This letter was published in The Times on 1st December 2020.


A key question arising from your leading article (Nov 30) on post-Brexit farming is whether the approach should be “land sharing” or “land sparing”. Defra is sitting on the fence but the issue really matters. The land sparers advocate further intensification of the best land, leaving more space for rewilding on the remaining areas. Supporters of this approach include many academics and policymakers, and Sir David Attenborough, who recently said that the UK should adopt the same approach that has been used in Holland, of farming more intensively on the best land, thus making more room for rewilding.

By contrast, “land sharers” believe that if future food production systems worked in harmony with nature, farmers could produce adequate yields of highly nutritious food while hosting vastly increased populations of soil organisms, wild plants, insects, small mammals and farmland birds, all of which have been decimated by intensive farming. Unless there is a national debate about which approach should be adopted, there is a real risk that Defra will back the land-sparing approach by default, through a failure to allocate sufficient funds for farming in harmony with nature.

Patrick Holden

CEO, Sustainable Food Trust

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