Politically there is a lot going on in British agriculture at the moment.

For three months, the news has been dominated by coronavirus at the expense of reporting on many issues which will affect food and farming for the decades ahead.

Top of the list must be the Agriculture Bill, which passed through Parliament this month which, as it stands, will allow imports of food not produced to the standards required of farmers within the UK.

Apart from any potential risk to the public, it is hugely unfair to expect British farmers to compete on price with farmers abroad who have cheaper methods of production using GM, pesticides not approved here, hormones and antibiotics.

The National Farmers Union is getting support from some MPs, Jamie Oliver and a lot of the general public. More than one million people have already signed up to get this decision reversed in one of the biggest petitions ever delivered to Government.

The UK shares much of our food legislation with the EU at present and most of it is expected to remain.

However, the new freedom offered by Brexit will allow us to debate and possibly tweak some of the more ludicrous details.

One of these is Gene Editing, which has unfortunately been confused with Gene Manipulation. The latter appears to be used quite safely across the world, but it has been controversial because it can involve taking the gene from one species and inserting it another, so the present ban is likely to continue in the short term at least.

Gene Editing is different. It merely involves mapping the genes in a plant or animal and then editing that map within the species. This is merely a method of speeding up plant breeding and there seems no logical explanation for banning it in this country.


  • Peter Fairs

Perception often appears to take precedence over fact and this is probably why the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) gets so little credit for all of its excellent work. It is a pro-shooting organisation but the resources it puts into research and conservation is outstanding.

Their recent studies include how and where to plant trees for maximum benefit, how to create the perfect habitat for water voles and how to stop the alarming rate of curlew decline.

For seven years now the GWCT has joined forces with the NFU to organise a big farmland bird count. This year more than 1,500 farmers and gamekeepers took part across 1.4 million acres in February.

More than 120 species were recorded with starlings, fieldfares, lapwings and skylarks well up on the list.

It would be nice if the RSPB and GCWT could forget their differences and work more closely together on their garden and farmland counts.

Both are equally important with farm land surely covering an even larger area than our gardens.

The BBC recently had to apologise to the GWCT due to “human error” for a Short Cuts programme which stated there were only 100 Grey Partridges left in the UK.

GWCT corrected this with proof that the actual number is around 37,000 pairs.