Category Archives: food security

Organic growing is the only way forward

“Even as the United States government continues to push for the use of more chemically-intensive and corporate-dominated farming methods such as GMOs and monoculture-based crops, the United Nations is once against sounding the alarm about the urgent need to return to (and develop) a more sustainable, natural and organic system.
(The Huffington Post)

That was the key point of a new publication from the UN Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) titled “Trade and Environment Review 2013: Wake Up Before It’s Too Late”,” which included contributions from more than 60 experts around the world.”

It has been a long time coming but now the UN are saying that organic growing is the ONLY way forward. Commercial growing in the UK is dominated and controlled by the agrochemical industry. it is not sustainable and threatens food security. We simply cannot continue to rely on farming methods that are dependent on large chemical inputs.

Soil
The biggest asset we have is soil yet 50+ years on chemical fertilizers has left a depleted soil virtually devoid of organic matter so prone to erosion. See this 2006 report on UK soil erosion.

An alternative food supply
In a time of climate emergency, we need to be aware of the perilous state of our food supply. Supermarkets work on the “just in time” supply principle. They usually have 2-3 days of stock in the local supply chain. We import around 30% of our food from the rest of Europe.  Any disruption to that through weather or politics will see the shelves empty within 24 hours as people panic.

We desperately need to separate ourselves from the supermarket food supply chain and grow food in any available space. It can be done, 25 years of organic growing often in very small spaces has proven that to me. We just need to get on and do it!

 

 

Work with the land to restore health

At last there seems to be a shift away from agrochemical farming. I discovered organic growing almost 30 years ago whilst recovering from a life threatening and life changing illness. I am sure that helped my recovery.

Switching away from oil based pesticides and the huge amounts of gas need to produce artificial fertilisers will help to combat climate change.

Pesticides and chemical fertilizers do not create health in the food, the consumer, the soil, the air, or the water. We need for all of our systems to be healthy again.

Buy organic food to curb insect collapse

An article in The Guardian says that buying organic food is a way to save the insect population. I am so pleased to see that in print but excuse me, organic growers have known that the many years.  In the past the press has ridiculed the ‘all muck and magic’ brigade and depicted us as happy idiots who do not know the benefit of modern insecticides. Now we are on the brink of a precipice it seems organic growing really does have something to offer.

The first thing to do is ban TV advertising of pesticides and herbicides. Then start a programme to turn the whole country over to organic growing. It will not be easy as the soil on agrochemical farms is in very poor condition, but it can be done.

Is that hoots of laugher I hear in the background? Are farmers and growers shouting we will all starve? Well think on mate, without insects to do the vital pollination of plants we will starve. So, you choose, change the way we grow food to more sustainable, environmentally friendly methods or stick with the conventional chemical soaked stuff that feeds the profits of the agrochemical companies. I know what I would do!

Insect decline catastrophe

There was an alarming article in The Guardian yesterday, scientists are saying that the rapid decline in insect numbers is a catastrophe and evidence that the sixth mass extinction has started.

Since the late 1940s agriculture has become dependent on the use of artificial pesticides and fertilizers. The widespread use of various ‘sprays’ to keep crops ‘clean’ is seen as the only alternative to starvation. The agrochemical industry has become a big business dominated by very few companies. In short there are huge amounts of profit in killing anything that crawls or flies near a crop.

There has also been a corresponding increase in the use of pesticides in domestic gardens. That can be even worse for insect life as the density and variety of flowering plants is much higher. Anything that crawls or grows in the wrong place is zapped with adverts on TV telling us how to keep our gardens ‘beautiful’.

But insects are far more than an inconvenient pest. Without them we are in big trouble as they are major pollinators of flowers that become our food. Insects are part of the food chain that sustains us, without them we starve.

What can we do? First stop using pesticides in your garden. Second, lobby governments, farming organisation and growers to stop using pesticides. Most of all buy only organic food! If you grow your own, then switch to organic growing methods.

Food security

The one good thing that has come out of the Brexit mess is the talk about food security. It has been ignored for many years. Around 10 years ago I spoke to Prof. Tim Lang about the subject. Nothing much has changed, we rely on a small number of supermarket brands for the majority of our food and if anything the supply chain is more precarious now.

Yet again we have let this happen, we have given the supermarkets the power to control what we eat. Farmers are virtually enslaved by the supply chain and they take all the risks.

The effects of climate change on the food supply are already being felt. It is time for the UK to think about where food comes from and take steps to ensure we have enough. That means not taking prime agricultural land for vanity projects like HS2 and making changes to planning laws to enure that brown field sites are used first.

And we need a new ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign!

This what Prof Tim Land about food security said 10 years ago.

Victory gardens

Updated 14 April 2019

There has been a lot of talk recently about going back to a dig for victory campaign (UK) or victory gardens (US) as a way of combating high food prices, promoting food security and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Looking at the history shows they had a big impact. By 1943, over a million tons of vegetables were being grown in gardens and allotments.

Why do it now? The answers is simple, this is from a US site: “Today our food travels an average of 1500 miles from farm to table. The process of planting, fertilizing, processing, packaging, and transporting our food uses a great deal of energy and contributes to the cause of global warming.” [www.revivevictorygarden.org/]

The UK is no different, food travels a long way to reach our tables and the international nature of the food supply chain means that we are all affected by shortages and high prices. Most of all, we are still an island nation and are vulnerable to disruptions in food supply. Some countries have already stopped exporting certain foods and although we can never be wholly self-sufficient we can have a much more resilient local food supply than the present total reliance on the supply chain.

So why aren’t national governments and local councils going all out to encourage and promote the new ‘dig for survival’? My view is that national government does not like the idea and does not want it promoted because it would upset food retailers, take food away from ‘the supply chain’ and so mess up world trade. In short, it takes control away from government so is considered far too revolutionary. They also do not want to admit that there is a problem.
What can we do? Do it anyway, grow our own food!

  • Look for spaces in towns, cities and villages where food can be grown.
  • Ask local councils to give land over for food growing even if it is only on a temporary basis.
  • Badger you local council to provide allotments – you only need 6 people and they have to find the land.
  • Make sure your local school starts a food garden and uses the produce in its kitchen.
  • Make the provision of land an issue at local, regional and national elections.
  • Write to your MP and MEP asking them for support.
  • Lobby national gardening societies to get involved e.g. Garden Organic, The RHS, The soil Association.
  • If you already grow food train and support others in your community to do the same.
  • Encourage the use of container growing for those who cannot manage a garden or where no land is available see Making self-watering containers.

This really is absolutely crucial issue and one that needs raising now. Please do what you can and lets us know the results.