The Meadow Brown butterfly, which is increasingly under threat from agricultural intensification. Photograph: DEA/V. Giannella/Getty Images The Meadow Brown butterfly, which is increasingly under threat from agricultural intensification. Photograph: DEA/V. Giannella/Getty Images

‘Something has gone very wrong’: Villiers targets environmental impact of land use

The UK must radically rethink how it produces food if it is to fight climate change and reverse the decline of nature, Theresa Villiers has said in her first major intervention since becoming environment secretary.

“We have no choice but to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss, or risk not only losing untold wonders of the natural world, but plunging whole regions into desperate poverty,” Villiers warns in an article for the Independent. “Central to that is the need to rethink our relationship to land-use.

“Something has gone very wrong,” she adds. “As a society, we have seen how poor land use can damage our country’s natural wealth… We want a food system that is resilient to future shocks and that reflects our respect for the natural world and one another too.”

Villiers points to the government’s proposals to replace the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy in England with an environmental land management scheme as a “once in a generation opportunity to combine support for farmers with support for the environment and animal welfare”.


Agriculture Bill 2019-2020

England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, UK, Wales
06 Dec 2018



Land and development


UK Parliament

Affected Sectors

Cross-sector Agriculture Animal Boarding and Pest Control Offices Real Estate and Public Administration Conservation Land Management and Landscaping

Agriculture Bill 2019-2020

Document Status: Draft/Forthcoming

Scope: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, UK, Wales

Some £3.2bn in EU agricultural subsidies paid to farmers each year will be replaced with “a system that rewards good stewardship of land and nature, and which also helps our farmers become more efficient and productive and hence better able to compete in the new markets we want to open up to them via an independent trade policy”, she says.

DEFRA has launched a call for evidence that will inform a review of the UK’s food system led by Leon restaurant co-founder Henry Dimbleby. 

The review will look at how new technology could make food supplies more sustainable and efficient, tackling the impact of agriculture on soil health, air and water quality, biodiversity and climate change.

Dimbleby said the call for evidence will seek “policies or ideas that make it easier for us to make more informed decisions about the food we eat” and “make food production more environmentally sustainable”. 

It is open to anyone involved in the food business and to the general public.

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