"...a sustainable system that uses less energy, less chemicals and makes better use of waste products."
Organic production When we say the food system is unsustainable we mean that there is something about it, an internal contradiction, that means it can't go on the way it is without it breaking up. And I firmly believe there will be a breakdown." Michael Pollan
August 6 2009 ~"Organic farming is going to become seriously important as oil supplies diminish ..."
William Surman in the Farmers Guardian, in its article about the FSA report so dismissive of the nutritional advantages of 'organic' food (more here), quotes Edward Goff, an organic dairy farmer from Oswestry
"Organic farming is going to become seriously important as oil supplies diminish and prices escalate. That is why many people look to organic food. They want a sustainable system that uses less energy, less chemicals and makes better use of waste products." (Read in full)
August 2 2009 ~ FSA report: The Ecologist calls for more rigorous research in the field of food science
The Ecologist's Editor's blog, defending the researchers at the London School of of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), points out that their caveats (about the shoddy or incomplete nature of the evidence in the papers studied) got lost in the misleading headlines about the FSA report. Extract:
"... The LSHTM researchers conclude, quite rightly: 'It should be noted that these conclusions relate to the evidence base currently available, which contains limitations in the design and in the comparability of studies… this scattered evidence indicates a need for further high-quality research in this field..."The message in the media was that the FSA was telling consumers that organic food has no nutritional advantages, Mark Anslow concludes his article: "What those newsstands should read is: "Buck Your Ideas Up, Food Scientists - There's Work To Be Done".
August 2 2009 ~ "a society that has systematically hewed its inhabitants away from the natural world"
"The green movement's fixation with technology reveals that we are asking the wrong questions," wrote Paul Kingsnorth in yesterday's Guardian.
".....the challenge posed by climate change is not really about technology. It is not even about carbon. It is about a society that has systematically hewed its inhabitants away from the natural world, and turned that world into a resource. It is about a society that imagines it operates in a bubble; that it can keep growing in a finite world, forever.Recent posts on the contentious issue of wind power here.
When we clamour for more wind-power stations in the wilderness, we perhaps think we are helping to slow this machine, but we are actually helping to power it. We are still promoting, perhaps unintentionally, the familiar mantras of industrial civilisation: growth can continue forever; technological gigantism will save us; our lives can go on much as they always have..."
Friday July 31 2009 ~ Food Standards Agency report ignored the latest study into organic food.
The Soil Association criticises the FSA review for rejecting almost all of the existing studies that compare the two food types. The report in www.hortweek.com suggests that the Food Standards Agency review, carried out by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, used no new empirical research but was compiled by looking at old papers from the last 50 years up to 2008. The latest EU study produced at a cost of 18 million euros and which ended in April 2009, found that "levels of a range of nutritionally desirable compounds were shown to be higher in organic crops".
(The Daily Mail's article today is even more scathing: "... If it has any genuine interest in nutrition, the Food Standards Agency would be supporting a shift away from intensification, not pushing for more of it.The FSA was meant to be an organisation for improving our food. Now it is just getting in the way.")
July 29 2009 ~ The Food Standards Agency findings on organic food "selective in the extreme."
Once again, the FSA is again attacking the idea that organic food is best. The Guardian reports this evening on an FSA report into organic food which, says Peter Melchett, "..rejected almost all of the existing studies of comparisons between organic and non-organic nutritional differences." Carlo Leifert, a professor of ecological agriculture at Newcastle University whose major EU-funded study involved 31 research and university institutes, said he was worried about the FSA's conclusions.
"... they are so blocked by not wanting to say positive things about organic farming. the conclusions of the study were selective."The EU study found nutrient levels were higher in organic foods. Head of the FSA until April 2005 was John Krebs, (another member of the same group, so influential in 2001 that included Roy Anderson and David King.) In 2003, organisations including the National Federation of Women's Institutes and Unison wrote to Sir John expressing deep concern at the pro-GM bias and anti organic stance of the FSA. In 2005, the FSA's continuing attacks on organic farming were mentioned as cause for concern on page 15 of the Dean Review, a report compiled by Baroness Dean. The agency had, "deviated from its normal stance of making statements based solely on scientific evidence, to giving the impression of speaking against organic food and for GM food"
July 29 2009 ~ "... reared naturally with very high welfare standards"
localfoodadvisor.com lists over 1000 meat suppliers including all the top award winning producers, farm shops, specialist producers and butchers. Meat includes beef, pork, lamb, cured meats, sausages, etc but excludes game and venison. Consumers can find local farmers' markets, local organic produce and the sort of quality they want by entering their postcode, while farmers who raise high quality produce can apply to get themselves listed on the website. The top 4000 award-winning suppliers in the UK and Ireland - all of whom have won major awards - are listed free. So far, the site is attracting 160,000 visitors a month.
June 14 2009 ~ ".. organic agriculture has the potential to contribute quite substantially to the global food supply, while reducing the detrimental environmental impacts of conventional agriculture..."
Fascinating abstract of an article, "Organic agriculture and the global food supply", in Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems (2007), 22:86-108 Cambridge University Press
"... Model estimates indicate that organic methods could produce enough food on a global per capita basis to sustain the current human population, and potentially an even larger population, without increasing the agricultural land base. .... Data from temperate and tropical agroecosystems suggest that leguminous cover crops could fix enough nitrogen to replace the amount of synthetic fertilizer currently in use..."Read in fullFrom next year, France is going to confiscate over 20 per cent of the billions of euros of European taxpayers' money paid to its ranch-like cereals farms and divert the cash to hill farmers, to grazing land, to shepherds and to organic agriculture. Is DEFRA contemplating a similar move, one wonders.
Friday June 12 2009 ~ Michael Pollan predicts "certain breakdown for a North American food system far too dependent on cheap energy and big corporations".
In an interesting interview in yesterday's Canadian website, The Tyee, he said,
"One of the reasons we need to nurture several different ways of feeding ourselves -- local, organic, pasture-based meats, and so on - is that we don't know what we're going to need and we don't know what is going to work. To the extent that we diversify the food economy, we will be that much more resilient. Because there will be shocks. We know that. We saw that last summer with the shock of high oil prices. There will be other shocks. We may have the shock of the collapsing honey bee population. We may have the shock of epidemic diseases coming off of feed lots. We're going to need alternatives around. When we say the food system is unsustainable we mean that there is something about it, an internal contradiction, that means it can't go on the way it is without it breaking up. And I firmly believe there will be a breakdown."Read the interview in full
June 4 2009 ~ Landshare. How it works
The waiting list for council allotments is now running at 40 years in some areas of the country. The Channel 4 website devoted to "Landshare" allows you, whether landowner prepared to lend land or grower looking for land in which to grow your own food, to find growing partners. The Scotsman - Extract:
"....Fearnley-Whittingstall is a bona fide, full-time food campaigner. Whether he's petitioning Tesco to improve the conditions in which its chickens are kept, convincing us all to grow our own organic veg, or setting up a collective that will allow people across the country to swap land to grow things on, Fearnley-Whittingstall appears passionate, genuine and somehow more approachable than most of our foodie TV personalities. You get the impression he really cares about this stuff..."Channel 4 yesterday told the story of the first ever Landshare 'match' on "River Cottage - Landshare" and BBC1's The One Show also mentioned this inspiriting initiative.