Agriculture Bill

Written evidence submitted by Richard Bruce (AB28)

1. Background. I make the following comments as an individual, not part of any organisation, and make them based on my experience as the son and grandson of farm workers and one who began as a farm worker, reached management level and was then made disabled by exposure to a dangerous mixture of insecticides.

2. Before this country joined the Common Market I was part of the post-war generation brought up under rationing and living through what was to be known as the "Green Revolution" when farming methods changed forever, and not always for the better, and amazing yield increases were obtained. Having worked on both small farms and large estates from roguing wild oats by hand as a child through handling 2 1/4 cwt sacks of grain to using modern computerised equipment and sprayers etc., agriculture has changed remarkably in the last 70 years.

3. Recently the BBC series the Wartime Farm was re-broadcast and brought back memories of the difficulties Britain faced and how the fertility of the soil was being depleted due to the loss of livestock on the land.

4. Sadly the Agriculture Bill indicates that politicians have still not heeded the warnings of the past and our future food supply is being put at risk, not by Brexit but by the failure to recognise the damage being done to our soils and food quality.

5. I confess that I and my family were always opposed to Britain being controlled by diktat from Europe and the recent "negotiations" have only shown to prove just how much our lives are now determined by the views of unelected officials overseas and scientists who are controlled by multi-national companies whose interests are not necessarily those which advantage the people of this country.

6. Public Payments for Public Good may sound like a positive plan but the definition of what is a public good fails to take sufficient note of the harm done to the public by methods used in Agriculture.

7. Recent research shows for example that those who eat an organic diet do not suffer so much from cancers. This should not be surprising since many pesticides such as the organophosphates are known to disrupt the actions of the mitochondria which are themselves vital to keep cells alive and to control the destruction of unwanted or miss-formed cells and proteins.

8. Perhaps more importantly many of the chemicals used in agriculture, including the organophosphorus compounds, have long been known to damage both DNA and RNA.

9. It should be no surprise then that so many serious illnesses now increasing rapidly in the population have been demonstrated to be the result of missing or wrongly formed proteins, the production of which is controlled by the DNA and RNA.

10. Minimum tillage is being promoted as the future for agriculture but it is completely reliant on the increased use of chemicals such as glyphosate, which is also an organophosphorus compound and has been shown to harm both insect and human health, even in court, where evidence of gross deception as regards the long-known dangers was exposed.

11. Not only is the danger of these chemicals ignored but also forgotten is the fact that such methods are not sustainable because the vital resources used to produce the chemicals are quickly being depleted while the damage caused by them is increasing.

12. Perhaps the "Public Good" referred to is more environmental but again the reliance on these chemicals will inevitably cause damage to the environment as it has long been known that the chemicals are destroying beneficial insects. When the insects are destroyed the food supply for birds is also lost and there are fewer natural pollinators for the crops we need for survival.

13. For some reason scientists now declare that keeping livestock and eating meat is bad for the environment but this neglects to acknowledge that it was livestock which, over centuries, helped to create the fertile soils that are now exploited by agribusiness.

14. Strangely in the attacks on livestock farming and eating meat no mention is made of the far more polluting air transport system which pumps masses of pollutants into the atmosphere on every single flight - pollutants from a single flight that would keep numerous houses warm in this country for decades. Despite this the government makes plans to expand business at airports.

15. Likewise governments around the world take no action on the growing of tobacco and cannabis, despite the vast resources wasted on those crops, which will normally only be burned and released into the atmosphere, endangering health and minds and I often wonder if the use of mind altering drugs is having a detrimental effect on policy making decisions and public opinion.

16. Again, whilst livestock farming is criticised, there is a plan to move to electrically powered vehicles, conveniently forgetting that converting from one form of energy to another itself uses energy, as does the distribution system and the production of relatively short-lived batteries for storing that energy. Even Nuclear Power stations are wrongly declared to be "carbon-free", carefully neglecting to account for the building, mining, transport, distribution, storage of waste and decommissioning inputs, etc.Forgotten too is the effect on Ocean temperatures by the use of sea water to cool the reactors. We are informed that if Ocean temperatures rise then much methane will be released, as is already occurring in the Arctic Tundra etc.

17. Taken together all those polluting effects and the ever increasing human population must question the claims for the global warming effects of livestock, especially when the benefits to fertility and human health are taken into consideration. If these plans succeed no doubt the profits of the chemical companies will increase in the short term via increased sales of seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, oils and fuel but in the long term it is sure to be a disaster for our soils and for human health because vital trace elements and organic matter will be lost.

18. Already the cost of removing polluting chemicals from the water supply is high but it will be much higher if we have to produce more annual arable and horticultural crops with much less or no permanent pasture. Transport costs and pollution too are likely to increase to move the additional inputs and produce around the country.

Just how much "Public Good" is involved in these plans and why should farmers be paid to hasten the effects by turning away from more environmentally sustainable methods, which have served us well for centuries?

19. Phasing Out Direct Payments - Personally I have never understood why there was ever a payment based on the amount of land owned. I suspect that this stems from the fact that most of those influencing governments are themselves owners of large farms who often employ people to do the work that smaller farmers have to do themselves.

It has always seemed unfair to me that the large estates are in receipt of far higher subsidies than struggling small hill farmers.

20. The EU payment system was inferior to the subsidy system which Britain had before we joined the Common Market and which was designed for British conditions and requirements. The EU system certainly made a lot of large estates very rich and able to buy out their smaller neighbours at very low cost but it also caused much environmental harm and loss of many environmentally important areas of formerly uncultivated land.

21. The problem became so serious that the EU brought in payments so as to stop farmers exploiting the subsidy system by ploughing up formerly untouched land and the system had to be changed again to prevent the repeat of the so-called wine and milk lakes and grain mountains etc. This would never have happened under the system developed before Britain joined the Common Market.

22. My own view is that no farmer should be paid more subsidy than is paid in disability benefit to those whose health has been irreparably harmed by their poisons for if it is sufficient to maintain the disabled it should be more than enough for a fit working farmer who should, if efficient, earn good money for the produce.

23. Potential to 'delink' payments from farming requirements. Why on earth would the government want to pay farmers to retire from farming? No worker retiring from farming would ever be offered compensation for leaving his job so why should a farmer be given such a payment given that even a tenant farmer would be able to sell equipment, stock and/or produce on retirement. It seems to be a plan to make already wealthy people richer.

24. Data Collection will, as always only ever be as useful as the input information and the way the software used is written. The programmers can all too easily introduce errors and bias into the software but the biggest problems are always how the data used is generated, how accurate it is, and the intentions of those processing the information.

25. "Traceability from farm to plate" involves expensive data collection and processing but the system failed spectacularly in the Horse Meat Scandal and has failed to discover the use of illegal pesticides and failures to observe post treatment pre-harvest intervals. Had the input data been accurate it would still have been worthless had those using the data not identified the issues in time to prevent the potentially dangerous food entering the food chain.

26. Market intervention. EU membership has resulted in the dismantling of the Marketing Boards that were designed to provide both a reliable supply of food and other products and to give a guaranteed income for farmers. Those systems had been in development for years and had been successful before Britain joined the Common Market. They had been essential for the improvements in post war agriculture.

27. At that time the government realised that providing farmers with reliable and up to date information on ways to improve productivity and food safety and ensured that there was an excellent free advisory service, helping rapid progress, but then it was privatised and the service became a profit-making venture.

28. Since the end of the Milk Marketing Board for example the dairy industry has been devastated. There were some 318 dairy farms locally in 1969. Now there are less than 10 and along with that loss have been machinery suppliers, veterinary surgeons, food, fertiliser and seed suppliers, agricultural workers and the other service industries.

29. Worse still those who spend long hours rearing the cows, maintaining the herds and producing the milk are left to the mercy of those who profit from processing and selling the milk and milk products and who, unlike the farmers, can set their own prices so as to ensure that they retain their profit margins, often to the detriment of the farmers who produce the milk.

30. Marketing Standards. Interestingly the politicians and retailers insist, rightly, on the highest standards from UK farmers with penalties if those standards are not reached, and yet they are more than happy to import food from other countries where those standards not not as high, and even to sell poor quality cuts of meat as premium cuts. This is not the way to run UK agriculture but the suspicion is that the situation will be much worse after Brexit for political reasons.

31. Producer Organisations and Fairness in the Supply Chain. Whether or not there will ever be fairness in the supply of food to the public will depend on the willingness of the UK government to protect food production in the UK. It would seem that there are lessons to be re-learnt regarding the safety of the food supply and perhaps the marketing boards should be re-instated so as to give stable prices which can be relied upon and which will allow farmers to plan better for the future?

32. As we have seen with pesticide use voluntary codes simply do not work as we are told they should. Corners are cut and risks are taken while promises to allow any people adversely affected by pesticides to be warned of impending operations and be given access to information on products used are simply not kept. Every effort is made to hide and deny cases in which adverse reactions to pesticides occur and on numerous occasions those efforts have actually been unlawful.

33. World Trade Organisation obligations should not be permitted to take precedence over the protection of human health and our environment.

34. Investing in the future of Farming. There are concerns that the farming community will lose the financial support which it has received from the EU via the CAP but it is said that Britain is a net contributor to EU funds, paying in far more money than it receives. There have been concerns expressed in the scientific community that their funding too will be reduced post Brexit. For the same reason this would seem to be unlikely given that Britain receives less that it pays and so once the initial phase of Brexit is over, during which it must be hoped that the EU continues to fund the various schemes until Britain leaves, presumably there will be enough money found by not paying into the EU to continue funding agriculture, science and the NHS, or even increase that funding.

35. There has been much criticism of the claims made during the referendum about money for the NHS but the biggest risk to the NHS is the persistent failure of science, medicine and politicians to acknowledge the harm done to human health by farming practices, especially by using the extremely dangerous organophosphorus group of chemicals but also by all the other improperly tested pesticides.

36. Diseases such as Diabetes, Alzheimers, Dementia, Parkinson’s, Asthma, Autoimmune diseases, cancers, mental illness, cardio-respiratory and a host of other conditions such as allergies, multiple chemical sensitivity, anorexia and obesity have all been scientifically linked to poisons used in agriculture and although these things may be officially wrongly denied now they have actually been recognised as linked for decades. Moving to a more organic production method assisted by independent science could reduce the rate of these diseases and make Britain a leading light in world agriculture developing truly stable and sustainable methods.

37. There may never be another time to take this step, especially if the dangers presenting themselves to us now are not recognised and we allow our GM free and organic standards to fall by the wayside losing the potential for premium prices on the world market.

38. Regulatory changes after Brexit. Interestingly much concern is now shown regarding the regulation of food, medicines, pesticides and radiation after Brexit, implying that Britain no linger has effective regulatory bodies in place. If that is the case then what have all our regulators been paid to do for the last 45 years?

39. It has been noted for many years that when concerns are raised about the safety of foods and the pesticides added to those foods it is said that no action can be taken in this country without EU approval.

40. Effectively then our regulators have been paid to do nothing effective to protect us for all that time and now concerns are raised that we must establish our own system. This confirms that we have all been paying for a failing system for decades.

41. In 1992 when I was first given a questionnaire designed to determine my attitude to chemicals I was asked if there should be greater regulation of chemicals. My answer then, as it would be now, is that there is no need for more regulation but there is an urgent need for the effective enforcement of all current regulations.

42. If regulations are not properly enforced there are effectively no regulations at all and in reality this has been my experience for the last 27 years.

43. To my surprise when I raised these issues with my former MP who had been on the Justice Committee he sought advice and wrote to me saying that even the Police were not under any obligation to enforce any law at all as they are permitted to prioritise areas of expenditure - unenforced laws are no laws at all.

44. After Brexit. What we require are regulated ways of growing food which restrict the use of dangerous and improperly tested pesticides and which encourage more natural ways of growing a variety of crops and livestock so as to rebuild and protect the fertility of our soils. There is much talk of needing new technology to feed the world and yet too much land is surrendered from food production to growing industrial crops and crops that are sacrificed to produce gas and electricity.

45. Thousands of acres of tropical forest have been destroyed for the same reasons and the planet is already beginning to pay a high price for this folly.

46. Powerful humans fool themselves if they think they have the upper hand over nature. She always finds a way to fight back and it would be wise to try and work with her so as to ensure our survival on a planet whose resources we are wasting at accelerating rates. If we are not very careful we will pay a terrible price for this greed and the way we have tried to manipulate things we do not fully understand.

47. The government should re-visit those post war days and the measures that were taken then to ensure a safe and sustainable food supply.

48. Look again at the way honest and responsible independent scientists warned of the dangers and ask why their good work has been deliberately undermined by corporate greed and its tame scientific spokespeople.

49. Establish an effective regulatory system and an efficient enforcement body completely independent of those who approve practices as "safe" simply for profit.

50. But above all create a subsidy system which ensures a sustainable, safe and reliable supply of wholesome foods for a balanced diet, preferably free of the chemicals that are known to trigger a host of the illnesses ad allergic reactions now so prevalent in our population, and especially in the young who have never known what it is like to eat naturally produced food and increasingly suffer health problems as a result.

October 2018

 

Prepared 25th October 2018