‘Mom, what’s nature?’

The youngest generation in the European Union thinks that fruit and vegetables grow in shop windows and ripen in refrigerators. According to an EU survey, children are interested in nature but aren’t quite sure what it is. «Why have they hung cherries on the trees?» 5-year-old Elena asked her parents on one of the rare occasions the family went out into the country and saw a cherry tree. As her mother explained, neither she or her husband had had any contact with life in the countryside, so the only contact their child had with farms was what she saw on television. Meanwhile, 8-year-old Costas wonders why the mint bush smells of chewing gum. The younger citizens of Europe know very little about how fruit and vegetables are produced, as the urban population has less and less contact with life outside the cities. The survey of 2,400 children aged 9-10 in all EU member states shows that some children think cotton grows on sheep and that oranges grow in Britain. One in four children in Britain and the Netherlands believe that oranges and olives grow in their own countries. About 20 percent of children in Finland and Sweden expect to find apricots growing on local farms. Half of all the children surveyed do not know where sugar comes from, 75 percent don’t know how cotton is produced, and about a third don’t know what the sunflower plant produces. Most children have an idealistic image of farm life, based on books or television. Nearly all the children polled believe that farmers are very busy, 78 percent think they are very friendly, 72 percent believe they are caring and two thirds believe farmers are generally older people. Only 10 percent want to be farmers themselves when they grow up.

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