Guys, guys.

I have to admit that I smiled when I saw Dave Goulson’s tweet as the same words had been ringing round this house for the same reasons. We should soon expect Ian Boyd to be campaigning against the Badger cull, in favour of fixing grouse shooting and criticising the use of insect-killing pesticides I guess.

But the most eye-catching element of the story is the quote from Guy Smith of the NFU.

Urgent action is needed to tackle the climate emergency. British farmers are already some of the most sustainable in the world. For example, the beef produced in Britain is already 2.5 times more efficient than the global average. And they are committed to doing even more.

However, we will not halt climate change by curbing sustainable, British production and exporting it to countries which may not have the same climate ambition as we do here.

I will some time get around to looking at each word of this statement in more detail but just for now this is a classic example of how industries work: we are on your side, we are the good guys but we admit there are some bad guys out there too, be nice to us because we are part of the solution. It can be true, but it certainly is said more often than it actually is true. I wonder what Guy Smiith would say if he left the NFU? Actually, I don’t.

Oh yes, and the article recommended reducing meat intake not buying it from our Trumpian friends across the Pond, but you knew that didn’t you Guy?


9 Replies to “Guys, guys.”

  1. Mark, I was researching that “2.5 times” statement a couple of weeks ago and ended up writing this:

    ” “British beef has a greenhouse gas footprint two-and-a-half times lower than the global average”. On their website, the NFU say they have taken this stat from a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UN FAO) report published in 2013 analysing the global greenhouse gas impacts of a range of livestock. The headline is almost forgivable, but some of the assumptions that have been made by people repeating it are not.

    The report does not specifically mention British beef. The analysis looks at the GHG footprint per unit of production in different regions. The average GHG footprint per unit of production across all regions is about 2.5 times greater than the average GHG footprint per unit of production in Western Europe. The main reason for this is that in Western Europe the main production system is mixed meat and dairy, and the report divides the GHG footprint of a single cow across all of the milk and meat that comes from that cow. In other regions, such as Latin America, the main production system is meat only, where the GHG footprint of a single cow is divided across the meat that comes from it. Although different cattle and different feeds do have an impact on the GHG footprint of a cow, the differences are marginal and almost always result in more expensive meat.

    If I was being particularly pedantic I would point out that some of the underlying data dates back to 2005, that “two-and-a-half times lower” does not make sense, etc.”

    1. “two-and-a-half times lower” does not make sense, etc.”

      They would really be onto something if they found a way of producing beef that had a negative carbon footprint! Burgers all round!

  2. Think that scientist forgot we all need food,think at the moment we only produce about 50% to 60% of what we consume and we should not ask rest of the world to feed us.
    His solution of vertical farming is really unbelievably likely to use massive amounts of energy and water.
    Both commodities he should value.Love
    No good asking everyone to waste less food as history proves more waste each decade.

    1. Do you really think hydroponics (which is the most common approach in vertical farming) uses more energy and water per unit biomass than conventional flatland arable, Dennis? You’re completely wrong. Such systems use a fraction of the water of irrigated arable. Within a decade or so such facilities can be powered 24hrs a day by solar power (with batteries supplying electricity to power lighting at night). There are farms in London producing green vegies in disused tunnels beneath the city. Biomass produced per unit of space – ha for example – is vastly greater if you layer production stories high. I think Prof. Boyd does value water – let’s stop growing salad veggies on fenland peat and re-wet it all!

      1. Some very impressive work on the potential of urban and vertical farming in the last decade. An interesting summation by Kevin Frediani at the OFC in 2014:

        I’d like to see some data on potential for calorific output – as opposed to green salad leaves – because the production of row crops in the field is one of the best ways of damaging soil structure and I just can’t see what benefit the World gets from so many courgettes apart from a surplus of chutney.

        But until the producers of rare earth metals for batteries stop relying on children to mine them I think we should just say no.

  3. Regarding ‘vertical farming’, a couple of Fenland farmers are already looking at this as a way of increasing salad veg growing. Growing lettuces on vast flat peat fields in the drained fens is an utter nonsense compared to growing layer upon layer of lettuces on solar-powered vertical farm units off the floodplain. Such systems don’t use soil and are hugely water efficient compared to the crazy abstracted water irrigation one sees across Fenland in summer (if you can see through the clouds of wind-swept peat). I say, shift arable off of the Fenland peats and re-wet the whole area. It’s the driest part of the country and one of our biggest soil carbon emitters ffs!
    If I was the local planning authority I’d be using planning gain from all that housing development to fund farmer relocation and vertical farm set ups and hand the peatlands to NT, WT, RSPB, WWT etc for wetland restoration…

    1. Well that vertical thing might be fun for salad stuff but good luck when some clever spark tried sprouts, cabbage, runner bkeans, broad beans, potatoes, carrots, parsnips,sugar beet, and lots of others. Everyone become rabbits!!!.

  4. In 2017 and 2018 Ian Boyd did criticise pesticide use – not because the products killed things as intended but for the way the regulatory controls on their use did not prevent the adoption of prophylactic treatment as the default, at landscape scale and without respite in rotations. At the root of those developments was the lack of selectivity in products which allowed use on a wide range of crops, resulting in particular in neonicotinoids and glyphosate use becoming integral parts of crop management without regard for collateral damage. His interjections stood out from the babble of incoherent ranting directed at Monsanto and Bayer and attempted to give some steer for the future. However I feel his ideas for land use change are a bit Noddy. Like every other pundit I have heard the focus is at the level of primary production but doesn’t mention the impact on the food supply chain – which possibly accounts for 10% of all jobs, and the agricultural supply industry. In comparison to those numbers the number of active farmers is small.

    It may be that Ian Boyd had more to say – but the Gaianurd article doesn’t provide a reference so we don’t know in full what was said, or where, or when.

    Or what relevance a roe buck boinging through a fallow field in Oxfordshire has. Or maybe it was a Chinese Water Deer.

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