S. J. Farthing


Farming and Food

GM - Genetic Modification

Many of the apologists for genetic modification give arguments that show they simply do not understand the issues. The problem with GM is NOT that the food will be toxic in some subtle way, though there is some small possibility of it. Testing food for adverse effects on those who eat it completely misses the point. The problem is one of the UNFORSEEN consequences of TAMPERING WITH NATURE. By definition, the unforseen cannot be predicted. When we tamper with nature, usually something happens which we simply hadn't thought of. Well I can't predict consequences any better than anyone else, but...

The problem with GM is that plants so created will escape into the wild and get out of control. One of the aims of GM is to make plants which are resistant to adverse climates, and to weedkillers. Such plants could be impossible to eradicate, and would compete against other plant life. Human beings are arrogant to think that they can control everything, but they cannot. In Britain we are already seeing rhododendrons taking over in woodland and exterminating all other plants.

Apologists say there is NO PROOF that adverse consequences will occur, but the problem is, if they do occur it could be disastrous, and irreversible. The burden of proof should be to prove that it is safe, and if such proof cannot be supplied then GM should not be used.

One of the recent consequences of the recent food shortage emerging in 2008 is that people are again beginning to resume interest in GM. The problem of food shortage can never ultimately be solved by increases in food production. The answer must be for mankind to stop further increases in its population.

Organic Foods

Organic standards can apply to both plant foods and animal foods. The Soil Association is the recognised organisation which specifies the standards.

Some people believe that organic food is more nutritious and lower in toxins, and in many cases this is certainly true, but it is probably more applicable to animal foods such as meat and milk. One reason is that the organic standards also restrict the use of dubious practices such as routinely giving antibiotics to animals.

The big advantage of organic food production is not merely nutrition. As I have said elsewhere on this page it is selfish of human beings to only look at what benefits themselves. Organic food production is better for good health of the countryside and its wildlife, and better for animal welfare.

Supporting organic foods is supporting the principle and helping to establish organic food as a mainstream food supply.

Animal Welfare

In the quest for ever-cheaper food man is treating his farm animals very badly. This mainly comes about from overcrowding of the animals, but many are not only overcrowded, but forced to live indoors in small cages for their whole life. The need for cheap food is a consequence of our own over population.


There is a large range of eggs available in supermarkets or across a range of shops. Free range, organic, battery etc. Eggs have always been described using such expressions as "new laid" and "farm eggs". These are expressions which mean NOTHING. Some of the advertising emphasises the nutritional benefits of certain types of egg, as if this is the only consideration. Not much is said about animal welfare. There is one particular brand of egg called the "Four Grain egg" whose advertising implies the benefits the hen's diet will have upon the nutritional content of the egg, but says nothing about the welfare of the animal itself. Are human beings so selfish that they will only consider themselves and will allow terrible lifelong suffering of animals.


Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall is doing a great job campaigning against the intensive farming of chickens and in particular he recognises that intensive farming is encouraged and supported by supermarkets, and in turn that is driven by customer demand. Tesco is the supermarket he particularly has taken issue with. He also has taken one or two sample customers to ask them why they do not reject the lowest grade of chicken in favour of those raised to higher standards. The answer is typically that the customers cannot afford the higher standards. However one woman saying this was clearly not in poverty, and indeed rather well-fed!

I have seen free range chickens for sale at the same price as battery chickens which have had certain enhancements applied, for example sprinkled with herbs. When confronted with such a choice it is clear that some people will happily allow a chicken to suffer its whole life to pay for a sprinking of herbs.


A few years ago Britain forced its farmers to give pigs a higher standard for pigs. A good thing, but the problem is that the rest of the E.U. has not followed. The result is that British pig farmers have higher costs and imported pork is cheaper. The British pig industry has declined considerably and farmers are losing money.

Even if customers could be persuaded to pay a little extra (and it's only about 10%) for British pork, there is another problem. Labelling is confusing and the county of origin may not be given, or may be in very small print alongside other misleading information making the pork seem to be British. An example of this is Wiltshire Ham. Wiltshire Ham is the name of a processing method, and does not mean the pork comes from Wiltshire or even Britain.

There is another problem too. Pigs can be born and raised in a foreign country with low standards, but if they are imported alive and killed in Britain the pork may be labelled British.

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver made a programme on Channel 4 shown in the last week of January 2009, entitled Jamie Saves Our Bacon. This was an excellent expose of the issues. In the programme he met with several principal buyers for supermarkets and government departments and obtained assurances that they would give higher priority to British pork and bacon.

See Also:

The Environment: environment.html

Population and over-population: population.html

Nature and Wildlife: nature.html

The contents page for my environmental pages is at: www.farthing.me.uk/world


Compassion in World Farming:

The direct address of this page is www.farthing.me.uk/world/farming.html