Population growth, climate change, technological progress and Brexit will all profoundly affect how Britain's land is farmed. The pace and scale of change could be immense. The UK government’s 25 year plan for the environment, and the Secretary of State’s proposal to focus future farming subsidies on paying for environmental public goods, have created a sense of optimism that these changes could be positive, reversing decades of environmental decline.
But how positive should we really be feeling? Do environmentalists properly understand the ethical trade-offs inherent in embracing technology in food and farming? Is progress on the environment possible without properly engaging the public in a discussion about food and diets? And is political support for ambitious environmental action strong enough to withstand claims that it is coming at the expense of farmer livelihoods, food security and food prices?
During the first half of 2018, Green Alliance organised a series of three debates exploring important questions about the future. Hearing from different expert perspectives, the debates interrogated what the changes could mean for our environment and our national identity.
The first of these debates 'Is technology in a force for good in food production?' looked at the ways in which novel foods and agricultural technologies could benefit the UK's natural environment. It discussed the social acceptability of different technologies and their ethical implications.
The second debate asked the question 'Can Brexit deliver cheap, high quality food to the British public?' and the third debate explored 'What does taking carbon seriously mean for future UK land use?'
Each debate took place in central London between April-July 2018 in front of an audience of around 60 experts from NGOs, businesses, academia, government and politics.