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New report argues for transformational change in ownership of data and information in farming

A new report from Common Wealth highlights the need for transformational changes to the structures of ownership that exist within the UK’s food and farming system, especially when it comes to data and information.

Messy library. Credit: Pixabay

Messy library. Credit: Pixabay

The Common Wealth report argues that environmental change in food and farming must be accompanied by social change. And that the current power imbalances which exist within the sector will continue to perpetuate issues around climate change, nature loss, public health and food insecurity.

It sets out two visions. One based on a continuation of the status quo where power and equity continue to sit within a small number of agri-businesses and food corporations. And another where food and farming is based more on cooperation, diversity and community.

The report puts forward policy recommendations that could create a fairer food and farming system based on the frameworks of agroecology and food sovereignty; here are some of the key ones:

  • Redirect public Research & Development spending away from intensive agriculture and towards agroecological farming systems
  • Review Intellectual Property (IP) rights and create IP Commons (i.e. community owned IP) that also act as knowledge hubs
  • Creation of a publicly funded agri-environment benchmarking service that is free to use for all farmers across the UK
  • Use of agri-environment and land use data to inform a land use strategy that can help local areas better target public money and planning policy
  • Facilitation of on-farm agricultural research, extension and transformation through a network of publicly owned farms
  • Establish regional delivery bodies that can support farmer-led networks and local projects in disseminating research and knowledge

Rob Booth, author of the report, said: 

British agriculture is at a crossroads. Environmental uncertainty, net zero legislation and the UK’s departure from the European Union mandate change in the coming years. Research and development, data and advisory services will shape this change in any outcome.

What this report sets out, however, is that the current direction of travel will lock in existing problems with the food system via these processes. In particular, corporate power, concentrated ownership and a reliance on synthetic inputs and fossil fuels will be perpetuated without significant policy interventions that reshape the way we create and share knowledge about how we grow food.

This report sets out what such interventions should look like, offering suggestions for research, data and knowledge exchange that would create a more democratic, just and sustainable agricultural sector in the UK.”

Find the report here.

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Published 6 Dec 2021

Sustainable Farming Campaign: Sustain encourages integration of sustainable food and farming into local, regional and national government policies.

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