Prince Charles defies critics to make new plea for organic farming

LONDON Wed Nov 13, 2013 12:01am GMT

Britain's Prince Charles poses for pictures against the backdrop of Vazhachal waterfalls at Thrissur district in the southern Indian state of Kerala November 12, 2013. REUTERS/Sivaram V

Britain's Prince Charles poses for pictures against the backdrop of Vazhachal waterfalls at Thrissur district in the southern Indian state of Kerala November 12, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Sivaram V

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LONDON (Reuters) - Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, has made a fresh appeal for more organic farming, insisting his approach was based on science rather that "a quirk" and dismissing those who would prefer he keeps his opinions private.

Charles, who turns 65 this week, has often voiced strong views on the environment, architecture and social affairs, a stance that contrasts sharply with his mother, Queen Elizabeth, who never reveals her thoughts on such matters.

The prince came under scrutiny this summer when it was revealed he had held 36 meetings with government ministers since the Conservative-led coalition took power in 2010, up 13 from the same period of the last Labour government. Critics said it showed he enjoyed undue political influence.

But the criticism has not deterred Charles from speaking out and in an article for Country Life magazine published on Wednesday, he voiced concerns about modern farming and the lack of young people choosing life on the land.

"The pressure from global competition, the effects of climate change and the spiralling costs of fuel and feed only add to the difficulty," he wrote.

"Our ash trees are under threat and so, too, our bee population ... At the same time, we are not farming in a way that enables nutrients to return to the soil naturally. And this matters."

"We should acknowledge this rather than regard it as a quirk," said Prince Charles who converted his country estate, Highgrove in Gloucestershire, to organic farming in 1986.

"Science is fundamental if we are to make sustainable agriculture more productive, but I believe it is the combination of the best of traditional techniques with the best of modern knowledge that will make the difference we so urgently need."

The prince dismissed critics who suggested his patronage of a trust to conserve native rare breeds of farm animals was "some sort of romantic attachment to a bygone age".

"My reasons are rooted in hard-nosed science," he said, arguing that the preservation of these breeds and their genes could be crucial to sustainable farming.

But Charles' decision to publicly argue for his favourite causes while in a constitutional role with no practical political power was not welcomed by all.

Columnist Oliver Kamm of the Times newspaper said Charles' position insulated him from the scrutiny "his weird ideas ought to get". Kamm praised the queen and her grandson Prince William for not voicing their views as they conducted official duties.

"That's the right balance in an hereditary monarchy," Kamm said.

(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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Comments (2)
ActionDan wrote:
He’s absolutely right – long term the only truly sustainable approach is precisely what Charles suggests: the best traditional techniques combined with the best of modern knowledge.

This approach however, doesn’t raise vast profits quickly for multi-national corporations, which is why the prince’s views on agriculture are largely ignored or ridiculed.
His approach would also employ far more people, which should be seen as a good thing with the economy as it is.

Nov 13, 2013 9:20am GMT  --  Report as abuse
EconPhD wrote:
Let’s not blow things out of proportion. Prince Charles gave an interview to a countryside magazine, he didn’t impose his opinions on anyone. As long as he expresses “opinions” based on personal efforts and experience, I feel much better knowing what the future head of state is thinking. I would much prefer to hear what the Queen feels strongly about too.
In the end of the day, he has a successful track record of running an organic business and young Britons can benefit from hearing about success stories especially if it prompts them to follow this career path. Overall, it would be wise to dedicate more manpower and funding to farming in order to manage future food inflation.

Nov 13, 2013 12:06pm GMT  --  Report as abuse
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