Just when some farmers thought they had started to step away from the frying pan of EU regulations, the UN’s disdain for pesticides has emerged as the next fire to fight.
The UN report suggesting pesticides should not be used in food production is another worrying attack on the industry and will provide the environmentalists with another axe to grind against agriculture. As if they really needed one.
Whether the authors think small scale agroecology and a bucolic form of farming will step up to the challenge of feeding a growing world population is up for debate, but such attacks raise the stakes that farmers could be left without the tools they need for efficient and profitable farming.
Glyphosate is already one herbicide that has come under attack, although the NFU did this week welcome the conclusions of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) which said the scientific evidence ‘did not meet the criteria to classify glyphosate as a carcinogen, as a mutagen or as toxic for reproduction’.
But it seems in an era of fake news and shifting information agendas in which the public is able to block out facts and opinions that don’t mirror their beliefs, the challenge of conveying scientific facts which some find unpalatable is becoming tougher than ever before. Policymakers, however, must remain strong and ensure productive agriculture is allowed to continue.
And while it is not as simple as saying large scale agriculture is the best or only way forward, we should not be naive to the very really challenges presented by the growing number of mouths that need feeding. With many people simply not valuing where their food comes from, it would only take a chronic food shortage or famine to make them realise that crops and livestock are not raised in la la land.
Let science, not conjecture, be the basis for farming regulation and, ultimately, food security.
As our In Your Field writers allude to this week, spring is very much in the air at last. Let’s hope the land starts drying up as soon as possible.