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Story Bank: Biodiversity with Patrick Holden

Story Bank: Biodiversity with Patrick Holden

Patrick Holden is the Founding Director of the Sustainable Food Trust. Between 1995 and 2010, he was the Director of the Soil Association and became a much sought after speaker and campaigner for organic food and farming. He spearheaded a number of prominent food campaigns around BSE, pesticide residues and GM food. More recently, he was a member of the UK Government’s working group on the Foresight report into Future of Food and Farming and is Advisor to the Prince of Wales International Sustainability Unit.

DG – Interviewer Douglas Gayeton
PH – Interviewee Patrick Holden

DG: How do you respond to people who say that food grown with sustainable farming practices costs more; can you justify that added cost?

PH: If you grow food in a way that exploits natural capital, diminishes soil fertility, causes emissions that lead to climate change, pulverizes biodiversity, and causes rain forest destruction, you don’t pay for any of that damage. We are living in a completely rigged economic system, where the polluter doesn’t pay and where farmers who deliver positive benefits to health and the environment, who create jobs, who reduce emissions while building soil carbon, who produce food while coexisting with biodiversity, get no financial reward.

This is the world of obvious absurdities. Imagine a children’s story where food companies put short-term profit ahead of public and environmental health, contaminating virtually the entire planet’s food system, with those responsible getting away with it scot-free, whilst the good guys, producing healthy food and healing all the damage, don’t get paid for this and go out of business. A cautionary tale, you might think, but not something that could happen in reality. No, this is actually a true story of the economic system which has produced our food for the past fifty years.

It’s no wonder we have this massive discrepancy and sustainable agriculture is confined to the margin. We’re operating in a rigged market—a literally distorted economic market.

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