An article in The Guardian says that buying organic food is a way to save the insect population. I am so pleased to see that in print but excuse me, organic growers have known that the many years. In the past the press has ridiculed the ‘all muck and magic’ brigade and depicted us as happy idiots who do not know the benefit of modern insecticides. Now we are on the brink of a precipice it seems organic growing really does have something to offer.
The first thing to do is ban TV advertising of pesticides and herbicides. Then start a programme to turn the whole country over to organic growing. It will not be easy as the soil on agrochemical farms is in very poor condition, but it can be done.
Is that hoots of laugher I hear in the background? Are farmers and growers shouting we will all starve? Well think on mate, without insects to do the vital pollination of plants we will starve. So, you choose, change the way we grow food to more sustainable, environmentally friendly methods or stick with the conventional chemical soaked stuff that feeds the profits of the agrochemical companies. I know what I would do!
There was an alarming article in The Guardian yesterday, scientists are saying that the rapid decline in insect numbers is a catastrophe and evidence that the sixth mass extinction has started.
Since the late 1940s agriculture has become dependent on the use of artificial pesticides and fertilizers. The widespread use of various ‘sprays’ to keep crops ‘clean’ is seen as the only alternative to starvation. The agrochemical industry has become a big business dominated by very few companies. In short there are huge amounts of profit in killing anything that crawls or flies near a crop.
There has also been a corresponding increase in the use of pesticides in domestic gardens. That can be even worse for insect life as the density and variety of flowering plants is much higher. Anything that crawls or grows in the wrong place is zapped with adverts on TV telling us how to keep our gardens ‘beautiful’.
But insects are far more than an inconvenient pest. Without them we are in big trouble as they are major pollinators of flowers that become our food. Insects are part of the food chain that sustains us, without them we starve.
What can we do? First stop using pesticides in your garden. Second, lobby governments, farming organisation and growers to stop using pesticides. Most of all buy only organic food! If you grow your own, then switch to organic growing methods.
The one good thing that has come out of the Brexit mess is the talk about food security. It has been ignored for many years. Around 10 years ago I spoke to Prof. Tim Lang about the subject. Nothing much has changed, we rely on a small number of supermarket brands for the majority of our food and if anything the supply chain is more precarious now.
Yet again we have let this happen, we have given the supermarkets the power to control what we eat. Farmers are virtually enslaved by the supply chain and they take all the risks.
The effects of climate change on the food supply are already being felt. It is time for the UK to think about where food comes from and take steps to ensure we have enough. That means not taking prime agricultural land for vanity projects like HS2 and making changes to planning laws to enure that brown field sites are used first.
And we need a new ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign!
This what Prof Tim Land about food security said 10 years ago.
“Mega-sized farming encourages practices that degrade the soil, waste fertilizer and mishandle manure, all of which directly increase emissions of greenhouse gases. At the same time, it discourages practices like “no-till” farming and crop rotation that grab carbon dioxide from the air, store it in the soil and improve soil health.”
It is about time more people realised that food does not appear on our plates by magic. There has been little mention that 30% of UK food comes from the EU, 2.5 millions lorries a year bringing 5m tonnes.
Add to that the effect climate change is already having on food security and then factor in the amount of agricultural land lost to house building and vanity projects like HS2 and it is plain to see that politics is involved.
The truth is we need to prioritise the growing of food and go back to something like a war time attitude where every last square metre of land is cultivated.
It never ceases to amaze me what researchers find in healthy soils. Now it seems there is a natural antidepressant. It is over 30 years since I discovered organic gardening and each day makes me more convinced that it is the ONLY way to grow food.
A report on a respected science web site, Phys.Org, says that there is evidence of pesticides in European soils. That is not really a surprise but still worrying. The other part of that will be low organic matter in soil making it more prone to erosion.
Soil should be seen as a vital resource for growing food and not as a sterile medium for industrial agriculture. After 70 years of intensive farming soils are in a worse state and still deteriorating.
The only answer is the wide scale adoption of organic farming methods which cultivate healthy soils producing nutritious food. A good example of what can be done is Riverford Organic.
The beginning of 2019 brings many uncertainties; BREXIT, will it be the chaos of a ‘no deal’ or a smooth transition. Will we see threats to our food supply from climate change?
Whichever way you look at it there has never been a better time to start growing at least some of your own food. So what is stopping you? Many will say they do not have the time or that they have very little garden or none at all. Or that they do know how to start.
First, I want to say that growing food is not that difficult. There is an old saying that seeds are programmed to grow. There are also a lot of myths around and even some bad advice.
As for lack of time and space I want to show you some easy ways to get started that use little of either. And if you do not have a garden there are always containers. As a very well gardener once said to me, “there is nothing that cannot be container grown!”
Over the coming months I will add instalments about choosing what to grow, how to grow it and where to start. Over the last 30 years I have grown fruit and veg in a small town house garden, a large veg plot and in containers on a patio. I have written about growing in magazines in the US, UK and Australia. Pioneered Square Foot Gardening in the UK and developed a form square metre bed gardening. I have also taught compost making and other subjects and have run this site, for over 20 years.
Please check back soon to see the first instalment about choosing seeds.
A complete ban on the use of organophosphates is way overdue. They are one of the most pernicious chemicals used in agriculture. They certainly have no place in the food chain.
A few years back I was talking to a group of allotment gardeners. They used OPs to kill carrot root fly. One man explained they got a hand full and sprinkled it in the row when plating seeds. He was unaware that OPs are toxic through skin contact and that they are a cumulative poison. Soon after they were banned from sale to domestic users.
This new report says: “The study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine on Wednesday, said that even low-levels of organophosphate exposure can cause brain damage in children.” So why does anybody want to use them? The simple answer will be profits!