British, Australian food standard differences causing angst in free trade deal

2021-06-11

The differences in food and agriculture standards between the United Kingdom and Australia are emerging as issues of concern in the coming free trade deal.

British farmers, environmentalists and consumers fear imports from Australia will compromise the UK’s high animal welfare and food standards.

The differences range from the use of hormones to pesticides and more recently, regulations around farming methods that address climate change.

As the two nations get closer to a deal, Charlotte Smith, who presents BBC program Farming Today, said British farmers were nervous about the impending trade deal.

“That’s because there are more than 20 agricultural chemicals and certain farming practices, which are perfectly acceptable in Australia but are banned here.”

“I think the perception is that there are things that Australian farmers are allowed to do that British farmers are not allowed to do.”

So, what are the differences in food and agriculture standards and will a free trade deal compromise Britain’s food standards or see higher standards imposed on Australian exports?

Hormone treatment

Hormonal growth promotants (HGPs) are used widely in Australia, while they have been banned in the EU and, therefore the UK since 1998.

Around 40 per cent of cattle in Australia are given HGPs, which are used to accelerate weight gain, according to Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ)

A small implant is placed under the skin on the back of the ear, slowly releasing a low dose over 100 to 200 days.

Studies have shown that cattle treated with HGPs have an increased weight gain of between 10–30 per cent.

The European Commission considers hormone treatment as carcinogenic, posing a risk to human health, but Australian authorities and other countries say the science doesn’t back up that claim.

There are fears that the UK will reverse its standard on the practice in this trade deal and open the door to hormone-reared beef from other countries like the US.

Australia currently exports some meat to the EU, through a system whereby farmers can be EU accredited as hormone-free.

But there are strict guidelines, with the entire farm’s grounds needing to be free of HGP products, treated animals and an annual audit takes place to maintain the status.

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ABC,11 June 2021
; https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-06-11/british-australian-food-standard-differences-causing-angst/100205024