In many parts of Britain, traditional family farms have given way to large agri-businesses, typified by large fields, often managed by external contractors, maintained as near perfect monocultures by high inputs of pesticides and fertilizers.

The result is a landscape that produces more food, more cheaply, than it used to, but is largely inhospitable to wildlife and provides employment for very few people. The low price of food on the supermarket shelves that we have become used to does not reflect the true environmental costs of its production. It is also important to note that farmers only receive a fraction of the retail sale price of food, so the cost of improved on-farm practice would have a relatively small impact on shoppers.

Recent studies from France estimate that total pesticide use can be reduced by 42% without significant reductions to yield or profit

France is one of the biggest consumers of pesticides in Europe (per unit of agricultural area). In 2013, after controversy over levels of pesticide concentration in drinking water, the French government set a target of a 50% decrease in pesticide use, promoting the principles of agroecology and advocating integrated management of pests for a reduction of pesticide reliance. 

Food security and economic impacts were a major consideration for policy advisors and researchers:

“We demonstrated that low pesticide use rarely decreases productivity and profitability in arable farms. We analysed the potential conflicts between pesticide use and productivity or profitability with data from 946 non-organic arable commercial farms showing contrasting levels of pesticide use and covering a wide range of production situations in France. We failed to detect any conflict between low pesticide use and both high productivity and high profitability in 77% of the farms.” Lechenet et al. 2017