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Stimulate debate activity

Public concern about the quality of our food is rising. Newspapers are full of stories about our health and the safety of what we eat.

However, the food issue runs far deeper than this. The way we produce and distribute food may also be contributing to less obvious - and less headline grabbing - problems.

Rural unemployment, traffic congestion, pollution and loss of wildlife are all part of this wider picture.

But who do you believe? There are many conflicting opinions and it is no wonder that students (and teachers) can confuse many of the issues.

Curriculum links

England and Wales - Life Processes and Living Things (5) (b) (Double): how the impact of human activity on the environment is related to social and economic factors, including population size, industrial processes and levels of consumption and waste, and (g) how food production and distribution systems can be managed to improve the efficiency of energy transfer.

Northern Ireland - Living Organisms and Life Processes - Environment (d): understand how food production involves the management of ecosystems.


Student Sheet 1


More able groups may choose to debate all the issues raised in this article, while less able groups may concentrate on a few of the more interesting points. Poster work may allow those individuals less confident about voicing their opinions to express their views. 

Age range

14 - 16

The activity

This activity takes the form of a short article, introducing the major advantages and disadvantages of large scale, intensive farming.

The overall aim of the activity is for pupils to understand the issues and recognise the viewpoints of those who have an interest in farming. This should help pupils to approach with confidence the more complex and politically loaded issues, such as the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and the BSE crisis.

The article itself is not intended to be fully informative or comprehensive. As the title suggests, it is designed to stimulate a debate and to encourage students to think about the issues for themselves.

It could be used as a stimulus for project work, small group discussions or a whole class debate on the impacts of farming on the environment as a whole. You could also focus on one of the issues highlighted in the article, such as the use of agrochemicals or the loss of hedgerows.


You may want to ask pupils to compare prices of organic and non organic fruit and vegetables before you attempt this. If you are an urban school, you could ask them to monitor the media for a week preceding the lesson to see how many and what sort of farming (and rural?) issues come up. If you are a rural school, you could monitor the media and get pupils to ask adults who have lived in the area for a long time whether they think the countryside has changed and in what ways (eg less farming people and more people from the towns, less wildlife, less services, more roads, etc).

Check that students understand the term intensive farming

The activity

Print enough copies of the article or download it onto the system, so that everyone has access to it. Depending on the class ability, you may want to read it together and discuss it as you go along, to ensure that pupils understand that two subjective views are being given. After this, pupils could do their own research on the internet, or with articles they have brought in from the press - or you could make the process easier and quicker by bringing in some cuttings and articles.

How does the information you/they have collected compare to the information presented in the article? What sort of organisations/individuals might take the polarised views stated in the article?

Extension activities 

See Teacher's Introduction