There have been two reports published in the last few weeks that have gone a long way to boosting the cause of organic farming, and are essential reading for anyone concerned about what’s in their food and what effects the production of that food has on the wider environment.
First, there has been a new study by Newcastle University into the nutritional differences between organic and non-organic crops – click here to read a summary. Some of the key findings include:
–upto 60% more anti-oxidants in organic produce compared to non-organic
–significantly less potentially harmful substances such as cadmium, nitrogen and pesticide residues
The report concludes that organic produce is nutritionally different from non-organic food. As the authors say, “for anti-oxidants, switching to organic crop consumption is equivalent to eating one or two additional portions of fruit and vegetables per day”.
The second report is one that has looked into the effects of neonicotinoids – the most widely used group of pesticides around the world, as used by non-organic farmers. Written by the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides (TFSP), the report concludes that neonics (as they’re known in short-hand) cause major damage to biodiversity and eco-systems, including the well-known plight of our bees. There’s a good introductory video on their website and a good written summary here.
This is seminal stuff. The evidence suggests that neonics are the DDT-type scandal of our age. And, just as they were in the mid-20th century, corporate interests are standing in the way of appropriate policy making. One of the most telling sections of the video on TFSP’s website is when Prof Dave Goulson from the University of Sussex says, “It’s striking that… the industry-funded research, which they either carry out themselves or give large grants to certain academics to perform, almost invariably find no impact of these pesticides on bees or any other aspect of the environment… whereas the vast majority of independent research finds completely the opposite.”
Both these reports shine a light on the state of modern farming. Why does conventional (non-organic) farming appear to produce nutritionally inferior food? Could it be that the short-term zeal for yields (involving monoculture cropping, heavy machinery and synthetic fossil-fuel derived fertilisers and pesticides) has left non-organic soils and crops short of health and nutrition?
Why are farmers so in thrall to the products and interests of the major agro-chemical companies? Could it be that the people who really control global food production are not farmers but the companies that supply the seeds and the apparently ‘essential’ agro-chemical products that are sold alongside them?
Meanwhile, on our farm…
Full-on busy days at the moment, as we get the last of our plants in the ground, and try to stay on top of watering and weeding all the other crops. The story of the year so far is, firstly, the mild winter leading to a sluggy start to our spring plantings. We normally rely on some heavy winter frosts to keep slug populations in check but the frosts never came. So we struggled in May and early June, with quite a lot of broccoli and squash plants getting eaten. All our celery got slugged too but it seems to be growing back, on its second life.
Otherwise, the season has so far been dominated by dry sunny weather (apart from May), which has meant our irrigation system has been working overtime. We don’t know where we’d be without it. The slugs don’t like the sun, but the plants love it, and as long as we’ve got enough water to hand we can slog away through the long days.
Peak busy-ness means it’s a great time to come along and get stuck in with us, so if you’re up for volunteering please get in touch!