Kate Lee - New and emerging technologies
I am 28 years old and I worked for the UK farming unions and the National Pig Association in Brussels from September 2006 until September 2012. Whilst this was a very cosmopolitan life I lived and breathed agriculture every day in trying to communicate the needs and aspirations of UK farmers to policy makers.
Key policies I worked included organic food, biotechnology, cloning, food labelling and climate change. I also worked with the EU Commission, Member State Governments and the European Parliament at a crucial time when welfare laws were coming into force on farm animals such as laying hens and pigs.
I had a joyful upbringing in Cheshire, I have a twin sister Jenny and a younger sister Amy who work in photography and fashion. I love languages and speak French, Spanish, Portuguese and I am learning Danish. Otherwise in my spare time I enjoy hiking, running half marathons (I could never do a full one!) and touch rugby. I am also partial to a bit of singing and dancing!
Agriculture news from the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, June 12th 2012
The best thing about today has been my introduction to three inspirational farmers from around the world:
*Dyborn Chibonga, CEO of the Malawi farmers’ organisation (NASFAM)
*Rajeev Chauhan, President of the Himalayan Farmers’ Organisation
*Zeinab Al Momany, Specific Union for Women Farmers, Jordan
I learnt lots about Mr. Chauhan, President of the Himalayan Farmers’ Organisation and India’s biggest apple producer. He explained about how Indian food production has progressed since the beginning of the 1950s, when (in his words) the country was a "basket case" and begging for food.
Mr. Chauhan is hugely proud of the achievements in Indian agriculture since then, citing advances in the production of mangoes (over 50% of worldwide production!), rice, lentils, pulses and milk.
It was strange to hear another English accent at such an international event - UK scientist Tim Benton (pictured at his press conference), of the UK Food Security Project was there to give a speech on land availability and food production.
For him the solution is simple – we need to drive the land more for what it is truly “good at”, suggesting that the key to ecological success is the specialisation of agriculture to suit the conditions of the individual farm.
There were some in the audience (namely international organic lobby IFOAM) who did not agree with all of Professor Benton’s key points e.g. "organic agriculture is not necessarily more sustainable than conventional agriculture", which he underpinned with the argument that organic farming can lead to lower yields and thus export production and emissions elsewhere.
Tomorrow will be a BIG day – we start at 7am for a briefing session and the afternoon will see Mr. Chauhan and Mr. Chibonga speak on the transfer of knowledge in the farming community.
Importantly, the first meeting of the ‘Farmer Major Group’ takes place tomorrow at 10am Rio time (that’s 2pm if you’re in the UK and 3pm if in Brussels!) where we are hoping to get the hottest news on the Rio+20 negotiating texts.
You can follow me on twitter for the latest developments: @katybettylee