At last, some good news: last week the governments comprising the European Union (EU) voted to ban the agrochemical thiacloprid, which is produced and marketed by the global chemical company Bayer.
Thiacloprid is one of a group of neonicotinoid pesticides, all of which are strongly linked to the collapse in worldwide bee populations.
In reaching its decision the EU stated that it was also concerned that thiacloprid had now found its way into groundwater, a serious cause for alarm since it is toxic to humans.
France, which decided not to wait for the EU’s decision has already banned thiacloprid, along with four other neonictinoid pesticides: clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and acetamiprid.
The EU’s decision is a small and painfully slow step in the right direction, but it – and the rest of the world – needs to follow France’s lead.
Neonicotinoids were developed in the early 1990s and it has taken nearly three decades for governments to begin to accept the danger they pose, despite a growing body of scientific evidence and many years of campaigning by environmentalists.
The lesson of DDT has simply not been learned. These chemicals should simply have no place in agriculture.
But while agrochemicals remain permissible, each of them should be subject to rigorous and exhaustive independent testing before it is allowed to be marketed for use in food production. It should not be left to environmentalists and the scientific community to gather evidence to prove a chemical is harmful after it has been released and after it has has found its way into the food chain.
The inspiration for this dish came from a recent visit to a friend in Bristol who was keen to take me to Bristol Sweet Mart in St Marks Road, Easton. And what a wonderful emporium it is, with a dazzling array of beautiful fresh exotic fruit and vegetables and a stunning range of spices.
I came out of the shop a bit lighter in pocket than when I went in. Amongst my purchases were some beautiful baby aubergines, which I used in creating this recipe. If you can’t source baby aubergines use 3-4 larger ones chopped into 3-4 cm chunks.
spiced aubergine with chickpeas and wilted spinach
16 baby aubergine
8 banana shallots, peeled and sliced into quarters lengthways
300 g organic spinach leaves
1 x 400 g can organic chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp sea salt
50 ml extra virgin olive oil
1. Whisk together the olive oil, garlic, smoked paprika, chilli flakes, turmeric and sea salt. Cut the baby aubergines in half lengthways. Place them in a roasting dish with the quartered shallots. Pour over the spice mixture and toss to combine thoroughly. Leave to marinade for 30 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4).
2. Put the roasting dish with the marinated vegetables into the pre-heated oven. Cook for thirty minutes, by which time the aubergine and shallot should be soft and golden. Take the roasting dish out of the oven and add the chickpeas. Stir thoroughly to coat them in the oil and return the dish to the oven for another ten minutes.
3. Remove the roasting dish from the oven and place on the cooker on the lowest possible setting. Add the spinach and stir for 4-5 minutes or until the spinach is wilted. Serve immediately, accompanied by basmati rice.