Thursday, 12 May 2016

Resolution amendments announcement

Following the recent NFWI Board of Trustees meeting, we can announce that the six proposed amendments to the 2016 resolutions were not accepted.  Each WI has been contacted to explain the reasons behind these decisions.   An amendment is a proposal to alter the wording or details of a resolution without affecting the principle of the resolution. An amendment must be clearly worded to show exactly which part of the resolution it is proposed to alter. In order to meet the criteria, an amendment must not materially change a resolution. It should enhance it, whilst retaining the original objective.   WIs only need to consider an amendment if it is accepted by the NFWI Board to go to the AM. This means that this year WIs do not need to discuss any amendments.

Following this, please note that the wording of the resolutions under debate at this year’s Annual Meeting in Brighton on 11 June remain unchanged as follows:

Avoid food waste, address food poverty
The WI calls on all supermarkets to sign up to a voluntary agreement to avoid food waste, thereby passing surplus food on to charities thus helping to address the issue of increasing food poverty in the UK.

Appropriate care in hospitals for people with dementia
We call upon HM Government and the NHS to provide facilities to enable carers to stay with people with Alzheimer's disease and dementia that have been admitted into hospital.

What happens next?
If you haven’t already had your resolutions meeting, please remember that all WIs get one vote for each resolution, and need to vote for or against each resolution. This means that WIs can vote for both resolutions if they support them both, or against both if they support neither. WIs should not vote for one resolution over the other, but need to look at both resolutions independently and vote for or against each of them. If both resolutions achieve a majority of votes for, then the NFWI will pass both resolutions, and the NFWI will campaign on both issues.

About the resolutions process
The WI resolutions process is truly democratic; every single issue that the WI has worked on since 1915 has come from members’ own concerns.  Every resolution is written by WI members themselves; the NFWI offers advice and help if needed, but please remember that every resolution is written by WI members who wish to tackle a particular issue or concern that they want to highlight and change.

Every campaign is proposed by WI members, and then the whole membership debates and votes throughout the year-long WI resolutions process.  This year long process ensures that each member has the chance to be involved and consider the options; it really is democracy in action.  Every planned campaign seeks to enable members to work locally to evoke a national change; working with fellow members, their wider community and MPs, depending on the topic under discussion.

Campaigning locally
Whilst the NFWI resolutions process is the national framework enabling members to engage with campaigning and Public Affairs, every single federation and WI can propose, select, and vote for their own local campaigns – WIs have been working on local issues that are important to their own communities since the very first meetings were held over 100 years ago. 

Review of the resolutions process
Over the past few months, the NFWI Public Affairs team and committee have been looking at the process and considering whether it could be altered to allow even more members to get involved and truly engage in WI campaigns, and to enable the organisation to do even more positive work.  All WIs will be contacted over the next few months to ask for their views on campaigning and the resolution process through this consultation, and feedback will be shared with be shared after the Autumn National Council meeting later in the year.

Monday, 9 May 2016

COOL back on the agenda

It may be hard to believe, but it’s more than three years since the horse meat scandal hit the headlines. What started as a slow drip of allegations that our food system was contaminated with horse meat soon became a flood as the scale of the crisis emerged.

A huge loss of public trust followed, and while it was clear that criminal networks had successfully infiltrated our food systems, the public’s disappointment was firmly directed at supermarkets and government institutions.

Two months after news of the scandal broke, a survey conducted by Which? showed that consumer confidence in the food industry had fallen by a quarter, with 68% of the public feeling that the government wasn't giving adequate attention to enforcing labelling laws.  Yet three years on, has anything actually changed? Have we become a nation more in tune with our food system; that demands to know what we eat and where it comes from, and that makes sure that what we eat is what it says on the label?

Food transparency is not a new issue for the WI. In 2010, a resolution was passed asking for greater clarity on country of origin labelling (COOL). Too often members were confronted with confusing origin labelling and were unable to make informed choices about the meat they were buying. At that time origin labelling for meat was not a mandatory requirement, and where it was detailed on labels, the origin could be given as the country where it underwent the last “substantial change”.

Since the WI kicked off its campaign there has been significant progress on COOL. In 2015, EU rules came into force which introduced the principle that unprocessed sheep, goat, chicken and pork meat products would be required to specify the country in which the animal was reared and slaughtered (this was already a requirement for beef, which also had to specify place of birth).

However, despite this progress, there is still a long way to go before clear country of origin labelling is the norm in UK supermarkets. The majority of the products contaminated in the horsemeat scandal were processed products, such as ready meals, meatballs and ‘beef’ burgers. But these processed meat products are still not required to display its country of origin. The WI wants to see COOL extended to all meat products. And not only because of  traceability and transparency issues.

The WI’s campaign is about clarity and consumer choice. Shoppers need clear and accurate information to make informed choices about the foods they buy.

With British farmers struggling financially, enabling them to champion British meat which meets strict animal welfare and safety standards is vital. While premium products may champion British meat, value cuts and ready meals often contain cheaper imported meat. No one is arguing that these should be restricted, but clear country of origin labelling would encourage shoppers to acknowledge and question price differences, and then make better informed choices.

This week MEPs have an opportunity to vote on a resolution to extend COOL to all processed meat and dairy products. If passed, there will be an opportunity for the European Commission to consider this issue further.

The European Commission’s own research shows that consumers want clarity on the origin of processed meat products, but the Commission has argued that the cost of new labelling requirements is too high.

But the EU Environment Committee believes that extending COOL initially to lightly processed meat and dairy products such as cheese and sausages (which are the products consumers are most concerned about) would not be as costly and could present an important first step in extending COOL to all products.

The first recommendation of the Eliott Review commissioned by the government in the wake of the horse meat scandal was to put consumers first. Three years on, it feels like progress has slowed, and despite public concern about transparency and traceability in our food system, consumers are still in the dark.

While clear country of origin labelling won’t solve all the problems in our food system, it would go a long way in restoring public trust in our food system, allowing consumers to make informed choices about what they eat, and allowing farmers to compete on an even playing field.

The WI believes that next week’s resolution is an important step in ensuring that COOL is extended to include processed meat products and will be urging MEPs to support it.