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19th February 2020
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A rare consensus

Posted 10/05/2014 by cgodfrey

It’s rare for politicians to agree on anything, as this week’s local council and European elections have once again demonstrated. And with a general election looming next year, tensions are likely to be ratcheted up even higher. But one thing that there does appear to be consensus on – in the UK at least – is the need for greater effort to boost agricultural productivity – the amount of food we produce per hectare of available land.

As recent articles in C&I have highlighted, with an estimated 9bn people on the planet by the year 2050 the amount of food we produce will need to more than double in order to meet the increased demand.  Yet current rates of agricultural productivity growth are well below the level needed.

At the annual The Crop Protection Association (CPA) Convention this week, Sir James Paice MP (Conservative), Huw Irranca-Davies MP (Labour) and David Heath MP (Liberal Democrat) were each invited to outline the policies and approach they believe the next government should take to support productive agriculture in the UK and to meet the challenges of food security in the coming decades. Speaking at the meeting CPA ceo Nick von Westenholz commented: ‘With under a year to go before the next General Election, it was encouraging to hear MPs from across the political spectrum all agree that the next UK government should work to boost domestic agricultural productivity.’

Outside of the UK, however, the CPA criticised European politicians for a ‘lack of awareness’ of the problem and pointed out that more work needed to be done to engage with EU institutions and their European counterparts to make sure food and farming policy is based on sound science, fosters innovation and protects farmers’ competitiveness. ‘It’s a message farmers and the wider agricultural sector need to continually press home with our MPs and MEPs as a matter of urgency,’ according to the CPA. 

One area where EU policy-makers came in for particular censure was for their ‘overly precautious’ approach to crop protection technologies, according to the CPA. It argues that this has meant that many of the key products farmers rely on are, or are at risk of, being taken off the market, ‘even though they have been proven to be safe and are subject to one of the most stringent approvals processes in the world’.

The association also has a stark warning about the dangers of failing to tackle the food security problem. If the message fails to be heard, it says that the ‘implications for farming and food security could be devastating’.

Cath O’Driscoll, Deputy editor

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