I grew up just outside Liverpool in the 1950s and 60s before heading off to Aberdeen university in 1968. There I studied soil science (BSc) and then history of and social studies of science and technology at Sussex, UK, (MSc) and Case Western Reserve Universities, Ohio, USA (Rotary Foundation Graduate Fellowship).
In the mid-1970s, I helped found and edit the journal Food Policy, then worked freelance for a year before going to Turkey late in 1978, as a technical cooperation officer with then Ministry of Overseas Development, helping set up an agricultural extension and communications centre at Ege University, Izmir. From mid-1981, I've worked freelance as a writer and consultant.
Over the years, I've worked on various agricultural development projects e.g. again long and short-term in Turkey, and short-term in Albania, Mongolia and Kazakhstan. As a writer I've travelled widely and contributed to many specialist magazines and newspapers and various journals.
In the late 1980s / early 1990s I was an honorary visiting fellow at the Food Policy Research Unit at the University of Bradford. From 1996-99, I was honorary visiting professor of food policy at Leeds Metropolitan University. Currently, I'm an honorary research fellow in the Department of Peace Studies at Bradford University and at the Centre for Rural Economy, Newcastle University.
I have co-written or co-edited five books, including The Food System: a guide (with Tony Worsley) and co-editorship of the The future control of food - A guide to international negotiations and rules on intellectual property, biodiversity and food security. My other writings include monographs, papers, book chapters and features for newspapers and magazines.
My specialist and popular writing has focussed on food, agriculture and development issues, but I’ve also written about Turkey, science and technology, computing and education during my career. My features have appeared in many magazines and newspapers including Farmers Weekly, Financial Times, The Food Magazine, Food Policy, Gemini News Service, The Guardian, Ideas and Action, International Agricultural Development, Overseas Development, Poultry International, Pig International, New Internationalist, and The Times Higher Education Supplement.
Syndicated features have also appeared in various countries around the world including Argentina, Botswana, Kenya, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Uganda, and Zambia.
During the 1980s and 1990s, in particular, as a broadcaster I also contributed regularly to various BBC World Service programmes including "The Farming World", and to BBC Radio 4's "Farming Today" and "The Food Programme". I still make occasional contributions to programmes.
As a consultant, I have worked for various UN and international agencies, governments and non-governmental organizations. Click here for a fuller list
I have received a number of awards over the years. Click here for details
Decisions made in international meetings in big conference halls around the planet, like this of the Convention on Biological Diversity, help reshape the rules of the world today - from those affecting trade and biodiversity, to others on food, medicines and genetic resources.
Farmers in Ethiopia discussing farmer field trials of new wheat varieties.
What happens in the field in shaped not just by the environment but by the economics, laws and norms that growers have little control over.