Tag Archives: the precautionary principle

The organic backlash starts here

Delia’s on the money. Let’s dump the backward, unproductive organic bullshit and get back to growth and progress.

On daytime TV and down on the farm, the food and agriculture wars are getting interesting again. The extremes are being tested. Rapacious techno-capitalist agrobusiness has been shown to be predatory and short-sighted. Likewise, dreamy organic pastoralism has been shown to be superstitious and narrow-minded. Some kind of consensus may emerge. We need one. How are we going to feed billions under this most fragile curve of blue sky without some kind of agreement?

In the pop media the old school is mounting a quite entertaining backlash. Delia’s in the front-line (she’s channelling others of her era: the galloping gourmet and Fanny Craddock are coming through loud-and-clear). She’s putting into words a decade’s pent-up objections to those smug, wealthy food-bores with their herb gardens and their rare breeds and their bloody Magimixes. We may have seen high water for the foodies and their unbending authenticity. Crack open that tin of pineapple chunks, friend.

And now the Spring’s coming so the action’s moving back to the fields (it’s been a bit nippy for crop vandalism). The anti-GM crowd are pulling on their ‘funny’ bunny suits ready for action and they’ve apparently been perfecting their methods.

Why is it so dispiriting to contemplate the waves of well-meaning greens swarming over fences into the fields again? Shouldn’t we be glad these kids have got the balls and the energy to take on the evil agrobiz and the government? Not really. Because they’re doing all this in the name of that most timid and constipated of social policy inventions: the precautionary principle.

Over-use of the precautionary principle is the mark of a society that doubts its ability to transcend its conditions, make progress, break through. It’s a kind of constitutional paralysis. Boldness, experiment, risk: all out the window. We need to push back, get the foot back on the accelerator. If we don’t, the economies where the only principle at work is the principle of ‘fuck you’ are going to be in charge and then it won’t matter which principle we apply. We’ll be remembered as the crowd of fussy eaters who used to live on that little island in the North Atlantic.

I’d like to see a counter-movement (perhaps wearing ‘funny’ tweedy caps or something), a pro-science, pro-progress group ready to get out into the weedy, under-nourished plots of the organic establishment and start digging up their crops. I’d like to see piles of pointlessly expensive organic veg liberated and dumped on the steps of Number 10 – with some kind of clever PR twist to get it in the papers, obviously. Maybe we could even mount a programme of stealth weed killer application – not a lot, just enough to completely freak out Farmer Giles when he brings in the gang only to find there’s no weeds to weed.