A clarion call for change… but is anyone listening?

3rd May 2024

Food security is paramount to the nation’s health and prosperity, and the briefing issued by the Farming and Land Use Network (FLUN)[1] identifies the breadth of challenges faced by the UK.

From overdependence on imported fresh fruit and vegetables to environmental degradation and power imbalances that fail to serve our farmers or our people.

This important report links health and food as well as ecology – it's a fertile area and an urgent matter for discussion. Many of the policy recommendations outlined by FLUN align closely with OF&G’s goals.

And while we applaud the report’s call for ‘new approaches that harness the potential of agroecology to support domestic food production,’ we believe it is important that organic is recognised as the only widely adopted agroecological approach in the UK. In practise as things stand when the report talks about agroecology it is in effect referring to organic production. We will all benefit from more organically managed land, so let’s work together.

Soil to stomach

Organic is a powerful force for change. And let’s not be under any illusion; radical change is essential if we are to fix the broken system. Through its legally binding standards and a whole system approach, organic consistently stacks up both ecologically and economically.

Organic delivers both high quality, nutritious food while building greater resilience into the supply chain, from soil to stomach. In all this, OF&G’s primary objective is to raise the bar – to ensure integrity and greater transparency and secure a fairer and more balanced system.

Weather impacts

The potential impact of the ‘washout winter’ has also been widely reported in the media, with the  Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU)[2] estimating an overall reduction of 17.5% of wheat, barley, oats, and oilseed rape[3].

Farmers are already feeling the burden of the wettest 18-months since records began in 1836. Make no mistake, further down the line the consumer will also be impacted, paying higher prices for everyday commodities. Those most at risk from these increased costs are already the most vulnerable in society.

Going hungry

A staggering 7.2 million people in the UK are struggling to afford sufficient food[4]. We’ve seen the sharpest increase in poverty in three decades. In a single year there’s an additional 2.5 million people at risk of not being able to afford enough food. This is criminal in a prosperous nation.

And unless we make drastic adjustments, things are only going to get worse.

Investing in Soil

As Tom Lancaster, a land analyst at ECIU explained: “To withstand the wetter winters that will come from climate change, farmers need more support. The government’s green farming schemes are vital to this, helping farmers to invest in their soils to allow them to recover faster from both floods and droughts.”

Again, organic has a role to play in achieving the transformation needed. If we’re to tackle climate change, soil degradation and natural resource depletion, we urgently need diverse and multi-functional farming solutions such as organic[5].

Economic disaster

It’s not just farmers and consumer’s pockets that will feel the pinch. The wider economic risks associated with nature degradation are alarming. In its recent report, the Green Finance Institute[6] highlighted that damage to the natural environment is already slowing the UK economy. It could lead to an estimated 12% reduction to GDP[7] in the years ahead – larger than the hit to GDP from the global financial crisis or Covid-19.

The Green Finance Institute report Assessing the Materiality of Nature-Related Financial Risks for the UK[8]  is the first-of-its-kind analysis and everyone should be sitting up and paying attention to these quantifiable facts. Failure to do so is the ultimate act of self-sabotage.

But for too long, voices of reason that champion positive action have been ignored. With a general election on the horizon, we really need to see greater engagement and impetus to make effective, long-lasting changes.

Organic should and can be an important contributor in that process.

Stay tuned for more blogs over the coming weeks.
We’ll be looking at:

  • Scaling sustainability in the farming sector: Lessons from regen ag and organic models
  • Defining regenerative agriculture and organic farming: Understanding the key distinctions
  • Cutting through the noise in the regen ag arena
  • What are the benefits of choosing regenerative agriculture? ⁠
  • Looking at regenerative grazing: The pros and cons
  • Soil health and carbon sequestration: Can regenerative farming deliver better outcomes
  • What is and can you trust regenerative food?
  • Are you an agroecologist? Organic farming: revealing the regenerative magic