Thursday, March 18, 2010

Robert's Rant - Local food: Is it good or bad?

There's a blog debate happening at the moment between a Locavore and a Toronto University Professor who thinks globalisation will solve the world's sustainability crisis.

Dear Pierre,

I hope you don't mind if I call you a local food naysayer.

Right now, our industrial food system is not sustainable. It uses too much fossil fuel and is destroying the environment – we are eroding our soils, chemical fertilizers are destroying our waterways and oceans. The only way we can feed ourselves into the future is by cultivating local and sustainable food systems.

Dear Sarah,

I hope you don't mind me calling you an eco-doomster :)

Soil erosion and unsustainable agricultural practices were what made environmental activists tick in the first decades of the 20th century. But back then, the main fear among activists was that traditional agricultural practices were not sustainable. You might have heard of the dustbowls of the 1930s, but many people believed that the problem was truly worldwide at the time.

Fortunately, modern agricultural practices, especially innovations such as no-till agriculture that are based on the development of new seeds and herbicides, have gone a long way in addressing those problems. Modern farming in the best locations and increased international trade is the way to go to improve human nutrition while addressing environmental degradation.

This is my response:
Common sense needs to prevail here. The solution is a mix of mostly local produce grown by small / medium scale farmers and the non perishable food stuffs sourced from the closest countries that grow the best Coffee, rice etc.
Any one who has farmed both a monoculture and a highly diverse small scale farm knows that the productivity per / acre for both food and ecological services if far better in the small scale poly culture. The green revolution and the mainstream UN (FAO) goals have produced huge problems both in poverty and ecological destruction not to mention increased farmer suicide rates and dis-empowerment of whole countries.
The only problem is the food system is controlled at the moment by distribution monopolies only interested in profits. That is a pretty hollow use of our potential as humans. When we know what we are potential of (and we are only just starting) we can feed more than 10 billion easily and affordable. Wow, you say, how do you come at that.
I billion are hungry, I billion eat three times more than they need, while the developed world can easily drop probably 30% of what we eat. We currently waste at least 50% of the food we grow through the long distribution supply chains and the ridiculous 'glamor' criteria placed on produce and last of all some of the best farmer I know can grow enough F & V for 50 families / acre (without any new fan-dangle bio-tech seeds or any other industrial and costly inputs on way less water than the best intensive mono-culture's. When you work all that out out you can see it makes sense. We just need more Social businesses in the Food system working with farmers and consumers not separating them!

1 comment:

  1. What did Bill Clinton say? "It's the economy stupid." More to do with money than sense.

    Technology won't save us. GM won't save us. Small decentralised diverse local systems just may. Zone your food like you zone your garden - grow what you eat most closest to your home starting at your back door, move out from there all the way to global fair trade.

    cheers, Sonya
    PS - I love a good rant!