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FSA - Food Safety Watchdog or Industry Attack Dog?

Comment From The Organic Growers Alliance

No organic grower was surprised to hear hostility and dodgy science from the Food Standards Agency. A body created to try and placate the public and avoid dealing with the causes of several major food scandals in the 1990s, isn’t going to be one which will stand much scrutiny. Its first Chair Sir John Krebs, while looking very new man, was in fact quickly in action enthusing about GM food technology and organic food doubts, a white knight for distrusted big food.

The FSA replaced MAFF(2000) as responsible for food safety largely because not many people could either trust MAFF’s competence or impartiality. The time that this clean sheet attempt bought seems to have run out. While there may be conspiratorial roots to the FSA’s formation the current reality is that food interests with clout still dominate DEFRA (MAFF’s successors) thinking in the UK and much of food policy making in the west. Eg Cargill and McDonalds are not about to accept restriction of the oil-based intensive grain and meat spiral of production. Rainforest, health or starvation issues can sing.

If we are not surprised why are organic producers exasperated? Any public body is paid for by us all and any trust ceded and misused is damage to the wider notion of government for the benefit of us all. Flat Earthers aside why anyone would want to actively campaign against organic farming principles? Commercial interest has made objective academic research a scarce resource in recent years but it’s not easy to disagree with the principle of seeking sustainability. A Nitrate fertiliser manufacturer maybe, or Exxon?

The facts and the science may continue to be argued over (¹) but ultimately who would you trust? People developing benign growing techniques or people who keep saying everything’s OK/don’t look? While some of the FSA report is comical(using 1950+60 data to distort later figures, neglecting like for like comparisions, describing higher nitrate content as desirable) linear thinkers such as the Guardian’s Ben Goldacre couldn’t resist lauding it. Organic growers can raise wry smiles to be accused of being part of a multi-billion £ industry steamroller.

The OGA believes we all have a vested interest in a safe and sustainable food supply. There are plenty of regions around the world where the soil is eroded or destroyed in productive terms and few or no people can any longer live². Many conventional farming techniques currently offer only an assisted passage to Easter Island and we don’t want to go. We value our soil, our water and our food.

Last Modified - 13th November 2009

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