London’s Sunday Times has been paying considerable attention to the politics of food lately, and the latest salvo comes from Edinburgh University’s Professor Anthony Trewavas. Convinced that Great Britain has become a nation of “food snobs,” Trewavas debunks many of the myths promoted by backers of organic-only agriculture. “If people want to farm and eat organically that’s their right,” he tells the Times, “but what I object to is people saying that organic food is better
when really all you can do is show that it’s a different form of farming and a slightly different form of food.”
Trewavas’ biggest concern is that the organic movement may result in less overall consumption of fruits and vegetables. He explained: “A diet high in fruit and vegetables can cut cancer rates in half – many medical investigations have established this fact. My fear is that claims that organic food is superior will lead people – especially those on low incomes – to buy organic food thinking it is better for them. But [the higher] price will actually mean they will buy and consume less, and the detrimental effects will be seen in 10-20 years on the cancer rate.”
He is also critical of the food-safety “double standard” in place regarding organic produce.
While conventional food producers, he says, have to “go through hoops” to demonstrate that pesticide residues are within established safety margins (which have already been “adjusted” by a factor of 100), organic growers are not subject to the same kind of scrutiny – despite widespread use of biological pesticides, and animal waste as fertilizer.