Food Supply and Security - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:12 pm on 14th May 2020.

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Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench 2:12 pm, 14th May 2020

My Lords, I have two minutes and two questions; one on seasonal workers and one on food waste. To ensure that food is picked and harvests are brought in, can we please look again at the overly rigid, target-focused December 2018 White Paper and remove the 70,000 seasonal workers from net migration figures, creating a separate category? Will the Government also urgently look again at relaxing work prohibitions on asylum seekers who are resident in the United Kingdom, enabling them to help in this year’s harvesting of crops?

On food waste, it is a scandal of epic proportions that a throwaway culture can trash nearly a third of all food produced, while nearly 800 million people do not have enough food to eat to lead healthy, active lives—that is around one in nine people on this earth. As my noble friend Lady Boycott eloquently reminded us in her speech introducing this debate, food inequality in the United Kingdom is growing too. Some 30% of food produced globally is currently wasted. That is an economic and ethical outrage.

Reports from the institute of engineering and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine say that 6% to 10% of greenhouse gases are produced by food waste. In the course of one recent year, around 100 million tonnes of food was dumped in Europe. Wasted food would feed the estimated 1 billion people who are without food or hungry today, while another 1 billion could be fed if we curbed overeating and obesity, which was referred to by my noble friend. It has been calculated that if the world’s food waste mountain was piled up, it would be the third largest emitter of green- house gases, after only the USA and China, accounting for 10% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

Staying close to the land, farming sustainably, tackling waste and changing patterns are long overdue. That would bring many environmental and health gains. In Chinese calligraphy, the word “crisis” can also be read as the word “opportunity”. I hope that the Government will indeed turn this crisis into an opportunity.