Responding the Soil Association’s call for cuts in the use of fossil-fuel based artificial fertilisers, Julian Sturdy MP, chair of the APPG on Science and Technology in Agriculture and a director of the think-tank Science for Sustainable Agriculture, argues that climate change should be tackled by encouraging new green technologies and scientific innovations, rather than by imposing measures which might harm economic growth and living standards and ultimately reduce domestic food production.
In a letter to The Independent newspaper today, Mr Sturdy wrote:
“The Soil Association is wrong to seek punitive and arbitrary cuts in artificial fertiliser use (Charity calls for targets to cut use of fossil fuel-based artificial fertilisers,1 Sept), which would be damaging for food production and farmers’ livelihoods, and bad news for consumers by driving up food prices.
Once again, the organic lobby’s one-dimensional approach is simply to malign conventional farming practices rather than to offer positive solutions. The future for sustainable agriculture and food production does not lie in turning back the clock, as the Soil Association would have us believe, but in investing seriously in the science, technology and innovation needed to reduce agriculture’s climate footprint while maintaining the productivity gains needed to feed a global population set to top 9 billion by 2050.
In a recent report, Farming Innovations to Deliver Net Zero, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Science and Technology in Agriculture explored some of these solutions – from precision farming technologies allowing more efficient and targeted input use through to green fertilisers and nitrification inhibitors. In the longer term, new technologies such as gene editing offer the potential to develop nitrogen fixing crops and engineered soil bacteria to dramatically reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with crop production. UK scientists are in the vanguard of much of this research.
With such exciting advances taking place, it is disappointing that the Soil Association has opted, yet again, for negative attacks on the conventional farmers producing most of our food, diverting attention from the enormous opportunities for agricultural innovation to contribute positively to the climate agenda.”