King Charles III said he was thought of as a “complete idiot” for wanting to farm organically, but was proved right over his concerns about the impact of the use of antibiotics in conventional agriculture.
At one of his last official engagements as Prince of Wales on the day before the Queen’s death, Charles talked about his longstanding concerns that the widespread use of antibiotics could lead to increased resistance in bugs and viruses.
He said: “One of the reasons I went organic 40 years ago was because I felt there was an overuse of antibiotics. And I felt that if you overdo it, you end up with resistance. Anyway, that’s happened. I was told I was a complete idiot for even suggesting going organic.”
The King farmed organically at Home Farm near his Highgrove residence in Gloucestershire, but in 2020 it was announced that he would not be renewing the lease as he prepared for greater royal responsibilities. He continues to farm organically at the Sandringham estate in Norfolk. Organic farming methods strictly limit the use of antibiotics.
Speaking at a global allergy symposium at Dumfries House in Scotland, the King said he was concerned by expert evidence that western lifestyles may have contributed to the reported global increase in allergies.
He said: “It seems to spread further and further as people take up a western lifestyle. And what’s so sad is that people are still are adopting this lifestyle when we’ve discovered what damage it has already been doing.”
King Charles suggested he supported concerns that modern homes could be over-sanitised, potentially reducing exposure to microbes that can be beneficial to health. He said: “When I was small if I dropped my food on the floor I was encouraged to eat it. I was told ‘it was good clean dirt, it won’t harm you at all’. Now, it’s gone berserk, I think, the other way.”
The meeting on 7 September is significant because it may have been the last occasion when Charles was willing to speak so candidly about his personal views. He said in an interview in 2018 that he would stop speaking out on topics he felt strongly about when he became king.
Many environmentalists say the King has been vindicated on many of his warnings about the risk from plastic waste and “gasses pumped out by endless cars and aeroplanes”. Charles was just 21 when he made a landmark speech on the environment at a countryside conference in Cardiff in 1970. He warned presciently about the impact of pollution, gas emissions and overpopulation.
He said: “When you think there are 55 million of us on this island using non-returnable bottles and indestructible plastic containers, it is not difficult to imagine the mountains of refuse that we shall have to deal with.”
The allergy symposium was organised by the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation, which was set up by the parents of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died in July 2016 after suffering an allergic reaction from a baguette containing sesame seeds.
Charles said at the event that he would be keen for The Prince’s Foundation to develop a partnership with the allergy charity “because it fits with so many things I’ve tried to do and the messages I want to get across.” The charity described the offer of support as a “game-changer” for those who suffered from allergies.