Ireland could “absolutely” become an organic food island, according to Darina Allen, owner and founder of Ballymaloe Cookery School.
Allen was speaking at the inaugural Ceres Network conference, held at Dublin’s Convention Centre on Friday.
“I dream of Ireland as the organic food island. There’s a growing demand worldwide now for nourishing, wholesome food that people can trust.
“It’s a huge opportunity for Ireland. It seems to be that we are better placed than so many other countries.
“We absolutely could do it. The voice is growing louder and louder for a shift from destructive farming practices, all over the world.
“Since the 50s, in many countries and in Ireland as well, farmers have been encouraged to produce the maximum amount of food at a minimum cost,” Allen said.
She said that we’ve been pushing everything beyond its limits, both animals and plants.
“We seem to have one food crisis after the other and if we keep on going the way we are, business as usual, they’re going to keep on coming.”
One thing Allen said is needed is help and support, to prepare farmers for a post-glyphosate era.
“I think farmers who are reliant on glyphosate not only as a herbicide, but also for a [pre-harvest tool], they really need help and support and money put into research to help them to be able to farm in a different way.
“Many farmers have forgotten how to farm without these chemicals now.
“There are many farmers who would like to go down the organic or non-chemical route, but feel for economic reasons, terrified to do it and they feel that they’re not getting the back-up, the support that they need.”
Countering Allen’s view was Michael Hoey of Country Crest, who said it is not practical for Ireland to become an organic food nation.
“I think it’s very ideal to think that someday we could be an organic nation, but it’s not practical.
“We have to have a halfway house, which is integrated crop management and integrated animal management.
“It is happening very much that farmers and growers are more and more responsible for the actions they do and growing clean and safe food.
“That is really what we have to focus on – that we do produce the cleanest, most efficient and best-managed food on the planet.
“As the population is growing, we need to service that population and that will mean that yields will be increasing,” he said.