One conclusion from Anitra’s reflections below is that food sovereignty, including greater self-reliance on one’s own region and country for food security, is critical. Poor rice yields in places like Vietnam and China force those countries to limit exports. This translates into higher prices and less rice reaching the hungriest people in sub-Saharan Africa. In farming, these things happen. And so, countries must increase their food sovereignty (what is food sovereignty?) and oppose trade rules that treat food like any other commodity to limit the damage from inevitable weather or disasters. The issue of ‘localization’ below speaks directly to this and the danger of relying on long, fossil-fuel dependent supply chains.
YES Organic #5. Localisation
The globalisation of our food supply, which gives us Peruvian apples in June and Spanish lettuces in February, has seen our food reduced to a commodity in an increasingly volatile global marketplace. Although year-round availability makes for good marketing in the eyes of the biggest retailers, the costs to the environment are immense. Friends of the Earth estimates that the average meal in the UK travels 1,000 miles from plot to plate. In 2005, Defra released a comprehensive report on food miles in the UK, which valued the direct environmental, social and economic costs of food transport in Britain at £9 billion each year. In addition, food transport accounted for more than 30 billion vehicle kilometres, 25 per cent of all HGV journeys and 19 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in 2002 alone.
The organic movement was born out of a commitment to provide local food for local people, and so it is logical that organic marketing encourages localisation through veg boxes, farm shops and stalls. Between 2005 and 2006, organic sales made through direct marketing outlets such as these increased by 53 per cent, from GBP95 to GBP146 million, more than double the sales growth experienced by the major supermarkets.
As we enter an age of unprecedented food insecurity, it is essential that our consumption reflects not only what is desirable, but also what is ultimately sustainable. While the ‘organic’ label itself may inevitably be hijacked, ‘organic and local’ represents a solution with which the global players can simply never compete.
NO GMO #5. ‘Frankenfoods’
Despite the best efforts of the biotech industry, consumers remain staunchly opposed to GM food. In 2007, the vast majority of 11,700 responses to the Government’s consultation on whether contamination of organic food with traces of GM crops should be allowed were strongly negative.
The Government’s own ‘GM Nation’ debate in 2003 discovered that half of its participants ‘never want to see GM crops grown in the United Kingdom under any circumstances’, and 96 per cent thought that society knew too little about the health impacts of genetic modification. In India, farmers’ experience of BT cotton has been so disastrous that the Maharashtra government now advises that farmers grow soybeans instead. And in Australia, over 250 food companies lodged appeals with the state governments of New South Wales and Victoria over the lifting of bans against growing GM canola crops.
10 reasons why organic can feed the world
By Ed Hamer and Mark Anslow,The Ecologist, March 2008
10 reasons GM won’t feed the world
Mark Anslow,The Ecologist, March 2008
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