The Rambler 02/05/2003
BETWEEN the wars, mixed farming was an uncomplicated more-or-less self-controlled profession.
This month (May) saw the crops all planted and the farmer able to take a breather after the toil of ploughing, harrowing, sowing etc., directives free.
Home-grown cereal seeds and home-produced seed spuds had been planted in ground fertilised with manure dropped by homebred stock.
Chemical had been added but very sparingly and weeds had been pulled up by the root and burnt. (I am thinking of thistle, dock and ragwort). The age of accelerating growth by lavish spreading of chemicals had only just begun.
Soon, with mechanisation and increasing wages for labourers, mixed farming was phased out, or almost; and a swing to cattle, milk and egg production spread rapidly.
More stock demanded more and better grass and this required more use of chemicals. More stock produced more slurry and chemically saturated slurry contaminated more water courses. Fish stocks suffered and the era of watering cattle from sheughs (slow-running streams) ended. Now the wheel has turned full circle and E.U. directives are placing a limit on the number of head of cattle to be produced on each acre (or hectare) of grassland.
As well, there are controls on the volume of popular chemicals to be applied as fertiliser. The go-as-you-please system of production of farm products is over.
Quotas for milk production have been in vogue for decades but now quota specifications are being put on almost everything. It is no longer a case of stepping up fertiliser application ad lib. (far from it)
And if that weren't enough - say the limit one cow only per acre - there is the advent of widespread genetic engineering. One does not spray growing potatoes, for example nowadays, instead a gene that produces a natural insecticide can be inserted into the potato variety. This kills attacking insects. Not a word about the effect on the lining of the consumer's stomach!
The scientists have engineered the production of some kind of master rice, it is said, which has revolutionised cereal production in under-developed countries which are totally dependent on rice.
If you haven't got this master variety you are sunk, and presumably some big brother has the patent or monopoly. (I could be wrong)
The long-established, well tested varieties of eating potatoes: Aran Victory, Pentland Dell, Kerrs Pinks, Dunbar Standards grown from known home-produced stock are no longer safe.
A new, adulterated half-chemical spud may be in the pipeline, and may be subject to an E. U. directive eventually. Are we approaching the stage when consumers' palates will all be - genetically engineered as well, to suit a genetically engineered modern diet?
I meant to say something this week about the helical shaped, or double-helix shaped, D.N.A. genetic blue print which has made it possible for Scotrail and British Transport Police to identify blackguards who have devolved a habit of spitting on rail staff.
Now they can be identified through access to a national D.N.A. register. Evidence bags, a coupe of sterile swabs and gloves are the armoury. In a nutshell, the brats will no longer be free to spit on whoever they choose. A sad indicator of the depth to which hooliganism has sunk. But enough is enough.