Now that you have embarked upon a new healthy eating regime you may well be thinking maybe organic would be good as well. Go for quality not quantity, yes. Locally sourced, yes. No more lovely french beans from Central America! But organic, well.....
It has been a long time since the majority of food produced in the UK was grown without the aid of artificial fertilisers, antibiotics or other chemicals. These are now routinely used to control predators and disease. Before that farming could have reasonably been described as nearly organic.
Since the 1960s farming in the UK has become increasingly industrialised, moving away from small family run farms to larger, in some cases, very large agri-businesses with huge investments in machinery, marketing and chemicals. The upside has been a massive increase in productivity (very important for a nation living on a small island) but there have been significant downsides as well. Not only a negative effect upon the rural environment but also less tasty food.
BSE and other crises
Food scares, BSE, Foot and Mouth, bovine TB (and the continuing controversy around the role of badgers in spreading the disease), ever lower prices for milk, meat, poultry and crops, cheaper foreign imports and a general unwillingness on the part of the public to support farmers have all contributed to the problems. This short term situation fluctuates but the trend is not looking good in terms of the longer time horizon.
Fortunately there are still hardy souls out there willing to put in the long hours and the work to provide us with what is, at its best, some of the finest produce in the world.
It may take a little effort to get out of our comfort zones and armchairs to go and find it but that can only be a good thing for the farming industry and for those concerned about the food culture and health of this country.
Organic versus conventionally produced
There is a tendency in certain circles to demonise farmers and growers using conventional production methods. This is unfair. There are good farmers and there are bad farmers in both camps. The truth is that we probably need both traditions doing it the way they want but in a sense of cooperative competition rather than confrontation.
It is preferable to buy from a local producer who farms using conventional methods and who is offering spanking fresh produce at a competitive price than to buy tired looking stuff at greater (sometimes much greater) cost because it has the organic tag. We also need to be aware that some organic produce comes from the other end of the country or indeed from another country altogether.
In an ideal world of course all our food would be free range, organic and within everyone’s budget but until that day arrives compromises have to be made. What is important is offering a viable and sustainable alternative to the intensive methods of production that dominate global agriculture today. If there is choice then the buyers can make their decisions.