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Extract from

A wild bird chase

- Peter Melchett in the Guardian February 2007 considers the stance of the Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King

"...... two very different and contradictory visions of the future of farming and food that are currently battling for supremacy. One view is held by Sir David, most of those running the UK's National Farmers' Union, in parts of Defra and in the Department for Overseas Development, and by Tony Blair himself. They see a hi-tech farming future, continuing the trend of the last 60 years, overwhelming natural processes with chemicals and new technology. For crops, this means genetically engineered seeds which produce crops that kill insects, are resistant to weed-killers, and deliver new benefits through higher yields or other enhanced characteristics. For animals, cloning and other advanced breeding techniques will produce creatures that produce ever more milk or meat, ever more quickly, and cheaply. "Bio-security" around these caged and weakened animals will prevent them succumbing to diseases and infections.

The alternative, organic vision sees us working with more natural processes, providing nutrients from crops by fixing nitrogen using the sun's energy and plants like clover. Growing a wide variety of crops, on mixed crop and livestock farms, provides fertility, weed control and natural resistance to disease. Farm animals mature more slowly and produce less milk. They live as natural a life as possible, eating natural diets, living outside or having access to fresh air and grass for most of their lives. This gives them positive health, allowing them to resist most disease threats. Needless to say, the advocates of this system, like myself, also think it provides tastier and healthier food, on top of the accepted, very significant environmental benefits.

While many say there must be room for both systems, the reality is that they take both farming and food in totally different directions. The hi-tech brigade assume world-wide trade in farm products and food is the norm. Organic farmers want as closed a system as possible, with most food produced locally. Hi-tech assumes we have the right to all-year-round availability of any food we want, usually processed. Organic assumes a move to a much more seasonal diet, generally fresh and unprocessed. Hi-tech assumes continued growth in cheap meat consumption, organic assumes we eat less, more expensive but higher quality meat...."



































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