The paper reviews the legislative and economic means to regulate the balance between agricultural needs and environmental needs. The balance is changing partly because public opinion has changing expectations about the appearance of the countryside and because the scientific understanding of ecology is increasing; and also because the need for food worldwide is increasing and the power of science has enabled agriculture to be more productive.
The difference in emphasis between UK legislation and EEC directives indicate that the divergencies are less sharp than often depicted. The UK has over a century of experience and has developed pragmatic approaches, often placing responsibility on non-Govemment agencies for detailed regulation. EEC has more formally provided numerical guidelines for pollution control. But on both sides, the economic and environmental objectives have not been fully reconciled.
The application of economic controls through, for example, the Polluter Pays Principle is not easy and has particular difficulties where pollution sources are diffuse. It will be important to consider carefully what part financial incentives or penalties can play in environmental policies.
Two specific examples of environmental legislation will be discussed. The Control of Pollution Act Part 2 is being brought to effect during the next year or so and is expected to help reduce pollution by agriculture. There are, however, a number of uncertainties which will be removed only by practical experience of the operation of the law. Secondly, cadmium pollution, although not an immediate concern, is being considered within EEC. Some countries are already experimenting with a partial ban on cadmium and, in the case of Denmark, the EEC Commission is investigating whether the restrictions act counter to existing Community provisions against restricting Community trade.
In conclusion, the problem of achieving a consensus and the means to enforce that consensus are a matter of continuing public debate. Legislation and economics are means to an end but in relation of agriculture and the environment, we still have to define the end more clearly. And voluntary action, always important in maintaining the balance, will continue to play a major role.