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Dr Isobel Tomlinson

Lecturer in Environmental Geography

BSc (Hons), MSc and PhD (University College London)

Research interests

  • I am an environmental geographer with research interests in:
  • Organic agriculture and agroecological farming - My doctoral research examined the evolution of organic agriculture policy and politics in the UK in the period from 1980 to 2006. I subsequently worked as the policy researcher at the Soil Association for two years. I am interested in the potential for expanding and scaling-up farming systems based on the principles of agro-ecology.
  • Agricultural policy, food security and climate change -
  • I have written critically about how the emerging ‘food security’ debate in the UK is framed through particular discourses, such as ‘sustainable intensification’. I am interested in the potential consequences of this for the direction of agriculture and conservation.
  • I am interested in debates about ‘sustainable’ food and farming, and in particular political and policy responses to future resource constraints and the impacts of climate change. I am interested in the consequences that policies for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions from the UK agriculture sector will have for the future of farming.
  • Tree and plant disease management - I was a postdoctoral research associate on an inter-disciplinary RELU project ‘Memory and Prediction in Tree Disease Control: A comparative analysis of Dutch elm disease (DED) and Ramorum blight in the UK’. It examined what could be learnt from the experience of the 1970s DED outbreak in order to improve planning for present-day and future tree and plant disease outbreaks, and focused on the science, management, and public understanding of the event. The P. ramorum outbreak in the UK is significant because it has simultaneous impacts on a diverse range of habitats including plant nurseries, historic gardens, woodlands and heathland, and poses new challenges for plant health biosecurity practices.


  • Humans and the Environment
  • Geographies of Food
  • Contemporary Debates in Food and Farming
  • European Environmental Policy
  • Organic Farming
  • Food Security
  • Tree and Plant Biosecurity

Areas of research supervison

  • Food security
  • Organic agriculture
  • UK agriculture policy
  • Tree and plant disease management


  • Articles in Refereed Journals
    • Tomlinson I (2011) ‘Doubling food production to feed the 9 Billion: A Critique of a dominant discourse of food security’ for a themed issue on food security for the Journal of Rural Studies
    • Potter, C., Harwood, T., Knight, J., and Tomlinson, I. (2011) ‘Learning from history, predicting the future: The relevance of the UK Dutch Elm Disease, outbreak in assessing the threat from contemporary tree disease epidemics’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. July 12, (366) 1966-1974.doi:10.1098/rstb.2010.0395
    • Harwood, T., Tomlinson I., Potter, C., and Knight J. (2011) ‘Dutch Elm disease revisited: past, present and future management in Great Britain’, Plant Pathology, 60 (3) 545-555.
    • Tomlinson, I. (2010) ‘Acting Discursively: The Development of UK Organic Food and Farming Policy Networks’, Public Administration, 88 (4) 1045-1062.
    • Tomlinson, I., and Potter, C. (2010) ‘Too little, too late’? Science, policy and Dutch Elm Disease in the UK’, Journal of Historical Geography, April, 121-131.
    • Tomlinson, I. (2008) ‘Re-thinking the Transformation of Organics: The Role of the UK Government in Shaping British Organic Food and Farming’, Sociologia Ruralis, 48 (2) 133–151.
  • Government Commissioned Reports
    • Potter C, Tomlinson I and Bayliss H (2013) Oak Processionary Moth in the UK: Lessons from the London Outbreak, Report to Defra, February 2013.
    • Tomlinson, I., Harwood, T., Potter, C., and Knight J. (2009) ‘Review of Joint Inter-Departmental Emergency Programme to Contain and Eradicate P. ramorum and P.kernoviae’. Report commissioned by DEFRA. (Available on-line).
  • Campaigning Reports
    • Soil Association (2012) Feeding the future: How organic farming can feed the world, May 2012.
    • Soil Association (2010) Telling Porkies: The big fat lie about doubling food production, April 2010.
    • Soil Association (2010) A rock and a hard place: Peak phosphorus and the threat to our food security, November 2010.
    • Soil Association (2010) Just Say N2O: From manufactured fertiliser to biologically-fixed nitrogen.


Contact details

Tel: + 44 (0)20 3073 8457