The Great Debate - Do We Need a New Agricultural Revolution?

agriculture image of machinery in a field by James Baltz

Wednesday 20 October, 6.30-8pm

The choices we make about how we use our landscapes are urgent and will influence everything from our ability to confront and mitigate the current biodiversity and climate crises we face to the type of food on our plates and prices we pay for it. With Brexit and the release from EU legislation under the Common Agricultural Policy, Britain faces important policy choices about food, farming and landscape use that will potentially reshape our countryside, economy and society.

To celebrate the anniversary of the Great Debate at the Museum on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection in 1860, join us once more for this year’s annual debate to discuss another controversial issue facing science and society ‘Do We Need a New Agricultural Revolution?’. 

Join our expert panel, chaired by former chairman of the Natural Environment Research Committee and Adaptation to Climate Change Committee, Lord John Krebs, to debate the possible futures we face and the paths we could take to get there. The debate includes a chance to pose your own questions to the panel about the nature of the British countryside and to explore if you think a new agricultural revolution is necessary to reshape our landscapes for the future.

Join the Event Online


lord krebs

Chair: Professor Lord John Krebs

Between 2005 and 2015 John was the Principal of Jesus College, Oxford University. From 1988 to 2005 he held a Royal Society Research Professorship in the Edward Grey Institute. John served as the first Chairman of the UK Food Standards Agency from 2000-2005 and as Chief Executive of the Natural Environment Research Council from 1994-1999. Earlier in his career he was a Demonstrator in Ornithology at the EGI, Assistant Professor of Zoology at the University of British Columbia, Lecturer in Zoology at the University College of North Wales, Bangor, and Lecturer in Zoology in the EGI.

John served as Chairman of the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee from 2010-2014 and as Chairman of the UK Science and Technology Honours Committee from 2008-2014. He served as President of the British Science Association in 2012. Between 2009 and 2017, John was a member of the UK Climate Change Committee and chaired its Adaptation Sub-Committee. In 2019-2020 he chaired the House of Lords Select Committee on Food, Poverty, Health and the Environment and he currently sits on the Science and Technology Select Committee.



stuart roberts photo

Stuart Roberts, Deputy President of the National Farmers Union

Stuart farms 120 hectares in Hertfordshire in partnership with his wife.  A third generation arable and livestock farmer at Hammonds End Farm, Harpenden, Stuart has also worked for Defra and the Food Standards Agency and held senior management roles within the meat supply chain.

The farm incorporates around 100 hectares of combinable crops supplying grain to more than 50 artisan mills and bakers throughout the UK.  The remaining land is predominately permanent pasture and a small amount of woodland.  The farm includes a small pedigree Hereford herd and a flock of Lleyn Sheep.  The business also includes a flock of laying hens.

Stuart was elected to the post of NFU Deputy President in February 2020 after serving two years as Vice President.  He previously chaired the NFU Hertfordshire branch and served on both the East Anglian livestock and combinable crops board.  Stuart has also previously served on the boards of Red Tractor and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board. 

Stuart has a daughter and three sons and enjoys cycling and running (slowly).


helen browning

Helen Browning, Chief Executive of the Soil Association

Helen runs a mixed organic farm in Wiltshire with dairy, beef, pigs, cereals and agroforestry. She has been Chief Executive of the Soil Association since 2011, after a long involvement with the charity in a variety of exec and non-exec roles.

She is a member of the Food Ethics Council and a trustee of the RSPB. She sits on the BBC’s Rural Affairs Advisory Committee and the National Food Strategy Advisory Panel.

Prior to rejoining the Soil Association, Helen was Director of External Affairs for the National Trust.

She has had a number of roles in agri-politics over the years, including the Government’s Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food (‘the Curry Commission’) and chaired the England Animal Health and Welfare Implementation Group. Helen was awarded an OBE in 1998 for her services to organic farming.


Charles godfray

Professor Sir Charles Godfray, Director of the Oxford Martin School

Professor Charles Godfray was appointed Director of the Oxford Martin School on 1 February 2018.

He is a population biologist with broad interests in the environmental sciences and has published in fundamental and applied areas of ecology, evolution and epidemiology.

He is interested in how the global food system will need to change and adapt to the challenges facing humanity in the 21st century, and in particular in the concept of sustainable intensification, and the relationship between food production, ecosystem services and biodiversity.

In 2017 he was knighted for services to scientific research and for scientific advice to government and is Lead Researcher of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food.

Professor Godfray is also Chair of Defra’s Science Advisory Council, and is a Trustee Director of Rothamsted Research and a Trustee of the Food Foundation.