The future of our food
Catherine Fookes - 25 January 2013
It’s hard not to notice that our food prices have shot up, and while we might not be going hungry just yet, what’s the bet that a lot of us are starting the New Year slightly more cash strapped than last, armed with ways of feeding ourselves on a budget, planning imaginative meals with leftovers and generally cutting back on dining out.
The increase in food prices is just the tip of the iceberg for what’s increasingly becoming a worldwide issue of food security. Launched this week, the Enough Food for Everyone, IF campaign, is tackling world hunger head on with a hard hitting celebrity backed campaign supported by industry and charitable organisations - the latest in a string of initiatives to tackle this issue. But this isn’t just a problem for developing countries - rising food prices, continuing unemployment and the reliance on imported foods in a volatile market is having an impact here in the UK with more and more parents relying on food banks to feed their hungry families.
As food prices continue to rise due to poor harvests and drought, the total number of people living in hunger is increasing and passed 1 billion in 2009 according to an Oxfam report. This is a shocking statistic, especially in light of a recent report that gained national exposure and claimed almost half of the food we produce globally never actually reaches a human mouth. With this disparity between the amount of food we produce vs. distribution (a survey we commissioned for Organic UK revealed that 22% of the food we buy in bulk and on BOGOF deals is chucked while others go hungry day in day out) this really is a serious problem that needs to be tackled.
As the Campaign Manager for Organic UK, it is my job to ensure that consumers begin to understand the benefits of organic on a wider scale – as a genuinely valid farming system that can safe-guard the future of our food. Thankfully, the future of our food seems to be a topical issue that is being taken seriously. With the 1D boys, Hollywood actor Orlando Bloom and mum-of-two Myleene Klass joining a band of supporters fighting to end global hunger, the issue of how we feed the world is starting to make that shift into the mainstream consciousness. The IF campaign follows off the back of a WI report, released in December (the Great Food Debate) This report looks at the growing concern of our food security - demand is continuing to outstrip supply and it’s reported that by 2050 worldwide population is predicted to stand at nearly 9 billion, that’s almost a third more people than there are today.
We simply can’t continue to plough away at our resources at the rate and method we are doing so now without a detrimental effect. The WI report says that it is important for UK farmers and food producers to thrive, not only to secure the UK’s own food supply, but also to manage rural landscapes and our environment. Sadly, however, there’s a growing argument that GM crops, intensive-farming and in-vitro meats (growing meat fibres in a science lab) are the way to go in order to feed the masses. Although we have seen resistance against intensive farming, in the guise of mega-farms here in the UK (namely the US style mega pig farm in Foston), large-scale intensive farming is argued the way to progress in order to feed the hungry, expanding nation. However putting the land, animals and farmers under an increasing strain to produce has the ability to eliminate small farmers, increase disease among livestock and plants and degrade soil which in effect goes against the security of our food.
There is a growing body of evidence that organic farming systems can be more energy, nutrient and water efficient, than non-organic counterparts too. In the Soil Association’s Feeding the Future report it’s very clear that if we continue to progress farming methods towards intensive practices, the natural resources upon which agriculture depends: soils, water and biodiversity, will be degraded. Supplies of fossil fuels used for energy purposes, and minerals such as phosphate, are becoming increasingly scarce too. This means that we urgently need to improve the resource use efficiency of farming systems before it’s too late. Can organic pave the way?
Catherine is Campaign Manager for the Organic. Naturally different campaign, a campaign set up by the Organic Trade Board to show consumers how organic food is food as it should be, less fake and naturally different. For more information visit www.facebook.com/organicuk or on www.organicukfood.com.