Brexit Highlights EU’s Archaic Attitude Toward Agriculture
Over the weekend of October 19-20, representatives from the United Kingdom and the European Union sat down in Brussels to discuss Brexit. The main issue at the time, as it still is, was the so-called ‘divorce bill’ to be paid to the EU by the UK.
Another issue yet to be sorted out is the future of UK farmers after Brexit takes effect in March 2019. With the country only 62% self-efficient when it comes to feeding its citizens, agricultural policy is an important yet often over-looked issue.
With no current trade deals in place with either the continental bloc or the United States, Britain’s farmers are preparing for the worst. Yet, in that uncertainty there is still hope.
British agriculture will leave behind many restrictions mandated by their inclusion in the EU, like the hot-button issue of GMOs and glyphosate. European authorities have only recently allowed the use of glyphosate, although many member-states, like France, still oppose its use.
That is despite the fact that the scientific community believes glyphosate, an herbicide, to be completely safe. According to Meurig Raymond, President of the National Famers’ Union, Brexit will allow UK farmers to embrace the scientifically-proven herbicide regardless of what they do on the continent.
Speculation holds that if a time should arise when glyphosate is banned in the EU, it will have drastic impacts on agriculturalists’ bottom line. The switch to older techniques not using glyphosate would also necessitate an increased use of carbon emitting farming equipment, increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
As far as GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) go, while there is still resistance by some of the general public in the UK, they are still used far more widely in Britain than in other EU member-states. Mr. Raymond acknowledges the fact that farmers are using GM feed for their livestock.
This is despite the fact that the EU has banned genetically modified products from their markets. The President of the National Farmers’ Union claims that the use of non-GM feed would price many farmers out of agriculture.
While Britain currently does not import hormone-treated beef from the US, the American use of GMOs makes their prices far more competitive than British or European products. So, the limited use of GM feed is currently keeping costs down for agriculturalists while also keeping hormone infused meat off the market.
Brexit will change many aspects of life in the UK, especially, it would seem, for farmers. With the continent no longer being able to change the way British agriculturalists farm, people like Mr. Raymond are hopeful agriculture has a bright future.