• Graham Harvey

Who needs this technology?

A plan to ease the rules on gene editing in food crop research is just about the last thing our countryside needs. The Government says the technique will help in the development of new strains of crop that need less pesticide. But pesticides aren’t necessary anyhow. It’s quite possible to grow all the food we need – and better food at that – using methods known as ‘regenerative farming’.

These include grazing livestock in a carefully managed way on herb-rich pastures, or ‘herbal leys’ as they’re known. Techniques like this remove carbon from the atmosphere, produce meat and milk that are rich in health-promoting nutrients and boost the biodiversity of farms. This is where the Government should be investing public money – helping farmers switch from the planet-wrecking chemical methods many of them are still using.

Housing and Communities Secretary Michael Gove gets it, I know that. On one of the farms he visited as Environment Secretary someone shoved a copy of my book (Grass-Fed Nation) into his hand. He must have read some of it because later in an interview with BBC Countryfile magazine he referenced the book, suggesting it offered a sustainable way ahead for UK farming.

I’m not claiming credit but some of the ideas have been included in the new sustainable farming policy. OK, they’re not really my ideas but maybe I gave the Environment Secretary a nudge. Unfortunately the policy’s being rolled out far too slowly. It’s a voluntary scheme and it won’t be launched fully until 2024. That’s much too late for Planet Earth and our rapidly diminishing wildlife. Not to mention the climate crisis.

There’s no mystery about what has to be done. Basically agriculture around the world needs to be put on a fast track to Earth regeneration. Which means returning farming to the carbon economy which nature developed, and ending the crazy, 50-year chemical experiment that’s still trying to improve on evolution.

Pouring money into the unproven and risky experiment of gene editing makes no sense. It simply shoves more resources into the coffers of the biotech and fossil fuel industries, the very people who have put the planet at risk. It’s one more example of the ease with which corporations are able to extract public money from governments. When there are party donations at stake, the needs of people and our planet come a distinct second.


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