Building a world of
resilient communities.

MAIN LIST

 

Time for a new focus on food

Few people seem to have noticed that two governments went belly-up in North Africa recently – as a result of riots which began as protests over the price of food.

Food insecurity is growing worldwide as demand for food grows and the things we need to produce it – land, water, oil, nutrients, fish, technology and stable climates – become more scarce. At the same time around half of Australians are dying as a result of their diets, at enormous cost to those that live.

Now is the time to think hard and creatively about the solution to this double-edged dilemma, which is arguably the greatest scientific challenge of our time. Here are some places we can start:

Rehydrate, revegetate, recarbonise: we need a national plan to rebuild the fertility, carbon content, vegetation cover and water retention of our landscapes. This could harvest rainfall currently lost to evaporation and help proof us against climate change.

Recycle, re-nourish: we also need a national plan to harvest fresh water and nutrients as they pass through our great cities and return them to food production in industries both traditional and entirely new, agricultural, peri-urban and urban – such as algae farming, hydroponics and bio-cultures.

Re-energise: the next oil crisis is on the way and Australia is totally unprepared. We need new, renewable energy sources for agriculture and transport such as algal biodiesel, 2nd generation biofuels, hydrogen fuel cells, solar electrics or boron ion batteries. And we need them yesterday.

Reinvest: we need massive reinvestment in agricultural science, technology and extension, to counter two decades of neglect and policy failure. Priority areas for science include:

  • unifying organic and high-intensity farming thinking to create a new eco-agriculture that uses fewer resources, wastes less and produces more.

  • improved irrigation and water use efficiency

  • a new focus on soil microbiology to enhance crop and pasture yields sustainably.

  • developing novel food systems (rural and urban) which are cushioned against climate shocks

  • frontier science such as re-engineering the photosynthetic pathways of crops and trees, to boost yields and lock up more carbon

  • design of novel, healthier diets and foods to replace the high fat-salt-sugar-dye regime imposed by the global food processing sector, in order to save millions of lives.

Share knowledge: Australia will not be secure if food security in Asia collapses. We need to build a new multi-billion dollar knowledge export industry, based on our expertise in areas such as landcare, dryland farming, water management, drought strategy etc.

Retrain: our agricultural education system is falling apart and is in desperate need of renewal. We need to train a new generation of farmer and urban food producers equipped to solve the scarcities ahead. We need our best and brightest to find careers in a field central to the destiny of civilisation this century.

Re-educate Australians about food: up to half of all Australian food is wasted or sent to landfill. Young Australians are 'digging their graves with the teeth' through unhealthy diets. We should lead a global endeavour to educate our children to eat healthily, sustainably and with a renewed respect for food. This can be assisted by introducing a Food Year in every junior school in Australia, teaching all subjects through the lens of food.

Reinvest in farming: massive global reinvestment is needed to head off food scarcity in the mid-century – yet farm profitability and productivity are falling. The current global economic signal, caused by massive concentration of market power off-farm, tells farmers to "grow less". This adverse signal must be changed to stimulate the essential investment - for example, through a GST on food, paid directly to farmers to protect soil, water, wildlife, atmosphere and landscapes.

If Australia can successfully tackle challenges such as these, we will lead the world in helping to secure the global food supply.

Editorial Notes: Suggested by EB contributor Michael Lardelli. -KS

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Sign up for regular Resilience bulletins direct to your email.

Take action!  

Start your own projects. See our RESOURCES page.
Make connections via our GROUPS page.
Help build resilience. DONATE NOW.

 

This is a community site and the discussion is moderated. The rules in brief: no personal abuse and no climate denial. Complete Guidelines.

Tags:  

Real Food Media Contest Features Oyster Men of Long Island Sound

The Oyster Men features the daily lives of baymen who handpick oysters from …

If We're Serious about Saving Bees and Butterflies, Here's What We Should Do

If pollinator health is made a priority, to be successful much current …

Get Growing Breightmet: Bolton’s food growing revolution begins here!

If you have a fairly spacious garden like many of the people we work with …

Mali: Agroecology Is in our Hands!

"I decided to come here because we are building a necessary movement, that …

Pay-As-You-Feel Cafe Feeds Thousands on Food Waste

The idea behind TRJFP is to collect perfectly good food from grocers, …

Do Warmer Winters Mean Less Fruit?

Californians have been enjoying summer weather in the dead of winter, but …

Leaf Cutters

Think of the presence of leaf cutter ants as being an indicator of an …