From: Caroline Allen, The Ecologist, More from this Affiliate
Published February 20, 2013 12:34 PM

Food: Sustainability, Security, Self-reliance

Poor harvests and rising food costs have become a depressingly familiar news item, with unusual weather patterns affecting food production across the US, Russia and in the UK. At the same time, more and more people are struggling to feed themselves and their families.

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Stagnating incomes and benefit cuts have left increasing numbers having to resort to food banks. Late last year the Trussell Trust said its food bank network had fed almost 110,000 people in a six month period, compared with a total of 128,697 in the whole of 2011-12.

There are plenty of reasons to be concerned that the recent food price rises are part of a longer term trend: a larger global population, rising meat consumption, increasing pressure on farm land and use of crops for fuel are all reasons why global demand for food staples will increase.

While there is no definitive proof that climate change is responsible for the recent abnormal weather, models suggest a warming planet will cause changes in weather patterns that will have a major effect on food production.

It's not just growers and farmers who will be affected - a recent study by Oceana concluded that some of the poorest nations can expect to lose up to 40% of their fish-catch by 2050 due to climate change and ocean acidification. Many people in these countries are reliant on seafood as their major source of protein.

It is clear that we cannot rely on our food supply to operate in the way that is has previously. We need, urgently, to build resilience into it. Naturally, the food industry will call for more intensification and larger scale enterprises, more big business and an end to 'uneconomic' small scale farming.

This response might seem compelling: the first 'green revolution' based around intensification, increasing use of fertilizers, pesticides and monocultures and a globalised food economy, have contributed to food affordability (the ratio between food prices and consumer expenditure) improving by 100% in the 20 years to 2008 in the UK.

However, there is much evidence that the external costs of this 'revolution' have been high and to continue down this route is unlikely to bring further benefits.

Continue reading at The Ecologist.

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