Future Food Security

The World Food Summit of 1996 defined food security as existing “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”.

World Health Org. logo

So we aren’t there yet. I seriously doubt that anyone would claim that we have overcome the food supply issues that currently face the world.

Syngenta is the product of a merger in 2000 of Novartis and AstraZeneca, themselves having formed from earlier companies, stretching all the way back to Geigy in 1758. It’s quite a pedigree.

Market prices for veges

Anyway, the point is not to talk about Syngenta as such, but that of global agribusiness in general and the burgeoning of companies funding genetic modification, research and  the development of drought resistant, nutrient enhanced staple foods for farming in marginal areas.

I was listening to a Radio National programme on the ABC with regard to Australia’s role in all this. Now Australia exports over half of its agricultural produce (65%) and imports on a seasonal basis. Distribution costs add to the price to the end user of imported foodstuffs.

To maintain those levels in alternatively drying and flooding growing areas means smarter farming. There have been some silly experiments in Australia with regard to rice and cotton farming that have depleted natural resources and are a blight on Australia’s agricultural page.

However, it is not the only country having done stupid things that produce dustbowls and rivers with diminished flow. It is a global phenomenon born of ignorance about how to adapt best

Vertical Garden Melbourne

growing practice to the local place in which such growing is practised.

Desertification is driven by the imbalance between human demand and the supply of benefits by natural systems. Population growth, inappropriate policies, and some aspects of globalisation drive unsustainable pressure on dry lands. Occupying over 40 per cent of the world’s land area, dry lands are home to over two billion people. Half of all people living in poverty are in dry lands. The low water availability in dry lands today drives many of the challenges. The current average annual capacity at 1300 cubic metres per person is already well below the minimum threshold of 2000. United Nations Uni

Desertification in Australia

So what to do? As the global population burgeons, there are mouths to feed. I keep coming back to the definition of food security. I would rather include the ever growing global population and find ways to reduce that. And everything seems to come back to education and the empowering of women in the regulation of their reproduction cycles.

Education based on reality which means teaching science not belief in superstitions; we have enough of that already and it appears we have a propensity to imbibe more.

There are those who say the whole food security debate is a furphy designed to further vested interests. I don’t agree. Food security is a massive problem for governments and they are very aware of this. And it isn’t just poorer countries.

There are those who say that growing more food will not necessarily reduce the unequal distribution of food at all. I think it can change.

Imagine plenty of food

I agree that corporate profits push food prices higher while ensuring that excess food production unaffordable by poorer countries is wasted by dumping. Not to mention the food that is wasted in food rich countries by consumers. Not to mention the stored food that is consumed by other animals while in storage. India apparently loses well over 40% of stored grain to rats and mice.

Future food security is still an ideal, the reality of which is being researched by plant pathologists, such as Pam Ronald as well as the Syngenta type companies in the world.

Rice harvest Phillipines
Rice paddy prep.

When I hear the nay-sayers pontificating about the ‘evils’ of GM foodstuffs, none of which stand up to any scrutiny whatsoever, and then look at the number of people starving to death every day, I have to admit that my ire gets up.

I came across one Dr.Oz, a wooer of some note, mentioned by Ronald on her blog and was incensed enough to write a very vitriolic email to the said ‘doctor’. He’s an anti-vaxer as well. I will come across him and his ilk again and they will all get the back of my tongue in no small measure.

Apart from the stupidity of emotional arguments based on nothing (sounds like religion to me), none of these wooers have any practical proposal to feeding our growing population. We have to keep those already alive fed and clothed, let alone the ones that keep coming onto the planet.

Barley fodder for animals

So for me, I would far rather put my energy into the Pam Ronalds of the world and not whinge when Syngenta makes a profit. So long as knowledge keeps accruing and we get closer to keep our species alive without too drastic an effect on the world as we know it, we need to embrace the science that will help us all achieve future food security.

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3 comments on “Future Food Security

  1. Michelle B says:

    The arrogant ignorant and anti-science crowd is dangerous to us all.

    • Veronique says:

      You are absolutely correct. It frightens me when I consider how much airplay they receive from the attention-hogging, who-cares-about-honesty media outlets.

  2. johnny wee laddy says:

    As I said in the email, Ronnie, this could all be solved if we brought back cannibalism – all that well-marbled meat in the developed countries, serving little purpose but to consume more and then go to waste!

    On a more serious note, do you know if the developed countries (like Australia) are still dumping “excess” food into the ocean in order to keep prices up. I know WA used to do it with apples … and what happened to the ECU “butter mountains” etc? I wish you luck with the idea of empowering women with their reproductive cycles – but while some nations and cultures believe the more children they have, the wealthier and more powerful they will be, it will be a hard slog. Have you also considered that it will be the better educated in all countries and cultures who will reduce their procreative activities, while the less educated will be at it like rabbits!

    While the nuclear family is promoted so actively in certain quarters, any progress will be very, no, too slow in coming. When push comes to shove, it will be the people aware of the global family and all that entails that will need to shout loudest!

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