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The Other Side of Crofting, Feb 2005
Crofting in Scotland seems always to evoke strong emotions, probably because it is a form of land tenure born out of a mistrust of the landowner. An action in the Scottish Land Court recently reinforced that stereotype when the headlines of press reports praised the defiance of a crofter in his defeat of the wealthy landowner. However, the real story has nothing to do with these stereotypes, and has everything to do with the future of Scotland's landscapes.
What does the Mid-Term Review Mean for us?, April 2003
Here, I try to analyse what impact the proposals put forward for reform of the CAP under the Mid-term Review (MTR) will have on the UK Government's Strategy on Sustainable Farming and Food (SSFF).
Down on the Farm - Modulation, Decoupling and Degression, April 2003
The proposals contained in the Mid-term Review (MTR) of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) could have some profound long-term consequences for land use in Britain. MTR breaks the link between production and subsidy, but it also creates the situation whereby farmers will be paid for doing nothing. Is this what we want?
The Whole is Not the Sum of its Parts, Jan 2003
The Government's Strategy on Sustainable Farming and Food was a disappointment as it failed in its most simplest test - of supplying a whole farm vision for the future of farming. It also adopted the Curry Report approach of separating out organic farming and treating it differently. I am not the only one to disagree with that, and organic farming is not the only game in town.
Rural Aspirations of a Semi-Upland District, Jun 2002
This was my response  to the Government's consultation - Sustainable Food and Farming: Working Together - on the issues raised in the report from the Policy Commission on the Future of Food and Farming (the Curry Report). It was provided on the basis of research on rural aspirations that I did for a Metropolitan authority in a semi-upland area of Northern England. The first section is an overview of the findings from that districts rural community. The second section contains responses to the specific questions raised in the consultation.
Todays Dogmas are Just Another Form of McDonaldisation or MacDonalds du nos jours!, Feb 2002
  No area of food and farming is free from dogma. The contemporary mantra of local food and local marketing has quickly reached the level of dogma, forestalling any rational critique - as all dogmas are wont to do. But does it have any merit?
The Received Wisdom of the Moment, Apr 2002
The outbreak of FMD in 2001 gave rise to a lot of fevered discussion on the future of food and farming. Few took the opportunity to stand back, clear their minds, and think past the received wisdom of the moment. There were, however, two interesting exceptions.

Doing the Sums - Does Organic Farming Stack Up?, Jan 2002

There is a lot of style over substance about organic farming. Many of it's claims are untested rhetoric, but more seriously its approach to long-term farming just doesn't add up. Eventually, organic farming will deplete soil minerals and this needs to be acknowledged.

All the News That's Fit to Print, Jan 2002

National charities rarely come in for public criticism. Partly this is because they avoid detailed scrutiny, but it also because people who know better don't want to rock the boat when it may harm the cause that they espouse. That is the case with the organic movement in Britain - the behaviour of one charity, the Soil Association, leaves a lot to be desired. But there is a conspiracy of silence, even though there is a loathing and contempt felt for it in many other organisations. I feel no inhibition to set the record straight. You may also like to read about the anti-science nature of the Soil Association in Legends and Myths in Science.

Policy Commission on the Future of Food and Farming - A Consultation Response, Oct 2001

I wrote this response on behalf of the Permaculture Association to the consultation from the Policy Commission on the Future of Food and Farming (Curry Commission). It identified a number of current Government themes in rural development in which Permaculture is complimentary and which could benefit from its involvement. It also identifies the support that Permaculture Design can provide to rural land users seeking change and who may do this through existing strategies and programmes.
The Hoe and the Plough, Feb 2001
Ploughing is recognised to have contributed significantly to climate change over the last century, releasing carbon dioxide as soil organic matter is oxidised through exposure. This is yet another critical impact of broadscale agriculture. Should we look to food production that is less dependent on machinery and more in humanscale? Should the hoe replace the plough? Can organic farming be considered in any way natural when it has a heavy reliance on ploughing?
Global Ecosystems and the Effects of Farming, Feb 2001
Historical rural depopulation, the disconnection and de-skilling, and the long-term changes wrought by agriculture, means that most people are divorced from the land and are unaware of current land dynamics. Land use and ownership must come up for discussion.
Nature as the Inventive Chemist, Oct 2000
  It is a pity that most people have a poor understanding of the science of the natural world. Learning about the tricks that nature gets up to may not get people to accept biotechnology, but at least it would allow them to understand the rationale behind it.
Legends and Myths in Science, Jul 2000
The new battleground in farming today is science. In a world that is increasingly being battered over the head by subjectivity, science holds on to the need for value free discovery that has a high level of confidence. Except that scientists are blamed for BSE and for biotechnology by the very same people who aren't able to substantiate their own claims. How can the public decide?
 Food Chain and Crops for Industry, Jun 2000
Future studies are an emerging tool for exploring public policy. The Government's Foresight Program has recently looked at the food chain and come up with some important observations. The four future scenarios spun for the consultation challenge us to look past our blind spots. In my case, it confirmed an intention to break with the subjectivity and prejudices of the organic world.
Food, Land and Money - Making the Case for Urban Food Production, Aug 1999
The urban community food growing movement blossomed from the mid 1990s onwards, supported by the Growing Food in Cities report, and the conference of the same name held in Bradford in 1996. Farming communities around large urban areas were proving unresponsive to the needs of urban communities, and access to rural land for new entrants to food production was difficult. It is not surprising therefore that urban communities took responsibility and developed food growing projects on the only land they had access to.
What did you do in the Great Genetic Engineering War?, Apr 1999
The concerted approach of environment groups in destroying the image of biotechnology in the public's mind means that simple discussion on the issues is long past. People now only expect scare stories. Here is some dramatic fiction that really should make people scared.
Natural, Healthy Food for All?, Jan 1999
People don't drop dead from eating conventionally produced food. As food and nutrition gains further ground as an issue in health action, so do the calls for it to be sourced from natural production. Fine in principle, but natural food carries a price burden. The disadvantaged already have to make difficult food choices. We shouldn't burden them with a choice that only the affluent can afford to make.
Organic Junk Food - Organic Panic? Oct, 1998
Hypocrisy bedevils the organic movement - not in the small, pioneering producers, but in the venality of the bigger producers and in the certification organisation that does so much to support a commercial imperative. Certification is supposedly an assurance to the purchaser and consumer - the gold standard as it has been dubbed by the leading certifier. There is increasing evidence that this gold standard is being bought off.

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