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A call for the return of peasant agriculture

Summary:
We think The Guardian has made a mistake here. This is from Fridays for Future, the Greta Thunberg thing, calling for changes in the Common Agricultural Policy:“[We] demand a pathway to climate neutrality for the EU’s agricultural and food sector,” the activists wrote in an open letter published ahead of the virtual meeting. “We need to transform direct payments into payments for public goods. Public money needs to flow into the transition to sustainable, climate-friendly and peasant [sic] agriculture. We need a new evidence-based and just CAP.”The error being The Guardian’s addition of the “sic” there. For the demand really is that we move back to peasant agriculture, not to pleasant or some other word that has been misspelt. The entire point of industrial agriculture - we can call it

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We think The Guardian has made a mistake here. This is from Fridays for Future, the Greta Thunberg thing, calling for changes in the Common Agricultural Policy:

“[We] demand a pathway to climate neutrality for the EU’s agricultural and food sector,” the activists wrote in an open letter published ahead of the virtual meeting. “We need to transform direct payments into payments for public goods. Public money needs to flow into the transition to sustainable, climate-friendly and peasant [sic] agriculture. We need a new evidence-based and just CAP.”

The error being The Guardian’s addition of the “sic” there. For the demand really is that we move back to peasant agriculture, not to pleasant or some other word that has been misspelt.

The entire point of industrial agriculture - we can call it chemical, non-organic, other names exist - is to reduce the amount of human labour required to perform it. The removal of all of those substitutes for human labour will require adding that backbreaking work back in.

The problems with this idea being at least twofold. Firstly, the backbreaking labour. Very few of us indeed wish to do this as evidenced by the difficulty in recruiting people to go pick the fruit and veg crops. You might have seen something in the newspapers just recently about this. Secondly, to go back to us all standing around in muddy fields is to kill off the very idea of civilisation itself.

For if we are all to be growing food there’s no one left to staff the NHS, run the libraries, dance the ballets, put up the phone masts and serve the pints. Don’t forget, back when we did have machine free and organic agriculture some 80% of the population had to be doing that fields thing. Currently we have perhaps 2% - that’s 78% of the population that’ll have to move from doing all those non-farming, non-food things we so enjoy consuming back to providing that winter diet of turnips.

We’ve just spent the last 8,000 years since the invention of agriculture itself trying to haul ourselves up out of the workload that non-industrialised farming imposes. To kill off the results of that effort and return to peasant farming is, quite literally, insane. And if only the call were a typo….

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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