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Environmental Audit Committee - Minutes of EvidenceHC 879
Taken before the Environmental Audit Committee
on Wednesday 22 June 2011
Joan Walley (Chair)
Dr Alan Whitehead
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Andrew Clark, Head of Policy Services, National Farmers Union, and Andrew Kuyk, Director, Sustainability and Competitiveness Division, Food and Drink Federation, gave evidence.
Q47 Chair: Gentlemen, if I could welcome both of you to our Environmental Audit Select Committee this afternoon and thank you both for giving up your time and coming along. We are quite excited by our report into food and very much interested. I wonder if first of all you would like to introduce yourselves to the Committee very briefly with any major concerns that you have; just very briefly.
Andrew Clark: I am Andrew Clark. I am the Head of Policy Services at the National Farmers Union, based up in Warwickshire where our headquarters are. I very much welcome the opportunity to provide some evidence to the Committee in support of our written evidence. Just to emphasise the point: NFU is very much committed to improving productivity and efficiency of UK agriculture, self-reliance and our competitiveness. Our driving mantra, which we feel backs up the study that you are looking at at the present moment, is one of produce more and impact less. We are convinced that agriculture has many of the solutions that society requires, in terms of improving food security as well as energy security and, representing a group of land managers who manage the bulk of the countryside, we think we have a special opportunity to contribute to that and a special responsibility as well.
Chair: Thank you very much. Mr Kuyk.
Andrew Kuyk: Hello, my name is Andrew Kuyk. I am Director of Sustainability and Competitiveness at the Food and Drink Federation, which is the trade association representing UK food and drink manufacturers, and I should explain that means non-alcoholic drink manufacturers. We in FDF have been running for three years now something called our Five-fold Environmental Ambition-which I hope some of you will have heard of-which is a programme of action to reduce our environmental impacts and improve our resource efficiency within our own manufacturing operations. Last year we had a fundamental review of that and decided that we needed to extend that influence across the broader supply chain and look at issues of sustainable sourcing and reducing environmental impacts wherever they occur in the food system. In fact, we very much welcome the conclusions of the Foresight Report on that subject. Indeed, as Andrew has said, the message of: produce more from less and with less impact resonates very well with what we are already doing and our ambitions for the future.
What I think I would want to add to that, in introductory remarks, is that we genuinely believe that sustainable food production needs to be made a policy priority in its own right. There is need for more comprehensive joined-up thinking across a number of different areas because, as the Foresight Report so cogently sets out, these are system issues, there are issues of infrastructure, and again, echoing what Andrew has already said, food security is also about energy and water security. You can’t look at any of those in isolation.
Q48 Chair: Thank you very much indeed for that. The Foresight Report is exactly where we want to start with the first set of questions by asking: what do you think sustainable intensification should involve, given that there was a recommendation to have a drive towards sustainable intensification of food production?
Andrew Clark: If I could kick off on that. First of all, I very much endorse this driving philosophy in Foresight’s report, that of sustainable intensification. The problem is it is very easy to say sustainable intensification, a bit like sustainable development in the past. It is perhaps more challenging to actually explain what it means and make it happen on the ground. But as we understand sustainable intensification-and that is probably the best place to start-our understanding is in essence, from a farming point of view, it is about doing the job better, being more professional, applying technology responsibly. It is about understanding the impacts we place, on the environment, on our workforce, on our livestock. If I likened it to the financial envelope in which farmers operate, and most farmers would be aware of that-they have a strong understanding of the economic argument within sustainability-in the same way, we need to be much more aware of the environmental envelope in which we operate and use that as a way of managing and understanding the impacts of our farming systems. But perhaps most importantly, sustainable intensification is producing more food from the same area of land and doing it in a responsible way, a way that impacts less. That is the critical heart of it. It is not about bringing more land into production.
Q49 Caroline Lucas: Exactly on that point, I have real problems with this concept. To me it is a complete paradox, but that is by the by. Can you explain to me how you do get more out of the land for less without actually damaging the land intrinsically in the process?
Andrew Clark: It actually goes to one of the themes I want to talk about, which is the Greenhouse Gas Action Plan, which we launched back in April of this year across the road. We see it as about production efficiency. We are very much aware that there is quite a lot of slack in the system. There are great opportunities to use our inputs more efficiently and effectively than is current practice; for example, substituting some of our inorganic fertiliser use with organic manures and slurries, recognising the manure and the nutrient values of that, so substituting across in terms of that. It is about, understanding and having the opportunity to access new technologies, and therefore, as a result of using new technology and biotechnology, actually being able to have pest resistance built into some of our crops, to have those crops using the nutrients available to them in a more efficient way, perhaps having drought-
Q50 Caroline Lucas: Is that GM specifically or not?
Andrew Clark: Potentially, yes, if consumers find that acceptable, because that is ultimately where we need to be. Those are the sorts of things. It is about farming more effectively, understanding how we can reduce some of the slack out of the system and produce more in the same amount of area.
Q51 Chair: From your perspective, what would you see to be the pros and cons, both sides, of the whole way towards sustainable intensification?
Andrew Clark: The pros and cons? There are a few cons; there must be pros because we have a growing world population. We have to play a full role in the UK and globally, in terms of agriculture production, farming in a more productive way but with fewer inputs.
Q52 Peter Aldous: I will just pick that up. So, this slack in the system, are you implying that farmers have been inefficient over the last decade?
Andrew Clark: Yes. Not deliberately, but I would be first, and most farmers would be first, to recognise that there are opportunities to improve our productivity and do it in a better way, to cut out some of the wastes. If I go back 10 years, 15 years, what we understood to be good farming practice at that stage might be considered to be rather outdated now. When my dad was farming in the 1970s, autumn application of nitrogen was common practice. That is completely outdated. Use of tramlines was unheard of; that is absolutely common practice. In 10 years’ time the application of GPS application systems for nutrients will probably be common practice, and yet it is quite cutting edge at the present moment. That yields significant reductions in the amount of input we need to put in to produce a given output. There are opportunities there and it is about using a whole range of different technologies, understanding our impacts in a much more effective way than we currently do. Yes, looking back on it there is waste. Currently there is a job that can be done better.
Chair: You wanted to come in, Mr Kuyk?
Andrew Kuyk: I just wanted to add, let’s get this in the context of the Foresight Report, which is looking at the situation from a global perspective. I think some of that questioning is around what happens in the UK, but in the Foresight Report itself, section 4.2, talking about applying existing technologies better, saying that in Africa yields could be doubled or tripled simply through better application of existing technologies. That is not through people being wilfully inefficient, it is simply not having access to modern farming techniques; better grain storage. That brings us on a little bit to the question of waste and so on. You have two different issues with food waste. You have food waste in the developed world where people buy stuff and don’t eat it and throw it away, but in the developing world you have an awful lot of crops that never reach the point of consumption because they spoil in the field or through poor infrastructure, and so on. Back to the definition that Beddington himself gives in the Foresight Report: it is higher yields with fewer negative consequences, so I do not see there is a downside. If you fulfil-
Q53 Chair: Who do you see to be the arbiter of what those downsides are?
Andrew Kuyk: Again, anticipating other subjects that we might come on to, assessing what are the externalities and the environmental consequences is something that needs a lot more research and evidence base because I think there are a lot of issues in terms of tradeoffs, and indeed unintended consequences. You can do something with the right motives but it turns out that you have an unintended effect that may have a negative externality somewhere else. It is all part of the same piece, but if you do what the Foresight Report recommends, which is to increase output with fewer negative consequences, it is not an either/or, it is a both/and.
Again, I think there is possibly a misunderstanding that intensification necessarily means industrial scale. It doesn’t. It means better efficiency of resource use at any number of different scales. Sometimes an industrial process will give you greater economies of scale and sometimes it can also give you better control over some of the external impacts: you can have better waste disposal systems, you can have better systems for recycling heat, and so on, but ultimately I think what matters, from a global perspective, is the resource use in relation to the end product. What natural resources, what natural capital are you expending to produce a given unit, whether it is a calorie or a kilogram of whatever it is? It is basic economics. It is efficiency. I think maybe "intensification" is an unfortunate choice of word. Maybe if he had said "sustainable increase in efficiency of resource use", that might have been a better way of expressing it. That is certainly how we understand it and how we understand it in a manufacturing context.
Clearly, we are very interested in the environmental footprint of the raw materials that we buy, but just as you can drive those systems more efficiently, so you can drive manufacturing operations more efficiently. That is what our Five-fold Environmental Ambition has been all about over the last few years: reducing water, reducing packaging, reducing carbon emissions, and in a business sense that makes good business sense. Why would you spend more money on inputs than you have to? If you can be more efficient, if you can use less energy, if you can use less water, if you can incur less cost, that is what you do as a business.
Q54 Zac Goldsmith: Would you apply that to labour efficiency as well in the developing world?
Andrew Kuyk: In the developing world? Well, I think again back to tradeoffs and unintended consequences. I think you would have to look at the individual systems, and sustainability, as well as its economic component and its environmental component, also has a social component, so I think it is hard for us to abstract and lay down hard and fast rules. Again, I think what comes out of Foresight is that there are no single solutions to this. These are complex issues and different solutions are appropriate in different contexts. I would come back to my basic point that what you need is a proper evidence base. Look at what the actual externalities are; look at the resource use; look at the other possible consequences and it is a question of balance, so I think you would have to judge each situation on its merits on the best evidence that is available to you.
Chair: I will bring you in very quickly, Mr Clark, but we are going to have to move on very shortly.
Andrew Clark: Yes, I know. I just want to say about people-I am not going to talk about people in the developing world, I am talking about people on farms in Britain at the present moment-part of the sustainable intensification debate is going to be about skills and professionalism of those people, the agricultural workforce and the farm managers. I wanted to say that because that is an important part of achieving sustainable intensification and it might not be captured later on.
Q55 Chair: A really quick answer if you can. You mentioned just now about water and waste. How much do you think the regulatory mechanism is a real factor in moving towards sustainable intensification?
Andrew Kuyk: In a UK context or more generally? In the UK context, to take waste as an example-and I speak only days after we have had the publication of the latest Waste Strategy from Government-I think there are genuine issues there around waste infrastructure and around some of these regulatory issues. There are also some problems, and here I think perhaps we get into some of the tensions with localism and devolved solutions, because if you are a manufacturer and you have sites in different parts of the United Kingdom, it is quite difficult if you have different waste regimes for your different factories. It is much simpler if you are working to a common standard. Again, what is or is not able to be recycled? At the moment there is an On-Pack Recycling labelling system. Some of the entries for that say, "Consult local sources". Again, if there were greater consistency across the country and greater uniformity of provision of infrastructure, I think that would help greatly in terms of cutting waste or making better use, whether it is recycling, whether it is anaerobic digestion. There are a range of things out there, but at the moment there is quite a patchwork of different things that give rise to different costs and, therefore, make it difficult for companies with centralised decision-making to decide what their best strategy is.
Q56 Sheryll Murray: You have already mentioned some of the incentives that there are, such as the Greenhouse Gas Action Plan and, of course, we have the farm stewardship schemes through the single farm payment. Which have the greatest uptake and why?
Andrew Clark: If I may start on environmental stewardship, because that has by far and away the greatest impact at the present moment in terms of farming activity. The NFU is hugely supportive of Environmental Stewardship. We think this is the number one cutting edge agri-environment scheme in Europe. No other scheme has the level of commitment across the scale of farmland that we find in any other Member State. We have about 70% of English farmland involved in agri-environment schemes at the present moment, a large part of that in the Entry Level Scheme of Environmental Stewardship. I think there are some admirable qualities in terms of ELS and Environmental Stewardship. It is the product of stakeholders-farmers, organisations like the witnesses RSPB who are coming along in a moment or two, Natural England and Defra-working together to develop a scheme that rewards farmers for environmental management, encourages them to do more, but does that alongside productive farming as well. It gives farmers the choice and I think a subtle nudge to go in a direction that does meet some of the objectives we have in terms of sustainable intensification.
Q57 Sheryll Murray: Can I just ask you if you could go a little bit further? Do any of these incentives deliver broader goals, goals of sustainable food production?
Andrew Clark: I believe they do. The agri-environment schemes we have-in fact, Andrew was very much involved in leading this in his time at Defra-they look at biodiversity, they look at landscape, they look at archaeology, they look at access in the countryside, they look at heritage. There is a very wide range of activities there. They complement the work we need to do in terms of improving our impact on water quality, so meeting targets in terms of the Water Framework Directive or helping our way towards that. They help us in some of the climate change greenhouse gas actions that we need to do by encouraging carbon sequestration under some of the buffer zones. For example, I could take a pollen/nectar mixture, which is very good from a pollinator’s point of view, and there are thousands of hectares of that put into place on farms. That not only meets the biodiversity objective of pollination in the wider countryside, but we are also talking about carbon sequestration underneath that margin and potentially about water protection as well, if it is put in the right place.
Q58 Sheryll Murray: Can I ask you, what further incentives are needed to encourage producers to act more sustainably and deliver the wider goal of good healthy food for all?
Andrew Clark: I would like to talk about the Campaign for the Farmed Environment here, which again we have worked up mainly at the present moment as a response to the demise of set-aside, but NFU, CLA, the agricultural industry have been working with environmental groups, including RSPB, to actually encourage better quality participation within Environmental Stewardship. That is an example of where civil society is trying to find ways of improving quality, within an existing agri-environment scheme. I think that quality is one of the things we need to focus on in the years ahead.
On the Greenhouse Gas Action Plan you mentioned, that plan is part of agriculture’s commitment to the Government’s Low Carbon Transition Plan, where we have been challenged in England to deliver 11% reduction in terms of our greenhouse gas equivalent emissions by 2020. The Plan was launched in April, so we are very much at the process stage, developing the stakeholder arrangements and all that sort of thing. That is focused on using tried and tested approaches to talking to farmers. We are working through agronomists. We are talking to some of the supply companies. We are talking to AHDB, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, to use existing approaches to improve productive efficiency. As I said earlier on, it is as basic as using our muck more intelligently.
Q59 Chair: Just on that, there was something in the press this week about the possibility of Europe changing the goalposts, with the RSPB expressing concern about funding for some of the European schemes. Would you wish to comment on that at this stage?
Andrew Clark: Our official line, our position statement, is that we do not comment on leaks because the report is not going to come out until next week, as I understand.
Q60 Chair: Your unofficial line?
Andrew Clark: CAP is undergoing a huge reform process at the present moment. There are 27 Member States. There is a Council of Ministers. There are 600 MEPs, all with different views as to how this should be taken up. I don’t have to talk about how complex the decision-making process is in Europe now. Our official line is: until we understand what budget is available, it is very difficult to know exactly what the impact is going to be on individual schemes.
Q61 Martin Caton: In your written evidence, both your organisations called for greater investment in research to assist sustainable production methods. What areas of research and development are currently lacking and could help shift the UK’s food system in a more sustainable way?
Andrew Kuyk: I will start on that one for a change. As I have already said, the approach here should be to understand properly the impacts and interactions across the whole supply chain. Again, I think, as was brought out in the Natural Environment White Paper published very recently and the accompanying National Ecosystem Assessment, we are at a very early stage in understanding how some of these things work. I think there is a need for much better evidence base and much more to be done in terms of metrics and life cycle analysis, so that we understand how these different things work.
The particular areas where I think that is lacking are areas like soil science, again water, and biodiversity. I don’t think it is researching into particular crops or particular techniques. At the first stage it is the bigger picture: it is understanding how ecosystems work better to try to avoid some of these unintended consequences, which I referred to earlier, and trying to get a better grip on issues like comparative advantage; in terms of efficient resource use, which areas are better adapted to growing particular crops, or particular types of production, in a way that minimises the environmental impact.
I think at the moment the pattern of production across the globe is a mixture of circumstance, commercial judgement, politics and a whole range of different things. It is not done in an environmentally, or indeed in a sustainably rational way. It is not looking at what this particular set of factors of soil, climate and biodiversity, what form of agricultural production would best suit those particular circumstances. I think there is enormous potential to do research into those areas.
Also there is a need for much more multidisciplinary research. I think in the past people have worked very much within their own silos, whether they are looking at plant breeding, pesticides, whatever it is. But again, because of the way different things interact, I think there is scope for much more to be done in looking across different fields and combining knowledge. There is certainly significant scope within that for things like: advanced plant breeding, drought resistance, disease control, any number of different areas where we need to maximise the potential of the breeding stock that we have. That may include GM techniques as well. I think there is certainly a need for more research into animal nutrition. Back to the question of greenhouse gas emissions, what you feed an animal has a very important impact on the emissions that it produces. That again is a way back to the sustainable intensification: higher yields with fewer impacts. That is all part of that same story.
I think, for what in terms of national budgets would be a relatively small amount of money, the potential benefits of investing in that research are quite enormous. There was the Royal Society report of, I think, 18 months ago, which made that very same point, that there was a need for some of this basic research to be done but the benefits would be very significant in the longer term.
On the question of research, I think there is also a related issue around skills and technology. It is not just the scientific research; it is being smarter in how we use things. Particularly in the manufacturing area we are looking at potential skill shortages in the future in areas like food technology and engineering. Again, it is all about: how do you get the most out of the materials that are available to you? So enormous scope for investment in the science base, in research in the areas that I have described, but that accompanied by increasing the skills and knowledge transfer. Back to what I said earlier about what can be done in the developing world through the application of existing technologies, again, for a relatively modest expenditure in terms of technology transfer, there will be a very big payback.
Martin Caton: Do you want to-
Andrew Clark: Just very quickly, about three years ago we published Why Science Matters for Farming. I think many of the issues that have already been picked up in Andrew’s answer are contained in that report. We believe that farming going ahead has to be based on a good understanding of science research. We have to have effective interdisciplinary applied research groups, who can understand how farming systems work and the impact of farming systems on the environment. That is absolutely critical. If we don’t have the knowledge, we can’t manage it.
Q62 Zac Goldsmith: What Government research are you talking about?
Andrew Clark: It is a combination. It is not just Government funded research because I know we are not in a bottomless pit period of funding, but what we need is to ensure that we have cutting edge science and access to it and the courage to apply it.
Andrew Kuyk: On the question of whether it is Government or commercial, I think we are very much in an area here of market failure, particularly when we are talking about these broader systems approaches, because no individual farm business or no individual food manufacturer will be able to make a business case for a return on their particular investment in that if you are looking at these wider benefits. Again, particularly things like technology transfer to developing countries, that will certainly improve global food security, but again there is a market failure issue where the funding for that is going to come from, so I think-
Q63 Zac Goldsmith: I want to take a slightly broader point before we move on from this issue, because it seems to me that the implication in what you have been saying, and what the NFU historically has said, is that the direction of travel for farming is bigger, more industrial, higher tech, more specialised and all based on the assumption of the export model. That seems to be the thread that runs through everything that you have said and everything the NFU stands for, whether it is dairy farming in this country, GM, whatever it happens to be. I just wonder how much of your assumptions are based on actual research. Both the UNFAO and World Bank put out a report about 18 months ago, which I am sure you would have seen, saying that in the developing world the most productive farms were not the modern farms, the intensive industrial farms, but the smaller, more diverse ones, but they were less efficient in terms of labour. They required more people to work on them, which in many ways is probably a very good thing. It seems to me that that basic research is always overlooked by the large lobby groups or the lobby groups representing industrial agriculture or large farming, and I would like to hear your response.
Andrew Kuyk: If I may, I would push back on that a little bit because I thought I was quite careful to say that intensification is not necessarily the same as industrialisation. While there may be economies of scale in certain operations, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all and you have to look at solutions that are appropriate to different circumstances.
Q64 Zac Goldsmith: But by talking about comparative advantage as-
Andrew Kuyk: Comparative advantage is about efficiency in resource use. Again, efficiency does not necessarily mean bigger. You can be small and efficient. Indeed, Foresight talks a great deal about different models in the developing world. What matters is the ratio of inputs to outputs, what natural capital you are expending for a given volume of food produced. That is not a unique curve that applies anywhere in the world. It will be very different in different circumstances. The research is needed precisely to understand those different interactions. What makes sense in a European setting may well not make sense elsewhere, so the technology transfer is not saying they must follow our model, but if there are techniques that can reduce harvest spoilage, improve the storage of grain, make sure more food gets to the market, that seems to me an entirely worthwhile endeavour.
Chair: Mr Clark, I know you want to come in, but I suspect that what you might want to say you might want to say in further responses to Mr Caton’s questions.
Q65 Martin Caton: You have clearly identified some important areas of research. How well are those being encouraged by food R&D strategies at the EU level or international level?
Andrew Kuyk: I am not an expert on food strategies at the EU or international level, but my impression-and certainly going back to something like the Royal Society Reaping the Benefits Report, which is obviously much better informed on these issues than I am-clearly not enough I think is the short answer.
Andrew Clark: Yes and I think from our point of view there is interest. The framework programmes the European Commission launch potentially have the benefits, in terms of improving our sustainable intensification, our productivity, our productive efficiency. The point I particularly wanted to make was that it is about taking that research and putting it into action, the knowledge transfer. To some extent, that is not in place. That is poorly developed.
To answer your question about industrial scale agriculture: the NFU is arguing for a range of different scales. We can’t change the fact that we are in a competitive world market and some farming systems are going to have to be larger scale than they currently are-some farm businesses will have to be-but that does not mean that all farm businesses and the only future for farm businesses is large-scale intensive. A range of different farming systems, but all of them based on better knowledge.
Q66 Martin Caton: That brings me on to my next question. How well are agricultural and food technology research organisations delivering knowledge to those who need it?
Andrew Clark: That’s good-that was the other thing I wanted to pick up on, which is-
Chair: I knew you would have a chance to.
Andrew Clark: Very perceptive. One point I want to make: already we have the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board. That is funded by levies on producers and production in the UK, and we believe that is a critical body in terms of turning the concept of sustainable intensification into something meaningful at a farm scale. For example, the work that EBLEX is doing in terms of the livestock sector and BPEX in terms of the pig sector, these are critical organisations that are undertaking research, which is relevant to particular sectors, and promoting them to farmers and growers in ways that are meaningful to those farmers at a local level, therefore complementing the work that the agronomy companies, like for example Syngenta, in terms of the combinable crop sector, are also doing. There are existing pathways. There are opportunities there. We just have to encourage them, as a farming industry, to be clear about what the future requires, and we are working very closely with them. We are collocated (with AHDB) on the Stoneleigh Park Showground and that helps us to improve our connection there, but we need to encourage more farmers to participate in the programmes that they operate.
Q67 Martin Caton: Have either of you identified particular best practices that could be spread within the UK to improve sustainable productivities; indeed, have you identified best practices that we could export to developing countries and other countries, or that we could import from other countries?
Andrew Kuyk: Are you talking about primary agricultural production here or manufacturing? Because in the manufacturing area I have already alluded to our Five-fold Environmental Ambition. That is all about promoting and sharing best practice. That is one of the ways that we drive success in that because it is in the common interests of all manufacturers to do that. It is almost a non-competitive issue, although it impacts on the bottom line in terms of meeting carbon reduction targets and so on. There is a great deal of sharing of best practice, and I think what we need there to help us-again, back to a point I made earlier- is joined-up and coherent policies across Government, looking at energy, water, infrastructure, and so on, alongside sustainable food production.
One of the problems at the moment is that the energy landscape in particular is very complicated, with variants of emissions trading, carbon reduction commitments, and so on, incentives for things like combined heat and power, feed-in tariffs. It is very difficult if you are the energy manager in a company recommending to your board what new piece of kit you should put in that is more energy efficient because at the moment you don’t know what the pricing structure, what the rate of return is going to be. I think there is more that can be done in that area.
Certainly our whole drive, in terms of the FDF’s Five-fold Environmental Ambition, is precisely to share best practice in these key resource use areas: carbon, water, packaging, and so on, and we work very collaboratively. We also work with the relevant governmental agencies. We work with WRAP on waste in packaging, and again with WRAP-prior to WRAP it was Envirowise-on water and so on. It is all about a collaborative effort to share and promote best practice.
Andrew Clark: From a farming point of view, yes, there are opportunities to export some of our technology and our knowhow and some of our livestock, for example. There are those opportunities; however, in terms of technology, I think the greater priority is making sure that we have access to technology and research that suits the UK climate. For example, one of the concerns that we have is pesticides availability, specifically active ingredients that give pesticides effect. Increasingly, the approvals regulations to manage those active ingredients are meaning that commercially it is not in pesticide manufacturers’ interests to supply active ingredients into minor uses and into some of the sectors where we need to have it. Continued access to a range of technology and active ingredients is becoming an increasing concern, so to answer your original question, it is actually access to technology rather than simply export technology to other countries.
Martin Caton: I am not convinced you need the pesticides, but thank you very much.
Q68 Zac Goldsmith: To what extent do you think we are paying a fair or accurate price for the food that we eat, in the sense that takes into account all the associated costs?
Andrew Clark: It is a very good question. I think it is very difficult to know what the total price is of product. Certainly, in terms of farming systems that we currently operate, we recognise that we are under significant regulatory pressure and societal expectation for the type of production we have in the UK. We are seeking to have fair recompense and recognition in the market for those production systems.
The problem we have is that we are operating in a global marketplace and not all product imported into Britain is produced to the same standards that we have domestically. Yes, in theory we could have-as the National Ecosystem Assessment has indicated-whole chain pricing and understanding the cost, if you can compute a price for some of the impacts that are had in production, processing and consumption. But I think it becomes very difficult to do that in isolation; I don’t think you can operate a system in the UK without actually having a similar system looking at imported produce as well.
Q69 Zac Goldsmith: That last point, is that something that is possible and is it something you think a Government would be willing to pursue?
Andrew Clark: I suspect there are many economists who think it is possible.
Q70 Zac Goldsmith: Certainly it is a campaign, the idea of raising the standards at the point of entry so that they meet whatever standards we apply in this country.
Andrew Clark: Many of my members would be arguing very strongly that we have, for example, the introduction of animal welfare constraints on sows and tethers, which meant that much of-in fact half of-the pig herd was effectively exported abroad with its introduction. There is not a problem with having welfare standards, which society wants to have. The problem is that if society then is not prepared to buy that, then we don’t sort the problem out. It is exactly the same with greenhouse gas emissions as well.
Q71 Zac Goldsmith: I know the NFU has been pushing this for a long time and it seems to me the choice is either get rid of the standards here, which consumers would react against-
Andrew Clark: Which we can’t.
Zac Goldsmith: -or to raise standards at the point of entry. Nothing from this Government or the previous Government or the one before that has suggested that anyone is willing to engage with this issue. The question is: do you think that is legally possible within the context of the laws we currently operate under. If it is possible, why is it do you think the Government is so unwilling to-
Andrew Clark: I am led to understand, my legal colleagues will tell me it is not possible. We are operating in a single market in Europe and hence with the introduction of enhanced welfare for intensive poultry, which is supposed to be introduced in 2012 across the whole of the European Union, our poultry sector is absolutely desperate that eggs coming into Britain are produced to the standard that the whole of Europe is supposed to be producing to. We are very supportive of a whole European approach as we are in a single market, but we are also conscious that there are some Member States’ poultry producers who are seeking exemptions from that because they find that they can’t afford the cost. It has cost UK producers over £300 million to comply with that regulation.
Q72 Zac Goldsmith: Do you think this is an issue that should form a condition of our negotiations on the CAP reports?
Andrew Clark: Unfortunately, on that particular sector it is not part of the CAP, but yes, if politicians are serious about introducing superior environmental standards, welfare standards, especially those in Europe, or even climate change, and using the pricing mechanism to do that, then we have to have an approach that applies not just to domestic production but to European production, especially on world production ideally, especially when you are talking about things like greenhouse gas emissions, which do not respect boundaries.
Zac Goldsmith: Can I pursue that, and please jump in, Mr Kuyk-
Chair: I think Peter Aldous wanted to come in on that point, Zac.
Q73 Peter Aldous: I do have a special interest; I am involved in a pig farm. But if you look at the pig industry, as you said, are our labelling system arrangements in food stores adequate enough? Could it be made far more prominent? Instead of a little red tractor hidden away at the bottom perhaps we could have a skull and crossbones?
Andrew Clark: Or a large tether. We could do. This is straying into my colleague Andrew’s territory here, because labelling is a problematic area and I think there is a real danger of confusing the consumer with too much information. At least that is what I am told by the marketers. But I know many of our members, pig producers, poultry producers, are very keen to see welfare labelling that actually demonstrates that UK production is at a higher level than that found in many imported product. Not just product in retailers, but significantly catering as well, which is something that we tend to overlook. We perhaps sometimes leave our ethics behind when we go into a restaurant or a cafeteria.
Andrew Kuyk: I just want to add on that: we work within the context of the relevant regulatory frameworks, which are essentially European, both in terms of the EU Food Labelling Directive-and there are food information proposals currently going through a process of agreement in Brussels-but also in terms of the single European market. From a manufacturer’s point of view, we fully support the concept that consumers should not be misled with regard to the origin or standards of products and we are committed to providing clear and honest labelling, consistent with the regulatory requirements that are there. Certainly around things like country of origin we worked with others in the food chain, and with Defra, to develop the voluntary code of practice, which has been in force for a little while now.
The point that Andrew has already made, we are part of global systems, not just Europe, there is the wider global market and there are WTO rules around non-tariff barriers, and so on. What we need is a level playing field because otherwise there is a danger that requirements that are imposed only on UK production will make both farmers and manufacturers uncompetitive in global markets. People will still eat. It is in all our interests that they eat sustainably produced food manufactured and grown in the United Kingdom. The danger is that, given the fact that it will not be possible to discriminate at the point of entry, people will still eat; they will simply buy that food grown and manufactured elsewhere, arguably with not only worse standards in terms of welfare but possibly worse standards in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, water use and a whole range of other things.
Q74 Chair: I think we are moving quite a long way away from the fair price that we wanted to-
Andrew Kuyk: Well, I think it comes back to what is the true cost of food and, arguably, as the Natural Environment White Paper and the Eco-system Assessment made clear, a lot of those externalities are not reflected, but to have a true cost of food that has to be generalised. You can’t have one country on its own charging the true cost of food because you can’t put up the tariff barriers, and so on, that would protect that, and in a global market you would simply become uncompetitive. Indeed, the Foresight Report says that these are issues of global governance for food systems that need to be addressed but they have to be addressed internationally.
Q75 Zac Goldsmith: I am going to move slightly away from that, but I think this is a crucial point and I hope we will be able to come back to it with other experts.
Chair: From the point of view of my Sustainable Food Procurement Bill as well.
Zac Goldsmith: I was about to ask about that and I knew that if I didn’t you would. What other things can be done to ensure that producers get a fair price for the sustainable food they produce and-this is my last question-could that include more intelligent use of the Government procurement of £2 billion or so?
Andrew Clark: The simple answer to that is yes, absolutely. Not just Central Government, local government, every public authority should have confidence in buying British food, seasonal food, locally produced.
Q76 Chair: The Government Buying Standards, which were extended last week to food and catering, cover the public sector but that excludes hospitals and schools.
Andrew Clark: Yes, that is an issue for Government. You are best placed to fix that one.
Q77 Dr Whitehead: You have mentioned a little bit about waste this afternoon, and clearly there is a distinction on what kind of waste we are looking at in terms of UK food production and what happens on a global canvas. Could you expand a little on the categories of food waste that are experienced and also what sort of quantification can be put on those? I have in mind, say, if we were looking at energy flows you couldn’t have a chart saying how much fuel is going into a power station and how much stuff is coming out. How do those various things, including spoiling, getting things to market, supermarket selection, consumer waste, stack up in terms of the sort of waste through the chain?
Andrew Clark: I don’t have any figures to hand, and perhaps we could come back to you in terms of the production end in terms of waste. I have been looking at the Greenhouse Gas Action Plan and thinking about how we could improve our productive efficiency in terms of that, and I am conscious-I was looking at some new potato production the other day-about the quantity of new potatoes that are left in the field because they do not meet specification. Or even horticulture where, if it doesn’t meet specification, it is not even harvested. In greenhouse gas terms-forget about the cost of production-it costs just as much or it is just as big an impact on the environment to produce those misshapen potatoes, slightly scabby apples, lettuces that are not quite the right shape or cucumbers that are the wrong shape, as it does to produce the perfect ones, which apparently consumers will only buy. There is an outcry about the amount of fish that are thrown back into the sea. There should be a similar outcry about the quantity of food that is produced on farms but never leaves the farm gate, because of the alleged consumer preference for particular appearances, basically cosmetic impacts. That is one aspect of waste.
The other aspect of waste I think I should highlight is that agriculture can be a consumer of waste for beneficial use. Some of the so-called wastes that come out of the processing sector are organic and can easily be used on farms, but we have very significant regulatory burdens because they are defined as waste, as well as obviously the costs of moving from the process to the field. We could use those and we used them in the past for beneficial use, but the lawyers have got in the way.
Q78 Dr Whitehead: Looking at that waste chain, what particular interventions in that process do you think would be the most appropriate-for example, not growing food that is likely to be wasted? Clearly, I guess we are not going to persuade all consumers to eat scabby apples.
Andrew Clark: They taste just as good.
Dr Whitehead: Yes, I agree. I grow very good scabby apples, actually, but no one wants to eat them.
The corollary: the quantities that are wasted at each stage of the process, and indeed are not tucked back into a circularity of process, what would be the interventions at each level of the process that could make the most impact on those particular levels of waste? Is it perhaps producing protocols for tucking organic waste into fertilisation? Is it anaerobic digestion using digestate? Is it changing protocols as far as food selection is concerned? Is it different specifications for growing? Is it better protocols for getting stuff to market as far as spoiling is concerned? What are the-
Andrew Clark: There is a whole range. You have outlined many of those already. There are a whole range of cultural and regulatory changes; cultural, in the sense of growing. If we are better at growing crops we will produce more crop that is saleable. For example, one of the concerns we have is access to water and it is a major sustainability issue. If we don’t have continuing access to water-you wouldn’t know it from the weather outside but we are in the middle of a drought in this part of the country-without access to water for irrigation, potatoes come out small and scabby with a poor skin finish and stay in the field rather than go to the plate, so there are ‘cultural’ issues there in terms of growing. There are also cultural issues in terms of consuming, so that consumers feel happier about buying some of the product that might be regarded as class B rather than class A, thereby increasing the amount of product that is actually used. That is some of the ways.
In terms of the waste end to it, it is actually looking at those blockages. I was actually in Defra this morning talking to our colleagues on the waste stream looking at how we could actually remove some of those blockages in terms of anaerobic digestion, for example. There is a greater acceptance that you can set up at local farm scale anaerobic digesters and it is perfectly all right to use the waste from that. It is not going to be poisoning the ground. Some people believe that that is the problem.
Q79 Peter Aldous: If we take the scabby potato example, what is the role of the food stores in this? The food stores might say, "Oh we are actually responding to what our customers want". On the other hand, you could say the food stores are actually shaping what their customers are looking for. Is there a more responsible role for the food stores to play?
Andrew Clark: I think there is undoubtedly a role for food stores, retailers, to play in encouraging a better reconnection. We have a role to play as well. Farm Sunday just gone past, is an example of that where we try to encourage the public to come out and see farming, see what happens and see what the product looks like when it is growing in the field or running around the field. As farmers we undoubtedly have a role to play in terms of connection, but so do retailers and the processing sector as well.
Chair: Caroline, on that point you wanted to come in.
Q80 Caroline Nokes: I did, and I think that this is the cultural issue, and minimisation of waste is very interesting because is there a danger that, in trying to make food more attractive to the consumers-so you do have the non-scabby potatoes, everything perfect looking-in order to achieve that by minimising waste you are likely to make it less sustainable by putting more fertilisers, more pesticides on the product in the first place?
Andrew Clark: If there are very high standards of what it looks like, of cosmetics, yes, undoubtedly you are much more selective in terms of the product coming out of the field, much greater reliance on specific inputs. It is a much more technology-driven approach to go and get that sort of approach. Therefore, there must be a greater environmental footprint from that cosmetic approach to consumption.
Andrew Kuyk: Can I just put in a word on food manufacturers? Our primary aim is to prevent waste arising in the first place. If we pay good money for an agricultural raw material, we want to use it in our product and what can’t be used directly in the product we want either to sell on for animal feed or get use or return out of, whether it is from energy use, anaerobic digestion or whatever. On your scabby potatoes point, if you are buying a manufactured potato pie, you have no idea what the potato looked like before it went into the pie, so that is a very good way of maximising the output from farming.
Q81 Zac Goldsmith: Why does the one not balance the other? Sorry to jump in. I wondered, in terms of the math, why does the one not balance the other, given that what you said is self-evidently true?
Andrew Kuyk: I look to Andrew to describe how farming operations work, but people will be contracted to grow for a particular outlet and if produce does not meet the standard for that outlet they will then be in a rather open and difficult market to find a short-term buyer. There will be opportunistic buyers, but again food manufacturers, because we are trying to build sustainability through the supply chain, trying to work with people and try to get greater resilience, again we will be looking to have regular contracts with regular suppliers. The market will provide some solution to that. Whether there is going to be an exact balance I don’t know, but certainly food producing has an important role to play, not only in minimising waste in its own operations but making sure that full use can be made of the output of the agricultural system.
Andrew Clark: Yes, I absolutely accept your point that there should be a balance in the system. The problem we have is very often we have a perishable product, in terms of horticultural product, and the ability to be very swiftly moved from one outlet to another and move from one processing sector to perhaps a finished product sector, and vice versa, is not always available on the timescale available, especially when you are on just-in-time delivery.
Andrew Kuyk: Again, as a food manufacturer you will want to know where your supply is coming from. You will not want to open your factory one day not sure if you are going to get potatoes from here or there. You will try to buy forward and so on.
Q82 Dr Whitehead: Could I expand that a little to international food production, particularly in terms of international food produced for import to the UK. To what extent is food miles a correlation of waste in that respect? Obviously there are different starting points as far as waste is concerned in terms of international food production, quite often spoilage or storage, but presumably transport and indeed the timely arrival of perishable goods does have a substantial impact on waste.
Andrew Kuyk: Not really. I think the whole concept of food miles has been greatly exaggerated, particularly in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. We are back to where we started in terms of what is a definition of sustainability. What matters is understanding the lifecycle impacts. There are plenty of examples of agricultural raw materials, tomatoes being a good example. Tomatoes grown in an open field under natural sunlight and rain-fed rather than irrigated, the carbon that is added by bringing them, say from Spain or somewhere else, to the UK is less than 5% of the total carbon footprint, and compare those with something grown in a greenhouse or artificially irrigated, so the food miles is a relatively tiny part of that.
As a food manufacturer, if you are importing from a distant destination you will want to make sure that whoever your transport contractor is, is looking after the stuff properly en route. Again, you won’t want to be paying for material that is going to spoil in transit. Those basic technologies for food transport are very well known and well understood, so I think, in that sense, distance is not a material factor.
Chair: Thank you. There we must leave it, I am afraid. I am so sorry, time has caught up with us but you have been generous with your time. Thank you very much indeed for coming along.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Colin Tudge, the Campaign for Real Farming, Abigail Bunker, Head of Agriculture Policy, RSPB, gave evidence.
Q83 Chair: If I could give a warm welcome to both of you. I think you have sat in through some of the previous session that we just had. We particularly wanted your perspective, especially in view of the refreshing evidence that we had from you, and we do have some detailed questions to get straight into because our time is limited. I wonder if you would like to introduce yourselves very briefly, with the broad perspective that you have on this part of our food inquiry. Mr Tudge.
Colin Tudge: I am Colin Tudge. I started life as a biologist-well, serious life as a biologist-and I started writing about it. That is how I earned my living for the last 45 years, writing about science. I got very involved and interested in agriculture, in particular, about 40 years ago, and I looked at agriculture in every continent where it is practised and have written various books, which I forgot to bring.
I have come to the conclusion that you can look at agriculture in two ways basically. You can either say it is a business, and the purpose of this business is to make a great deal of money, or you can say the purpose of agriculture is to provide good food for everybody without wrecking the rest of the world, which is what I call "enlightened agriculture".
It is abundantly obvious to me that in the end the two are incompatible. It is quite easy to make a lot of money out of agriculture, as some people are demonstrating, not many but some are demonstrating. In other words, you can make a lot of money for a few people. It is quite easy to do that, or it would be easy if we went down the other route to provide everybody with good food, if you started from a good biological and moral principle and just went down that route. However, you can’t do the two together. When people talk about the complexity of the problem, what they really mean is, not that either of these things are difficult but that trying to do the two together, you are trying to ram the square peg of enlightened agricultural into the round hole of global economics.
Chair: Thank you very much. Abigail, if you would like to introduce yourself to us with your organisation as well, please.
Abigail Bunker: Thank you very much for inviting me along. I hope I will be able to answer all your questions. I work as the Acting Head of Agriculture Policy at the RSPB and, as many of you may know, we have been involved in agriculture in a variety of ways for some years. We have invested a lot of money in research to develop ways that farmers can farm and deliver for the wildlife at the same time. We have advisors working with farmers on the ground, over 3,000 interactions with farmers every year. We engage very much at a policy level, both in Brussels and in the UK, trying to influence agriculture policy-primarily our locus is in biodiversity-and trying to address biodiversity declines that we have seen in the farmed environment over the last 20 or so years.
Q84 Caroline Nokes: I wanted to kick off by asking about better production practices, and I have a nasty feeling I am about to get a very long list when I ask what the most significant unsustainable aspects of food production in this country are.
Abigail Bunker: Yes, you probably could get a long list. As I say, our key focus as a conservation organisation is in the loss of biodiversity that we have witnessed over the last 20 years, in the UK and across Europe. Many of the aspects of how farming changed very successfully post-war, in response to policy levers to deliver the food we needed in the post-war period, unfortunately had the perverse effect that they provided less food for less space for nature, and we have seen the impact of that. Equally we know the use of nitrogen has increased enormously, although in recent decades there has been a reduction in nitrogen use in the UK and Europe. But we are still seeing massive implications in terms of diffuse pollution of our water bodies, and indeed in coastal waters.
Those are probably two of the most important, but in terms of soil degradation and soil loss there is an enormous problem. Emissions from our agricultural systems and production are also a key concern, in particular losses of carbon in soils through drainage, particularly organic soils across Europe. So there is a whole suite of things that, from the natural environment’s perspective, urgently need attention.
Colin Tudge: I more or less agree with everything that Abigail has just said. The only thing I would add is this gentleman here, Mr Kuyk, said there is so much we just don’t know and I want to emphasise this: that we don’t know what we are losing. One of the things about loss of soil, okay, you can see general loss of soil carbon or you can talk about loss of biodiversity, and you can easily see that you are losing certain birds, and so on, but one thing that has hardly been looked at is the soil flora, the bacteria and fungi in the soil, which almost certainly have key importance but one has no idea how important they are, and they have hardly been looked at. So the loss of these things-we know we are losing them-must be unsustainable by definition, but what the importance of it is one can’t really tell.
Q85 Caroline Nokes: The existing policy mechanisms, how well are they addressing these issues?
Colin Tudge: For me, one of the distressing things about science-there are many scientific issues, which we are looking at-is the fact that science has lost its independence. So, for example, questions about the structure of soil, what is happening, and so on, they are not being looked at because it is not in the interests of any commercial company to do that, and they have to do things that are in their commercial interests. That is what they are for. The loss of all the agricultural research stations over the last 20 years, or many of them, and the experimental husbandry of farms is a tragedy. It is a disgrace that this should have happened, and until we restore the independent research base we are never going to get these things looked at. So we are never going to know.
Q86 Caroline Nokes: What about schemes like the Environmental Stewardship Scheme; how well is that working?
Abigail Bunker: Environmental stewardship has delivered enormously in many ways. Environmental Stewardship has two elements. This is the England Agri-environment Scheme. It has a high level targeted scheme and the so-called broad and shallow entry level scheme. We know from a whole range of projects, some of them at landscape scale involving multiple farmers and landowners, that they can deliver fantastic results. RSPB is involved in some of them but certainly not in all of them. They are showing that they can deliver, not just for biodiversity in quite targeted ways but can also deliver in terms of reducing diffuse pollution and addressing problems of colouration of water. These are projects that are involving water companies-for example, in the Uplands of northwest England-and can also be very important in restoring peatland landscapes in the Uplands, again with soil carbon and water benefits, and increasingly there is evidence of some of them being very successful.
Entry level stewardship has unfortunately not delivered the outcomes that it has the potential to do. We know it has the potential to do so because we, and a whole range of other stakeholders, have invested a lot of time, money and effort into researching the options that are available for any farmer in England to do. We ourselves took a risk 10 years ago in buying a conventional arable farm-a commercial farm-in Cambridgeshire to show that if you have the right range of options it is possible to address and deliver the objectives, and we have been very successful in doing that. Over the last 10 years we have managed to increase our farm and bird index by 200%, which is great. We kind of knew that was going to happen, we hoped it would happen, but we took a bit of a risk and it has happened.
At the same time, we have also managed to increase our yields. We are above the average yield of wheat for the area, and indeed sometimes oilseed rape is also above the average. Key to that success has been the right structure and a range of different options, which provide the range of different needs that our wildlife has. Unfortunately, just doing grass strips on the sides of arable fields is not enough to deliver the needs of farmland birds and other farmland wildlife. That has been a downfall in terms of how the structure of ELS has been set up, that quite understandably farmers will do the easiest least cost options.
Q87 Caroline Nokes: How would you encourage them to do more?
Abigail Bunker: We and Natural England, FWAG, LEAF, and many others who are involved with farmers on the ground, are doing all we can to help and advise as to how they can make the best use of what is on offer in environmental stewardship. Unfortunately that is very resource intensive. It takes a lot of time; one-to-one is always very effective but it takes a lot of time. We have been pushing the Government and lobbying through the review of environmental stewardship that just took place-and we have done so previously, both at the outset of environmental stewardship and any reviews that have taken place-that the structure, the way it is delivered and the freedom of choice to farmers needed to be addressed if we wanted to see results on the ground. There are farmers doing that and where they are getting advice they are able to do it, but a much simpler and more effective way of delivering that on the ground would be to address the problems in the structure of delivery.
Colin Tudge: Again I agree with Abigail, but one thing that strikes me as being a pity is that on the one hand people think about agriculture producing lots of food and on the other hand they think about: what are its other environmental benefits? The other point I want to make is: if you farm in ways that are genuinely sustainable, and genuinely produce a lot of food, then this is automatically going to be much more environmentally friendly than we are at the moment. For example, there is a very strong case to be made for encouraging grassland, pasture fed ruminants, and so on, and we are talking about meadowland rather than monocultural ryegrass. There is a very strong case for encouraging agroforestry on purely farming grounds. This again is very, very wildlife friendly. I would like to see a different approach-if you see what I mean-to encouraging these specific forms of agriculture and other things, like keeping pigs in woods, and so on; they kill two birds with one stone. That is not a very good expression for you, but you know what I mean.
Q88 Caroline Lucas: I want to ask a quick follow up, if I could, to get your views around this concept that we discussed in the earlier session about sustainable intensification. What does that mean to you?
Colin Tudge: It sounds good, of course. It starts with the premise that we do need a great deal more food, whereas if you read certain reports, including Hans Herren of the IAASTD, which is a very authoritative group-he says we already produce enough food for 14 billion people on this planet, which is twice the present population and about half as big again as the world population is ever likely to get, because the demographic curve is supposed to be flattening out by 2050. So one does question the premise: do we need a lot more food?
When it comes to saying, "Well, okay, we would like to get more food per area of land" there is a huge amount of evidence that says that small, mixed basically organic very labour intensive farms can be, if they are properly supported, much more productive per hectare than the vast monocultures. So one immediately says, "Well, if you are going to talk about sustainable intensification this is the route you should be going down, the small farm". On the other hand if you look at what Defra is now planning to investigate, they have apparently interpreted this that we mean mega factory farms: 30,000 unit dairy farms, and so on. You can interpret it that way. You can say you get more milk per hectare if you do it this way than if you put them out in the fields, which seems to me to be a very dubious kind of expression if one term can apparently justify two totally opposite approaches.
What strikes me, though, is that the evidence in favour of the small mixed farm rather than the big monoculture, in terms of productivity and sustainability, has not, as some people would say, been seriously nailed down, because what you need is a controlled experiment to compare the two directly. At the moment the evidence is what you might call epidemiological, it is natural history gathered from what is actually happening. This to me is probably the most important material question that humanity could be asking: do you go down the small mixed farm route or do you go down the big monocultural route? It has so many ramifications right across the board. It seems to me-well, I shall use the word-disgraceful that with all the money that has been spent on research this key question has not been properly addressed, and we need to know.
Q89 Caroline Lucas: So you think the jury is out in terms of the answer to that?
Colin Tudge: As other people have said here, the term needs to be defined. Do we need more food is a good question. If we say we would like to produce as much food as possible per hectare, which is the best route to go down? Yes, nobody can answer that properly, although I think the evidence is very much in favour of the small mixed farm.
Simon Wright: This question bears relation to some of those-
Chair: Sorry, Simon, I think Peter wanted to comment on that point. I hadn’t realised.
Q90 Peter Aldous: In my romantic moments I do agree with Colin Tudge completely, but I wonder if you are attempting to push water uphill, in that the tenure situation in this country, the price of land, means that when the 150 acre mixed farm comes on the market the person who is going to run that as a small unit can’t afford to buy it. It gets bought by the person coming from outside agriculture, buying for the amenity. It may get bought by the next door farmer. I would love it but I just question whether it is realistic?
Colin Tudge: I think the question is whether we are serious about the future of the world or not, and if you say we are serious about the future of the world then we say, "Actually, the small mixed farm is the only one that is going to deliver in the long term, and if it is the case that tenure gets in the way, the laws of tenure, and the price of land gets in the way, then let’s address that". What we are talking about is what one might call the laws of biology, which should be taken as a given-you know, this is the real world-versus the conventions of the economy. The conventions of the economy are supposed to be in our control. They are our invention. So the economy should give way to the biology and not the other way round. At the moment we are trying to do it the other way around.
Chair: After that romantic interlude, Simon Wright.
Q91 Simon Wright: Thank you. Developing that theme; is there a general model of food production that we should be aiming for? It is suggested by many that supplying much more, and focusing much more on local food and seasonal food, would bring major improvements to sustainability of the system. But I wonder if you could also explain when you feel this might not be the answer to the problem and whether there are better solutions out there?
Abigail Bunker: I can’t see that there are any arguments against seasonality and following seasonality, other than you would get damn bored, as I do with my veg box in the winter after the 57th turnip. So seasonality can never be a bad thing, notwithstanding those issues. On the issue of sustainable intensification, can I go back to that a little bit? I think it is important. I don’t know what it means, and I am looking forward to finding out what it means for a range of people. I think, from the RSPB perspective, what it needs to mean is that we address and reverse some of the challenges and problems that we have seen in our farmed environment over the last 30 years, and also ensure that we deliver systems and develop systems of farming that no longer undermine our natural resources.
The problem is to think about it in global terms and come up with one definition of what it means globally, which I think is flawed. The report from the FAO, which I think just came out last week, about sustainable intensification, what they think it means, is about its value and how it can be used to help developing countries to increase their productivity while bringing environmental sustainability to the core of it. Thankfully, it is addressing the things that we have learnt the hard way in the west, and problems that we have had over the past 20 or 30 years and trying to avoid them. I think that is absolutely the right way to go.
In terms of the UK, I think in the short term there are ways that we can address it, for example, as we have been doing at Hope Farm. I believe what we have been doing for the last 10 years potentially is a form of sustainable intensification, in that we have delivered some increase in our yield. I think we have managed to start to reduce our diffuse pollution impacts, although that is something that we find difficult, not least because the research is not there. There are not all the tools. We don’t know how to do that on the farm. We have addressed biodiversity declines but I think what we are having to address there is that there are limits. There are environmental limits on how much can be produced, and in trying to become more sustainable in our farming we have to try and deliver all of those objectives, and that means finding a balance between them.
I am sorry, I have gone totally off your question, which I can go back to or I can let Colin have a-
Colin Tudge: Well, thank you, if I can have a crack at it. The general model to me must be the small mixed farm. Let me just rush through it very quickly. Basic biology tells you that you need diversity. Among other things that is what gives you protection against pests. I mean, never mind pesticides and all that, it is diversity that will carry you through. Basic biology tells you it needs to be integrated so that nothing is wasted. Traditionally pigs were there almost to clear up the mess that other things had made, and so on. That is where you get real efficiency. That is biological efficiency. They have to be low input in the interests of sustainability. That actually means organic, and that does not mean that every farm has to be organic or you have to follow all the rules of the Soil Association. It does mean that organic has to be your default position, what you do unless there is some good reason to do something else.
If you are going to follow those rules then it is bound to be complex. If it is going to be complex then it has to be labour intensive. The idea that there is this merit in getting rid of farm labour, which has been the obsession of British farming for the last 50 years, and American farming-so that we now have only 1% of people on the land-is a disaster, and worldwide if we pursued it, which we have been trying to persuade other people to do, you would put 2 billion or 3 billion people out of work. I mean this is the royal road to poverty. It has to be labour intensive for all sorts of reasons. If you go down the route of having a complex labour intensive system, and so on, there is no real advantage in scale up. That means small to medium size. It is not a piece of ideology. It is not a piece of romanticism. It is where the biology just leads you quite laterally. That is the general model.
On a strategic level, it seems to me that if every country in the world aspired to be self-reliant in food, which doesn’t mean self-sufficient it just means producing the food that you can produce, as much as you need, then you find that almost every country in the world could be self-reliant, and some of the African countries, which are written off as basket cases, could be feeding themselves several times over. Britain, as several studies have shown, could be self-reliant quite easily, according to several different models, and without any of this bumping up yields, and so on, just by doing things properly and organising things properly.
This does not mean self-sufficiency. It does not mean that in Britain we should be growing oranges or tea or cinnamon or anything like this. It does mean that we should be trading these things but we shouldn’t be paying through the nose for it. In other words, seriously fair trade. We should be making sure that the people who are selling us stuff are not wrecking their own environment while they are doing it. As the Kenyans are apparently I am told; I haven’t been there recently. The Kenyans are wrecking their environment by sending us French beans to sell in Sainsbury’s, for example. It is common sense, but you know-
Abigail Bunker: Can I add something?
Chair: I think we do need to move on.
Abigail Bunker: That’s fine.
Q92 Simon Wright: Are there specific measures that could be introduced or changed that would improve the way we produce food? For example, are there any regulatory barriers or market barriers that are holding producers back from more sustainable practices?
Abigail Bunker: I think there are a number of immediate opportunities. Probably the ones that come to mind immediately are to do with water, so the Nitrates Directive, the Water Framework Directive. In the UK, in particular, I think to date the implementation and plans for implementation have been less than robust; for example, with nitrate vulnerable zones and the implementation of the Nitrates Directive. It is one of the reasons why the UK has failed to deliver any real improvement over the last few years, although there is evidence in Europe that, where other countries have implemented it in a more robust way, benefits are already being seen.
We have very good legislative protection for point source pollution but diffuse pollution-that is the pollution through leaching into the soil of pesticides and nitrogen-is still an enormous problem. Recently a European nitrogen assessment set out very clearly that we need to address it, not just for its impacts on biodiversity but on ecosystem health and on human health.
Colin Tudge: I suggested in an essay I sent around before that there is a whole list of things you could change, tweaks to the law that could make quite a big difference. I think two of them that stand out in my mind, first of all, are changes in planning laws. It comes back to your point: you can’t make big farms into little farms unless you have places for farmers of little farms to live, and the planning laws prevent this. You can’t even put up a nice chalet or something to live in, so that is very serious.
The business of feeding swill to pigs I think is key. It is part of this whole waste issue that was being discussed earlier. Why was the legislation introduced in the first place? The reasons for it being introduced in the first place in 2001, just after the 2001 epidemic, are very spurious. They don’t stand up. There is an inference that this foot and mouth epidemic began on a farm because this chap had fed this stuff. I mean correlation is not cause and all that kind of stuff. It is not clear that the epidemic did begin there, and so on. It is just a piece of ad hoc on-the-hoof law, which is very wasteful.
Q93 Peter Aldous: Are you saying that what you have seen in the pig industry in the last 10 years is fewer and fewer pig farmers and a small number of very large producers? Are you saying that the actual foot and mouth outbreak in 2001 and the ban on swill, as a result of that, played a key role in that in pushing up the price of food?
Colin Tudge: I don’t know about that. I am just saying that the evidence that banning swill will make any significant difference to the propagation of foot and mouth is very dubious indeed. It would push up the price of food obviously. The big pig unit seems to me to be a disaster on almost every front you can think of. One of the main ones being-this is being a bit historically romantic perhaps-that the original reason for keeping pigs in this country was not for meat, it was because they cleared up rubbish and they dug up the ground for you and the meat was a bonus. I am not saying we should go back to that, but one should rethink the multiple-whatever the word is-uses of the pig, and to think of it just as a way of producing a lot of meat quickly by feeding it with cereal and by feeding it with imported soya is frankly grotesque. I mean this is waste on a megascale.
Q94 Peter Aldous: If we just move on to the Government’s role in encouraging sustainable food production, do they have the right strategy in joining up their various policies and incentives?
Abigail Bunker: In joining up, for us we feel that one of the biggest levers for getting more sustainable production of food in the UK, and across Europe, is the CAP, and getting the CAP reformed into a sustainable land management policy rather than continuing what it has been in the past. We are part way down that route. We have had the reform in 2002, which created the options to do agri-environment and it was an extremely important one. In the UK many farmers have responded to the opportunity to make use of those income streams very positively and indeed in some of the Member States, although I would argue probably some not as successfully and not as wholeheartedly as in the UK.
However, there is still a very long way to go. The UK Government has been pushing hard on getting a reform of the CAP that delivers the public benefits and the public goods, which we and others have been arguing for for some time, including funding for Pillar 2, which delivers the funding for agri-environment.
We haven’t taken all the opportunities in getting the results under agri-environment that we could have done, and there is a real opportunity now for Ministers to make that change. As I mentioned, the implementation of the Water Framework Directive and the Nitrates Directive have shown a lack of integration and commitment. The Natural Environment White Paper recently set out some of the intentions of what we will achieve over the next years for our natural environment, some of which is extremely good to hear. However there are no suggestions of new legislation. The proof will now be in how we can deliver that and integrating our agriculture policy, what we are asking of farmers in terms of reducing their emissions, whether we hold them to account on the Greenhouse Gas Action Plan and the other voluntary approaches. NEWP has said they will be reviewed next year as to whether they are delivering something, and that is critical. If we are going to give farmers and land mangers the time to take voluntary action we need good robust monitoring to see if it works and then we need intervention if it does not work.
Colin Tudge: The short answer is no. It is so far off course it is quite difficult to believe really. If one listens to Secretaries of State talking about the future of British agriculture and talking I suppose about Caroline Spelman this year and Hilary Benn last year, they say the same thing, "We need to take British agriculture more seriously". Five years ago they were saying, "We need to run down British agriculture", but leave that aside, we need to take it more seriously. We need to produce more but we have to compete, they say in the next paragraph. What that means is British farmers apparently have to produce more food, but somehow or other they have to do it more cheaply than the Brazilians because we are in competition with them, it is global market. So we do. Our farmers are in competition with Brazilian farmers, with African farmers. They compete by cheap labour and lots of land and cutting down the trees and all that stuff, and we compete with more and more high tech. This more and more high tech, which is all oil based, how does that square up with the also stated desire to be more sustainable and more environment friendly, and so on?
I won’t go on, but you see this kind of incompatibility at every level. One that struck me very strongly, a point of detail in John Beddington’s report, was in one paragraph they were saying, "We must emphasise biodiversity". I hate the expression "biodiversity". We are talking about fellow creatures here but must emphasise biodiversity. Virtually the next paragraph, or a few paragraphs later, they are talking about the need for cloning. I mean that is a wonderful inconsistency, and so it goes on.
Q95 Caroline Lucas: Can I just press you on that, because it seems that in a sense we have come back to the discussion that was being had earlier about the NFU and the extent to which it felt that trade rules needed to be changed, or something like that. I wonder, in terms of getting to your vision of the small and medium scale farm, and so forth, do you think that the first prerequisite, the place where people should be putting focus in terms of trying to get things changed, would be something to do with ensuring that cheaper products, which don’t meet the same standards, don’t get access to our markets or how do you resolve that competition issue? Because it is true that it is the thing that queers the pitch every time. It is constantly the thing that, if you bend agriculture to try to be internationally competitive, then that is exactly the turning you take that takes you down the intensive large-scale damaging thing we are talking about.
Colin Tudge: One thing within British farming, the total amount of money that goes into the whole food production is roughly the same as it was 30 years ago apparently. This is a statistic I have in my head. Whereas, 30 or 40 years ago, most of the money that went into farming went to farmers, now it goes to supermarkets basically and to other processes. There has been this massive shift of cash from there to there. What this suggests to me, and to a lot of other people, is that one of the priorities is to shorten the food chain. If farmers received more of the proportion of the money that we pay for food it would make a huge difference.
Just an example, as you know dairy farmers have been going down like that, and anybody with fewer than 400 cows these days is not in the game, that kind of thing. We have a good friend and neighbour in Oxford and we own one of his cows. He makes a living from 17 Ayrshires. Ayrshires are not the milkiest cows. They are nice cows but they are not the milkiest. The way he does it is by selling the milk directly to the customers and it cuts out the middle man. He would get 20 pence a litre if he sold it to Tesco. He gets £1 a litre plus if he sells it to us. His income immediately goes up five times. This becomes a priority. On the matter of selling scabby apples and all that kind of stuff, several people used the word "food culture". The fact that people in this country-not only have we simply lost the culture but had it systematically beaten out of us, so that we no longer know what good food is. They didn’t have this problem traditionally in Italy. You knew what an apple was. You didn’t care. Do you see what I mean, food culture absolutely vital. Shortened food chains, obviously this means much more localism. Not for its own sake, again, but because it is logically necessary; all these kind of things. Then the whole business of land price, the fact that, as Peter Aldous said, you can’t be a small farmer because of the huge price. Government could do something about this. Not necessarily about controlling the price of land, but by creating the distinction between mere ownership of land and the use of land, use to which land is put. Traditionally the two have often been distinguished. The fact that you own land does not mean you can say exactly what it should be used for, and so on and so on.
Q96 Katy Clark: To what extent do you think a lack of knowledge or skills is holding back a wider uptake of more sustainable agricultural practices?
Abigail Bunker: I would say it is probably a significant issue. I suspect that a lot of our training of farmers of tomorrow, and landowners of tomorrow, the education they receive at agricultural colleges and elsewhere does not include sufficient focus upon the environmental sustainability issues-including biodiversity, including water-about the tools that are available. I think access, certainly for smaller farms, to expertise in those areas is difficult, it is expensive. In many ways, farmers need advisors to advise them on all sorts of things. They will quite often rely on their agronomist to be their expert on water and biodiversity, and they would not necessarily have the skills. I think it is an issue that needs addressing through a variety of ways, through advisor support, and those advisors being able to give advice across the range of what sustainability means. People sometimes think we only talk about birds. It isn’t just about birds, it is about addressing other challenges that we face.
Colin Tudge: Absolutely crucial the knowledge gap, I would say at three levels: first of all, there is the loss of food culture, so that people don’t know what food is and will buy what is biggest and brightest and all that kind of stuff, which of course is encouraged by the food industry. The second thing is unfortunately the farmers. I know quite a lot of people who have recently been to farm colleges and they say, "We don’t learn farming any more, we learn how to open packets and how to apply for grants and all that stuff, but we don’t learn how to be hands-on proper farmers". One manifestation of that is the insistence by the pig industry recently that they absolutely have to have soya to feed pigs because everyone knows you can’t feed pigs without soya, except that we have been feeding pigs for 5,000 years before anybody decided to import soya, and so on.
I have good friends who are proper animal nutritionists who say, "Look, this is how it is done" and so on. This knowledge is now disappearing. Then I think at the level of the people who make policy, I was just remarking this morning that you need people who, on the one hand are very good biologists, on the other hand are well versed in farming, preferably farmers themselves. I know quite a few people who are very good biologists who are also farmers. I don’t know anybody who is a good farmer and a good biologist who has any influence over agriculture policy. Even Hans Herren, the head of IAASTD, very good biologist, very good farmer, but his report has been sidelined. His report says much the same thing that I am saying.
Q97 Katy Clark: To pick up on that, who do you think should be undertaking the research to provide this knowledge and how do we make sure that the work is done and that the knowledge is spread among those that need the knowledge? How should we highlight and distribute that? Maybe if you could bear in mind that we will be producing a report, so we are looking for quite concrete suggestions of what Government should be doing.
Colin Tudge: I wish Government-I mean it is not going to do it, it is not going to happen-but I wish it would somehow reinstate the network of the old AFRC research stations and the experimental husbandry farms that went with it. Some 40 years ago they were there and they were brilliant. People complained about them of course, but they were brilliant.
My own personal plan is to start something called the College for Enlightened Agriculture, and if the Government would like to put some money behind that we could build that up quite nicely. I think you could form a little panel of people, like Hans Herren and a few other people one could name, good biologists, good researchers, who I think could address this very well, and specifically.
Chair: I am going to bring in Caroline Nokes on a related point.
Q98 Caroline Nokes: A very quick question. We had some fairly damning indictments of the standards at our agricultural colleges just now. I wonder if you could tell us, factually, what proportion of time is spent teaching agricultural students about sustainable farming?
Abigail Bunker: I don’t know that. I do know that I have attended a course at one of the agricultural colleges, which was about sustainability and biodiversity, and I was disappointed at its quality. That is my personal experience of it. I went alongside other farmers to experience it. My conversations with farmers are that they need access to greater expertise on being a sustainable farmer and they also need the tools to do so, and I don’t think they have them currently. I think there are a whole range of competing agendas and objectives that they are being asked to deliver on, and they need to be better equipped to be able to deal with it. We are in a different world to the world when the CAP was first created and some of the policy levers that were there. I think that greater investment in that has to be a good thing.
Colin Tudge: I think one of the most serious things that happened over the last 40 years is the loss of independent Government-backed advice to farmers. The old-
Q99 Caroline Nokes: It was a question about the colleges. My question was specifically about the colleges.
Colin Tudge: Yes, it was. The answer is: I don’t know the answer.
Q100 Caroline Lucas: I wanted to ask about how people can be encouraged to eat food that is more sustainable? In other words, how much can the consumer affect the whole supply chain? The Government is very fond of its nudge policy at the moment. Is that going to be enough or do we need something more?
Abigail Bunker: I would argue that nudge is useful but I don’t think it is enough without good regulatory baseline. I will quote Jeanette from Sustain who says this regularly: that your general consumer will go into a shop to buy food and will make assumptions that children have not been damaged; the environment has not been polluted. That in basic terms they can trust the food that is on the shelf. That may be naïve, but I think it is something that a lot of UK consumers believe to be the case, and I think generally people wish to be good environmental citizens but I think they need to know that everybody is being a good environmental citizen, and are doing their part. I think that requires a role from Government.
The scope for Labour was to do a very valuable job in indicating certain production methods to consumers, but there are an enormous number and varying quality. I think if there was some push from Government that labelling schemes were developed, revised and maintained according to best practice, and there are organisations; there is an organisation called ISEAL that aims to deliver and ensure best practice in standards and certification schemes, so I think that is possible but I don’t believe nudge on its own will help us move to more sustainable consumption patterns.
Colin Tudge: I think at this stage we have to think about the next generation. Domestic science was cut out of schools officially in the 1970s. We have to get back to that but broaden it and maybe call it Food Culture and teach cooking, and teaching growing and farming in schools, which used to be standard. In urban schools they always had growing and stuff. It is quite difficult to fit that in now because it is difficult to fit it in with the core curriculum, so room has to be made for things that-
Q101 Chair: Organisations like the School Food Trust do good work.
Colin Tudge: Yes, exactly. Things like this.
Q102 Caroline Nokes: Labelling goes a certain way but it feels to me like every time you go into a shop now you need a microscope, a dictionary and about half an hour spare time to scrutinise everything, so there are limits to labelling. Are there any other interventions, other than regulation, that you think could be useful, whether that is around financial incentives, for example, or some kind of choice editing in terms of what is available on the shelves? I am thinking of this not only from an environmental perspective but from the health perspective too, which we have not spoken very much about. Given that we also have a health crisis in this country, the two are obviously very much related, so how much intervention do you think we could have around some of that?
Colin Tudge: I am running on about the same old stuff, but one of the great advantages of local food production is that the people know the farmers. You didn’t necessarily know him personally but you knew he wasn’t very far away. Then the Adam Smith-type view of the economy starts to come into play, whereby the producer is trustworthy because he is directly answerable to his customers. What the whole labelling debate is about is that there is such a huge gap between the producer and the customer, endless scope for bamboozlement, and so on. Localism to me and knowledge is the only real way forward.
Abigail Bunker: We live in a world where probably most of us go to the large supermarkets and they are, whether we like it or not, an important actor in people’s choices. As you say, they do undertake a lot of choice editing. I think there could be much more that the supermarkets could do and others, to assist consumers: give them the information and the awareness they need in order to make good choices, and in working with their suppliers and supporting those suppliers to be much more sustainable producers.
Q103 Zac Goldsmith: There are a number of questions. I am going to try and condense them as we are more or less out of time. Specifically for Colin Tudge, you are implying, if not saying, that in your view it is impossible, for all the reasons that have been laid out today, for British farmers to truly be internationally competitive, with the higher land value, the higher standards. They are up against it in so many different ways. I agree with you absolutely on that, but do you think the Government should abandon this commitment, and obsession almost that transcends Governments, this Government, the previous Government, the one before? This obsession that British farmers should be internationally competitive; do you think that is at the heart of the problem of the farming policy?
Colin Tudge: I think it is unquestionably at the heart, and it is at the heart of the problem for every other country as well. We can make common cause on this. Clearly some people can grow stuff easier than we can, but we have to do it here for all sorts of other reasons.
Q104 Zac Goldsmith: So logically that needs some form of protection or protectionism-
Colin Tudge: Absolutely.
Q105 Zac Goldsmith: Is that something that RSPB are looking into? Is that an echo of your-
Abigail Bunker: No, it is not. Our work on the issues of trade is not an area of specialism for us. It hasn’t been for some years. I am in an odd position of defending your average UK farmer, that it is a perfectly reasonable thing for a UK farmer to want to make a good living for his family and to be competitive within a market. It is the reality that we live in. Whether that has to be a global market, a European market, or it should be restricted to the UK marker-
Q106 Zac Goldsmith: I don’t think Colin Tudge or anyone is saying that they should not be competitive. The question is: how should they compete? Going back to Caroline’s point, a couple of questions ago, we are effectively asking our farmers to compete on an uneven playing field, where we ramp up the animal welfare standards here, and effectively we are just exporting cruelty to other countries. The question is about the global food economy. Whether or not we can ever truly-
Abigail Bunker: Take them with us.
Zac Goldsmith: -subject our farmers fairly to that competition and expect them to come up in business?
Abigail Bunker: Certainly the kinds of farmers who are delivering what would be called a high-nature value farm, the systems that they are practising are about delivering conservation objectives and I am thinking here about across Europe, some of the farming systems in Scotland and in the Uplands, which either are or have the potential to be delivering all sorts of things, and these are the farming systems who are most marginal and who are at most risk. That is why interventions through levers such as the CAP and support to farming systems who deliver these kinds of benefits, including rural communities and employment in areas, are critical. That is where the policy should be focusing its investment. It is over £53 billion spent every year through the CAP, which should be supporting those kinds of farming systems.
Q107 Zac Goldsmith: Just on that issue of the CAP, I suppose going back to Defra, do you believe that Defra is making the right demands? Do you think the Defra position in relation to CAP is the right position? The reason I ask that is because there is such an obvious tension between the White Paper that has been produced recently and the Ecosystem Assessment Report. All that is great on one hand. On the other hand, there is an obsession with mega dairies and mega pig farms and cloned food and GM food and selling off the forest and pretty much everything else that was not in the manifesto before the election. There is a huge contradiction between what is happening on one hand and what is now emerging in these papers on the other, which leaves me concerned about what our position is likely to be when it comes to the CAP negotiations. Does your organisation trust the current Defra to handle those negotiations well?
Abigail Bunker: There is a question. Defra has been very clear in its objective, in terms of CAP reform, to shift the support to the delivery of public groups, and that we try and increase the delivery of good outcomes from that. That is absolutely where the RSPB and BirdLife and its partners through BirdLife Partnership are arguing, and many others, that we need to be delivering stuff on the ground, which are public goods. These are the goods that the market cannot reward and has not rewarded, and that is ultimately the reason why we have seen the problems we have over the last 20 years with the natural environment.
I am concerned about, as you say, how we are going to tie up now the challenge that is very clearly set out in the NEA and the costs and benefits very clearly set out in the NEA. The challenge set out in the European nitrogen assessment, and the objectives and desires set out in the NEWP, and then Foresight and how we make sure that this sustainable intensification aligns and delivers the objectives in NEWP and the challenges set out in those other two documents. I look forward to seeing very soon some indication of how we are going to do that and RSPB will be playing a full part in that, if it can.
Zac Goldsmith: Do we have time for the international question, the last one?
Chair: As long as we have four members who are able to stay, yes.
Q108 Zac Goldsmith: I just have one more question. This is theoretically the last one, but it is quite a big one so you may not feel you have time to answer it properly, but I am interested in what role you think Britain can play, specifically what role can the British Government play in terms of addressing what appears to be the growing issue of food insecurity around the world? So both in terms of how we manage our own food economy and, I suppose, how we spend our money overseas through aid, and so on. It is an almost limitless question, but if you have anything insightful that would be useful to have.
Colin Tudge: You are talking about food insecurity worldwide?
Zac Goldsmith: Worldwide.
Colin Tudge: I would say that the policy that we ought to be adopting in this country, which is that of self-reliance with fair trade, is the same one every country, everywhere in the world, should adopt. If we adopted that it would be a statement, at least, to the rest of the world that that is okay. If we stopped, for example, therefore trying to tell third world countries that they should follow our model we should change our model.
That is the first thing. The second thing is come back to this labour intensive-type stuff. We need to increase the number of farmers in this country, I reckon by about 1 million, in other words from 1% to about 10%. Then one thing that one could do for the rest of the world is to say, "Look, you are not doing it too badly". I mean Rwanda with 90% farmers too many; foolish. India, 60%, probably about right given the state of India, given the fact that there aren’t alternative industries and won’t be in the foreseeable future, so encouraging people who are already doing the right kind of thing would not be bad.
The second thing is: whenever we have talked about technology transfer, that expression has come up several times today, and the implication always is that we know and we can input stuff to you because we have done the work. Really the flow of information should be more and more the other way. African farmers, to a significant state, really know what they are doing. So I think it is this kind of, yes, doing what everybody ought to be doing and talking to other people with greater humility.
Abigail Bunker: There has been much said in the period post-Foresight Report about the moral imperative of UK farmers to produce more. I think the moral imperative for the UK is not only to bring the environment and environmental sustainability to the centre of our own farming systems, but to help developing countries in the rest of the world to do the same. Our development budget is significant, and I still think we have more to do with making sure that the principles of truly sustainable development are taken forward. I think helping and developing countries to develop truly sustainable ways to increase their food production is an absolute priority for our Government and for various departments, including DFID.
Chair: It has been quite a lengthy session, so thank you to both our witnesses for coming along. We did want your perspective, and I think precisely because this is such an important subject, and the whole issue of food is on our radar, we wanted to have your input, so thank you both very much indeed.