Organo-bollox

Organic Food FestWith the Organic Food Festival – run by the toffs of the Soil Association – in town for the weekend, you can rely on The Evening Cancer to be talking a lot of old bollocks about it.

No surprise then that this week’s Seven supplement is entirely dedicated to talking down to its low brow audience about this snobs’ food festival happening at the Harbourside all weekend.

We particularly find Cancer food writer, Mark Taylor, in his snooty – if unscientific – element reviewing various local organic food outlets like he’s some sort of wealthy metropolitan half-wit liberal out of foodies’ bible The Observer Food Monthly. He positively gushes over St Werburghs’ Better Food Company:

“It was a naughty and sinful end to what was essentially a guilt-free and ethical lunch.”

Well fancy that. Better food for better people. Not only is posh people’s food more expensive than ours, it also makes them morally superior to us in every conceivable way and means they have no need to feel guilty about anything whatsoever.

Indeed why bother with messy old politics or silliness like redistributing wealth? Just do lunch instead darling! Truly, these organics are wonderfoods.

As for that cheap bag of Tesco’s Value carrots you feed your children… What better symbol could there be of the moral decline sweeping the country and especially its gang-ridden council estates. If only they ate local and organic…

Can it be long now before we find David Cameron delivering a key note speech from the wheel chair acccess ramp of the Notting Hill branch of Fresh and Wild, flanked by his eco-Nazi pin-up sidekick Zac Goldsmith, spelling out the contribution of Kenyan grown runner beans to “the Broken Society”?

Back in Seven, Mark also visits The Full Moon Bar at Stokes Croft. And what d’you know? It’s organic, vegetarian and vastly superior to your scummy local:

“And if that wasn’t enough, even the coffee is organic and Fairtrade. If only more Bristol pubs went to these lengths – it really makes a difference.”

What fucking difference does it make exactly? Beyond making a few wealthy people feel a bit better about themselves and their swanky conspicuous consumption because they buy their vegetables of some toff hobby farmer in the Cotswolds?

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42 Responses to Organo-bollox

  1. FF says:

    There is something really important that’s hardly ever talked about in the rush to organic food.

    I’ve asked a lot of nutritionists and scientists about this, as well as spending ages on the web seeking the answer, but to no avail:

    Is eating supermarket fruit and veg demonstrably worse for your health than eating organic food at 3-4 times the price?

    Well, er, um, er, probably not actually. Organic produce might arguably be better for the environment. It’s certainly better for the profits of places like the egregious Fresh & Wild, but the best science we have thus far is that factory farmed fruit & veg is just as good for you.

  2. Blogger has a point about the way organic food is talked about and perhaps the way some businesses are run. Its not a cure-all by any means. Its one of those things, like recycling, that is regarded as such. However, you cant dismiss the problems with the current food system and intensive farming. Blogger asks ‘What fucking difference does it make anyway?’ Well, a lot (FF is wrong about the science)…

    Organic food: safer, healthier, greener, ethical.
    It is clearly wrong to say that organic food is not safer, healthier and more nutritious than that grown with artificial chemicals and drugs

    Organic foods generally contains more of the good stuff our bodies need for good health as well as less of the contamination that we don’t need.

    Properly and naturally look after the soil that crops come from and the animals used for meat, eggs and dairy, and their products will look after you. Most people will probably feel this is the case instinctively, as evidenced by growing organic food sales. There is plenty of science to support their instincts too.

    Take what is perhaps the biggest UK food crisis in decades – BSE. Organic farmers banned the feeding of animal protein to farm animals long before the BSE crisis hit beef farmers. There have been no recorded cases of BSE in any animal born and reared organically.

    Antibiotics are used massively in non-organic animal farming. They are used to promote rapid growth and to prevent disease in intensively reared, overcrowded farm animals. This is demanded by our current food system, with its emphasis on quantity not quality. High standards of animal welfare in organic farming minimise the need for antibiotics and other veterinary drugs which are used only when strictly necessary.

    Organic fruit and veg generally have greater levels of beneficial minerals, essential amino acids and vitamins. Research comparing the nutrient contents of organic and non-organic fruit and vegetables reveals a strong trend toward higher levels in organic produce. Of 27 valid comparisons of the mineral and vitamin C contents of organic and non-organic crops, 14 showed significantly higher levels in organic produce while just one favoured non-organic.

    Organic crops are not artificially protected with pesticides so they tend to produce more naturally occurring phytonutrients, many of which are now known to have protective,antioxidant properties. Some are proving useful in the prevention and treatment of cancer. The artificial fertilisers used in chemical farming tend to increase the water content of fruit and vegetables. This tends to produce the bigger yields our current food systems demand but it dilutes the nutrient content of non-organic fruit and vegetables.

    Organic milk, according to research carried out by scientists in Britain and across Europe, has nearly 70% more essential fatty acid omega-3 that we hear so much about as essential for a healthy body. Studies have also shown that organic milk contains significantly more vitamin E. Organic cows milk good is because the animals eat a much more natural fresh grass and clover diet. Most non-organic cows eat a more grain-based diet containing cereals, maize and protein supplements.

    Yes its important and healthy to get at least our five-a-day fruit and veg, whether it is organic or not, especially if the food source is local, regional or British because this lowers the environmental impacts of food production. However, eating at least five organic fruit and vegetables a day is even better, doubly so if local/seasonal. Non-organic apples can be sprayed up to 16 times with 36 different chemicals, many of which cannot simply be washed off. Government tests, in 2005, found pesticides in 80% of non-organic apple samples.

    Pesticides are found on one in three non-organic foods tested each year, and multiple residues of up to seven different compounds are not uncommon. Pesticide safety is tested for individual compounds. Unfotuneately we know very little about the ‘cocktail effect’ of multiple residues. Some research suggests that they may be hundreds of times more toxic than the same compounds individually.

    The British Medical Association say that some pesticides can be stored in our body’s fatty tissues for years, raising concern about them being carcinogenic (cancer causing), mutagenic (causing birth defects) and neurotoxic (damaging to our nervous system). Organic farmers predominantly use natural methods to control pests so choosing organic is the best way to avoid pesticides in your food.

    Organic food processors are prohibited from using a host of ingredients that researchers say may be harmful to our health such as aspartame, hydrogenated fat, phosphoric acid, sulphur dioxide, monosodium glutamate, or artificial flavourings and colourings, none of which are prohibited in non-organics.

    My answer to the question: ‘Do you think organic food is worth buying?’ – is generally yes it is, especially if it is British, and we should be doing more to support it, increase the amount produced and help to bring prices down. Clinical and observational evidence in humans suggests that organic food, with fewer toxins and more nutrients, can make a difference to our health. Few, if any, dispute that organic farming is better for the environment and is more ethical too. It has to be said that it’s difficult to do controlled health studies with people because of complicating factors like genes and lifestyle. In controlled animal feeding trials though, the evidence is clear. Animals fed organically produced feed are healthier in terms of growth, reproductive health and recovery from illness.

  3. thebristolblogger says:

    It is clearly wrong to say that organic food is not safer, healthier and more nutritious than that grown with artificial chemicals and drugs

    Could you give us some links to proofs that organic food is healthier and nutritious (and not Soil Association PR)?

    And any information on how organics could feed an island of 60 million without relying on imports?

  4. Its really hard to get you to address the substance of arguments isn’t it! Not for the first time your technique is to simply post questions in response to a position. That could go on ad infinitum!

    What exactly are your answers to problems like BSE, foot and mouth, and bird flu as well as the contamintion of food with carcinogenic chemicals? The agricultural de-intensifiction that I want to see is part of the solution.

    There is nothing wrong with the evidence that I’ve already given you in a lengthy comment. It can all be tracked to proper scientific studies independent of the Soil Association, who in any event are a perfectly reputable, well trusted organisation.

    On feeding millions…it would be easier if we ate a low meat diet, freeing up land. Organic farms are not nywhere near as low yielding as you seem to think.

  5. Interesting concept. Certainly organic foods hold great potential for helping us becoming healthier

  6. thebristolblogger says:

    I’ve read a lot that in terms of health and nutrition organic food is little different to non-organic. I’m simply asking you to provide links to evidence that says different. If you don’t want to that’s fine.

    On the Soil Association – I suggest you ask some farmers how “reputable” and “well-trusted” they think they are. The organisation is a joke.

    Organic farms might not be as low-yielding as I think but I bet you can’t feed this island organically without imports. If that’s the case you’re going to have to have a technological solution of some kind. I’m not bothered or scared by technology so pesticides or GM suit me fine.

    What food is being contaminated with carcinogenic chemicals in this country? This is scare stories. My Tesco Value carrots are as healthy as your toff carrots.

    BSE, foot and mouth, and bird flu are entirely different problems with entirely different causes. It’s just lazy thinking to lump them all in together to attack all technology in farming.

    However I agree with low meat diets. But that has fuck all to do with organics.

  7. Bluebaldee says:

    Whilst I don’t dispute that organic farming practices are preferable to factory farming, the “choosing organic” line from Vowles takes the piss a wee bit.

    Christ, I could “chose to buy a Rolex” instead of the cheapo watch I currently wear, but I just haven’t got the money.

    Organic food is pisstakingly expensive and I don’t buy the line that our friendly local supermarkets are going to reduce their organic prices anytime soon, regardless of how much the good citizens of Southville and Cotham scoff.

    Supermarkets have to make money from their organic ranges in order to make up for loss-leading £2 chickens and £9 DVD players and the like.

    We all know that the laws of supply and demand don’t work in this country, so to say that prices are going to come down if we all go out and buy organic at the current inflated cost is nonsense.

    Thanks to Gordon’s 1.9% this year (which I still haven’t had), and the fact that I’ve got my first child arriving in a fortnight, I’ve got to very seriously consider spending £25 on a new pair of work shoes. So, even if organic food helped me to sprout wings and gave me a 12 inch penis, I still couldn’t bloody well afford it.

  8. Jon Eccles says:

    Vowles:
    It doesn’t seem unreasonable to ask for sources. You’re the one making the claims.

    If you’ve got quality evidence I’m prepared to be persuaded, but if you traverse the Internet you’ll find all kinds of people, from creationists to homeopaths, making large claims about their data. Without sources, your claims are unverifiable, or unfalsifiable.

    Also, please reassure us that organic food won’t create a 12 inch bluebaldee penis. The 12 inch and bald bits are fine, but blue isn’t on. Talk about Frankenstein foods.

  9. I agree with John Eccles point on sources of course but dont forget that I referred to research that was widely reported in my first comment as well as giving a reasoned case that no-one has disputed the sense of. Blogger cant simply throw it all out by throwing mud at the Soil Assoc.

    Its not a substantial argument from Blogger to accuse me of being scared of technology and attacking all technology in farming (organic farmers eg use plenty of it!). This is just stereotyping on his part and is a feature of the way he argues.

    Its also not credible for Blogger to argue that there is no connection between intensive farming practices and BSE, foot and mouth and bird flu. Cases of BSE in cows born and raised organically are zero for instance.

    My general point is that organic food is healthier because it has both more of what we do need and less of what we don’t need for our wellbeing. I acknowledge that the debate is of course ongoing as more research is done but the body of evidence in favour of organics is now mounting rapidly. I guess the big and politically influential multinational companies involved in agrochemical manufacture have not been keen on research into organics to say the least. Now, if you want to look at the reports of the research I referred to in the media…

    Evidence for more omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin C, E and A, and anti-oxidants like flavinoids is very strong in certain foods. Evidence of negative health impacts from contaminants of various kinds is stronger if anything.

    For reports on organics having less of what we don’t need, go to:

    http://www.who.int/foodsafety/chem/general/en/index.html for a start.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/medical_notes/449303.stm

    For reports on organics having more of what we do need:

    More vitamin C:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/04/04/norg04.xml

    More phytonutrients such as anti-oxidants called flavinoids:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/healthy_eating/article2028701.ece

    and

    http://pubs.acs.org/cgi-bin/sample.cgi/jafcau/asap/pdf/jf070344+.pdf

    More omega 3 fatty acids in milk:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/mid/3513691.stm

    More vitamin E and vitamin A in milk:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2006/aug/27/foodtech.food

    One Soil Association briefing leaflet (available via their website) dealing with how organic food has more nutrients, like vitamins and minerals, as well as less contaminants like artificial pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and anti-biotics, uses these sources: The King’s Fund, an independent medical charity; Professor Vyvyan Howard, University of Liverpool; the British Medical Association; the World Health Organisation; the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine; and a range of academic papers – a list pretty strong on that vital property of evidence quality – provenance -I’d say.

    On other issues – I do think that a lot of organic food is very overpriced (and imported) and I agree this cant be addressed through the law of supply and demand alone, so Bluebaldee has a point. Our society effectively subsidises the mass production of chemical and energy intensive food, making it superficially ‘cheap’ because the costs of poorer health and environmental pollution are not a private but certainly are a social cost, for now and for future generations. What we need to do if we are to subsidise at all is to switch favour to the greener, healthier options.

    Now, also raised was the issue of whether we can produce enough food for a large population by organic methods alone. I’m not arguing for all production to be organic, though I’d like to see chemical farming get a lot smarter and more frugal in its operation (through science and technology!). I’d also like to see a lower population in the long run but thats another big debate…and at the moment I’m writing more of Bloggers site than he is!!

  10. Left out this link to a report on observational/clinical evidence:

    http://www.soilandhealth.org/01aglibrary/Arun/Feeding%20Trials.pdf

  11. thebristolblogger says:

    There’s a lot of links here so I’ll take a look ASAP. (It might take a bit of time as I’ve had some good info’ about the costs of education consultants in Bristol come in).

    Although the fact the Miliband, when he was Environment Secretary, rejected the health benefits argument is pretty strong to me.

    In the mean time, if you accept that we can’t feed the UK organically why support it at all? It’s elitist food with elitist benefits.

    Why not support and promote farming methods (the smarter and frugal chemical farming you allude to) that can feed everyone?

    At the moment you seems to support a de facto position of starving the poor of the UK by

    a. Supporting organic farming that can’t feed us all

    b. Not supporting importing food that could feed us.

  12. Supporting both organic farming and smarter, more frugal chemical farming is the only practical one. There’s no way you can go completely organic in the short or medium term, even if you wanted to, if only because of the time needed to convert !

    Who said anything about no imports of food? I think we are a very long way from that scenario. I’d like to see us minmise imports and cut food miles drastically but certainly dont rule out imports of food totally , especially from countries closer to us.

    Now, on the hypothetical argument about whether organic could feed us all. I dont accept that it cant, though it would be easier if more people had low meat diets and if the population was lower – neither of these are likely to happen soon!!

  13. Jon Eccles says:

    Thanks, VtG, I’ll have a look at those links.

  14. Tim Beadle says:

    A colleague tells me that the Full Moon is rough as you like, not posh as you assert.

    And besides, it’s not just the conspicuous consumption set who care about organic food. Crusties do too 😉

  15. Big debate this – we have not even touched on the sustainability of intensive, non-organic, agriculture.

    What sorts of farming are possible and viable in a world with little/no/or impossibly expensive oil to use to make those toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilisers and fuels?

    Perhaps Blogger wants to take out even more land from food production ( ie in addition to that needed to make corn starch plastic bags for Bristol!) to grow fuel crops?

  16. Chris Millman says:

    We could feed all the people if we just planted the golf courses.

  17. Jon Eccles says:

    I looked at the evidence VowlestheGreen offered us. I thought it was suggestive, but not yet 100% convincing.

    The World Health Organisation report spelt out the health dangers associated with toxic chemicals in food, but argued that maximum levels should be set. It didn’t say that organic farming was required to achieve this, although it didn’t say that it wasn’t either.

    The BBC article on pesticides says “the jury is still out on the risk of consuming many pesticides on a long-term basis.” It did raise serious concerns, for instance that safety levels for pesticide residues are set at levels suitable for adults rather than children.

    The Telegraph piece said that “organic carrots, apples and peaches contained higher levels of vitamin C and flavonoids, compounds with antioxidant properties said by some scientists to protect against heart attacks and cancer.” However, it didn’t say that the survey had been carried out under controlled conditions.

    The most impressive research cited was in the Times piece. It said that “A ten-year study comparing organic tomatoes with standard produce found that they had almost double the quantity of antioxidants called flavonoids”, and most importantly it said this.

    ” Dr Mitchell [the chief researcher] said that previously it had been hard to make comparisons between organic and conventionally grown produce because of difficulties in comparing soil quality, irrigation practices and the handling of harvested produce. But for this study researchers used data from a long-term project in which standardised farming techniques were used to reveal trends in crop productivity.”

    The organic milk articles raised serious concerns about antibiotics, but again didn’t talk about what controls, if any, were in place.

    I wasn’t able to open either PDF file, for some reason, so I can’t comment on them.

    For evidence to ‘count’, it has to meet certain conditions. The produce should be handled identically from germination to assessment, except for the specific practices being tested for. There should be a statistically significant volume of it, ideally from a range of locations. A ‘double blind’ system should be used, so that no-one assessing the produce should know whether their measuring the organic sample or the control sample when they are measuring.

    I’m not saying these conditions weren’t in place, but the evidence I reviewed didn’t state that it was.

  18. thebristolblogger says:

    It’s also worth bearing in mind what the Food Standards Agency has to say:

    In our view the current scientific evidence does not show that organic food is any safer or more nutritious than conventionally produced food.

    Nor are we alone in this assessment. For instance, the French Food Safety Agency (AFSSA) has recently published a comprehensive 128-page review which concludes that there is no difference in terms of food safety and nutrition.

    Also, the Swedish National Food Administration’s recent research report finds no nutritional benefits of organic food.

    The Consumers’ Association in its report in Which? magazine for May 2003 concludes that there is ‘no consensus’ on reports linking organic foods to health benefits

    While I’m prepared to accept that the FSA might side with vested interests, I find it hard to believe they would take up a position that entirely contradicts the scientific evidence.

    If we go back to Taylor’s claim that organics “really make a difference” it’s hard to see what difference they’re actually making.

    VtG has more-or-less agreed that in terms of feeding the world and self-sufficiency organics are lacking and there’s no clear health or nutrition benefits to them, so that just leaves the claim they’re better for the environment.

    Like the health benefits, the environmental benefits claimed for organics depends on the effects that relatively small quantities of pesticides might have on the environment. I’m not sure what the research says about this.

  19. Rob Miles says:

    Obesity rates at this years Organic Food Festival
    were staggering.

  20. I appreciate John Eccles thoughtful and considered approach. He wants good evidence, so do I. All the studies now being done tend to reinforce each other. Its highly unlikely that they would all be poorly conducted and there is no evidence to suggest that any of them have been – we’d have to look at their original work to make a full/proper assessment of that.

    Blogger, far to keen to fall back on the ‘establishment’ /’insider’ FSA I thought, says my view is:
    _________________________________
    VtG has more-or-less agreed that in terms of feeding the world and self-sufficiency organics are lacking and there’s no clear health or nutrition benefits to them, so that just leaves the claim they’re better for the environment.
    _________________________________

    This is most certainly not the case! He puts words in my mouth and oversimplifies to the point of inaccuracy. My view is that evidence is mounting that organics are more nutritious and that the evidence that they are safer/healthier is pretty strong (ie they are far less contaminated). I think the case is even stronger for meat than for veg and fruit, given problems like BSE.

    I do agree that yields can be lower on average but there are circumstances where organics can feed the country (low meat diets and lowered population perhaps) and we need to build toward such a scenario as perhaps the only way we can become sustainable and continue good quality lives when oil runs out…….

    Blogger seems to see in ‘black and white’ on this issue, so I dont suppose my position of wanting to build up organic farming asap, make chemical farming smarter asap, lower meat consumption and population gradually over time (a hard task requiring cultural change I acknowledge) will be one he appreciates as the most practical and green.

    I’d still go for organics on environmental grounds alone myself because I cannot see another sustainable system of farming. Blogger is pretty ill informed if he is really thinks that
    ‘the environmental benefits claimed for organics depends on the effects that relatively small quantities of pesticides might have on the environment ‘. Has he not even considered how we get these pesticides in the first place and the climate change caused by the petrochemical and agrochemical industries? Has he not considered that the same is the case for synthetic fertiliser manfacture? I could go on…

    Blogger isn’t going to tell me that there is a purely scientific/technical solution is he? He’s on extremely shaky ground if his view is that we can achieve a sustainable food system (and society) through anything other than working with natural processes rather than against (a philosophical point I made right at the start, the rationale of which he did not take up!), and a combination of behavioural, social/cultural and technical change.

  21. thebristolblogger says:

    Blogger, far to keen to fall back on the ‘establishment’ /’insider’ FSA I thought

    So all science from the establishment – including the Swedish and French too – is wrong now is it? I acknowledged the role of vested interests, but really to imply that the ‘establishment’ somehow falsifies science entirely for their own ends is totally is absurd. I suggest you go hang with the 9/11 conspiracy nuts.

    No doubt you have problems with the ‘establishment’/’insider’ Stern Report too then? Oh no. You agree with that one don’t you?

    Not much more I can say to someone who rejects any bits of science that happen to disprove their prejudiced view of the world.

    there are circumstances where organics can feed the country (low meat diets and lowered population perhaps)

    This is what I’m saying. Organics cannot feed the country as things stand unless we reduce the population. How do you propose to do that?

    You appear to be promoting a system of agriculture for the UK that involves genocide to work. Great. I’m sure this goes down well with the Goldsmith-Melchett-Monbiot eco-fascist alliance though.

    Has he not even considered how we get these pesticides in the first place and the climate change caused by the petrochemical and agrochemical industries? Has he not considered that the same is the case for synthetic fertiliser manfacture? I could go on…

    Stern, for one, suggests that a balance can easily be struck between industry and environment. Contrary to your ludicrous doomsday scenarios, he suggests that spending something like (I think) 1% of GDP now on climate change will sort it. In the real world it’s perfectly possible and achievable to use petrochemicals, fertilisers etc. in sustainable ways.

    He’s on extremely shaky ground if his view is that we can achieve a sustainable food system (and society) through anything other than working with natural processes rather than against

    Oh here we go. Not the natural-rural-pastoral pre-Enlightenment is the only way schtick. There’s no such thing as “natural”. Mankind has been been technologically innovating for thousands of years and will continue to do so.

    You might want to live in some pretend “natural” pre-enlightenment world where we’re all low-tech serfs working the land for the Goldsmith-Melchett-Monbiot super-privileged landowning classes (no doubt they’ll be controlling our reproduction for “population control” purposes too?) but most of us don’t.

    Your a “sustainable food system (and society) through natural processes” sounds like living in an enslaved hell to me.

  22. On the FSA – I just think their assessment and interpretation is wrong and I’m not as keen as Blogger on falling back on their view. Blogger exaggerates my position for effect – is this a fair argument tactic? I try, when I can get the info, to use the scientific process (its part of my job for a start) applied to the raw data – Blogger is falling back on the view of the FSA, despite vested interests.

    On Stern Bloger is wrong in his assumption. I dont agree with Stern, as he would know if he read my blog regularly (come on I read yours Blogger!!). I said this about Stern on my site when the report was first being discussed some time ago,
    ______________________________
    ‘The Stern Report has underestimated the extent of economic change needed
    to really tackle climate change. We are a factor of ten away from being
    sustainable in resource and energy terms and need to establish a new
    approach to socio-economics which seems to me to say that we need to gear
    much more than 1% of GDP to the task!

    Action needs to range across all areas involving the consumption of fossil
    fuels at some point in the chain of economic events – these days this
    means…..just about everything! … Without an economy which is reconciled with the environment we wont and
    cant tackle climate change effectively. Stern and the Government are wrong
    if they are saying that we can grow as in the past, but just pay a climate
    change bill and carry on’.
    _________________________________

    On population reduction – its a matter of slow cultural change through education on the whole. There’s yet more exaggeration for effect from Blogger here! Here I am, making a case, willing to offer views openly, at least trying (with the occasional lapse) to be rational and scientific (providing as much info on sources as I could in the time I had), whilst Blogger uses grossly unscientific exaggeration, rhetoric, denigration, innuendo…you name it, to accuse me of be unscientific (rejecting bits of science that disprove my view…)!

    On sustainable use of petrochemicals – hmm, sustainable oil use, a new one on me this! How can these finite, non-renewable resources possibly be used in sustainable ways? Perhaps Blogger could supply us with a list of sources to demonstrate how this can be done. Perhaps Bloggers ‘real world’ where there is no natural can do such things !!

    On Bloggers very interesting rejection of the term natural – scientists the world over use the term as applied to say, the carbon or nitrogen cycles. However, I could have used the term planetary, say, instead – or does Blogger think that its human technology that underpins the workings of the world??

  23. Stephen says:

    Of course, if you can’t afford this “elitist” organic food, you could always grow your own. An allotment costs £30 a year and a few packets of seed will set you back another £15 and you’re sorted.

  24. Chris Millman says:

    Wow, this is great. Has The Blogger been argued to a standstill, or is there another reposte to come?I’d sell tickets, only… everyone’s gone home.

  25. thebristolblogger says:

    Why “grow your own” when you can save time and get highly unelitist Tesco Value carrots?
    I fucking hate gardening too. I’ve got much better things to do with my time.

  26. Why grown your own? …because I’d rather know what’s been put on my food. The pesticide residues on your so-called cheap carrots may usually be pretty small but sometimes it isn’t – it can even vary from carrot to carrot – and all pesticides are by their nature meant to be toxic in order to do their job).

    Plus: I’d rather not support Tesco with my money; allotment work is good for health and fitness; it keeps me in touch with what is real and natural !!

    There is no such thing as cheap food because of all the hiden social and environmental costs. Tesco making massive profits whilst a lot of people are exploited and farmers are struggling.

  27. thebristolblogger says:

    There is such a thing as cheap food. They’re called Tesco Value carrots.

    Believe it or not, farmers aren’t the only people struggling. My family is too. Bet our income is way below the poverty stricken landowners’ you’re so concerned about.

    And are you trying to tell me that Yeo Valley, the organic company in Somerset aren’t exploiting anyone? What about all that Polish migrant Labour they use?

    Why pick on Tescos that poor people use while ignoring the organic exploiters that rich people use?

    It’s just pure hypocrisy

  28. Peter Goodwin says:

    Why pick on Tescos that poor people use…

    It’s you that keeps mentioning Tescos, Blogger; but if you really want someone to pick on them, let me do it!

    I had a crack at them in the paper last week for flying in veg from Africa when the same veg are in season here – growing just a few yards away from Tesco. OK, it was a bit unfair – all the supermarkets, including, I’m sorry to say, the ‘ethical’ Co-op do the same.

    Beans from Kenya are expensive even without all the costs that the companies externalise – on the shelves they cost a lot more than the home grown kind, but they look more attractive on account of the neat packaging. It’s said that it takes no more than two or three days from picking in Africa to the supermarket shelves in Bristol. Those people I saw picking them up (sad man that I am) didn’t look at the price or even the label. These aren’t Tesco’s poor customers and they aren’t Tesco’s organic customers either.

    I don’t see why you’re presenting this as poor people v. organic consumers. Maybe it’s just that the Organic Festival was in the news, so it set up your favourite targets? There’s just as much snobbery and elitism, maybe more, among ‘non-organic’ foodies. Why pick on those who prefer their food to be organically grown?

    Anyway, there must be plenty of low income people (me included) who still manage to live on a largely organic diet without breaking the bank.

  29. thebristolblogger says:

    I’m not picking on organic consumers. I’m picking on lazy journalists who make statements about organics such as “it really makes a difference”.

    As we’ve seen there’s little difference between organics and non-organics in terms of health, nutrition, exploitation, air miles etc.

    Organics has just become an easy way for a section of the wealthy middle classes to make out they’re doing us a favour and make out they’re somehow more “ethical” than us.

    Well they’re not.

  30. You are of like mind with the FSAs, David Miliband’s and Tesco’s of this world as I recall – you ‘radical defender of the poor’ you!

  31. …by the way, where is that list of sources on sustainable petrochemicals use I asked for?

  32. thebristolblogger says:

    I’ve referred to sustainability already. Stern says we need to spend about 1% of GDP on the environment now.
    Petrochemicals are one technological solution, GM is another. No doubt more will arise in the future.
    The world is not about to end due to petrochemicals or anything else just because you and your anti-enlightenment crowd wish it would.

  33. You really are keen on establishment figures aren’t you – lets add Stern (an economist, and no expert on petrochemicals impacts by the way) to the FSA, Tesco and David Miliband.

    You say ‘world is not about to end due to petrochemicals or anything else ‘. The world isn’t going to end but as for the anything else bit, I suggest you look at the scientific evidence provided by the world’s foremost climatologists, assembled by the UN, http://www.ipcc.ch/ .

    Dont they say that climate change, caused by petrochemicals use, is: real; serious; urgent; and our fault??

  34. FF says:

    For most of history, food has consumed most, if not all, of the income or labour of the average working class or peasant Briton. It’s still like that in many parts of the world now.

    The proportion of weekly income British working people had to spend on food has been falling since Victorian times. Some of this was thanks to more efficient farming, but what made a huge difference was imported food, particularly cheap grain from the United States and (until 1914) Russia.

    The imports undermined the economic powerbase of the old landed aristocracy, who no longer had a stranglehold on the country’s food supplies through control of agriculture. The new aristocracy made their money in the industrial revolution, from building and owning factories. When they’d made their money, they naturally bought themselves land and built big houses to ape the style of the barons who’d lorded it over their ancestors.

    What’s really interesting about David Cameron and his new eco-friendly Conservative party is that he and his clique are part of this landowning elite. It’s not too cynical to suggest that they care about the environment so much because they bloody well own it.

    Right now, we don’t even know exactly who owns all the land because there is no central registry of ownership. What we do know is that about 70% of land is owned by less than 1% of the population and that an astonishing proportion of those owners have aristocratic titles. (See, e.g. ‘Who Owns Britain’ by Kevin Cahill – sorry, don’t know how to put in Amazon link)

    Without wishing to appear paranoid, the landed gentry would have to love any scheme that increases the price of food, drives up demand for domestically-produced food, or limits its availability to the masses. I’m not suggesting this as a conspiracy theory for one moment, but we have to recognise that for over 100 years the living standards of working Britons have depended on industrial farming, globalisation and efficient road and rail distribution.

    Britain has been unable to feed its population from its own land for a long time now. In both world wars, U-Boat campaigns restricted food imports to the point where they came within months of starving the country into submission. In WW2 this was despite a massive mobilisation of population and resources to grow food.

    Whatever the rights and wrongs of society, nobody currently starves to death and we all have access (if we want it) to better nutrition than at any time in the past.

    (If anyone wants to bring up the old saw of the WW2 diet and rationing producing the healthiest population in history, I suggest you ask anyone who was around at the time if they’d like to go back to it. Some historians claim it’s a myth anyway; by the mid-1940s that restricted diet meant many people, particularly women, suffered from depression and considerably lowered resistance to infection and disease.)

    Nobody here is questioning the integrity and goodwill of those committed environmentalists who try to consume as little as possible, grow their own food and/or buy organic. But for a lot of people, organic food is a lifestyle choice and a form of conspicuous consumption, a status thing. These same people bowl into Waitrose in their 4x4s, live in big houses with ensuite bathrooms and fly off two or three times a year for holidays and city-breaks.

    If we all go back to some of the solutions some people are suggesting here, then many working families will be back where they were in Victorian times, living on an expensive and/or restricted diet. We all have to consume less energy for the planet’s sake; we can talk about renewable energy, carbon taxes and whatever else, but we’re not all going to grow our own food, and most people will continue to rely on supermarkets rather than buying expensive organic produce. Sure, it tastes better, but its health benefits are at best marginal.

    I always remember talking to a farmer years ago when everyone was complaining about EU grain surpluses, butter mountains, wine lakes and the rest. Sure, he said, of course it’s corrupt and wasteful … “But remember that the opposite of surplus is famine.”

    There hasn’t been a famine in England since the 1630s thanks to diversification of crops and an agricultural economy geared towards producing surpluses for sale. But there was one in Ireland in the 1840s; the country was producing more then enough food to feed a population more than twice the size it is now. But it all belonged to aristocratic landowners, who exported it for profit.

  35. We cant sustain the farming system we now have according to the evidence, so we have to change it. Radical changes in laws relating to land are certainly part of this change (http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/mfss/Land.html) – its not just about going organic because, as I said before, its not a cure all.

    On the Conservatives FF says, ‘David Cameron and his new eco-friendly Conservative party is that he and his clique are part of this landowning elite. It’s not too cynical to suggest that they care about the environment so much because they bloody well own it.’

    They do not care about the environment. They only say they do. They need to do truly green things not just wear a green tie, adopt a new tree logo and a bit of ‘greenspeak’. No true green would cycle into work at Parliament followed by a car carrying their stuff!

    FF also says, ‘…nobody currently starves to death and we all have access (if we want it) to better nutrition than at any time in the past.’ But would FF say that all is well with our diets and attitudes to food? Both obesity and anorexia
    nervosa are huge issues, not least for kids. Far too many people are out of touch with where food comes from and what’s in it – with a lot of kids not recognising common fruit and veg.

  36. Feisty Fairy says:

    Sweetie, lose the chip on your shoulder (organic or otherwise); it’s not doing you any favours …

  37. The latest research on food additives, published in The Lancet last week, strongly reinforces the argument that organic food is healthier (most of the 290 additives allowed in non-organic food, including all artificial colours, the subject of the research, are banned from organics).

    Full details of the study ‘Food additives and hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial’ are available here if you register, free, with The Lancet.
    http://www.thelancet.com/search/results?search_mode=cluster&search_cluster=thelancet&search_text1=food+additives&x=14&y=17

    I see that as a result even the Food Standards Agency has modified its additives advice somewhat (though it does not go far enough for me).
    http://www.food.gov.uk/news/newsarchive/2007/sep/foodcolours .

    The most serious form of ADHD affects between 2.4 and 5% of the UK population.

  38. thebristolblogger says:

    Very interesting Vowlesie but nothing to do with organics.
    My Tesco Value carrots do not contain artificial colours etc.

  39. I hope you eat something other than carrots mate (!) – in which case it’s a lot easier to avoid the worst additives by eating organic food! Now, on your carrots (with just a touch of organophosphate) obsession….I cant put the organic case much better than…
    http://www.sustainweb.org/page.php?id=143 , which says…

    ‘Pesticide use on carrots has led to concern about residues in our food as well as damage to the environment.
    Concern peaked in 1995 when the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food reported unexpectedly high residues of organophosphate (OP) insecticide in some carrots. A change in sampling techniques, in which carrots were analysed individually rather than in bulked samples, revealed that residue levels varied considerably from carrot to carrot and that some carrots contained OP residues as high as 25 times above the average level. The Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI), which is normally used to assess risk to consumers, was exceeded by up to three times in about half of the carrots.
    The government advised consumers to peel and top carrots before eating. Cutting off the top 2-3 mm and peeling the carrots removed about four-fifths of the residues. One of the OPs concerned was phorate, which is systemic. This means that residues were found throughout the carrot and could not be removed by peeling. In response to continuing concerns, at the end of 1997 government approvals for use of phorate on carrots were withdrawn. Detectable OP residues are still occurring in 94 per cent of samples from UK-grown crops known to have received OP treatment. Four years later, government advice is still to peel and top carrots to reduce the risk of consuming pesticide residues.
    Health risks associated with pesticides are not just for consumers eating the residues. The health of farm workers applying pesticides must also be considered, particularly with reference to OPs which may have adverse neurological effects, both short and long term.
    Pesticides also have effects on wildlife. These may be due to a reduction of insect populations leading to a reduction in the available food for other animals. There have also been some cases of more direct poisoning of wildlife, including Marsh Harriers and Partridges, following pesticide treatment of carrot crops.
    Pesticide-free carrot production
    Organically produced carrots are grown without any input of artificial pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Crop rotations and enhancement of farm biodiversity are used in organic systems to combat pests or disease. Demand for organic carrots, as for other fresh organic produce, far exceeds the UK supply and we rely on imports to meet demand. There is currently more land in conversion to organic production than is fully organic. This will allow UK organic carrot production to expand considerably in the next few years……’

  40. Jeff says:

    When you stroll down to your local supermarket, how do you really know what you’re buying anyway?

  41. thebristolblogger says:

    Well, in the case of carrots, they tend to be longish, thin and orange.
    Bananas, conversely, are yellow.

  42. This may feed your carrot obsession.

    Carrots come in many colours from white to yellow to black! Wild carrots are yellowish in colour.

    http://www.carrotmuseum.co.uk/today.html#colour

    This discussion is nothing if not varied, as indeed are carrot varieties.

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