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The Legal, Regulatory and Economic Framework of the Future

Learn more about the legal, regulatory and economic framework of the future.
© EIT Food
“The key question is to what extent, for what goals and for whose benefit precision agriculture will be used. Technology in itself is neither good nor bad, it is the way in which it is used that determines the effect. Thus, the main challenge is to develop a framework that can cope with the potential threats to the privacy and autonomy of individual farmers in a pragmatic, inclusive and dynamic manner.” [1] Mihalis Kritikos of the Scientific Foresight Unit (STOA) of the European Parliament; author of the report into Precision agriculture in Europe Legal, social and ethical considerations

Let’s look briefly at some of the implications of adopting the technologies emerging for future farms.

In previous Steps, we discussed the potential for legal issues around aspects of precision farming, such as laws limiting or prohibiting drone flying, which could impact how and when crops could be monitored or how drones could be used in precision farming [2].

Precision farming also generates a lot of data, highlighting the need for clarity around data storage, access, and ownership.

One study [3] looked at farmers’ concerns with data use and access in 6 areas:

  1. Terms and conditions – understanding of the terms and conditions with service providers in relation to farm data collection
  2. Data access – does the service provider have direct access to your data through the services they provide?
  3. Profit-making – how comfortable are you with a service provider making a profit from your data?
  4. Data privacy – do you trust service providers to maintain the privacy of your farm data?
  5. Third-party data sharing – do you trust them not to share data with third parties?
  6. Willingness to share agricultural data – how willing are you to share input data, such as pesticide and herbicide application? Are you willing to share data on, eg yields?

Do any of the areas/questions above concern you?

There can also be a great individual and societal benefits from sharing data or generating it as a ‘shared enterprise’. Two examples are yield forecasting and generating soil maps:

  • Exploration of yield forecasting can benefit regions by moving food to where it is needed if there is a poor harvest. Is this something that could happen on a more global scale?
  • National / country-wide soil maps are widely available, and they use data collected over the whole country to develop these important resources [4].

Developing new techniques and technologies

Regulatory frameworks may also have to change to accommodate developing technologies to ensure compliance with current laws and regulations and to ensure that data gathered for cross-compliance inspections are in the correct format. This means that technologies (both hardware and software) produced by different companies and organisations need to be compatible and suitable for all end-users [1,5].

The Demeter project works with smart farming technologies to support and improve interoperability in order to support farmers.

Many researchers and developers argue for farmers to be involved with the development of precision farming technologies and the digitisation of farming to ensure usability and compatibility (‘responsible innovation of smart technologies’). This includes working with policy-makers [6]. There are also calls, from both public and private groups, for more economic incentives to support farmers in starting out and increasing their use of precision farming technologies – especially those with small to medium-sized farms where any economic benefits could take longer to show [7].


Precision farming can support food safety and traceability. It enables, for example, food producers, processors, vendors, and consumers to follow their food from farm to fork [1]. Collecting data about crop production and harvest (ie, where, when, and how) can also support certification processes (eg, organic certification) and regulatory processes. Regulatory frameworks concerning, for example, pesticide and fertiliser use, may also take into account the ability of precision farming techniques to reduce input use and minimise loss into the environment.

What would you recommend to those developing new technologies? What might enable you to use or increase using them?

© EIT Food
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