This is a guest post by Charlie Flindt.
I can’t see what all the fuss is about; I loved 2016. The Left spent much of the year deafening us with its whining, and flooding us with its bitter tears, the Brexit vote has done marvels for my farm's bank balance after a mediocre but easy harvest, and, best of all, the Soil Association has gone completely potty.
We conventional farmers have always loved our organic brethren. We love anyone who deliberately grows less than they could be growing – it’s good for the wheat supply-and-demand, even if it is slightly morally questionable when much of the world is still hungry. We marvel at their carefully cultivated image of ‘pesticide-free’, when the truth is not quite as clear-cut as that. So when the leading lights of the Soil Association start sounding a bit bonkers in front of the media – well, it’s time to get the popcorn and enjoy the show.
Back in May, yet another report came out stating that GM food was safe. After a brief chat with a world-weary-looking pro-GM scientist, the BBC interviewed Lord Peter Melchett, the Soil Association’s policy director, who, not surprisingly, took a different view on GM’s dangers. “Just because there’s no evidence,” he said solemnly, “doesn’t mean that nothing’s happening. Now, in the country where most GM food has been eaten, there is a huge developing diet-related health crisis – in North America. I’m not saying that’s because of GM food – but you can’t tell me it’s not.”
This is remarkable and (I would suggest) somewhat contradictory logic from a man who read Law at Cambridge. I would refer M’Lud to some of the finest cover stories of the Sunday Sport in its 80s heyday: ‘B-52 Bomber Found on Moon!’ ‘Lord Lucan Seen on Shergar!’ ‘I was a nine-inch sex slave!’ ‘B-52 Bomber Now GONE From Moon!’ All must be true, according to the Soil Association’s finest legal mind, because of a lack of evidence that they’re not. I rest my case.
In July, the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup) came under attack again, and this time it was the Soil Association’s Helen Browning’s turn to be given the kid-glove treatment by the BBC. Countryfile allowed her free rein to demand that this vital herbicide should be banned simply because there are suggestions that it might be carcinogenic, and that the public would be happy to pay more to compensate the farmer for drying costs if pre-harvest desiccation were banned. The hilarity (and hypocrisy) of this interview stemmed from the fact that much of it was carried out over the bonnet of an aged diesel-powered Land Rover Defender. When it comes to carcinogenic emissions, there’s only one way to beat a diesel-fuelled grain dryer: you drive one of Solihull’s finest.
And then, late in the year, we had SA's astonishing Tweet. ‘Millions of farm animals are abused in the pursuit of cheap food, but there is another way...’ said the Soil Association on its Twitter feed. The resulting (and perfectly justified) outrage from non-organic livestock boys and girls was enough to prompt a letter of apology. But even that seemed to stop being an apology halfway through, and drifted off into the realms of comedic praise for Greenpeace’s intimidation of companies by staking out their HQs dressed as gorillas. Really, Ms Browning? I mean – really?
Yup, it has been a vintage year for entertainment, courtesy of the Soil Association. It’s the organic gift that goes on giving. Let’s hope they keep it up for 2017.