DEFRA appoints new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Rt Hons Theresa Villiers MP has been appointed as Defra Secretary, replacing Michael Gove who has been promoted to Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Previously, Theresa Villiers was the minister of State for Transport (2010-2012) and Secretary of state for Northern Ireland (2012-2016).

To positively ensure a safe, nutritious, affordable and sustainable food supply for the UK public, we need informed and active engagement by government, aligned across various departments, and across devolved nations.

The increasing pressures on the global food system will necessitate deliberate collaborative efforts across stakeholders to secure continued supply of safe, nutritious and affordable food. In particular, new ways of working and new product, process and packaging developments are needed to establish environmentally sustainable models, with concomitant application of a wide range of new technologies. Effective implementation of new developments is however uniquely challenging for the agri-food sector as >90% of operators are SME. A significant amount of funding and support for scientific innovation, education and dissemination of new solutions/technologies will be needed to ensure UK agri-food resilience and protection from future shocks.

IFST fully support the announced DEFRA review of the current food system and generation of a National Food Strategy to provide a clear vision regarding the UK food system. This will also provide a platform for science and technology innovation and implementation to benefit UK consumers and UK food and farming industry alike. A shared vision is imperative to ensure alignment across all nations and all interested parties and permit the UK agri-food sector to continue to be world class, supplying both the UK public and our export markets with the highest quality of safe, trusted and traceable food products.

DEFRA play a vital role in creating the national strategic vision for food, and in supporting both science and technology research and the positive implementation of best practices and new technologies.

We hope that the new DEFRA Environment Secretary, Theresa Villiers, will continue to proactively lead the agenda on food, prioritise the planned critical UK food systems review and create a robust and dynamic National Food Strategy to secure the future of UK agri-food.

We look forward to working closely with her and the teams across DEFRA to positively support these specific initiatives and the wider work of DEFRA.