farming and Nick von Westenholz from the National Farmers’ Union on how the U.K. can ensure imports under new trade agreements are produced to the animal welfare and environmental standards expected by the public.

Protecting standards in trade deals
The amendment will ensure food imported as part of future trade deals meets or exceeds British standards on production, animal welfare and the environment.

The government has previously said the U.K. will not compromise on its standards of food safety and animal welfare in future trade agreements.

Neil Parish, chair of the committee, said it is calling on government to uphold its commitments by amending the Agriculture Bill.

“The evidence the committee heard this week highlighted that the negotiation of new free trade deals present exciting opportunities to uphold and even boost our high production standards, but the government must ensure that consumer preferences for environmentally-friendly and humanely produced foods are respected,” he said.

“Lowering food production standards should not be a bargaining chip to be used in future trade deals – allowing imports to be produced in ways that are illegal here would severely undercut British farmers.”

As part of the law-making system in the U.K., the Agriculture Bill was introduced earlier this year and is currently at the House of Commons stage before moving onto the House of Lords.

Hormone-injected beef and chlorine washed chicken as well as other products from around the world are examples of practices currently banned in the U.K but allowed elsewhere.

Thousands sign petition
Meanwhile, more than 17,000 people have signed a petition from the National Farmers Union calling on the government to commit in law that British food standards will not be undermined in future trade deals.

As the U.K. starts trade negotiations with the EU and United States, people want the government to legislate so it will not import food that would be illegal for domestic farmers to produce.

Minette Batters, NFU president said: “This is yet another clear signal that the public do not want to see food on their plates that has been produced far below the high standards they expect of British farmers.

“In such a short amount of time, thousands of people have demonstrated their support for government legislating that our high standards of animal welfare, environmental protection and food safety will not be compromised by imports.”

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