John Selwyn Gummer MP, former farm minister and environment secretary There are many in the food industry for whom the use of the word natural' is a joke. One can see why. So often the word is hijacked by those who have a much more complex agenda. People who use it to condemn most that is currently on offer and thus make way for the particular menu that they favour. Such food fascists are never far away. Yet there is no doubt that the word evokes a response in us all. Eating is an essentially natural activity. We feel we ought to consume what is wholesome and we have a deep sense that we don't want our food mucked about. That's why those E' numbers seem threatening and why we recoil from the chemical sounding words that we read on lists of ingredients. Indeed, the word natural' is so widely seen as a selling point that food watchdogs warn against its misuse. Yet the attraction continues and we would be foolish to ignore it. What is it that people want? First, they have a romantic attachment to the idea that food should come straight from the farm or from the garden, fresh and unsullied. Second, that it should be cooked in the simple way that befits an Englishman. Even today there is a feeling that complicated sauces are a means of covering up the inferior quality of the meat! Natural and simple are words that imply healthy' and tasty' and stand over against the made up food that we all claim to despise. Yet, when it comes to it, people increasingly choose the washed potatoes, the salad that is ready prepared, and the meals that go straight into the microwave. Very few grow their own, only a few more prepare their own, and most do little more than heat their own. It seems that we want our food to be natural but not in its natural state. Cooking from raw is something we read about but only occasionally try. It is an occasional leisure activity not part of the daily round. Maybe we have to accept that natural' is what we know we ought to want and easy' is what we actually buy! {{NEWS }}