The Food Ethics Council welcomes the government’s commitment to protecting our natural environment. But we need to think carefully about the consequences of putting a financial value on the services that nature provides for us.

Putting a money value on nature may seem sensible, given that the government is operating within a global economy that is committed to driving growth on a planet with biophysical limits.

But in reality, instead of encouraging us to protect those services, putting a price tag on them may simply turn them into commodities to be bought, sold and traded on the international finance markets. This has already happened with CO2 emissions, with little benefit to the climate, and cordons off parts of our shared environment under private ownership and control.

Dr Tom MacMillan, executive director of the Food Ethics Council says:

“Nature is not just nice to have. It’s a necessity. We need biodiversity like we need water and food – but that’s not the only reason to protect it.

“At best, applying economic thinking to the services nature provides gives us pause to think about how important nature is to humanity. But at worst it perpetuates the dangerous conceit that our own place in ecosystems is more important than any other.”

Notes to Editors

1. The Food Ethics Council works for a food system that is fair and sustainable for people and the planet. We provide advice and conduct research on ethical issues in food and farming.

2. The summer 2011 edition of Food Ethics looks at the issue of placing a monetary value on nature. Experts contribute articles in favour of and against environmental economics. , To receive a copy visit