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What is Natural when it comes to Food Production?

Looking at my yoghurt this lunchtime, I am excited to find that it is made from 100% natural ingredients, but it does get me thinking. So no petrochemicals in my yoghurt then! Does that mean that there are other people eating yoghurts with unnatural ingredients? And if so, who decided that was okay?

Just as nature intended…?

Likewise, I read that the ingredients on my cereal bar were grown “just as nature intended”. What did nature intend? As far as I am aware, none of the cereals that we eat today are as nature intended; instead they have been nurtured and developed over tens of thousands of years to be crops able to be grown together and produce large heads of fat grains full of safe protein and carbohydrate. As nature intended would involve people desperately avoiding ergot, a cereal fungus capable of causing a very unpleasant death in its consumers.

Being an eater of only natural things is therefore pretty much limited to very small numbers of people in the world who hunt animals and gather nuts and berries; for example, the walrus-hunting Inuit, and the South American armadillo hunters and forest dwellers1.

Wheat against blue sky

Organic food and pesticides

OK, so if I cannot eat as nature intended, surely I can choose to eat food that has not been grown with the help of pesticides? Well, not really. Even if you only eat organic food, the chances are it will have been grown with the use of a pesticide. The reason why the latter are used in the growing of the majority of the food we eat is that we need to produce a lot of it, and whenever you grow a large amount of protein or carbohydrate or fatty acids (or worse, a combination of two or three of them), other things want to get in on the act and spoil it; insects have been doing so since pre-biblical times, and plant and animal diseases have been the bane of all our attempts to feed an ever increasing population; hence the need for insecticides and fungicides, respectively. Getting yields up also means making sure that weeds are not competing with our crops for light, water and nutrients; hence the need for herbicides.
Organic farmers have exactly the same issues, albeit, their lower yields from the limited arsenal of pesticides available to them, are offset by the higher prices that organic food will fetch on the supermarket shelves.

Progress in food production?

So is it all hopeless then? Depends on what you mean by hopeless; farmers are always looking out for more sustainable ways of growing food; the older, more problematic chemical pesticides have been withdrawn by the regulators; scientists are continually researching better tools to help; and companies are developing new, safer, more environmentally friendly products to replace those more harmful ones being withdrawn.

An option for organic and conventional farmers?

AlphaBio Control fits into the latter two categories; the identification, research and development of new, safer products from natural sources. A bio-insecticide derived from olive oil called FLiPPER®; a bio-herbicide derived from sunflower oil called MiSSiTO®; and two new bio-fungicides. All suitable for organic and conventional farmers alike, with excellent environmental profiles, naturally-sourced and with no residue issues.
Sort-of natural but able to help farmers do their amazing feat of feeding us every day of the year. Just as nature intended? No. Better? Yes.