Immediate policy change needed to make UK agriculture greener and more profitable, says OF&G
Date Published: 28/03/2018
The government needs to take immediate action to help British agriculture reduce its impact on the environment and drive more resilient food production, according to a leading organic certifier.
OF&G, which certifies more than half of the organic land in the UK, says Defra needs to implement policies which encourage and support farmers to use more environmentally-sound production practices.
As well as ensuring funding and skills are available to develop cutting-edge ecological farming innovations, it says Defra must give producers the help they need to develop resilient agricultural systems.
Not only will this be better for the environment, but it will also allow them to build profitable, productive and more sustainable businesses, OF&G says.
OF&G’s comments come as lobby group the Pesticides Action Network UK called for tougher targets to drive down pesticide use in the UK in a bid to reduce farming’s environmental footprint.
In a report published today (28 March), PAN UK says that contrary to some industry reports, pesticide use has not been properly tackled, and their use continues to have significant impacts on the environment.
In its analysis of official government data on pesticides, PAN UK found that claims that pesticide use has halved since 1990 are based solely on the weight of pesticides being used.
In reality, the toxicity of some pesticides has increased over time, so that while less chemical is required, its effect on the environment remains the same – or in some cases is even greater.
What’s more, data from the Food and Environment Research Agency revealed that from 1990 to 2016, the area of land being treated with pesticides has actually increased by 63%.
“Weight is a meaningless metric for measuring the use of pesticides as our research clearly shows,” the report adds.
“PAN UK is calling for a more robust system of monitoring pesticide use coupled with an actual target for the reduction of pesticide use throughout the UK.”
Roger Kerr, OF&G chief executive, said the findings of the report were food for thought for everyone in the agricultural sector.
“Despite the work that’s being done to drive down pesticide use, it’s clear that our farmers need more help and support to make the step change that will lead to a real difference,” he said.
“It’s time the government put public money where all our mouths are, and develop clear objectives and strategies to create more resilient, productive and environmentally-friendly food systems through agri-tech and organic innovation.”
With the government currently working on creating a Domestic Agricultural Policy, Mr Kerr said this was the perfect opportunity to take a detailed look at how UK food is produced, and to encourage sharing of best-practice and knowledge across the industry.
“We are working with brilliant farmers who are producing excellent food that consumers increasingly demand. Organic farmers don’t need to rely on the use of artificial inputs and they are happy to share knowledge and ideas that will help everyone move forward,” he said.
“Bringing good food to our tables at an affordable price doesn’t have to come at the cost of the environment.
“The agriculture sector needs active support for all approaches — with the help of government policy — to ensure we truly take a fresh look at food production.”
The PAN report, The Truth About Pesticide Use in the UK, was published on Wednesday 28 March.