Climate change and Brexit could risk food supplies, MPs warn

17 September 2019, 02:48

The document also said the government should promote a reduction in the public’s intake of meat and dairy products in a bid to boost environmental and health benefits.
The document also said the government should promote a reduction in the public’s intake of meat and dairy products in a bid to boost environmental and health benefits. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

There's concern the NHS isn't ready to deal with new diseases spreading because of climate change, MPs have also warned food supplies could be at risk as a result of a failure to act on "climate breakdown."

In a new report MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee have said they also fear food supplies are at risk.

It says the government should be promoting diets which are less damaging to the climate - such as less meat and dairy.

Cattle produce methane and some farming methods increase greenhouse gas emissions further. While climate change leading to more extreme temperatures could threaten livestock due to an increase in disease.

The Committee has said that the NHS is not ready for a rise in health problems as a result of environmental damage.

The report's conclusion said Public Health England should start offering GPs guidance on new diseases as temperatures rise, and should offer local authorities more information about how to protect vulnerable people - particularly the elderly - from heat stress.  

They also found people in cities should have better access to health, sustainable food - with planning authorities able to restrict the number of fast-food outlets without stringent evidence requirements, it urged.

Committee chairwoman, Labour’s Mary Creagh, warned the country faced a “food security crisis” and called on ministers to publish all the information they held on food security and costs in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Ms Creagh said: "Everything we do to the planet, we do to ourselves. The health of the planet matters because it affects what we eat and whether we can eat in future.

"We are facing a food security crisis, exacerbated by uncertainty over the UK's future trading position with the EU and the rest of the world.

"Ministers must now publish all the information they hold from Operation Yellowhammer on food security and likely costs in the event of a no-deal Brexit."

Food supplies could be at risk as a result of a failure to act on "climate breakdown", MPs have warned.
Food supplies could be at risk as a result of a failure to act on "climate breakdown", MPs have warned. Picture: PA

The Agriculture Bill, which will govern agriculture after the UK quits the EU, should encourage a switch towards more sustainably produced food, including environmentally friendly farming methods to cut greenhouse gases.

Along with damage to agricultural production and provision of nutritious food, rising temperatures could also hit health with direct impacts such as heat-related deaths in heatwaves.

A Government spokesman said: "We recognise the threat climate change poses to many facets of our national life, including our food production and supply, which is why the UK is the first major economy to legislate for net-zero emissions by 2050.

"We already have a highly resilient food supply chain in the UK, and our National Food Strategy review is considering how we can further address the challenges of a changing climate and continue to deliver safe, healthy, affordable food now and for generations to come."

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