Has our esteemed Secretary of State for the Environment Owen Paterson been reading George Monbiot’s new book Feral, where he rewilds himself in order to attain an enlightened state that reveals a vision of a rewilded future?
For me this conjures an image of O-Patz wrestling a mullet to the ground and ripping its gills out with his bare teeth while wrestling mentally with the need to feed the world and save nature all at the same time. There are dark recesses of my mind where it is best for me not to venture too often. Regular readers will understand this and skip over the (ir) relevant bits.
The reason for these random musings is that yesterday, in a heartfelt speech to a carefully selected audience of pro-GM agribusiness executives and the biotech-agriculture-industrial complex, Paterson laid bare his heart on the need for the UK and Europe to adopt, with extreme enthusiasm, GMO technology. Paterson was on a mission to persuade the GM-denialists that this is the future and if it isn’t adopted we will slip into a new dark age of hunger and misery.
Not only will they feed the world, but GMOs are actually much better for the environment than conventional crops, according to O-Patz, and of course this is the official Defra and Government position.
I was slightly staggered to read that he had proclaimed
“Even more excitingly, if we use cultivated land more efficiently, we could free up space for biodiversity, nature and wilderness. Something I know a number of commentators have been calling for. Research undertaken by a team at Rockefeller University has found that over the course of the next 50 years new technology, combined with improved agricultural practices across the world, could release an area 2.5 times the size of France from cultivation.”
Now setting aside his unusual use of the “Size of France” unit instead of the usual “Size of Wales” unit (has he something against Wales or is this a friendly overture to our continental neighbours – I digress) his argument is an extraordinary one – and I can only assume he has read Monbiot’s book and has been caught in the re-wilding zeal and is desperate to find a way to make space for re-wilding even in the most intensively managed landscapes.
Imagine the scene 50 years hence. East Anglia has moved wholesale into GM crop production, especially useful as salt-tolerance has enabled soya bean production (on which we now all depend for nutrition, alongside industrially produced grasshoppers) to continue regardless of the regular incursions from the sea. Production output has soared and as a result all farming enterprises across the region have agreed amongst themselves to pay 20% of their profits into a fund to purchase and manage the new fen wilderness area, which covers 200,000ha of Cambridgeshire and is managed by the Royal Society for the Promotion of Wilderness and Trust.
Here lions and elephants are the keystone mammals and have settled in very nicely since they were introduced 20 years previously. Hippos play an important role in maintaining the wetland ecosystems that have re-naturalised from former intensive agricultural land. Badgers are on the edge of extinction, having been eaten by the lions.
I look forward to seeing the joint press conference between George and O-Patz where they announce their shared vision. I’m sure they’ll get along just fine.
Or alternatively it could all look like this: