It is a fact of economic life that prices come down more slowly than they rise. This is down to what economists call lagging. Much of that is less about the market than there being less incentive to reduce than raise prices.

The government took some comfort this week from food price inflation falling to 12 per cent. That is still high and driving a cost of living crisis. As farmers face an income squeeze between still-high costs and falling prices some of the politicians who pontificate about this crisis should be turning sound bites into questions.

There is certainly fertile ground for questions. Top of the list is why the problem is worse in the UK than elsewhere in Europe and why it is happening when prices paid to farmers are continuing to fall for the headline commodities. Widen those questions out and what is happening is at odds with the global situation. The UN Food and Agriculture price index fell again in August.

These were led by meat, dairy, cereals and vegetable oils in a now well-established trend to lower prices. Dairy prices are now 22 per cent below their March 2022 peak, but shoppers are not feeling the impact. Processors and retailers are having to recover higher wage and other costs, but there is a strong case for making clear to consumers that farmers are not gaining from what is happening. Beyond that the case is still robust for a proper, politician-led look at UK food security to establish what, if any, lessons have been learned from recent events.

It was ironic that when farm ministers met for their informal farm council under the Spanish EU presidency that an event to discuss climate change almost fell victim to yet more extreme weather. What should have been a nice few days in September in Cordoba ended up a battle against winds and flash floods. Coming after a cold spring and a summer of heatwaves, droughts and floods that all affected agriculture ministers had every incentive to come up with solutions to maintain farming productivity.

To their credit they see this as the basis of a secure European food supply. Whatever the reasons driving the debate, they delivered an outcome on gene editing, known in Europe as novel genomic techniques or NGTs. Ministers put their weight behind European Commission plans to allow this as part of food production, with protections for organic farming and rules to prevent any blurring between NGTs and genetic modification (GM). There are still questions about patent protection and labelling. A key issue is how it benefits consumers labelling something that is genetically the same as the outcome of natural selection.

Avoiding this is about standing up to the green lobby that is opposed to NGTs and it would be good if Brussels finally took a pro-science stance and insisted there is no case for labelling.

NGTs are clearly a science that is here to stay a useful new tool in the breeding toolbox to be used as an effective and useful alternative to GM techniques. It is a compromise, but still a victory for science over the Luddites that oppose all scientific progress. Progress on NGTs was welcomed across the farming and food industry in Europe. COPA, which represents EU farm unions, urged Brussels to accelerate the process of turning this into legislation.

It claimed this would allow Europe to remain globally competitive and achieve the holy grail outcome of producing more and better at a reduced cost for the environment and to the benefit of the sustainability of agriculture. CEJA, which represents young farmer organisations, said the EU must embrace all available technology to ensure a successful future for the next generation in agriculture. The Greens, who opposed this, were left fuming in the European parliament about the decision, but their opposition is not securing meaningful support.

Brussels has countered opposition with a new version of sustainable intensification as a goal. It is now using the phrase 'new technologies for a more sustainable agriculture' to win over opposition. Just as the weather in Spain focussed the minds of the informal farm council a summer of freak weather and a year of food price inflation has focussed consumer minds back to the real world from the stop-all-progress approach. A new era could be opening for agriculture and science, making the UK return to the EU Horizon science programme an example of perfect timing.