Can British farming go green?

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With the Great British Beef Crisis degenerating into a row about how much the European Union should pay, we are in danger of forgetting the bigger picture. Is something going seriously wrong with our industrial and chemical-intensive approach to agriculture and the countryside?

Imagine if, tomorrow, the Government announced that it wanted all British farming to be organic within 15 years; that we would be the first Western country to change direction in its agricultural policy. Imagine that instead of Whitehall and Brussels rigging the market in favour of quantity at all costs, British politicians decided to rig it in favour of organic farming and a quality revolution. Imagine their official aim was to make British beef, dairy products, vegetables and fruit the world's best - food that Parisian restaurants, German butchers and Pacific starlets would insist on.

Could such a leap of imagination land back in the real world, armed with pricing and marketing policies? Is there an opportunity for Britain which deserves serious consideration? What would it mean for food prices here - employment - the economics of farming - the balance of trade? What exactly do we mean by organic, and are there any half-way-houses? Is ``going green'' an urban fantasy or the start of a hard-edged economic strategy for the revival of British agriculture?

Today, on page 15, the Independent begins a debate intended to answer some of these questions: could Britain go green?