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From the editor: Life and death choices expose Western arrogance

BrexitPolitics

If you want to visit somewhere which pops the Western consumer arrogance towards food security and detachment from the realities of farming and rural issues, then go to South Africa.

 

My recent visit there set European agriculture in a global context and shone a new light for me on many of the challenges we, as an industry, face.

 

In the UK and other Western countries animal rights activists and anti-farming groups speak of ‘factory farming’ and the ‘blight of cheap food’, yet they do so with full stomachs and no lack of food. While listening to African farm leaders speak of the growing challenge of averting famine and hunger through better farming techniques, you realise many of the jibes our industry receives are borne out of comfort and abundance of choice, not hunger and desperation.

 

The African drive for innovation and science also exposed an EU farming system affected by largesse, distorted by subsidies which shorted the market and kept food cheap, and a trading area blanketed by protectionist tariffs and policies.

 

It is the kind of place which makes you realise bureaucrats in Brussels and elsewhere can easily shun controversial applications such as biotechnology or genetically modified crops because, when they return home, they will not find their families starving. Yet for African growers and politicians the bleak choice between life and death is something they face on a daily basis.

 

It is understandable then that when faced with these huge challenges, and in a country at the leading edge of climate change, there is a willingness to embrace controversial ideas we often pour scorn upon.

 

Whether you voted for Brexit or not, maybe there is a chance to use to this process to build a new system of support and trade which facilitates endeavour in our agriculture sector, because you can be sure the rest of the world will not wait as we languish in an ivory tower of EU regulation which stifles innovation and crushes on-farm aspiration.

 

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