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Analysis and Comment (45)

Australia’s reputation for strict farming standards helped its beef industry weather the BSE crisis. Malcolm Paterson/CSIRO/Wikimedia Commons

Australia shouldn’t sacrifice food safety standards for free trade

Ten years on from the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement, Australia is entering another round of negotiations towards the new and controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership. In this Free Trade Scorecard series…
Environmental officer Glendon Turner was allegedly shot and killed by a New South Wales farmer. AAP Image/NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Turner Family

Land clearing laws bring out worrying libertarian streak

Last week, an environmental officer, Glendon Turner, was allegedly shot and killed by a farmer near the town of Moree in New South Wales. A 79-year old man, Ian Turnbull, has been charged with Mr Turner’s…
Not all that which is greening is green. André Künzelmann/UFZ

The ‘greening’ of Europe’s farms has been a failure

The European policies designed to encourage a more biodiverse environment that is better able to support wildlife and plants are failing. In fact, our analysis of the reforms designed to “green” the EU…
Canola fields: one of the battlegrounds of the debate over genetic modification. Michael Jones/supplied

WA’s court verdict on GM crops is a dose of common sense

In a landmark West Australian Supreme Court decision, a farmer growing a genetically modified canola crop has been spared the blame after his neighbour accused him of contaminating his organic farm next…
Cleaned out - badgers can make quick work of even spiny hedgehogs. Steve Plummer

The badger cull is not the answer to hedgehogs’ problems

What to do, when two of Britain’s most loved animals run up against each other? In a study recently published in the journal PLOS One, we found that the numbers of hedgehogs living in suburban areas in…
GM crops are grown without fuss around the world, just not the UK and Europe. EPA/Shepherd Zhou

GM crops: time to counter the scare stories and relax barriers

Many people, including me, are pretty fed up with the continuing fuss about GM food and crops. Are they too dangerous to eat? Are they a hazard to the environment? Despite a “debate” stretching back to…
Australian farmland is changing hands more often, but data on who is buying and selling is inadequate. Erin Smith

Lost in the paddock: Australia flying blind on farm ownership

The debate about who owns Australia’s farmland is often expressed in crude and narrow ways, and not just on talkback radio. Take last year’s leaders debate at Rooty Hill during the final week of the election…
Tony Abbott may say his government is giving farmers a ‘hand-up’ - as opposed to welfare ‘hand-outs’ - but all publicly funded assistance must be equitable. AAP/Andrew Meares

Farm poverty: an area of policy aid built on sands of ignorance

The drought package announced by prime minister Tony Abbott on Wednesday included “more generous criteria for accessing income support” by drought-affected farmers. Income support is to be paid through…
What lies beneath this watery landscape? Steve Parsons/PA

Floods leave farms underwater, and farmers under pressure

I’ve been talking to farmers all this week, many of whom have had their fields underwater for a month or more. It is quite soul destroying to see the natural assets of your business, on which you depend…
Often called “Australia’s most valuable farm”, Cubbie Station in southwest Queensland is now majority foreign-owned. AAP/Cubbie Group

Old MacDonald sold the farm: so what’s the future for agriculture?

When most Australians think about farmers, one image still springs to mind: a family in Akubras and Blundstones, battling the elements with a Blue Heeler by their side. That’s still the image invoked by…
A far-from-mellow yellow. Owen Humphreys/PA

Revealed: the chemical blitz bees face in fields

Perhaps I was naive, but when I discovered the extent of the chemical soup applied to typical fields I was astonished. As part of our ongoing investigations into the impact of pesticides on bees, we looked…
Keep looking - there’s a new way of farming in there somewhere. Geoff Caddick/PA

Break agriculture’s chemical monopolies to free our food

Current farming methods rely too much on expensive chemicals such as fertiliser and pesticides; agroecology combines the best of ecological science and farmers’ knowledge to develop more sustainable food…
Profits drive the industry, not sustainability. naturalengland

Pitting profits and food supply against the natural world

The arguments for increasing food demand are well publicised and well understood. By the middle of this century, the planet’s population will top nine billion, presenting a third more mouths to feed. Much…
Has Charles good points to make about the countryside, or is he just stirring it up? Ben Birchall/PA

Charles: the future king with retro-vision

In this week’s Country Life HRH Prince of Wales writes of the social and economic importance of farming. It is, he says: the bedrock of our rural communities, making post offices, pubs, public transport…
The battle for Warrnambool Cheese and Butter is a vote of confidence in the Australian dairy industry. Johnsyweb/Flickr

WCB battle and farmer ownership: dairy at a crossroads

The share price of Victorian dairy processor Warrnambool Cheese and Butter (WCB) has more than doubled over recent weeks in response to a takeover tussle between Australian publicly listed company Bega…
When disturbed, badgers' social groups scatter and spread TB more widely. Ben Birchall/PA

Tuberculosis, tracking devices, and the social lives of badgers

Badgers in the UK are an important wildlife reservoir for bovine tuberculosis, a disease that leads to the slaughter of thousands of cattle each year at a significant cost to the tax payer. But the badger…
Seamus Heaney up close with the local environment. Burns Library, Boston College

Seamus Heaney - the death of a naturalist

The sudden death on Friday of the Irish Nobel prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney has focused international minds and media on the power of poetry to affect our lives. This is especially true from an environmental…
You don’t need to be Glastonbury’s Michael Eavis to be happy about renweables. Ben Birchall/PA

Farmers could use land to create power as well as food

One of Britain’s largest independent cheese producers, Wyke Farms in Somerset, picked up a commendation in the BusinessGreen Leaders awards this month for its efforts to become completely energy self-sufficient…
Big farmers win big under agricultural policy, but change is in the air. Chris Ison/PA

After 50 years, Eurocrats still aren’t sure what the CAP is for

Reforming the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy has never been easy, and that’s hardly surprising. It’s well established that when interests are concentrated together, such as those of farmers…
Britain’s best loved mammal, but no friend to cattle farmers. Ben Birchall/PA

Swapping science for shooting won’t save cattle or badgers

What do the pilot badger culls due to start this weekend in Gloucester and West Somerset hope to achieve? The official line is a 16% reduction of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle herds over the next…
New research suggests that seeds could now be formed without the biological process of fertilisation. CIMMYT

Seeds without sex – some racy findings on the cloning of plants

Sex without seed. Seed without sex. It’s been said that the greatest gift of science to humankind would be achieving those two goals. Effective contraceptives such as the pill have pretty much nailed the…
Christmas is a time of plenty - but to ensure we keep eating well in the future, it’s time to rethink the way we buy and produce food. Barbeque image from www.shutterstock.com

Eat, think, and be merry

As we gather to share a meal with friends and family this festive season, it is the ideal time to reflect on our relationship with food, including our dependence on those who grow it for us. Australians…
It would be smarter to use perennial native grasses for cereal grains instead of relying on a handful of farming-intensive annual crops. Shown here is Curly Mitchell grass (Astrebla lappacea), common in northern Australia. Ian Chivers

Splendour in the grass: new approaches to cereal production

Any investment manager will tell an investor to spread risks, to have a diverse portfolio, to engage with many sectors of the local economy, to invest in other parts of the globe, to hedge your bets, a…
Indigenous Australians systematically burnt grasslands to reduce fuel and stop fires raging out of control. Flickr/pietroizzo

The biggest estate on earth: how Aborigines made Australia

Aboriginal people worked hard to make plants and animals abundant, convenient and predictable. By distributing plants and associating them in mosaics, then using these to lure and locate animals, Aborigines…
Seventeen Australians have died this year from quad bike accidents, also known as all terrain vehicles or ATVs. Flickr/sharkbait

It’s time for quad bike manufacturers to rollover on safety

The tragic quad-biking death of an 11-year-old boy from northwest Victoria on Monday takes the 2011 death toll from all terrain vehicle (ATV) accidents to 17. The boy reportedly died after his ATV overturned…
Smaller farmers face increasing competition and struggle to break into institutional markets. AAP

These are dark days for smallholder farmers

Agriculture in Australia is at the crossroads. Not only must smallholder farmers contend with the adverse impacts of global climate change, a strong Australian dollar and greater deregulation in the market…
Livestock may also face mistreatment without leaving Australian shores. AAP

Live animal export problems begin in our own paddock

Throughout the heated debate around live animal exports over the past week, there has been an implicit assumption that the mistreatment of Australian cattle only ever begins after the animals have left…

Research and News (4)

Research Briefs (3)