Ploughing the Wrong Furrow

44 Pages Posted: 3 Jun 2021

Date Written: October 18, 2016


The precautionary principle provides non-farming interest groups with a pseudo-official means of influencing policy. The result is a drift towards overregulation and regulatory failures which are in conflict with the efficient working of the single market. Official estimates suggest that compliance with existing agricultural regulations amount to £590 million a year in England, representing an increase in total operational costs by a little more than five per cent in England. This significantly underestimates the true cost of regulations because compliance costs do not take into account the longer term, and potentially much larger, costs arising from the impact on competitiveness and the affordability of food. Researchers estimate that overall crop yields would be around half their current levels without the use of crop protection products. Further restrictions on pesticide use would reduce crop yields across the EU and substantially increase the price of food. It is unlikely that the benefits of the current regulatory burden outweigh the costs. The EU’s precautionary approach discourages the development of technologies with even a low, theoretical probability of harm despite offering the likelihood of faster agricultural productivity growth.

Keywords: UK, Britain, agriculture, sustainable agriculture, innovation, competition, efficiency, agricultural policy, economic integration, sustainability, environmental protection

JEL Classification: Q58, Q18, Q17, Q01, Q02, O33, L26

Suggested Citation

Rickard, S.H., Ploughing the Wrong Furrow (October 18, 2016). Institute of Economic Affairs Monographs, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

S.H. Rickard (Contact Author)

Cranfield University ( email )

Cranfield School of Management
Bedfordshire MK43 OAL
United Kingdom

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