Food for thought: RSPB responds to Green Food Project
Last modified: 09 July 2012
Food and farming systems are at the heart of many of the challenges facing the world and there is a need for urgent action to ensure that food production stays within environmental limits. That's the RSPB’s response to today's unveiling of the Green Food Project by Defra Farming Minister Jim Paice.
Examining the tensions between the environment and current food production was a key commitment in the Natural Environment White Paper (published last year). The RSPB has valued being part of the Green Food Project as the first step towards resolving some of the issues society faces, including wildlife loss, water pollution and use of limited resources.
Urgent need for change
Martin Harper is the RSPB's Conservation Director. Commenting on the Green Food Project's report, he said: “It’s clear that food production and consumption urgently need to change. Currently, both the environment and the world’s poor are losing out, while increasing consumption is taking its toll on precious and finite resources. We all ask a lot from our planet.
“I am very pleased that Defra has initiated this discussion – the Green Food Project is an important first step towards working out what England’s contribution should be to help food production become more sustainable and shared more equitably. We need to be thinking and planning at the landscape scale to get the most from our land and stay within environmental limits - both within England and globally.”
Currently, both the environment and the world’s poor are losing out, while increasing consumption is taking its toll on precious and finite resources
The fates of so many treasured species are tied up with the future of farming in this country. Changes to farming in the past have proved challenging to our farmland wildlife - but there are solutions to help both farming and wildlife prosper in the future. The RSPB believes that its arable farm in Cambridgeshire is a key example of how, in some places and in some sectors, it is possible to balance an increase in yields while increasing the abundance of farmland wildlife and addressing wider environmental issues too.
Martin Harper added: “Since 2000, at Hope Farm we have quadrupled skylark numbers and encouraged a whole range of other wildlife including bees, butterflies and even fungi. All this while achieving crop yields that are pretty competitive in national terms.”
Tarnhouse Farm, part of the RSPB’s Geltsdale Nature Reserve in the North Pennines, presents a contrasting example. The fragile upland soils do not lend themselves to intensive food production, but through sensitive land management the farm contributes to carbon stewardship, water quality improvements and flood risk management. The grazing system has helped restore important upland habitats, as well as populations of iconic species such as black grouse and lapwing.
Needs of the local area
Martin commented: “Wherever you are in the country, the right ‘mix’ of production and environment will depend on the needs of the local area.”
The Green Food Project report will be unveiled at the Yorkshire Show later today [Tuesday July 10, 2012] by Farming Minister Jim Paice. Stakeholders including the RSPB’s Martin Harper will be sharing the press conference with the Minister.
Leading organisations involved with the Green Food Project include: Defra; RSPB; World Wildlife Fund; National Farmers Union; Country Land and Business Association; and the British Retail Consortium.
How you can help
Nature is in trouble – so millions of people are stepping up to help. Our wildlife has been disappearing at an alarming rate. But small steps make a big difference. If we all act together and get stuck in, we can save our wildlife.
How you can get involved