Examination of Witness

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 13th February 2020.

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George Monbiot:

It can be both. It can be highly productive in producing a handful of crop species and deserted in terms of wildlife. There are large areas of arable land, particularly in East Anglia, where there is little wildlife. We see a lot of nitrate pollution, soil erosion and water pollution. It is not in a good ecological state, even though, thanks to lashings of NPK and lots of pesticides, we are producing a lot of food there.

We must recognise that what is great on one metric is not so great on another. The attempt to pretend that they are one and the same—that agriculture is good for ecosystems and that the more we have, the better it will be for ecosystems—clouds this whole debate. There is an inherent conflict between an extractive economy, which simplifies ecosystems, and the complex, rich ecosystems, with food webs that are both wide and deep, which an ecologist like me wants to see.