Eco-labelling and net zero tools must be fit for purpose

12 August 2022

Tom Bradshaw

Tom Bradshaw

NFU President

A picture of Tom Bradshaw wearing a hat, leaning on a gate to a field of crops

Can a new eco-labelling tool demonstrate the environmental impact of food? NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw explains why a new food 'eco-labelling' tool developed by Oxford University misses crucial information.

Food production and the impact that has on the planet is one we all take very seriously. It is why the NFU set out its stall in 2019 to work towards British agriculture having a net zero footprint by 2040 and why British farmers are rightly proud of the progress they’ve already made with our red meat for example having emissions that are half of the global average.


And we must remember, grass-fed British beef and lamb have additional benefits for the environment with the land they graze storing large amounts of carbon, while their organic manures contribute to soil health, thereby benefitting crop growth on many farms.

To achieve our net zero aspiration, we will need investment in the sector, research into practical solutions for farmers and growers and support in using and accessing tools to enable farmers and the wider food chain to understand its starting point and potential opportunities for change. That is why I was interested in a new tool from Oxford University which has been suggested to enable eco-labelling for food.

Country of origin – crucial missing information

While this tool was intended to give valuable insight for food manufacturers, caterers, and retailers to work towards their net zero goals, by its own admission information on the country of origin is missing from the ingredients list. For me this is fundamental gap.

Instead, what is needed are information and tools that support good decision making by farmers and growers, food manufacturers and the like to work towards their net zero goals. This means it is crucial to get the detail right. Researchers must stop using global averages and use data from the country of origin for food and the ingredients within multi-food products. Only then will we all be able to make the progress needed and continue to play our part in tackling climate change.

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