SUSTAINABLE intensification in agriculture has always made both practical and logical sense. It can be applied to any situation, from developing countries where the term was first used to the modern, productive agriculture in Scotland. However as has become increasingly clear this is an area where politics yet again trump logic and common sense. This hit a peak in recent months when civil servants – even worse as a group than politicians – took it upon themselves to deem views on the future of the livestock industry from farmers as insufficiently green.

In reality, farmers have been delivering green solutions for generations. This was happening long before green issues, to paraphrase Karl Marx, replaced religion as the opiate of the masses. What politicians do not seem to get is that sustainable intensification can be a green policy. It is however for those capable of reasoning out concepts rather than knee-jerk reactions to the latest climate change pressure group peddling doom and gloom. Too often, unlike sustainable intensification, their views are neither thought out or logical. A ban on all diesel and petrol cars in the UK with no proper infrastructure in place; a policy in the EU to have 25 per cent of food production organic by 2030. These are not policies that make economic sense, but they are the opiates politicians have embraced and sold.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is by no means anti-green, but it has warned that governments are unlikely to achieve the sustainable development goals they set. These were agreed through the United Nations and were about tackling the twin problems of food security and environmental damage. In the UK and the EU, and particularly in the UK, that equation has been skewed. The focus is entirely on environmental policies, with food security ignored or taken for granted.,

In the UK government trade deal policies are taking us back to the 1950s, when food security was achieved via imports from the southern hemisphere and South America. And when it comes to the environment, while we focus on things that look good, the issues that triggered UN action – the destruction of rainforests and the onward march of products like palm oil – continue largely unchecked. This is effectively the agricultural equivalent of embracing wind turbines and electric vehicles, while China maintains its coal-fired power stations. The latest OECD report has one statement that cannot be ignored, based around the fact that the global demand for food will continue to rise by around 1.2 per cent a year across all commodities. That conclusion is that this can only be met by agriculture becoming more productive and not by bringing more land into production.

That flies in the face of EU making organics a priority and in the face of the London approach of food production being incidental to green outcomes. Ironically the most successful time in agriculture for growth and productivity was from the 1950s to the 1970s. This was a green revolution and a response to the food shortages after the Second World War. Key to this was productivity – exactly what the OECD says is needed now. That thinking is sometimes dubbed the two blades of grass approach, after Jonathan Swift said those who could deliver that were more worthy of praise than politicians. That was said in the late 1700s – and it is a lesson universally ignored now by politicians. Today's green revolution for many is based around the exact opposite of encouraging science and productivity – yet the OECD is making clear productivity is the only way to achieve global sustainable development goals.

It is clear that there will now be no going back to the green revolution days, but there is a middle path the EU is seeking to find. It is developing a new land use policy, which is still very high on green outcomes, but seeks to add some science. This is rooted in the concept that agriculture is both part of the problem and a key part of the solution. It wants to see some form of balance sheet approach, where the carbon generating problems of agriculture are recognised, but in parallel with the ability of farming and forestry to lock up atmospheric carbon. This is a small step on the road to logical and effective green decisions, but it is another example of Brussels thinking unlikely to take root in London.