Select Committee on Agriculture Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Mr T Appleyard (F 2)

  I heard that the Committee on Agriculture were interested in views about organic farming.

  What no one seems to have made clear is the definition of organic food. We are all lead to believe that the term organic refers to that ascribed by those who promote the product. No one has asked what the term organic means. In biological terms all food is organic no matter how it is grown. You cannot say that there is a definition which only covers one process but not the other.

  Organic means by organic chemistry in the way the plants grow. What you do to make this growth is not related to the organic nature of food production in that plants will accept what you give them providing they take this up into plant. It does not necessarily have to do with our contribution.

  Because all food is organic you may label food under this description whether you wait for nature to act or whether it comes from a deep hole in the ground via a production line to make the product. No one has defined organic produce against something like a plastic flower which is also organic chemistry. This argument goes on to infinity because you cannot say with certainty that you have two identical plants one of which is organic and the other is not. Plants only work the way they want and not what you do to aid their growth.

  It has been noted that food grown without chemicals is described as organic but growth without chemicals is still the chemical process in a different way. All life is made of chemicals no matter what you claim. Man can make the same chemicals that animals do if they wish but this is relatively ineffective, plants work the same whether it is muck or chemical.

  What no one seems able to say is that if you do not use man produced material to grow plants how are you going to produce large quantities of food. It is known that at least ten times the bulk is needed to rot than to dig up out of the ground. This natural material has to come from somewhere. Do you breed more animals to do the job for which you need the grass which needs feeding or do you do what we do at the present? Mass marketing with animal or vegetable processes shows that most effort goes into making the system work than in producing food. What do you do with all the animals you need to produce their muck? No one has been able to grow food with one type of agriculture because somewhere down the system things go wrong. How do you sell that product you do not want that you have to grow in the system used before the intervention of man and his chemistry? Who will pay three times the price for the plant which grows the same way whether you use chemicals or natural material? All the plants you grow are organic?

  You only have to look back in the past to see the problems of nature's way and low crop yields. You find crop failure is the problem.

  No one has thought about how you deal with the animals problem in the soil in what we are told is organically grown food or how it affects us like the bugs and the smell. Soil soon loses its use when you incorrectly use any system and this includes organic. Nature is slow but man is fast. The two do not work together if you want results.

  We are told that to be organic we have to wait a few years to be so. Recent studies show that chemicals stay in the soil many decades and even longer. How does this fit in with what we are told is organic farming? There is no answer.

  In practice most animal and plant based systems are the system of crofts where the croft sustains you and the living comes from the extra you do when you do not grow your own food. This does not seem to do much good for mass markets!

  We are all told to jump on the new idea which in this case seems to go back to antiquity. We are told it is better but there has been no proof. No one has really told the truth in that all food grows organically no matter whether you use animal and plant material or made by man. We see everything like this come and go depending on who promotes their idea for you to take up. No one ever looks at the negative aspects of a limited system based on a theory for the future which was only practical in the past for their situation, experience and knowledge.

  Do we have wind blown wind mills, sheets of cloth bleaching in the sun of the like because we are told to and that is the way to go? Do you want to go back to fat years and lean years and the plagues of pests?

  To grow food without help means backward steps. How long can you function in this manner? Anyone who does something has to do it in the economics of the day or they do not work. Is this what everyone wants or going back to prehistoric times?

  Most systems only work with an integration of man and natural materials for them to do what we need them to do. If you go back to the logic of this planet all the country would be covered in trees. What would you eat then? This is the final organic function of nature. The Russians trawling in the North Sea show how futile it is to convert fish into fertiliser. Not very. Is man following the leader or looking at a problematical issue?

15 May 2000

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