Tag Archives: Andrew Burgess

Changing Perceptions

What a sea change we have seen over recent years in the consuming public’s perception of agriculture. True, the same weary suspects still trot out their mantras about intensive farming ruining the environment, hedgerows ripped out and farmland bird populations reaching dangerous levels, but the reality, I believe, is that many people now have a much greater appreciation of agriculture’s role in producing safe, wholesome food, and that they care about the land that they are custodians of.

The horse meat scandal, the effects of atrocious weather with repercussions affecting two harvests, the plight of some farmers in less favoured areas, and the real hardship of farmers coping with bovine TB, have been regular features in the media.  More people have taken holidays in the UK this year and have discovered how truly beautiful our countryside is.  Here in Yorkshire where I farm, we are spoilt for choice with the unique landscape of the Dales, the purple majesty of the North York Moors, and the rolling splendour of the fertile Wolds.  The barren wastes and the ‘silent spring’ don’t seem to exist as the London based left-wing intelligentsia would have us believe.

LEAF has played a major part in this, with its role in improving communications and engaging local communities. Over a million people have visited farms during Open Farm Sunday since it started seven years ago.  Others visit LEAF Demonstration Farms throughout the year. The NFU has also played a huge role in calmly putting farming’s case in the face of scares and media hysteria.

608The recent “Harvest” series of three programmes on prime time BBC2 shows how far we have come. Andrew Burgess, a LEAF trustee and LEAF Marque producer demonstrated in a most genuine way his passion for growing a range of wholesome vegetables to the highest standard, on a large scale to high environmental standards.  What was noticeable was that the presenters were so enthusiastic about this modern, technology driven harvest, and there was no carping about industrial farming and reliance on poisonous pesticides and fertilisers. Andrew, and his fellow farmers on subsequent nights, have made us a lot of friends out there.


stephen-fellStephen Fell is LEAF’s Chairman and Managing Director of the family farming business HR Fell and Sons Ltd, running a flock of 1000 sheep and growing root crops at Thorganby in the Vale of York. He is also Managing Director of Lindum Turf, a business growing and marketing a range of turf and specialist grass and wildflower products.


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GM is not an alternative to good husbandry practices

Good practice and Integrated Farm Management are important regardless of GM technology

Good practice and Integrated Farm Management are important regardless of GM technology

This morning, UK Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, gave a keynote speech on the subject of GM (Genetic Modification) at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, Hertfordshire.  Mr Paterson said, “GM has already been used to make crops that can resist attack from specific insect pests or plant diseases.  Other traits are being developed, including using scientific expertise here in the UK.

“We cannot expect to feed tomorrow’s population with yesterday’s agriculture.  We have to use every tool at our disposal.”

At LEAF, we recognise the importance of innovation and technology, including modern biotechnology and developments such as GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). The potential benefits to farmers and consumers need to be clearly identified and weighed against the possible risks.  Risk management is paramount to the decisions being made and as the jury is still out; LEAF will continue to monitor developments.  However, there are several areas that cannot be neglected.

One of these is the need for more research into GM technology.  We need to be able to establish the development of plants that have greater resistance to pests and diseases, more resilience to adverse environments and develop the nutrition value of crops.

Added to this is the importance of beneficial husbandry practices and Integrated Farm Management.  Rotations, safe use of inputs, cultivation choice, variety choice, good record keeping and management systems such as those advocated by LEAF are essential.  GM will never be an alternative to these practices, it has the potential to be one of the tools in the box.

There is a need for rational debate on GM, bringing together researchers, farmers and consumers. At our annual President’s Event in 2011, we brought together Prof Sir David Baulcombe, FRS and Andrew Burgess, Agricultural Director of Produce World, to openly discuss plant genetics and opportunities in agriculture. You can see this discussion in the video below.

Our full position on GMO’s can be found on our website here.

What are your thoughts on GM technology? What are the big questions yet to be answered? Please give us your views in the comments section below.

New Videos!

If you were at our President’s event on the 2nd November, you will have probably seen a few cameras around. Well, the footage is now ready for you all to see! We have three videos, one of Jim Paice launching our new Water Management Tool and two interviews that you won’t have seen on the day. Enjoy!