Memorandum submitted by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) (SFS 20)
1. The British Veterinary Association (BVA)
is the national representative body for the veterinary profession in the
2. We welcome the opportunity to present
our view to
3. The BVA welcomes the consideration being
given to food security by
4. This response calls for:
· Greater investment in the UK's long term agricultural infrastructure so that more people seek to become farmers and rural veterinary surgeons than seek to give up.
· More targeted veterinary research into disease control and other aspects of livestock health and welfare.
· More investment in research into sustainable food production in the UK. The emphasis should be on local and regional cycles of production, reducing the transportation of food and waste.
· Improvements to the stringency of border biosecurity.
· Food associated industries and the broader economy to develop policies and procedures to mitigate climate change to minimise disruptions to crop and livestock production.
· Greater emphasis to be given to increasing UK food production and the benefits of local and regional food production by reducing regulation and bureaucracy. Small businesses intent on producing, processing and marketing food locally to be encouraged.
· Redoubling of efforts to educate the public about the value of food, good nutrition, food preparation skills and reducing food waste.
· Food security to be acknowledged as a public health issue to ensure the UK population has access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food at an affordable price. BVA has a valuable source of expertise in the Veterinary Public Health Association (VPHA).
· Additional indicators are needed focussing on animal disease risks and UK's self sufficiency.
RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS RAISED
How robust is the current
5. BVA believes that
How well placed is the UK to make the most of its opportunities in responding to the challenge of increasing global food production by 50% by 2030 and doubling it by 2050, while ensuring that such production is sustainable?
6. There should be greater investment in
In particular, what are the challenges
(a) The science base
7. A major
part of securing and increasing
8. Surveillance by veterinarians and through bodies such as the Veterinary Laboratories Agency provides early warnings about possible disease threats to the food chain, and also makes controlling those threats successfully far more likely. As well as ensuring there is a sufficient veterinary presence in rural areas, thought must be given to how best to insure information from veterinary surgeons and farmers is incorporated into ongoing food strategy planning.
9. There should be more investment in
research into sustainable food production in the
b) The provision of training
10. Modern veterinary science focuses on health and production planning. The veterinary profession is ideally placed to deliver training to producers in the science of sustainable farming. On a broader front, the degree of debt that graduates have influences their choice of employment to the detriment of the rural food production sector. Incentives such as offsetting or "buying off" debt if new graduates work in certain areas should be considered.
(c) Trade barriers
11. Increased trade with an increasing
number of countries presents a challenge on the disease control front. Trade
liberalisation has many benefits and, certainly, a diversified food supply is a
factor in ensuring food security. However; increased trade in livestock and
unprocessed foodstuffs increases the
12. While trade in animals and animal
products presents the greatest risk, veterinary colleagues who visit the
(d) The way in which land is farmed and managed
13. Mitigating climate change is vital. As well as the disruptions to crop and livestock production that would result from any significant increase in global warming, increased average temperatures would also make the south of England in particular more habitable for mosquitoes, midges and other disease spreading insects. As such, it is important that every effort be made within food associated industries and the broader economy to minimise global warming. In many cases, veterinary surgeons and veterinary research can assist farmers in developing techniques to limit the environmental impacts of livestock farming. The increased risk of novel insect life bringing new diseases into the country also further emphasises the necessity of proactive veterinary surveillance.
14. Disease control and biosecurity are essential components of a food security policy. Foot and Mouth disease is a prime example of a disease that can exert a huge impact on animal health and welfare, animal movement, our ability to feed ourselves and to export meat and foodstuffs as well as environmental impacts from high culling rates and wastage. Bovine tuberculosis also exerts a huge drain on farming productivity and profitability and BSE is an example of a disease process that resulted in a marked loss of confidence in food safety and security. Minimising the likelihood of such diseases being introduced by way of effective biosecurity protocols and minimising their impact by way of effective veterinary surveillance and treatment is essential.
15. The decline in rural veterinary presence is a problem, as veterinary surgeons play a major role in almost every aspect of food security, from fighting disease, to advising on efficient production techniques and minimising the environmental impact of farming practices. They also play a vital role in educating farmers about scientific and regulatory developments in the industry and as a source of corporate knowledge in the British agriculture sector. Long term sustainability for food production is reliant on the knowledge and expertise not just of farmers but also veterinarians.
16. Falling farm incomes and significant reductions in the value of livestock have resulted in farmers being increasingly reluctant to call upon the services of their veterinary surgeon. This sustained downward pressure on the demand for large animal veterinary services is having two significant consequences.
a) Many veterinary practices are increasingly finding that the provision of veterinary services to farmed livestock is no longer financially viable, making it difficult for farmers in some regions to secure veterinary cover.
b) Farm animal practice and mixed practice is increasingly becoming less attractive to veterinary graduates. This is aggravated by the increasingly large debt with which graduates are encumbered, making them seek employment with high remuneration.
More consideration for increasing
While access to foreign foodstuffs is important for ensuring a diversified food
chain in the face of production or supply disruption, the environmental impact
of transportation of food from other countries must be measured against
production within the
a) introduction of exotic disease,
b) increased costs of policing imported foods,
c) increased surveillance for food safety and disease,
reduced economic viability of
e) wider effects on rural communities and the environment.
19. Veterinary surgeons play a major part in efforts to maximise production both by advising farmers on new husbandry and care techniques and by monitoring on-farm disease issues and advising on best disease control. Lost production days in all sectors of livestock production effect farm outputs and, as a result, food supply.
20. In increasing food production, animal welfare standards must continue to be pursued and improved. They must not be sacrificed to improve 'efficiency'.
The issue of cost-sharing is also of ongoing concern. Given both the
current economic environment, and the desire to enhance the
trends are likely to emerge on the demand side of the food system in the
22. The premium paid by many shoppers for 'free-range', 'organic' and other similar products suggests that issues of environmentally sustainable farming practices and animal welfare are now incorporated into their perception of a food's quality. Balancing these drivers against the need for increased production will present a significant challenge to the agricultural sector. Pressure from organic producers to allow relaxation of their standards in a recession should be resisted. A standard is a standard.
23. Efforts to educate the public about the value of food, good nutrition, food preparation skills and reducing food waste must be redoubled.
24. Small businesses intent on producing, processing and marketing food locally should be encouraged.
Food security is also a public health issue. Priority should therefore
be to ensure that the
26. As a key part of the agricultural sector, veterinary surgeons have an integral and evolving role to play in food security. BVA has a valuable source of expertise in the Veterinary Public Health Association (VPHA) and other Divisions.
27. Veterinary surgeons filter and report surveillance data, and interpret the implications of surveillance output for their clients. They also play a vital role in:
a) providing an information and education service to farmers on behalf of Government;
b) advising on improvements to husbandry and biosecurity procedures;
c) safeguarding farm animal welfare
d) reducing the impact of animal production systems on the environment;
e) advising on the responsible use of veterinary medicines; and
f) providing a public health service by advising on risks to people from animal pathogens.
28. However, it is important to note that veterinary
surgeons in practice, as well as farmers, food wholesalers and retailers,
operate as part of private businesses and it is not ultimately their role to
ensure national food security. It is for the Government to engineer market
conditions that make ensuring
How well does
What criteria should
31. Additional indicators could include:
a) tracking and identification of illegal imports or exports of foods (e.g. bush meat);
b) tracing and advance warning of disease risk;
c) active surveillance for zoonotic diseases and potentially damaging production animal diseases in particular; and
d) consideration of the "grey" economy of illegal food trade.
32. It is also suggested that
more emphasis be given to the degree of the
33. The issues of disease
control, public health, production levels, farm efficiency and the minimisation
of farming's environmental impact make up an important part of food security.
They are all also areas in which the veterinary profession can and does play an
important role, emphasising the importance of targeted research, surveillance,
and retention of rural veterinary numbers. BVA will continue to work through
its specialist divisions and with other industry bodies and Government in
contributing to the future security of the