GP Taylor: Brexit is chance for our farmers to lead organic food revolution

GP Taylor has been highlighting Gazegill Farm and the need for increased emphasis on organic farming.
GP Taylor has been highlighting Gazegill Farm and the need for increased emphasis on organic farming.
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I RECENTLY found a little taste of heaven nestling in the rolling countryside just outside Skipton. Gazegill Farm is hidden away down a long country lane with a solitary sign that just says ‘Farm Shop’.

It is one of the very few places in the country that sells fresh unpasteurised raw milk. It was a taste that took me back to my childhood and was nothing like the goodness-stripped, processed, pseudo milk that you can buy off the shelf of a supermarket. Gazegill cows are grass-fed and reared in a traditional organic way. Happy cows with happy milk that has the most amazing taste.

In some districts, it is actually illegal to sell raw organic milk and finding a place to buy it is very difficult. It is said to be easier to buy cannabis than raw milk. No shop can sell it and – living 80 miles from Gazegill Farm – I have mine delivered by post. I will drink nothing else and I would never go back to the pasteurised variety.

Thankfully, I am one of a growing number of people who want their food to be as natural as possible, free from additives, colours, modifiers, artificial flavourings and pesticides. I want vegetables to have been grown without been washed in poisons to kill bugs or bleached with chlorine at greater concentrations than my local swimming pool.

When I read the ingredients on some foods (which I now find myself constantly doing), it is like a scientific manual of chemical substances. Food is no longer food. Even lemons are coated in E numbers and sprayed with wax. As for margarine, if you have ever seen how that stuff is made and what it is made from, then you would never put it in your mouth.

The question is why can’t we have straightforward no-chemical meat, fruit and veg?

There is a strong body of evidence that would suggest that eating non-organic food could be a risk to health.

In France, there is scientific information that indicates that 40 per cent of cancers are food-related. Each day, our bodies absorb toxins, pesticides and additives from food that are damaging to our health.

The food industry appears to think that this is acceptable. What is added to improve shelf life, eye appeal and taste, could be leading us all to an early grave.

If the French are right and 40 per cent of cancers could be avoided by eating the right food, just think of the savings for the National Health Service.

Good food, cooked from basic ingredients, could also help stem the obesity crisis that is placing a burden on hospitals and surgeries with weight-related illnesses.

It would mean a fundamental change in farming practices, but I believe that Yorkshire farmers could be at the forefront of an organic agricultural revolution.

As we are set free from the red tape and restrictions of the EU agricultural policies, we could rejoice once again in wonky carrots covered in dirt and grown without chemicals. Our vegetables could be the best in the world, without the fear they contain health-damaging pesticides.

It makes medical sense. In Europe, 100,000 children are said to die each year with environmental-related illnesses. That is a tragic waste of human life. Organic farming not only means better, healthier food, but also a better, healthier environment.

The by-product from chemical farming is nitrates and chemicals leaching into the soil and rivers of our county. According to the World Health Organisation, agricultural chemicals are being found in water supplies more frequently.

Economically, an increase in organic food production would be great for the county. Every year, the organic food industry contributes £2bn to the UK, with Ocado reporting that sales are up 16 per cent in 2017.

The increased interest in organic food could be exploited by savvy farmers and shop keepers. Yorkshire could easily become the organic capital of Britain, with our shops, cafes and farmers leading the way.

Yet, the organically-farmed area of Britain is decreasing and UK organic farmers are converting back to conventional production methods.

This means that organic food imports have increased. Yorkshire is missing important environmental and economic growth opportunity.

Organic food doesn’t have to be the preserve of the rich or lentil-munching hippies. It is incumbent on the Government to support farms such as Gazegill to produce high-quality organic food at reasonable and affordable prices.

Post-Brexit, Yorkshire has the opportunity to influence the way people eat and put good quality chemical-free food back on the menu in homes and schools.

GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster from North Yorkshire.