July 31, 2017

Harmony and collaboration for better food and farming

© Public domainA leading advocate of organic farming is urging proponents of sustainable agriculture to come together with research scientists to establish a joint strategy group that could present a united front to benefit food production and the environment.

“The time is right for a new chapter of collaboration between the research and scientific community and the sustainable agriculture advocacy practitioners,” said Patrick Holden, chief executive of the Sustainable Food Trust (SFT).

“These individuals and organisations, including myself, have been in part responsible for creating an impression that our advocacy is based on ideology and that we are resistant to making evidence-based decisions, which is certainly not the case today,” added Holden, former head of the Soil Association.

His proposal, published today by Rothamsted Research, which suggested the idea, follows a conference organised by the SFT earlier this month in Wales, “Harmony in Food and Farming”. Prince Charles provided the event’s keynote address, promoting greater awareness of nature’s universal “connectedness” and reflecting on his own book, Harmony, A New Way of Looking at the World.

The proposal also comes in the wake of the environment secretary’s announcement that future farm subsidies in the UK would be linked to environmental stewardship. “Support can only be argued for…if the environmental benefits of that spending are clear,” said Michael Gove.

Holden noted: “I could think of nothing more appropriate than the establishment of a small strategy group comprising representatives from research and sustainable agriculture leaders who could co-evolve a new programme of events and initiatives that bring together our two communities.”

The response is welcomed by Angela Karp, Rothamsted’s Director for Science Innovation, Engagement & Partnerships, who came up with the idea after attending the harmony conference: “Our new five-year strategy promotes engagement and a commitment to productive and sustainable agriculture that protects the environment and benefits farmers and communities worldwide.

“Scientific enquiry is pursued to lead to a better understanding of how things work, and how best we can manage, improve, control and even manipulate them,” said Karp. “For non-scientists, the danger is that they will selectively represent those findings that suit. This, in turn, can result in a breakdown of trust with those who generated the results and a lack of willingness to work together. We need joint ground rules and codes of behaviour that are strictly met if trust it is to be maintained.”

For a report on the conference, go to “Open minds open doors”.

Article source: Rothamsted Research

Image credit: Public domain