Saturday, 30 August 2014

Farming - some thoughts from the people!

Farmers are much loved by the public for all that they do.
I have just finished reading a report about the public’s thoughts on “Agri-technologies”, the research having been conducted by Sciencewise, which is a funded programme to encourage the more widespread use of public dialogue in policy involving science and technology. It provides a rather interesting snapshot of public views and I have plucked out a few that I found interesting for you to share.

Just to set the scene – which is important I feel, prior to reading some of the public’s comments, I have also lifted some other information from the report. 

We forget, do we not, that food production is the UK’s biggest single manufacturing sector, responsible for 7% of national output. Meanwhile, the UN forecasts that global food production will need to increase by over 70% by 2050. To tackle this challenge, the aim set by the UN for the next 30 years is: Sustainable intensification of agriculture – raising the productivity of agriculture, while protecting the environment, including biodiversity, and contributing to the mitigation of climate change.

I love that phrase “Sustainable intensification of Agriculture” – cleverly thought up to keep everyone happy. But, you then read on to see what it actually means – WOW, not much of an “ask” then! Nevertheless, a challenge for us all to contemplate.

So, to the people’s thoughts.

“Feeding a larger and wealthier population is perceived as a priority issue by the public, however, although the availability of food is a priority for consumers, this does not necessarily imply that increasing food production is also a priority”. That is a little muddled is it not? But maybe not if you look at this next sentence taken from the report. “There is an ingrained perception that the UK could easily grow all its own food”.

“The majority in the UK saw agriculture as beneficial for the environment, contributing to the beauty of the countryside and helping to preserve and protect rural areas.
 - 87% of respondents in the UK agree that agriculture is beneficial for the environment
- 85% of respondents in the UK agree that agriculture contributes to the beauty of the countryside
- 88% of respondents in the UK agree that agriculture helps to preserve and protect rural areas

So, the industry appears to be passing the test with flying colours! But wait, next up on the questionnaire - GM crops – that will surely dent this cocky pride!

“The risks to the environment and biodiversity from GM crops were very widespread concerns, even among those who had fewer worries about the ‘food safety’ aspects of GM. However, a majority of UK consumers (74.5%) seems to be willing to purchase GM foods if they are cheaper than traditional foods”. Oh fine – not that concerned then!

But here comes the reality check in my opinion.

“In the UK, 52% think origin of food is important, but 45% don’t mind”. So, despite all the above comments basically praising UK farmers, when it comes to the crunch, 45% are not the slightest bit fussed where their food has come from.

And yet this is another line from the report - “A thriving farming industry in England is “very important‟ to 79% of people interviewed and for 19% “quite important‟. So although 98% of people think this – 45% don’t give a monkeys where food actually comes from!!

It does seem then, that for many folk, their views on farming, food and the environment are not that joined up. 

I have I stress, simply lifted interesting snippets from this report. So if you would like to read more then go to:

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