Why do we bother?

Lynda Brown - 06 June 2012

Monty DonI do sometimes wonder, don't you? Last week the Soil Association president and presenter of Gardeners' World, Monty Don, found himself at odds with the BBC, who, without it seems asking him, had re-assured pesticide manufacturers that he would be "more even handed in his discussion of organic and non-organic techniques". I see it's run over to this week, too - by the way, Geoff Hamilton (see below) did not die of organic food, as one anti commentator implied but from a heart attack whilst on a charity bike ride.

Back to the subject in hand: Monty Don was talking about the lily beetle (Lilioceris lilii), and how the best way to deal with this is to pick it off. Absolutely correct: what pesticide companies don't tell you is that not only is this beetle bright red, so easy to see, it moves slowly on the plant, so is easy to pick, and super easy to squash. The dung which surrounds the larvae is a dead give away too. Why on earth would anyone want to waste their money on a chemical spray (which, even the RHS admits is difficult to control with pesticides; and depsite squirting shed loads of the stuff at it, the beetle is increasing in numbers)?

If you're squeamish, there's always thin plastic gloves: which strikes me as far more sensible that buying a pesticide spray, reading all the warning signs, getting togged up in protective gear, keeping it out of reach of children, dogs and the elderly, disposing of it responsibly and so on. The active ingredient in Scotts Bug Clear for example, is acetamiprid; a general insecticide using to kill sucking insects, which according to the government's own pesticide fact sheet is 'only moderately toxic to bees'. So that's all right then.

It isn't viewers who have complained but pesticide companies. So why do they pull strings and viewers don't?. I'm one of the stream of gardeners now flocking back to GW on a Friday specifically to tune in to Monty Don. Not because he's organic, but because he has integrity, and delivers really good gardening advice in an approachable and thoughful way. Nor does he dumb down, a rare treat these days. In fact, I doubt whether gardeners glued to their Friday night fix have ever noticed he's an organic gardener just a good one. And if Monty Don's garden works without chemicals, then so can ours...

Of course, it could be that pesticide companies pay double the licence fee, which gives them the right to complain that they're not getting enough free advertising; then again, my theory is that the BBC is just plain anti-organic . A few years back I did a strand on Gardeners' World, then presented by Geoffrey Hamilton. Though I gardened organically, it was made clear that the 'O' word was not welcome - for which read effectively banned. Geoffrey Hamilton, too, was a staunch supporter of organic gardening and himself gardened organically, though, again, you would never have known it from the programmes he made (he wasn't allowed to promote organic gardening either). Before his time? GW was wall to wall chemical gardening. Play it again, Sam...

Lynda is an award-winning food writer and broadcaster, and keen advocate for organic living. She is author of several food books over the last twenty years including Planet Organic: Organic Living, The Cook's Garden, and The Modern Cook's Handbook, as well as writing The Preserving Book that was published in 2010 in association with the Soil Association. Lynda is an expert on food and nutrition and a seasoned broadcaster, regularly speaking on food and farming both on the radio and television.

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Katharine Glen
30 August 2012 19:01

I would love to know why the BBC are opposed to promoting organic gardening.In view of your journalistic and published background, would you be able to get a statement from them? I'm with you, Monty and Goeff on this one. Garden sensibly.

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