Felicity Lawrence, the Guardian’s food politics special correspondent, wrote as follows in last Monday’s Guardian (3/10/16), under the heading “Hyperintensive farming will never feed the world”:
“British farmers growing wheat typically treat each crop over its growing cycle with four fungicides, three herbicides, one insecticide and one chemical to control molluscs. They buy seeds that had been precoated with chemicals against insects. They spray the land with weedkiller before planting, and again after. They apply chemical growth regulators that change the balance of plant hormones to control the height and strength of the grain’s stem. They spray against aphids and mildew. And then they often spray again just before harvesting with the herbicide glyphosphate to dessicate the crop, which saves them the energy costs of mechanical drying.”
She was writing about British farmers, I don’t know how many, if any, Irish farmers follow suit.
When you read about so much chemical use, you wonder where the line is in farming between fertilising and polluting and poisoning the earth. Agriculture, like every other industry, has a moral dimension.
Debates like the debate in agriculture form the backdrop to the letter Pope Francis write called Laudato Si — about care for the earth, our common home. The pope’s particular concern is for the poor, who always lose out. If Hurricane Matthew is an example of an extreme weather event brought about by climate change, then it makes the point for the pope: it left 900 casualties in Third-World Haiti — and five people dead in Florida. The poor suffer most and the pope wants everyone to respect our world so that everyone will be fed.
“Reduce / re-use / recycle” could be his papal motto. The simple steps everyone can take he urges on us:
1. Don’t waste food;
2. Turn off lights
3. Re-use paper.
If you get a chance, read his analysis in Laudato Si, on the Vatican website (www.vatican.va).
As we give thanks for creation and the fruits of the harvest this weekend, we’re challenged to respect the earth, not to pollute it with litter and rubbish and poison — so that the future generations will share this common home. The pope says that’s up to each of us.
Fr Bernard Cotter preached this homily at the Mass for Creation during Harvest Thanksgiving weekend in Farnivane and Newcestown, 9 October 2016