Here in the UK, we are fortunate enough that we have the capability to produce a rather incredible amount of food. Historically unprecedented, agriculture today has today hit new heights as new methods and technological innovations enable the entire nation to be fed many times over. As this infographic shows, literally as the seconds’ tick by, the level of output races up- as does the financial rewards in return.

But whilst this is undoubtedly great news for those with a stake in the food production industry, what is the repercussions of this on consumers?

Firstly, is the issue of food waste which is proving to be a serious environmental concern that does get the level of coverage that it perhaps should. Every year around the world, 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted, with approximately 15 million of this figure coming from the UK. Whilst a portion of this can be recycled and repurposed into fertiliser and other forms of nutrients, the majority of it simply goes to rot at landfill sites. Of course, as a result, much of this then gets tossed into the incinerators and quite literally goes up in smoke as a waste of money and a further source of CO2 emissions. When there are roughly 795 million (1 in 9) starving people internationally, we do them a tremendous disservice by throwing away produce in such quantities. What to us is just an unwanted morsel to them would be absolutely everything. This, in turn, raises the separate question of how we can distribute our unwanted food more evenly to help those in need, but that is a discussion to be had another time.

What is also relevant though now more than ever, is how sustainable is this level of farming given the Brexit vote last summer, which is poised to take Britain out of the European Union? A study carried out pre-referendum found nearly two-thirds of those farmers surveyed supported the vote for independence, but with so much yet to be decided in subsequent negotiations, it’s impossible to tell what the future of British farming will look like.

Of particular interest, is what will happen once European environmental legislation is no longer law within the UK? Over 100 laws relating to the environment and farming have come from Brussels, but with their removal, it remains to be seen whether similar ones will be introduced by the House of Commons. Whilst many may have chafed against these restrictions, the thinking behind them was to stop every farmer from going into business for themselves at the expense of the wider environment. Rules concerning the over-exploitation of soil, water quality, and animal welfare are just a few of the matters that will require new rules, but as the earlier stats have shown, the economic incentives at stake here have quite the pull to them.

Yet another cause for concern along these political lines, is what overtures the Government may make to farmers in order to retain their favour should things for them get tricky in the years ahead. When we consider that UK farmers already receive between £2.4 billion to £3billion a year in EU subsidies, it stands to reason that they will not be too pleased to lose such a sizable revenue stream. If in exchange they are granted the freedom to do as they please to keep profits up, then that would work completely contrary to the spirit of co-operation that has already been in place, to help reduce the impact of farming on the ecological world.

In order to remain competitive in the long-run, there are also concerns over whether or not genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) will begin to be implemented within British farming on a grand scale. Augmented via copious amounts of scientific testing, GMO’s have attracted a negative press due to concerns raised over their potential effects on local ecosystems. Bred to thrive even in the harshest conditions, the fear is that whilst they might flourish and grow, it will be at the expense of less hardy non-enhanced plant life. Of course, should just one part of the food chain begin to falter, then the subsequent ramifications for wildlife could also prove to be catastrophic if their food sources are compromised. When all of the natural world is inextricably connected in such complex ways, then to tamper in a major way with just one element for the sake of economics would prove to be a short-sighted decision to the extreme.

But whilst this post has touched upon a range of potential issues within farming, the key takeaway is that all of them are avoidable and manageable if we are collectively willing to work together. Rather than simply resign ourselves to the fact that we are producing and buying more food than we need, ask ourselves ‘how can we change our lifestyle to deal with this issue’? If you find yourself throwing away more food than you should, then the onus is on you to bring about the change, which will, in turn, make the issue of over-production seem less of a cause for concern.

At the political level as well, whilst there is a huge degree of uncertainty, there is the opportunity for the Government to set out a new future for British farming with a new found flexibility to make provision for both economical and environmental concerns. Rather than seek the consent of other EU member states to bring about amendments, having to push laws only through the House of Commons and House of Lords enables a massive streamlining of the legal system, enabling the quick introduction of vital environmental laws once Article 50 is triggered and the setting aside of perhaps outdated EU rules that were never updated. Hopefully this balance will allow for prosperity through working in line with nature rather than against it, and lead to a new

 

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