A little clip above from the ‘Soil Association’. I’d been meaning to write this for the last week, not only because we’re soon at the end of ‘Organic September’ but also spurred on after reading some sombre facts from from one of our favoured Brit naturalist/TV presenter Chris Packham (from Countryfile) In summary he says that we’re in the midst of an ecological apocalypse, where numbers of certain birds and insects have dipped to catastrophic levels and he goes on to criticize conservation organisations for not taking more drastic action. On average, since the 1970’s in Europe, numbers have dropped between 50-80%. OK… so this knowledge is not a total shock – well we knew it was bad, but this bad?!
Ironically, this Sunday morning, whilst trying to enjoy my breakkie, I’ve had the pleasure of 2 flies dive-bombing me in turns – an abrupt reminder that I had still not written this blog!! We have a job to do in helping all creatures great and small (yes even the most annoying little critters have a vital role in the big web, helping to pollinate our food, enriching the soil and acting as a food source for other wildlife). And so, here I am – on the last day of Organic September! Incidentally I chose a more glamorous cousin of our common fly for the cover photo. Beauty sells after all 😉
Biodiversity Downward Spiral
The causes? Agriculture – sadly. Much of our land is agricultural land and as it currently stands a lot of it isn’t very wildlife friendly.
The biggest concern is the use of chemicals on an industrial scale in the last 40-50 years. Widespread pesticide use (Insecticides/herbicide/fungicides) not only poisons the insects at the bottom of the food chain but they are known to be highly toxic to all forms of life, not excluding us humans at the top of the chain! Many of these chemicals (especially glyphosates) are known carcinogens! Fight against cancer? Try fighting against big agribusiness for a start. Recently, a man received a multimillion $ payout from the agrochemical producer ‘Monsanto’ after he developed cancer – reportedly linked to repeated occupational exposure to the glyphosate herbicide ‘Roundup’ (yes the same weedkiller sold in garden centres and doused all over our crops). A first in history to make it through a trial against the chemical giant. Small victory but a long way to go.
Another problem for wildlife is habitat loss. It seems that bigger = better for farming. More yield = more profits and more subsidies. Any land not used for production is potential profit ‘wasted’. What we are left with are vast agricultural wastelands – barren of life. On these large high yield farms, there tends to be a general lack of habitat and food for the insects and birds (large farms replacing diverse ecosystems with monocultures/single crops and don’t provide many safe-havens for wildlife). No hedgerows, wildflower meadows, woodlands, soil diversity and such. Crazily, under the EU common agricultural policy, subsidies for farming is based on land SIZE. So the bigger farmers with vast tracts of land (usually monocultures-single crops) get more money. So under EU directive, there has been no incentive for farmers to farm better, it’s all about how much they can produce.
Recently, progress has been made in the UK that farmers will now be rewarded for environmental and animal welfare improvements they make, however it is not clear exactly how much funding they will get, so time will tell exactly how much the government invests. This is a positive step, but it may not be enough. As about 70% of UK land is farmland, we really need to engage more with and support our farmers.
But we Need to Feed a Growing Population, Right?
Insecticides/Herbicides/Fungicides are the only way according to some. Large farms are the only way apparently. For those who argue that we need pesticides to support a growing population? Bo*&#ks! Even the United Nations laughs at the notion that these chemicals are needed for food security. Since the 1970’s our soils have been dowsed with millions of tonnes and each year we add to this. Bewildering how anyone can argue this is a sensible thing. The answer is better farming, more sustainable farming – not more pesticides! More small farms, more organic farms, more community farms, more home growing, more city farms, more permaculture projects – less pesticides. We have ridiculous amounts of cheap nasty surplus food and not enough quality food.
How Organic is a Win-Win?
Organic farms provide more wildlife habitats, keeping wildlife like this little guy happy. But really organic is nothing new – it’s just reverting to the way food should be! The way food used to be… For more info on why Organic is best – see the Soil Association website. They’ve already articulated it perfectly, so I needn’t repeat it here! After reading this it’s obviously a no-brainer why organic is ALWAYS better!
Flower Power? People Power!
I know I’m always banging on about consumer power but it’s true! Chris Packham calls for a peaceful uprising to protect our countryside! http://www.chrispackham.co.uk/a-peoples-manifesto-for-wildlife and you can download the manifesto on this link too, which is not just focused on farming/food but also on living in harmony with nature in all environments from city to country.
Whilst government legislation and subsidies can help, it really comes down to the people en-mass. Support the good farmers out there, the insects, wildlife, the birds and the bees (not just literally but also because erm… glyphosate pesticides are scarily linked to lower fertility levels, low sperm count and hormonal disruption…)
Conversely, if we keep demanding cheaper and cheaper food then we will be supporting the very farms that are destroying the environment. So please, support any local farming heroes 🙂 Start with a visit to your nearest farmers market & do a Google scan in your patch. Remember that local and seasonal produce will likely be cheaper than the organic selection in your local supermarket.
Even if you can’t find certified Soil Association Organic, find local farms who have a ‘no spray policy’. There are plenty small farms and community gardens out there who can’t afford to go through the certification process, but who have a ‘no spray policy’. Find a veg box scheme. Maybe your neighbours grow their own… maybe even you can start growing a little – with the piece of mind that no nasties have touched your precious home grown lettuce leaf.
Organic Food Suppliers in Cornwall
Always having lived with nature close to my heart… but with the move I’ve been a bit out of sorts lately. Time to reconnect to what is important to me! I’m still just finding my bearings and generally getting to know my surroundings, so I’ve been relying on the supermarket too much for my liking and not eating as anywhere near as much organic as I’d like to. But since reading that a few weeks back, I’ve been spurred into action once again, collecting info on some of the local organic farms/suppliers in Cornwall. I thought it only polite I meet the neighbours 🙂 I’ll be adding this as a permanent section on the website. Hope this list helps local residents but wherever you are, start your own exploration, pin it to the fridge and change your alliances for the better