Sustainable Food Supply and Cultured Meat

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:00 am on 15th June 2022.

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Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet 11:00 am, 15th June 2022

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered sustainable food supply and cultured meat.

Thank you, Dame Maria. I apologise for subjecting you to myself twice in one morning. I thank the Minister for Farming, Fisheries and Food, my hon. Friend Victoria Prentis for being here during an incredibly busy week for her. I know how hard she has been working, and I am deeply grateful for her presence. I would also like to thank the Good Food Institute, the Nature Friendly Farming Network, the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation and Ivy Farm Technologies for opening my eyes and stimulating this debate.

It is a fact of parliamentary life that we go to a lot of receptions. Outside this place, people think they are a waste of time, but if we look and listen, we learn from them. The Ivy Farm presentation stimulated my interest in a subject that, frankly, I knew very little about until I was briefed. I am not starting from a conclusion; I am hoping to open an ongoing debate.

I will first place on record some quotes from the Government’s food strategy, which was published this week. The primary objective is:

“A prosperous agri-food and seafood sector that ensures a secure food supply in an unpredictable world and contributes to the levelling-up agenda through good quality jobs around the country.”

The second objective is:

“A sustainable nature positive, affordable food system that provides choice and access to high quality products that support healthier and home-grown diets for all.”

The next point follows on from what we were talking about this morning and relates to Ukraine.

“The conflict in Ukraine has shown us that domestic food production is a vital contributor to national resilience and food security. Domestic food production can reduce the offshoring of food production to countries that do not meet our high environmental and animal welfare standards.”

In the foreword to the document, the Secretary of State writes:

“Technological solutions are developing at pace. Our future farming policy will support innovative solutions to the environmental challenges we face.”

The final quote leads directly into what I want to briefly discuss this morning.

“Innovation will be a key component to sustainably boost production and profitability across the supply chain. We have committed to spend over £270 million through our Farming Innovation Programme and are supporting £120 million investment in research across the food system in partnership with UK Research and Innovation, in addition to other funding packages.”

That is the key and why I am standing here this morning. The potential, as I understand it, for cultivated meat is huge. Cultivated meat, scientifically, is meat processed and produced from tissue. It is not, and never will be, a replacement for fillet steak, a pork chop or a leg of lamb. What it can do is augment and supplement meat production in a way that reduces carbon dioxide emissions and the number of animals required for slaughter, which is an objective that most of us would like to see followed through.

I was astonished to learn that 18% of CO2 emissions—more than all CO2 emissions from transport globally—are caused by animals. As I understand it, the cultivation of meat can obviate a significant portion of those CO2 emissions, and I believe that to be a desirable objective.

I wish to comment on one by-product of this issue. Earlier this week, the Prime Minister launched a “grow for Britain” plan in Cornwall; I simply say to the Minister, and through her to Downing Street, that it is an admirable objective, but if we are to grow for Britain, we need the farmland to grow crops on, which means not sacrificing our prime agricultural land to development in the way that “Builder Boris” is seeking to do at the moment. It has got to stop.

Let me come back to the issue of cultivated meat, on which I can be brief. Ivy Farm briefed me to indicate that, frankly, research in this whole area is lamentably underfunded in the United Kingdom and is therefore slow. Singapore approved the consumption of cultivated meat in 2020. In 2021, the United States approved a major research programme into the development of cultivated meat. China has put cultivated meat on its development road map this year. Canada and Israel are investing heavily indeed in this area.

My plea to the Minister is quite simple. As I said, I do not start from a conclusion, and I do not know what contribution cultivated meat can make in totality to our demand, consumption and sustainability, but I believe the potential is very significant indeed. If that is so, it seems to me that if we in the United Kingdom are to get ahead of the game—sadly, we too often remain behind the curve—we have to examine carefully our investment in research and development, and make sure that our regulation does not get in the way of the introduction into the market of cultivated meat.