Farmers should be helped to shift to organic agriculture, veteran activist says

Organic farming and vegetarianism on Xtra Sajf

Malta is only EU country to put more money in traditional pesticide use by farmers than organic farming methods
Malta is only EU country to put more money in traditional pesticide use by farmers than organic farming methods

Farmers should practice organic farming methods and EU funds disbursed by government must help promote this rather than the continued use of pesticides, a veteran activist said.

Mario Salerno, who founded the Malta Organic Agricultural Movement (MOAM) back in 1999, said Malta was the only EU country to spend more money on traditional pesticide use than organic agriculture methods.

“Between 2020 and 2027, the European Union will be allocating funds for the agriculture sector. If I had my way, we would create more financial incentives for producers to switch from conventional farming to organic farming,” Salerno said while speaking on TVM’s Xtra Sajf.

“Out of the 28 countries of the European Union, 27 gave more money to organic farming, while Malta was the only exception,” he insisted.

Salerno argued that there is a huge potential for the organic farming market in Malta, noting that there has been an increase in health consciousness and food quality awareness among consumers, which in turn has led to a greater demand for organic products. 

“Today you can see where the market is headed – there is an increase in interest and in demand, and with the increase in demand there is also an increase in the interest for one to supply that demand,” he said.  

Salerno said the organic style of farming is not necessarily opposed to the use of spraying, as some might think, but merely makes use of natural materials instead of synthetic chemicals.

“I can create alternatives out of nettles, for instance and use them as a solution against certain insects that attack tomatoes and which are proving to be a headache since they have even become resistant to synthetic chemicals,” he said.

Salerno closed off by expressing his hope for the future of organic farming in Malta, as he noted that contemporary EU laws offer far more incentives than in the days when he first founded his NGO.

Vegan blogger says vegetarianism best way to help natural environment

Darryl Grima, vegan blogger and presenter of TVM programme Mill-Għalqa, said that the best thing an individual can do to help the environment is to turn to a meat-free diet.

He argued that this helps to save tropical rainforests, as well as protect the Earth’s biodiversity. 

Grima hailed the benefits of a vegetarian and vegan diet, claiming that, at their core, these lifestyles are ultimately based on respect towards the world and oneself.

“Both vegetarianism and veganism are based on respect - respect towards animals, respect towards the environment, respect towards our biodiversity, and even respect for one’s own health, because when you choose plant-based diets, you are improving your health,” he said.

The blogger insisted that there has been a significant, international shift in mentality towards plant-based diets, especially in the post-Covid-19 days.

“What is happening now is that we’re trying to eliminate the distinction between vegan and vegetarian. Right now, there is a movement called reductionism, where we are uniting everyone within the same mission – reducing the consumption of animals, and reducing the human impact on the environment,” he said. 

Grima also argued that there are proven studies that show that a plant-based diet is more beneficial to humans, arguing that the data and information is there, even if people may not realise it. 

Questioned by Balzan as to what impact a country as small as Malta could possibly have on the environmental front, Grima stressed that one can never give up on the idea that every single person can make a difference. 

“If we start saying that a single person can’t make a difference, then we’ve lost the entire battle, not just here, but also on the environment, on waste, and on so much more”, he said.

Grima noted that a plant-based lifestyle has become easier than ever in this day and age, with the amount of meat and dairy substitutes that are on the market. He said that while the majority of vegans and vegetarians are individuals who are against the harming of animals, there is an increase in the number of people who turn to this lifestyle for the sake of the environment, or the betterment of their health. 

“Today we are seeing that the three pillars together– the environment, health, and animals – will move this movement forward”, he said.

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