A note about manure
Sir: I am afraid Matt Ridley shows a lack of understanding about agriculture in general and organic production in particular in his argument against organic food (‘Dishing the dirt’, 24 July). Livestock production has involved the use of animal faeces — or farmyard manure as it is called when mixed with straw — ever since livestock was first housed in the 1800s. Bacterial infections are due to poor hygiene in the slaughter and processing chain, not how animals are fed, grass is produced, or the use of manure, which is an important by-product. Bean sprouts being infected with E.coli is probably down to poor hygiene of personnel, not organic vs non-organic systems.
Yes, organic food is more expensive. The issue here is that this country has followed a cheap food policy since the last war. People will happily pay for rubbish food which is full of additives, yet complain about the price of staples that are not full of chemicals. Being educated about why an organic chicken is better for you and about the welfare of the animal you are going to eat, compared with a cheap mass-produced animal, is at the heart of the issue. There is also a middle road between the mass-produced, intensively grown food beloved of our supermarkets and organic food.
I would love to invite Matt to Devon to visit a commercial organic dairy farm owned by a chum (and fellow Spectator reader) who produces top-quality foods.
Christopher D. Forrest
Sir: I’m sure I am not the only reader to spot a correlation between the articles of Matt Ridley on the case against organic food, and Sam Leith on human laziness (24 July). I have been involved in the farm machinery business for more than 50 years and have customers on both sides of the organic divide — so I would like to think I can see both sides of the story.