Your front page article on Thursday entitled ‘Brexit can transform our Countryside’ shows the scant regard that Dame Helen Ghosh (a former Permanent Secretary at DEFRA) has for the Government’s responsibility to secure the necessary food supply for our 64 miliion+ people in the UK.

GEF, Food Security Ltd

Your front page article on Thursday entitled ‘Brexit can transform our Countryside’ shows the scant regard that Dame Helen Ghosh (a former Permanent Secretary at DEFRA) has for the Government’s responsibility to secure the necessary food supply for our 64 miliion+ people in the UK.

Farming is in serious recession, and we cannot rely on cheap imported food for ever, nor can we rely on the Supermarkets’ ability to supply it. Whilst it would be a pleasant dream to turn our countryside into a nice place to visit , with lots of butterflies , meandering rivers, wild flowers and bees, who will feed this vulnerable island nation? Farmers urgently need support to do this, and to make this country more self- sufficient in essential foods. If food production is not supported in some form, we could soon have food riots on our streets.

Other letters to Telegraph regarding Dame Helen Ghosh

Michael Rogers, Sevenoaks, Kent (August 2016)

SIR – Dame Helen Ghosh, the head of the National Trust, is not the first person to think that we need to change our attitude to the rural scene. The songwriter Richard Stilgoe deplored the farmers who “are ruining the countryside by covering it with food”. He was joking. I fear that she was not… As it is illegal to pick wild flowers, and butterflies are not very nutritious, what does she suggest that the 60 million-odd of us in Britain should eat?
Ian Pigott, Harpenden, Hertfordshire (August 2016)

SIR – I was not surprised to learn that Dame Helen is rounding on Andrea Leadsom, the Environment Secretary. Dame Helen sees Brexit as an opportunity to redistribute farm support from food production into “wild flowers, bees and butterflies”.

As a farmer, I am heavily committed to environmental stewardship. However, the choice between food and flowers is not a binary one.

Of course the way that farm support is distributed needs to be rethought. But it is not about habitat-creation alone. Improving production efficiencies through investment in science, technology and supply-chain management will also aid biodiversity.

To focus on habitat-creation at the expense of food production is naive. It will lead to an increase in imported food that is produced to lower standards than those of Britain. Neither the farmer nor the consumer should be compromised by myopic lobbying.

David Bertioli, Southrop, Gloucestershire (August 2016)

SIR – I want to preserve and improve the environment. However, I wonder if Dame Helen has thought through the desire to return the countryside to the way it was “in our parents’ and grandparents’ generations”.

At the turn of the 20th century, wheat yields averaged less than 2.5 tons per hectare; in 2015, they were nine tons per hectare. We cannot go back to the age before “industrialised agriculture” without a massive increase in food imports – or hunger.

While the decline of species is worrying, the victories in conservation over the past decades – such as the return of otters and red kites to large areas – should not be ignored. A constructive dialogue about conservation and the environment would build upon these successes and look to the future, not the past.