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UK Farmers Union: Get with the anti-pesticide programme

 
Post new topic   Reply to topic    beekeeping forum -> Environmental issues, GM, pesticides and campaigning
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biobee
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Joined: 14 Jun 2007
Posts: 7600
Location: UK, England, S. Devon

PostPosted: Mon Jan 19, 2009 11:39 pm    Post subject: UK Farmers Union: Get with the anti-pesticide programme Reply with quote

An interesting article in the Guardian, slamming the NFU's pro-
pesticide and pro-GM policies.......

----------------------------


Get with the anti-pesticide programme
The National Farmers' Union must stop backing the poisoners, pull
itself out of the 1970s and celebrate the call for healthier food

o Graham Harvey
o guardian.co.uk, Sunday 18 January 2009 11.00 GMT
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jan/18/agriculture-food-national-farmers-union

Once more the National Farmers' Union – the lobby organisation for
the people who grow our food – is fighting a ludicrous campaign
against healthier food.

A recent vote in the European parliament will result in a ban on a
clutch of pesticide products deemed "hazardous" to human health.
Backed by the majority of member states as well as by MEPs, the new
pesticide legislation aims to halve the number of toxic products used
in farming by the year 2013.

You'd expect British farmers – the principal food suppliers to the
people of these islands – to be wholly behind such a plan. It's hard
to see how a measure designed to reduce the toxic load on consumers
could be anything other than good.

But showing a bizarre propensity for shooting itself in the foot, the
NFU has taken the side of the polluters and the poisoners. The union
warns darkly that without these chemicals yields of cereal crops such
as wheat and barley could fall by one-third. Some staple vegetables
such as carrots – shock, horror – might not be economic to grow in
the UK at all.

Behind it all is the thinly veiled warning that if farmers aren't
allowed to use the full, high-tech arsenal of pesticides, GM crops
and animal factories they want, we're all eventually going to go
short of food.

It's all a lot of nonsense, of course. Each year I manage to grow a
perfectly decent crop of carrots in my garden without even the merest
dusting of pesticide. More to the point, I know plenty of organic
farmers who grow substantial carrot crops – and cereal crops for that
matter – without any of the herbicides, insecticides and plant growth
hormones so beloved of NFU members.

The difference is that organic farmers grow their crops on fertile
soils enriched by traditional mixed farming methods with their clover
leys and grazing livestock. The methods so stoutly defended by the
NFU depend on pesticides only because their soils have been
impoverished by decades of hammering with chemical fertilisers.

If today's farmers got their soils in decent shape they could manage
perfectly well without this particular range of toxic products.

The fig leaf for the NFU's stance is, as always, "sound science".
It's claimed that all pesticide products are rigorously tested, and
their use today is in accordance with the best science. Let's not
forget that in the 1980s it was the "best science" that obliged us
all to go on eating contaminated meat even though half the nation's
dairy cows were in the grip of mad cow disease.

The best science had it that the prion agent of the disease couldn't
jump the species barrier. Then after 10 years the scientists decided
well, maybe it could. And we all regretted that the policy-makers
hadn't made more use of the precautionary principle.

When it comes to pesticide use there isn't a research group in the
world that could assess with accuracy the health risks of long-term
exposure to a clutch of different pesticide residues. In the light of
this the EU has decided to ban the most hazardous chemicals, allowing
time for the industry to adjust.

If British farmers cared a jot for the health of the national diet,
I'd expect them to applaud this development, not jeer from the wings.

They could take their cue from the Co-op. Long before the EU began
legislating, the Co-op retail chain decided unilaterally that it
would ban the use by its suppliers of what it considered to be the
most hazardous pesticides. At the time all had been approved for use
in the UK. But the Co-op insisted that, for the sake of its
customers, it would no longer permit them to be used in its products.

As expected there was an outcry from the chemical industry and its
friends at the NFU. However, the supermarket group stuck to its guns
and the offending chemicals were used no more. Though the industry
warned of dire consequences, I see no evidence that the shelves of Co-
op stores are today depleted of healthy vegetables.

The fact is we now live in a consumer age and the NFU needs to get to
grips with the fact. NFU policy is still stuck somewhere in the 1970s
when farmers and politicians pretty well decided what the people
should eat, how it should be produced, even how much it should cost
in the shops. The union still seems to expect policymakers to stitch
up secret deals in support of the producer interest.

The Strasbourg vote shows those days have long gone. The policymakers
recognise that what consumers want are not low-cost commodities, but
better, healthier and more local foods. Why on earth can't the
farmers celebrate this?

Instead of campaigning for the pesticide industry the NFU should set
itself a new set of objectives. Why not start campaigning for
healthier foods, a healthier countryside and a better future for
family farms? That way the union might just about become relevant to
the 21st century.
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midatlanticys
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 1:43 am    Post subject: Re: UK Farmers Union: Get with the anti-pesticide programme Reply with quote

Graham Harvey wrote:
The methods so stoutly defended by the
NFU depend on pesticides only because their soils have been
impoverished by decades of hammering with chemical fertilisers.

If today's farmers got their soils in decent shape they could manage
perfectly well without this particular range of toxic products.

Amen!! Brother Harvey!!!
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Mikebee
Foraging Bee


Joined: 11 Sep 2008
Posts: 105
Location: UK, Wiltshire, Warminster

PostPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 10:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The author of this article, Guardian journalist Graham Harvey, has written an excellent book We Want Real Food.
I found it both, compelling and eye opening, and I’m sure would appeal to Top Bar & Natural Beekeeping folk. I had a “green” view before hand, but this book set me off on a mission, and that’s how I came to find this great forum. Smile
Go on treat yourself.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/grahamharvey
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Want-Real-Food-Graham-Harvey/dp/1845292677
And available from your local library.
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