Greener pastures? A look into food security and sustainable farming practice at Conservative Party Conference 2022


CropLifeUK partnered with the independent think tank Bright Blue at the 2022 Conservative Party Conference exploring how to balance food security with sustainability and unlocking rural areas full potential. Sitting on the panel were some excellent speakers from politics, industry, the media and the third sector; Mark Spencer, DEFRA minister, Rebecca Pow MP, former DEFRA Minister, Fay Jones MP, Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Environment, and Helena Horton, an environmental journalist at The Guardian, Kyle Lischak, ClientEarth, Dave Bench, CEO of CropLife UK – voice of the UK’s plant science industry – and Ryan Shorthouse, founder of Bright Blue .

Our discussion centred on how policy and technology that can ensure that, after Brexit, Britain can lead the world in agricultural production and innovation. The panels agree that there should be no dichotomy between food production and sustainability in farming practice and policy. The conversation was lively and engaged, with lots of questions and engagement from a packed house. Reflecting the growing concern around delivering food security by producing healthy nutritious food sustainably.

Much of the focus of the panel was around the future of key Government initiatives, including the Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMs). Spencer confirmed at the event that ELMs needed ‘tweaking’. CEO Dave Bench pointed out that there are longer term policies we can work on however there are things you could do immediately to make things simpler, ELMs being one of them by making it more accessible for growers.

CEO Dave Bench highlighted the both the environment and agriculture both go hand in hand, all panellists agreed that we don’t need to make a choice between sustainable and efficient farming: we can have both. Mr Spencer – himself saying that “science is our friend”. Speaking on the ways to achieve this balance, Mr Spencer said that we needed to “take advantage of the opportunities presented to us” post-Brexit.

For food security and the sustainable farming of healthy food, all panellists agreed that the way forward, was supporting innovative agri-policy that would allow us to take advantage of this unprecedented moment in British agricultural history. A agreed support for farmers to access innovation, including gene editing, would be critical to achieving these complementary aims.

Dave Bench, Chief Executive of CropLife UK said:

“We need to be able to ensure that we take advantage of the new opportunities that the UK has in front of it, coming out of the Brexit vote and the legislative agenda laid down by this Government. We can ultimately ensure that we deliver food supply chains all the more secure and healthy food made all the more sustainably by combining scientific advance and yield increase, with plant protection products folded into nature-focused integrated pest management systems. It was excellent to see the panel finding this to be the case, whilst also thinking on the ability for this country to really take the next big step forward in its approach to agricultural policy, with the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill, coming back to Parliament this session – it offering-up the opportunity for us to sustainably deliver food to people’s plates, over the long-term.”