It is now clear that there will not be a comprehensive US/UK free trade deal in the foreseeable future. In some ways that is a relief in that the UK would have to align with US standards to achieve an agreement, including accepting hormone fed beef and chlorinated washed chicken. However, there are still small deals to be done as the US has lifted its ban on UK lamb exports imposed in 1989 during the BSE crisis. It is not expected that large quantities of lamb will be imported; AHDB puts the potential gain at £37 million over five years. Nevertheless, it comes at a good time as AHDB reports that lamb exports from January to July this year are down on last year by 25% by volume but only 5% by value because of higher prices. Most of the decline has been in exports to the EU, by far our largest market.
Bluefin tuna have been spotted off the coast of Cornwall for the first time in over sixty years. Catching Bluefin tuna is banned in the UK but licences have been issued for them to be caught, tagged and released for a three month trial. Scientists think that the fish, which can grow to 12ft long and are very valuable, have returned to UK waters because of rising sea temperatures. They aim to find out how many there are, their age structure and any other information they can get.
Science can transform farming
As the Government consults on allowing gene editing, Professor Nick Talbot, executive director of the Sainsbury Laboratory, writing in the Guardian newspaper, makes a plea for a comprehensive legislative framework to cover gene editing and genetic modification in farm crops. He calls for environmentalists who wish to see less use of fertiliser and pesticides to join with farmers and scientists to agree a way forward. He cites the example of the potato crop; using GM, geneticists have developed a variety that is resistant to potato blight thus avoiding the need for the current fifteen to twenty applications of fungicide each year. And yet it cannot be grown in the EU or UK due to ill-informed and outdated regulation.
No Livestock Farming
Eighteen film and television celebrities have written a joint letter to Alok Sharma MP, the President of the COP26 summit in Glasgow in November, calling for radical changes to farming if net zero by 2050 is to be achieved. These include shifting subsidies away from livestock farming, offering incentives to develop non-livestock alternatives and changing public sector procurement priorities.