Farm Tutor – Gable’s Farm, Ruskin Mill College18th October 2023
Biodynamic Agricultural College – Marketing & Online Learning Coordinator23rd October 2023
In London in August I had some very interesting and informative conversations across a breakfast table, and was prompted to write this article to share my thoughts and understanding. So to me, yes Organic, and more especially Biodynamic food is worth it; for you, for the farmer, for nature and the World.
Please note that this is a discussion blog, not a scientific paper, but is based on scientific research I have read. Science is an art and a complex one at that. It has been found and widely reported in recent decades that the outcomes of studies can vary according to the researchers’ beliefs and expectations (https://www.formpl.us/blog/research-bias ). This is not what we were told back in the last century. Outcomes do of course depend on the research question (i.e. what one is searching for) and what parameters of measurement one uses, but critically, also what the researcher is expecting to find.
So research is useful and can help us understand the world, but a study should not be believed as the only ultimate one-sided truth. Outcomes can vary – new perspectives and improved measuring can change answers, and sometimes what appears to be opposing views can both be true.
So, back to food. It is a sad state of affairs that the agricultural industry and food industry are all about profitability, not about health, quality or nutritional value, these need to go hand in hand, not be separated.
Here are a few observations:
When I lived in the ‘garden of France’, which grows large amounts of apples, back in the 1980s, I learned from the neighbours that the local apple crop had upwards of 25 chemical sprays a year, starting from before the buds opened through to the day of harvest. These sprays went from pesticides to herbicides (on bare the soil below the trees), foliar feeds and fungicides etc and were all repeated for every stage. The last spray was usually carried out, illegally, before the pickers came on-site for the day or while they were eating their lunch. That last spray was to help preserve the apples in storage. The locals did not eat these commercial apples – they grew their own away from commercial orchards. Little has changed except that more organic alternatives are available (https://www.homefortheharvest.com/how-often-to-spray-apple-trees/ ).
More recently living in an area where colza/rape seed is grown I have experienced something similar. “Kill anything that grows” first, then fertilise, then sow, then pesticide (“kill them dratted flea beetle before they eat half my crop” – only neonicotinoids, another serious poison, will kill enough of them!). After that let it grow a bit, more fertiliser, then pesticide again on the flowers, fungicide so there is no mould on the leaf and stem that might reduce the seed crop. Then about 10 days before the expected harvest put on a good dose of Roundup – on the seeding plant. Roundup’s main ingredient (it has other poisons too) is glyphosate (an antibiotic). It is used as a herbicide and as a desiccant on seeds and cereals. It is regularly used on oil-seed rape, on all cereals and on some other crops too to have a more uniform product that is easier to harvest. I have not listed the number of passes over the months of these different chemicals but Roger Mainwood stated in the Guardian in 2018 (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jun/07/pesticide-use-in-the-uks-intensive-agriculture) that there are often 20 pesticide treatments alone on many non-organic crops in the year.
So what are the key processes in our digestion? How do we extract value from what we eat? In our gut, we have a very diverse world of microorganisms, our gut biome, which is closely related to that of healthy soil (i.e. non-chemically treated). We break down all we can and absorb the best nutrients. And with the much-needed nutrients come also all these other ingredients in our food: fungicides, pesticides and fertilisers. None of these helps our gut biome, in fact, glyphosate, as an antibiotic, kills bacteria, it is a poison to our digestive system (see ref as above). We need our internal bacteria to be alive for good digestion, as well as all the other life forms that naturally reside in our gut system from the mouth all the way through. So with these chemicals in our food, combined with life’s stresses, it is hardly surprising we have so many health problems relating to our digestion: stomach over-acidity, IBS, obesity, and under-nourishment, to name but a few.
So based on advice given by many medical doctors what can you do as first steps for a healthier gut?
- Eat chemical-free (organic/biodynamic) foods as much as you can (and support organisations like the BDA if you are able)
- If you cannot afford a fully organic diet, prioritise. Start with organic/biodynamic for the following in this order of priority
- Cereals and oils (as the chemicals on these come through in greatest quantity due to the late spraying) – this includes bread and pastries of course
- Take the peel off fruit to reduce the amount of spray residues stored mainly in the skin (this also reduces the nutritional value)
- Same with potatoes (as they are another heavily chemically treated crop)
- Grow your own leafy greens or forage in non-sprayed areas if you can (respect nature and her needs, but nettles and other leafy weeds can be very good for you)
Note that being part of a Community Supported Agriculture membership scheme can give access to excellent organic or biodynamic vegetables at very affordable prices, often close to supermarket ones. The produce is organic/biodynamic, fresher and less travelled than in most shops, and you can often use the whole vegetable, skin and some leaves too (especially the beet family, turnips, cabbage family, etc.).
There are several scientific papers in the public domain indicating that incidences of cancer and other serious diseases are significantly reduced when shifting to a mainly organic diet. This can be from 25% to as much as 84% for certain cancers – this was researched on a large cohort of the population in France some years ago over some 15 years. See https://bit.ly/48qbRii
So by choosing organic and biodynamic food, you are helping not only your own (and family’s) health and well-being, you are helping to reduce to use of chemicals in farming and food processing. This is a positive step for nature and global health. It makes a difference, every action, every choice makes a difference to the bigger picture.
Happy shopping! Do the best you can for your own gut, for farmers, nature and the world. And keep positive; it’s good for you 😐.
Executive Director, Biodynamic Association
Check out this article on the climate factors of Lab-grown Meats