Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

In My View

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

In My View

Article excerpt

Byline: By John Whaley

Before telling you my worries about the emerging nanotechnology, I should explain my background.

I was born on, and have always lived on a farm. Growing up and living through the depression of the 20s and 30s did not deter me from making a decision in 1939 that farming would be my life.

At that time the scientists with the internal combustion engine and electricity gave us mechanisation. Needing food to fend off starvation in 1939 to 1945 they also gave us agrochemicals in the form of nitrogen fertilisers and pesticides, allowing farmers to move from old-fashioned rotational cropping to monoculture and the intensification of livestock farming, from "good" farming to profitable farming!

The scientists also gave us organochlorines for weed and pest control, and when their dangers were exposed by Rachel Carson in her book Silent Spring, they were replaced by organophosphates, even more dangerous, which farmers have to live with.

Their use is monitored to some degree by an empire called the Pesticides Safety Directorate.

I organised several schemes with neighbours to increase food production, and had an active career with the National Farmers Union at local and national level, but I realised in the 70s that farming had lost its way and control of its future to the scientists employed by the multinational agrochemical firms making profit from farming. After a failed attempt in 1980 to get NFU Council to consider rationing or a tax on nitrogen, to reduce food production and pesticide usage, to control the growing mountains and lakes of unwanted produce, I converted my own farm to organic produce quite easily and successfully, but every other farmer carried on with the rat-race of higher production to counterbalance lower end prices.

Farming became an ever worsening problem.

In 1982 government made compulsory the use of organophosphate warble fly dressing on cattle, and OP sheep-dips. This OP warble fly dressing was the chief cause of a new epidemic in cattle, mad cow disease, or BSE. Countless farmers and shepherds have suffered ill-health and misery from the OP sheep dip. …

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