Ein Volk, Ein Führer, Ein Rice!: Why The Soil Association's Fascist Founders Would Applaud Its Opposition To Golden Rice
What kind of nutcase would you have to be to oppose a miracle product which could save the lives of two million children every year and the eyesight of another half a million a year?
A nutcase from Britain's leading organic charity, The Soil Association, of course.
For most of us, The Soil Association is an organisation we associate - if it all - with the certification stamps we see on the side of muesli packets. The ones that reassure us that not one tiny hint of a scintilla of a soupcon of anything unwholesome, unnatural or inorganic has gone into the making of our breakfast snack.
"Oh good," comes our subconscious Pavlovian reaction - because that's how we've all been brainwashed. "Organic! Mmm. That means I'm NEVER going to get cancer, and it's almost like every mouthful I've eaten I've run six miles and worked out for an hour in the gym, and all the baby polar bears have been saved for ever. Thank you for making all this possible, Soil Association."
And if that's all The Soil Association was - a validation service for middle-class idiots with more money than sense - then none of us would have anything to worry about.
Unfortunately The Soil Association (founded 1946; now with over 27,000 members) is - and always has been - much more political than its harmlessly crankish image might suggest. As we shall see, its origins lie in the fascist and Nazi movements of the 1930s, and though of course it is now anxious to dissociate itself from its extremist past, you can't help but notice some of those early roots showing through in its current opposition to Golden Rice.
Golden Rice is rice that has been genetically modified to provide the Vitamin A sorely lacking in the diets of so many in the Third World. It has been described by one of its champions, Dr Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, as "one of the most cost-effective cures on a per capita basis in history." All the evidence suggests that it is safe, effective and much cheaper than any alternatives. Yet despite all this - and despite the fact that it is going to be grown nowhere near Britain - the Soil Association has still decided to take a stand against it. Why?
Well, just have a look at these quotes from Rudolf Steiner, the Biodynamic farming pioneer cited by one of The Soil Association's founders, Lady Balfour, as "one of the most important" influences on the organisation
"One can only understand history and all of social life, including today’s social life, if one pays attention to people’s racial characteristics. And one can only understand all that is spiritual in the correct sense if one first examines how this spiritual element operates within people precisely through the color of their skin."
"On the one hand there is the black race, which is the most earthly. When this race goes toward the West, it dies out. Then there is the yellow race, in the middle between the earth and the cosmos. When this race goes toward the East, it turns brown, it attaches itself too much to the cosmos and dies out. The white race is the race of the future, the spiritually creative race."
Not everyone involved in the early organic movement shared those racist, Eugenicist attitudes. But it's clear that quite a few of the more influential ones did. In Britain, they included morris-dancing enthusiast Rolf Gardiner, Nazi fellow traveller Gerard Wallop - Ninth Earl of Portsmouth, and Jorian Jenks, a propagandist for Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists who went on to co-found the Soil Association and edited its house journal Mother Earth.
Jenks was a friend and kindred spirit of Walther Darre, another organic farming pioneer who became minister of agriculture under Adolf Hitler. Darre was promoted to the rank of SS-Obergruppenführer and helped Himmler set up the SS Race and Resettlement Office.
Tried for war crimes, he was found guilty of ‘atrocities and offences committed against civilian populations between 1938 and 1945’ and ‘membership of criminal organizations.’
Now, of course, none of these unpleasant specimens has anything to do with the Soil Association in its current, apparently wholesome, incarnation with chunky-knit TV gardener Monty Don as its president and the Prince of Wales as its royal patron.
Which is why, you might have hoped, the Soil Association would be taking especial care not to adopt any policy positions which smack, in any way, of its racist, fascist, quasi-mystical origins.
Like, maybe, opposing on no serious scientific or economic basis whatsoever the miracle crop which could save the lives and eyesight of millions of poor yellow people across Asia...