Revealed: UK government failing to tackle rise of serious air pollutant

posted in: News | 0

Investigation reveals no plan is in place to tackle increase in levels of agricultural ammonia, a gas contributing to thousands of deaths in UK alone

 Ammonia comes from agricultural sources such as fertilisers and animal manure. Photograph: geogphotos/Alamy

One of the most potent air pollutants is on the rise in the UK, but the government has no comprehensive monitoring, little enforcement, and almost no funding or clear plan to reduce the emissions, an investigation has found.

Evidence obtained by a joint investigation by the Guardian, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and Channel 4 News suggests that at least 3,000 deaths each year could be avoided if agricultural ammonia emissions were halved.

The hidden danger of ammonia – the pungent, irritant gas that comes from livestock farms and combines with other chemicals in the air to form deadly particulates – has been largely ignored by the government, despite pledges from ministers to slash air pollution. Ammonia is the only major air pollutant rising in the UK, as other forms of pollution have dropped.

The findings of the investigation include:

  • Government inaction and regulatory failings mean the most polluting farming sectors – dairy and beef cattle – are under no obligation to monitor, report or reduce ammonia emissions.
  • Despite promising to close this loophole by 2025, Michael Gove, the environment secretary, has not laid out a clear plan or any legislation to do so. In the meantime, the number of intensive US-style beef feedlots and dairy “megafarms” has been increasing.
  • Leaked documents show that cuts in staffing at the Environment Agency, which polices farm pollution, mean a lack of resources to carry out even basic monitoring.
  • Demand for cheap food adds to the problem, as many farmers operate on thin margins. Brexit is likely to exacerbate this, as current EU subsidies will disappear, and farmers may face crippling export tariffs under a no-deal scenario. In addition, the UK may be flooded with cheap imports from countries with lower welfare standards as part of new trade deals.

The vast majority of ammonia emissions in the UK come from livestock manure. When it mixes with other forms of pollution from vehicles or industry, it forms airborne particles called PM2.5, which are linked to respiratory problems, cardiovascular diseases, cognitive decline and low birth weights.

“PM2.5 is probably responsible for somewhere between half and three-quarters of the total harm we derive as humans from air pollution,” said Alastair Lewis, director for composition research at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science. About half of PM2.5 in urban areas comes from ammonia.

In high concentrations, such as found near liquid manure stores, ammonia can cause a stinging sensation in the eyes and throat and an overpowering acrid smell; if inhaled for too long, it can cause eye damage or even death. In lower concentrations, it causes irritation.

Andrea Pozzer, head of a research group at the renowned Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany, has studied the impact of ammonia, finding that 50,000 deaths from air pollution could be avoided annually in Europe if agricultural emissions were halved. In the UK, this equates to at least 3,000 deaths a year.

“Ammonia is playing a lead role in fine particle formation and the reduction of it could really improve air quality,” said Pozzer.

Earlier this year, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) released its first attempt to get to grips with the ammonia problem. But the strategy contained no timetable for ammonia reductions, no measurements and no plans to help farmers adopt the kind of technology and methods that would swiftly and drastically reduce today’s emissions.Advertisement

From the 1990s until 2013, ammonia emissions fell by about a fifth in the UK as livestock production in some areas declined, and fertiliser use changed. But in the past six years they increased by more than a tenth, even as other air pollutants fell.

A Defra spokesperson said: “Our clean air strategy sets out for the first time how we plan to tackle farm ammonia pollution by requiring and supporting farmers to invest in the infrastructure and equipment required to reduce emissions. We have already published guidance on how farmers can take action and will consult later this year on policy to reduce emissions from urea fertilisers, the first in a series of rules to reduce ammonia emissions from farming.”

For most farms, reducing ammonia does not require hi-tech solutions. Covering slurry pits, where manure is held before being used as a fertiliser or disposed of, can prevent emissions, as can injecting slurry into the soil for fertilisation instead of spreading it through the air. “Many of these methods offer cost savings for farmers, reducing the need for bought-in fertilisers,” said Mark Sutton, environmental physicist at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. “Where capital grants are available, these can help farmers with the up-front costs of equipment, but ultimately the goal is that low-emission methods end up paying for themselves.”

A farmer spreads manure over a field in the Scottish Borders
 A farmer spreads manure over a field in the Scottish Borders. Photograph: Chris Strickland/Alamy

But for a comprehensive ammonia reduction strategy, more information is needed on the sources of the gas. Currently, the government only collects data from a small number of intensive facilities that house more than 40,000 birds, 2,000 pigs or 750 sows.

An analysis of government data as part of the investigation found emissions from these facilities in England and Scotland rose by 2.6% from 2015 to 2017.

The much larger unregulated sector, for which no data is available, produces many times more ammonia, however. Cattle farms account for about 44% of the UK’s total ammonia emissions, but require no environmental permits and are unmonitored for ammonia, while many more livestock units keep animal numbers just below the threshold for regulation.. Defra has pledged to extend environmental permitting to intensive “mega farm” cattle units by 2025, but details are lacking.

A further problem is that swingeing cuts at the Environment Agency mean there are not enough staff to enforce regulations. A leaked email shows at least one official admitting that staff cutbacks are endangering the agency’s ability to monitor the problem. Without such monitoring, farmers can – knowingly or unknowingly – breach what regulations there are, for instance by gaining planning permission for one type of building then converting it to livestock sheds without the appropriate planning permission, or the right kind of slurry storage.

The Environment Agency said that it had 10% more operations staff than in 2009, including those who visit farms and rivers, and that it has 6,500 officers across England trained and ready to respond to environmental incidents on farms. It said the agency was the largest of its kind in Europe, with an annual budget of more than £1bn.

The intractable issue of access to land for new farmers

posted in: News | 0

by Alicia Miller – SFT Editor on 17 May, 2019 in Farming

Photograph: Ecological Land Coop

One of the really critically pressing issues in sustainable farming today, is access to land for new farmers, especially in the developed world where agricultural land is among the most expensive to be had. The narrative around this issue is well established: farmers are ageing, and not just in the developed world – the average age of African farmers is 60. Young people, despite the explosion of interest in farming over the last decade or more, are still not going into farming in large numbers. Those that do, struggle to find land that is affordable – the average price of agricultural land in Britain is around £8,000 – £10,000 an acre.

All this is coalescing into an intractable problem that we must find a way to fix. We need the next generation of farmers if we want to feed the growing global population sustainable, healthy food in a century that is to be marked by significant and possibly devastating climate change. The premise of sustainable farming, arguably, sits on the necessity of small- and mid-scale farmers working the land in traditional mixed rotations and being close enough to their soil to get to know it. To really turn around the industrialised food system, growing the ranks of new farmers who enter the profession with a care and interest in sustainable practices is essential; but getting them land to farm – in the long- term – may be the hardest thing to do.

The economics of farming are stacked against sustainable farmers, and finding land that a farmer can rent, lease or, hope-of-hopes, actually be able to buy is difficult, particularly in the US and Europe. In an interview, Sridharan (Sri) Sethuratnam of the Center for Land-based Learning in California, which has a significant programme of farmer training, said, “It’s not that the land isn’t there, but there are these societal structures [such as land consolidation] that prevents people outside of farming from getting into it. I spend sleepless nights thinking ‘but if we are training all these farmers and they don’t get the land, what is the point of this training?” It’s a vital and important point to consider – farmers need something to farm.

In the UK, there are varied of programmes to train new farmers including the Soil Association’s Future Growers traineeships and Ruskin Mill’s biodynamic training. ‘Incubator’ programmes like FarmStart, where farmers are allocated a plot of land for a period of time – one year, two year, five years – in order to develop their skills and test out business plans, ready to make a real start, are an increasing extension of training. Stream Farm has taken the ‘incubator’ model on as its business plan – they offer placements to new farmers, inviting them take on one of the farm’s businesses and the livelihood that goes with it. It’s a great way for new farmers to learn in a hands-on way how to run a land-based business, but the farmers that pass through Stream Farm still have to secure their own land, when they leave.

There are many established UK farmers who recognise the need to support new farmers. Matt Dunwell of Ragman’s Lane Farm has made the farm a “platform” for other people seeking to access land, working within the farm structure, but running their own independent enterprises. Being integrated within the farm offers an infrastructure of support and knowledge, as well as practical benefits such as tying in with the farm’s marketing network. The relationships are open-ended, some have stayed for years, others for shorter periods of time.

These kind of relationships between established farmers and new farmers can be immensely fruitful, but their parameters must be clearly drawn and fair to both parties. Fresh Start’s land partnership programme seeks to bring ‘land entrepreneurs’ together with land owners, finding ways to connect ideas and resources. At the base of these partnerships, is a legal document, hammered out between the partners that delineates what the business structure will be and how the relationship will work. At its best, such partnerships can be long and enduring, but they are also individual and unique to the people involved.

While people are thinking outside the box for ways to bring more new farmers into farming, what hasn’t been negotiated is long-term security on a piece of land, something that only ownership can bring. Farmers get attached to land – it’s a long and enduring relationship that they become ever more deeply enmeshed in. Losing land, either by sale or because of the end of a lease or change of circumstances, can be devastating, and it’s also, perhaps, why succession can sometimes be such a tricky issue. When my partner and I started to try and find land to farm, we thought maybe we could work with an older farmer, share-farming, but eventually purchasing at least part of their land, so that we had some long-term security. The conversation always stopped there – while they wanted someone to take on the farm and continue to farm it, they still planned to pass the farm onto their children, who would, inevitably, sell it. We realised that ten, 15, 20 years in, we would lose the land.

Caitlin Hachmyer has written cogently about the relationship that a farmer has with the land she or he owns versus the land that is rented or leased. She writes, in her essay Notes from a new farmer: Rent-culture, insecurity and the need for change for the book Land Justice, “While you can love the land you rent, there is something deeper—at least for me—about knowing that I am tending a piece of land that I am permanently connected to. I have found that I have never really sunk into a piece of rented land the way I do at my home farm…Even long-term leases, providing some degree of security to farmers, harbor extreme risk…I work to build something that could slip through my fingers at any moment. An investment whose return I might never know.”

Facilitating long-term secure access to agricultural land, for farmers who don’t come from farming, nor have the money to simply purchase land, is something that needs to be solved. Sadly, there was a resource for this in the network of council farms which had been a vital means of giving new farmers an extended secure tenure on a farm, but with their sell-off as a new means of bringing income to cash-strapped councils that are struggling in the face of austerity, this significant asset is being lost.

However, there are some interesting new models that could offer a way forward for some UK farmers.

Using a community share model, the Ecological Land Coop (ELC) has recently purchased several sites to develop small farms and smallholdings for people who want to create land-based businesses on them. The sites, in Arlington, Sussex and Sparkford, South Somerset, will provide both land and the opportunity of building a house, albeit to strict environmental specifications. The ELC provides basic infrastructure. There is both permanence (they offer 150-year leases) and flexibility – sites can be sold should owners want to move on, though the price is fixed to remain affordable, because the ELC retains the freehold.

Wales has also developed a unique planning initiative, called ‘One Planet Development’. It is aimed at people who want to develop ecologically sound land-based businesses and it allows them to purchase greenbelt land and build a house on it, if they can evidence that their business is sustainable both financially and ecologically. It’s about supporting a sustainable living and helping people to keep their ecological footprint to a minimum. The Welsh Assembly Government adopted the scheme in 2011 and it has integrated it into its wider policy, One Wales: One Planet. The initiative is not for the faint of heart or the less-than-serious; applicants must provide rigorous evidence of both their ecological footprint and that they can truly live off the land, in some capacity.

The need for permanence, for nurturing that enduring relationship between land and livestock – that’s what makes the struggle of farming meaningful. This is something that we need to remember in encouraging and supporting the new farmers who want to turn the juggernaut of industrial agriculture around.

Photograph: Ecological Land Coop

Design 4 Life – Introduction to Vegan Organic Permaculture

posted in: News | 0

The Light Gap8 June at 20:26

What an fantastic day at Design 4 Life – Introduction to Vegan Organic Permaculture!

So many incredible people looking to move towards a happier, healthier and compassionate future for themselves, their families and communities.

We can’t thank you enough for being part of this solution based movement and we can already feel that energy rippling out into the world around us.

Everyone of us has the ability to achieve our wildest dreams. We hope today gave you some direction on how to move towards those visions of your perfect reality.

I’m sorry we were unable to make any further space on this course, as you can see we’re packed to the rafters! We had a great deal more interest and hope to deliver further dates and other courses/workshops/events in the near future.

Thanks again for all the wonderful participation and interest.

Best wishes and hugs!


Dandelions Are Not Weeds! Top 10 Health Benefits of Dandelion

posted in: News | 0

Jun 4, 2019 Carly Fraser 

whole dandelion plant with flowers and roots on cutting board on a table

People spray their lawns to get rid of it, while others use it to heal their body of numerous ailments. What could it be? Well, dandelions of course!

Whether your eat or juice the greens, indulge in the honey-flavoured flowers or steep some dandelion root tea, this herb is pure magic!

The health benefits of dandelion include bone and skin health, help with liver and urinary disorders, acne, jaundice, diabetes, cancer and anemia.

The only problem is, is that most people are killing the very plant that could be helping them. Dandelions are not a pesky weed, and should be utilized to their full advantage!

Dandelions Are Not Weeds

Only in the twentieth century did humans decide that the dandelion was a weed. Before the invention of perfectly manicured lawns, dandelions were more less praised as a natural medicine, food source and out-right magic. Back in the day, grass was dug out to make room for the dandelions – just imagine!

According to the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, “The use of dandelions in the healing arts goes so far back that tracing its history is like trying to catch a dandelion seed as it floats over the grass. For millennia, dandelion tonics have been used to help the body’s filter, the liver, remove toxins from the bloodstream. In olden times, dandelions were prescribed for every ailment from warts to the plague. To this day, herbalists hail the dandelion as the perfect plant medicine: It is a gentle diuretic that provides nutrients and helps the digestive system function at peak efficiency.”

Dandelions are also good for your lawn. Their roots break through hard-packed soil to help aerate the earth and help reduce erosion. Their deep taproots pull up calcium and other nutrients from the depths of the soil, making them available to other plants. These nutrients actually help fertilize the soil, improving the quality of grass and other surrounding plants.

The less we focus on dandelion as being a “weed”, the more we can appreciate what this plant truly is – a natural medicine that can actually help treat many ailments we see today.

Top 10 Health Benefits of Dandelion

Dandelions are a green and growing first aid kit! Their ability to heal and nourish the body from the inside out make them one plant you definitely do not want to get rid of this summer. There’s a reason dried dandelion root is so expensive.

Here are 10 of the most important health benefits of dandelion:

Stronger Bones

Dandelions are calcium-rich, which is the main element required for the growth of strong, healthy bones. They are also high in antioxidants like Luteolin and Vitamin C, which protect from loss of bone density and bone weakening (1).

Liver Health

One of the greatest benefits of dandelion is it’s effect on our liver. Dandelion improves liver function by removing toxins, encouraging bile flow, and re-establishing hydration and electrolyte balance (2).


Dandelion helps stimulate the pancreas to produce insulin, and helps regulate blood sugar levels. It is also a natural diuretic, and thus encourages urination. What does this have to do with diabetes? It helps remove excess sugar and salt from the body, and reduces sugar build-up in the kidneys (thus helping reduce the risk of renal problems in diabetics) (3).

Urinary Health

As mentioned above, dandelions are a great natural diuretic, and so they help eliminate toxic build-up in the kidneys and urinary tract. The anti-microbial properties of dandelion also prevent bacterial growth in the urinary system, which is great for individuals suffering from recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs) (4).

Better Skin

Dandelion is an excellent detoxifier and antioxidant, making it one of the best herbal remedies for treating acne and other skin problems like psoriasis and eczema. It helps purify the blood, and improves liver function, both of which result in beautiful, glowing skin. The major chlorophyll content in dandelion greens is also a win-win for skin health.


Another important use for dandelion is its powerful effects against cancer. Many studieshave found that dandelion root extract is effective against the treatment of leukaemia and breast cancer. It acts by inducing apoptosis in leukaemia cells, while leaving healthy cells alone. It also has a positive impact against cancer cells that are resistant to chemotherapy.


Thanks to the liver-healing abilities of dandelion, it also helps with jaundice, a disorder of the liver, where it overproduces bile and messes with the body’s metabolism. Dandelion helps regulate bile production, and also promotes urination, helping to get rid of excess bile (5).

Gall Bladder Disorders

Dandelion leaf is great for stimulating a sluggish gallbladder (the organ that stores and excretes bile as the body needs it). Gallstones can even be flushed out by using a combination of dandelion and milk thistle.

Digestive Issues

Dandelion contains mucilage and inulin (6), which soothe the digestive tract and make food processing easier. It is also a great source of dietary fibre, which is crucial for proper intestinal health and improving gut flora. If you suffer from constipation or diarrhea, eat some dandelion greens!

Circulatory Health

The high levels of iron, B-vitamins and protein in dandelion make it a perfect food to eat if you suffer from anemia or other blood-related disorders. Dandelion is also a natural diuretic, so it helps lower blood pressure by getting rid of excess salt in the body. The fibre in dandelion is also helpful in reducing cholesterol, which we all know is an integral part of maintaining a healthy circulatory system.

How to Use Dandelion

Dandelion can be utilized in all its forms. Whether you want to use the flower and leafy greens in your salad, or steep a body-warming tea with the root, you can receive so many benefits from the plant!

Here are some options for including dandelion in your day-to-day life:
– Harvest dandelion, clean the roots, dry them in a dehydrator and then make a tea out of them. Alternatively, you can steep dandelion root tea from a bag, but this is much more expensive.
– Harvest dandelion greens and stick them in a juicer for a major liver-cleansing “juice shot”.
– Add some dandelion flowers to your salad or to garnish another meal.
– Make a dandelion green salad mixed with other tender leafy greens to offset the bitters with more bland flavours and textures.

There are so many ways you can enjoy the benefits of dandelions. What are some ways you’ve utilized dandelion in your life? Let me know in the comments below!

10 health benefits of dandelion laid out over background of cut dandelion with text - dandelions are not weeds! Top 10 health benefits of dandelion

Carly Fraser

About the Author

Carly Fraser has her BSc (Hons.) Degree in Neuroscience, and is the owner and founder at Live Love Fruit. She currently lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, with a determined life mission to help inspire and motivate individuals to critically think about what they put in their bodies and to find balance through nutrition and lifestyle. She has helped hundreds of thousands of individuals to re-connect with their bodies and learn self-love through proper eating habits and natural living. She loves to do yoga, dance, and immerse herself in nature.

View Profile

International Conference on Stock-Free Organic Farming

posted in: News | 0

LIFE NGO 2020-2021 – International Conference on Stock-Free Organic Farming

  1. Context
    Stock-free organic farming broadly refers to any system of cultivation that excludes artificial chemicals (‘agrochemicals’: ‘pesticides’, ‘herbicides’, ‘chemical fertilizers’), livestock manures, animal remains from slaughterhouses, genetically modified material and indeed anything of animal origin such as fishmeal. The fundamental objective of stock-free organic farming is to ensure ecologically and socially sustainable, wholesome food for present and future generations. This area encompasses a strong integration between agricultural, environmental and climate policies.

Stock-free agriculture covers all methods of farming free of the intentional use of non-human animals and many stock-free farmers use agro-ecological approaches, viewing farms as part of the wider eco-system. Food production based on animal farming needs significantly more fertile land, fresh water and energy than plant-based agriculture and nutrition.

According to the United Nations, animal farming is responsible for approximately 18% of the total Greenhouse Gas emissions, more than the entire transportation sectors (13% of GHG). It is also the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions caused by the food system (responsible for approximately a third, up to 30%) of all emissions. There are many reasons for this, such as:
⦁ Large amounts of animal feed need to be produced in order to make relatively small amounts of meat or milk – around 7kg of grain for 1kg of beef; 4kg of grain for 1kg of pork; 2kg of grain for 1kg of poultry;
⦁ Animal feed is usually produced using nitrogen fertilizers, which are energy intensive to create and result in emissions of, for instance, nitrous oxide;
⦁ Livestock emit high levels of methane due to their digestive systems;
⦁ Forests, necessary for the absorption of greenhouse gases, are destroyed to make way for animal grazing or crops for animal feed. Furthermore, removing trees often destroys the soil and the habitats;
⦁ Animals, their feed and the resulting products are usually transported in energy-intensive refrigerated conditions;
⦁ The demand for meat and dairy products is increasing, especially in industrialising Eastern economies.

Studies of the WorldWatch Institute of Washington highlight that livestock and their by-products account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions for agriculture are projected to increase 80% by 2050 at global level. In addition, the UN Report on biodiversity released in May 2019 highlights that more than a third of the world’s land surface and nearly 75% of fresh water resources are now devoted to crop or livestock production.

According to the 2019 Report issued by the IPES Food Panel, intensive livestock production has a severe impact on the environment due to its heavy GHGs contribution, air and water pollution, soil degradation and deforestation. In particular, animal production is responsible for most of methane and nitrous oxide emissions in the agricultural sector, which have a stronger global warming potential compared to CO2, and it is projected to account for 72% of those emissions by 2030.

The action implemented by SAFE in this area addresses primarily the goals of the EU strategy on adaptation to climate change. This comprehensive strategy identifies priority sectors where strategies and measures to adapt to climate change must be adopted, in association with Member States, and agriculture is one of these sectors.

With regard to the climate policy, we address the Roadmap for a low-carbon economy which identifies the emissions reduction in agriculture as one of the main concerns to achieve a low-carbon economy. The farming sector is considered at some risk of carbon leakage and changes in production patterns are requested to reduce emissions. Given that by 2050 agriculture is projected to represent a third of total EU emissions, a more spread practice of stock-free organic farming can contribute in fact to reducing significantly the GHG emissions that are produced by livestock, such as nitrous oxide and methane.
Our goal of promoting and fostering a more responsible farming in the form of a stock-free organic farming system wants to satisfy some recommendations of the Seventh Environment Action Plan, thematic objective 1: To protect, conserve and enhance the Union’s natural capital, which considers farming with a sense of responsibility for future generations as an essential element in sustainable agriculture.

Not less important is our contribution to the implementation of the Roadmap to a resource-efficient Europe that wants to increase biodiversity through good farming practices, restore organic matter in soil, avoid eutrophication from fertilizers and reduce the use of pesticides.

The 2018 Report on agricultural commodity markets and income issued by the European Commission highlights the environmental impact of animal agriculture. In particular, in 2030 livestock will continue to be responsible for 99% of all methane (CH4) emissions from agriculture, the biggest share (85%) coming from ruminants digestion. Even though emissions from ruminants digestion is expected to decrease, this decrease will be offset by an increase in nitrous dioxide (N20) emissions which come mostly from manure application on the fields.

Eventually, stock-free organic farming can be a new technique or method to target several of the main objectives outlined by the EU for the future Common Agricultural Policy such as climate change action, environmental care and preservation of landscapes and biodiversity. In fact, stock-free agriculture implies a minimisation or elimination of GHGs emissions, it contributes to the promotion of soil fertility through organic farming techniques, to the conservation of habitats, biodiversity and land preservation and protecting food and health quality. The CAP reform represents an opportunity for simplifying and modernizing the European agriculture and it is an opportunity for SAFE to advocate for a redirection of the CAP towards sustainable perspective and to encourage greener agriculture techniques. These measures are crucial to meet the need of society for an eco-friendlier agriculture.
At international level the launch of a policy discussion in the field of stock-free organic farming can contribute greatly to the achievement of some of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, such as the Goal 12 “Responsible Consumption and Production’ and the Goal 15 “Life on land”.

  1. Description of the activity
    SAFE will organise an International two-day conference in Brussels as its main activity within its ‘Sustainable Agriculture & Stock-Free Organic Farming’ work area in 2020. The conference will outline the benefits of a shift to plant-based agriculture, whilst also addressing the challenges and impacts this will present. It will consider how the Common Agriculture Policy can support this shift. It will introduce stock-free/plant-based organic farming as part of a sustainable agriculture policy area, inviting EU decision-makers and officials to open to more sustainable, renewed ways of farming and producing food. This conference will also be the opportunity to develop a set of internationally recognised standards that could help farmers confidently convert to stock-free/plant-based agriculture. More generally, the conference will aim to present the impacts of plant-based food production to policy-makers, farmers, retailers and consumers as a whole.

This International conference will be entitled ‘Grow Green – International Conference on Plant-based Farming’ and will take place in the European Parliament in the second semester of 2020 (June-October). The exact location of the conference will be decided with several MEPs within SAFE’s network after the European elections in May 2019.The conference will be held during 2 full days in the period between June and October 2020. SAFE will organise this event as a coordinator and will be supported by partners during the conference. Conference partners will include some of the members of SAFE: The Vegan Society (UK), Vegan Organic Network (UK), as well as SAFE’s partner BNS Biocyclic Network Services Ltd (GR/CY).

Additional partners will promote the conference and/or support it as key speakers:
⦁ Vegan France Interpro (FR)
⦁ VeganOK (IT)
⦁ Förderkreis Biozyklisch-Veganer Anbau (DE)
⦁ Netwerk ter bevordering van Biozyclische Veganlandbouw in Nederland en Vlanderen (NL)
⦁ Végétik (BE)
⦁ Ecosia (DE)
⦁ ProVeg International (DE)
⦁ Albert Schweitzer Stiftung (DE)
⦁ SwissVeg (CH)
⦁ World Food Institute (DE)
⦁ Plenty Food (NL)
⦁ Vegconomist (DE)

Academics and research centres on Food, Climate Change, Organic Farming & Soil Fertility will be invited as participants. Potential academic invitees have already been identified: Pr. Tim Lang (University of London), Steffen Hirth (University of Manchester, Sustainable Consumption Institute), Daniel Fischer (University of Halle), Dr. Marco Springmann (Oxford University), Dr. Helen Harwatt (Harvard University), Pr. Dr. Manfred Grote (University of Paderborn), Dr. Sabina Bietolini (Unicusano University), Wendy Walrabenstein (University of Amsterdam).
SAFE will invite policy experts from different DG of the European Commission (DG ENVI, DG SANTE, DG CLIMA, DG AGRI) as key speakers, as well as Members of the European Parliament within SAFE’s network (which will be contacted after the European elections in May 2019) and national expert representatives.
Other experts such as Dr. agr. Johannes Eisenbach (BNS Biocyclic Network Services Ltd.), Jenny Hall and Iain Tolhurst (authors of ‘Growing Green – Organic Techniques for a Sustainable Future’) and Paola Cane (Business consultant responsible for the evaluation and monitoring of plant-based product performance and market surveys) will also be invited to be speakers at the International Conference.

SAFE will gather an approximate 200 delegates during the event. Among these representatives, the conference will target EU and national policy-makers as well as political parties. The conference will also apply to Farmers and Growers associations (organic, in-conversion and conventional farmers alike), think tanks, industry representatives (retailers, chefs, processors, catering personel), journalists and media influencers (mass media agencies, environmental and agricultural bloggers), health practitioners (nutritionists, public health experts) and NGOs.

As mentioned above, the conference will last for two days. The conference will be held as a plenary conference comprising individual lectures, discussion panels and workshops. The conference will discuss many topic, from the importance of plant-based agriculture to the health impact of plant-based diets. One conference day will be dedicated to the Environmental and Climate aspect of Sustainable Agriculture and Stock-Free/Plant-based Farming.
The exact content of the lectures and discussion panels will be defined in the following months. Nonetheless, SAFE and its partners have already highlighted a few key themes that will be addressed:

• Global Environmental and Climate Issues with Land Use – Sustainable Food Systems in Times of Need;
• Technical aspect of Sustainable Agriculture – Plant-based Agriculture, Agro-ecology, Permaculture, Agroforestry;
• Plant-Based Organic Agriculture & the Common Agricultural Policy – European Policy Developments;
• Better Health for All – Health benefits of plant-based farming and foods;
• Plant-based Organic Standards at national and international levels – Certification, Support during the conversion period and Marketing of Products;
• Economics and supply chain for plant-based farming and foods – best practices and opportunities
• Global Food Security – Sustainable Organic Agriculture as an environmental and ethical support for small farmers;
• Plant-based farming in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

Each topic will be presented in one lecture and/or discussion panel. The themes will also be discussed in detail in thematic workshops, depending on their relevance to the overall discussion and the expertise of the speakers.

Following the International Conference, further advocacy actions will be undertaken by SAFE to ensure that knowledge, evidence, statistics, facts and technical and scientific expertise in the area of Plant-based Farming is shared with stakeholders and policy-makers at national and EU level.
Regular direct meetings with the identified policy-makers will be the main instruments to present opinions of the members of SAFE and consumers at large, to submit position papers and recommendations, and to organise public hearings.

  1. Expected results/outcomes
    As a result of our two-year biannual work programme, we expect plant-based (preferably stock-free organic) farming to become a part of the Agricultural Policy Developments. We also expect to increase the overall knowledge and competence of farming associations and individual farmers on stock-free/plant-based organic farming, which will help them in the medium-term to shift their activity towards more sustainable farming practices. In the long-term this empowerment should lead to a reform of the farming systems. An increase of the market share of ‘green’ enterprises will encourage new farmers to confidently convert to stock-free/plant-based farming using a set of internationally recognised standards.
    In the long run, plant-based organic food supply chains will be recognised and joined by a larger amount of individual farmers, increasing consumers’ knowledge about the positive environmental, climate and health impact of stock-free/plant-based organic products.

Thanks to a diversification of farming methods and a wider adoption of the stock-free/plant-based organic farming, greenhouse gases emissions will be reduced with a general benefit for the countryside environment. More land could be used for organic farming with a significant reduction of lands dedicated to livestock farming.

At the same time, we expect a reduction in the use of fertilizers, pesticides and other chemical agents in the food production, with a connected amelioration of the health of consumers as pesticides are for example linked with carcinogenic factors, endocrine disruptors and abnormal developments of the nervous system.