The stuff we have to put up with....

Lynda Brown - 14 January 2013

My brother rang last week to alert me to a feature on Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show about how because of last year’s atrocious rainy weather, veg hadn’t got any nutrients, and how it was worse for organic veg.

What actually happened was that ‘leading scientist’, Professor Mike Gooding, Head of Agricultural Policy and Development at University of Reading was putting it about that fruit and veg and cereals maybe less nutritious and tasty (eg rain leaching out nitrogen means less protein – he was referring mainly to cereals here, less sunshine means less sugars etc). And that though organic growers were more resilient because they grew a more diverse range of crops, organic veg were potentially worse off because they hadn’t got recourse to quick fix artificials. Radio 2’s analysis was somewhat, shall we say, more populist: "So," trilled Jeremy Vine, "organic veg are more vulnerable, therefore less nutritious, so why bother buying them?" 

Now, knocking organic by people who don’t appear to know the first thing about what organic food and farming actually is has become so rife you could be forgiven for thinking it's official media policy. But that’s not what interested me. As any gardener will tell you, you don’t need a PhD to work out that weather has affect on quality  – but because a ‘leading scientist’ says so, all of a sudden it’s public health drama number 1, and the media are having a field day. Nor can I believe any soil scientist wouldn’t wish to correct the statement that organic veg are worse off – for example, organic soils are significantly higher in water retentive humus as well the all important microbial soil life which aid uptake of micronutrients, which means organic veg are likely to suffer less not more.

Fortunately for me, however, I didn’t need to fire off a ‘yours disgusted’ to Radio 2: the callers that followed including Radio 2’s allotment grower, Terry Walton, who did a brilliant job of advocating both the benefits of growing organically and the fallacy of artificials. As he explained, flavour comes from growing crops naturally, not from growing them cheaply; and that it’s what we are prepared to do to make them nutritious and tasty that counts. Maybe leading scientists need to think about that?

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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Comments



John Whipple
30 January 2013 09:59

Well written Lynda keep logging the attacks on organic growers and produce. Who is saying these things is also important. He may well be aware of what is happening and what the changes are going to be with regard to organic seeds and heritage seeds.

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