1 OPT – Food Security & Population, Royal Statistical Society, 26 March, 2009 1. Thank you for invitation Not expert on population issues or even sustainability generally – as Head of Campaigns at SA seeking to understand political and scientific context and current focus of public/media concern so as to find most productive purchase for achieving the objectives of organisation, namely: – to promote and increase the uptake of organic farming as best available, practical model for building a more sustainable food system in the UK and globally. 2. Perfect Storm – food, energy, water shortages by 2030 Timely and telling hearing Govt. Chief Scientist, John Beddington exactly a week ago on Today programme talking about, ‘Perfect storm of food, energy and water shortages by 2030’. Acknowledged key driver of this collision of catastrophic constraints = ‘world population increase’. But when pressed by Humphrys. ‘ Doesn’t that mean we …have to consume less, maybe – especially in developed world – have to have fewer children?’ Retreated to safe haven of scientific neutrality/objectivity – ‘politically fraught’, ‘complexity’, ‘hard to change habits, slow down in time’ etc. 3. Mentioning ‘P’ word – doesn’t mean BNP! Any honest environmentalist – at least in private – will acknowledge that the Earth and its ecosystems will only come under greater stress as the human population expands. Of course, issues of relative consumption per capita North & South; high infant mortality rates, dependency of poor people in LDCs on large families for labour and long-term care in the absence of any state pension or social service; women’s right to control their birth-rate = ‘complex, politically fraught, hard to change’ etc.. But being a politician meant to be about making difficult decisions, showing leadership..! Accepting population = issue doesn’t make one a signed-up member of the BNP. By not addressing them intelligently and equitably, Env’t and Dev’t movement leave floor to ignorant, extreme,racist views like BNP – with honourable exception of OPT! 4. NB - SA has to overturn stereotype, ‘Organic can’t feed the world!’ The issue of population certainly confronts the SA and me, as Campaigns Director, with something of a communications conundrum! 2 Constant criticism and stereotype thrown at SA, by those whose interests our ‘product-lite and knowledge-heavy organic farming’ threatens – ie the GM/Agrochemical lobby – is ‘Organic can’t/couldn’t feed the World!’ With nearly 2bn overweight/obese in the North and over 800m malnourished in the South, clear ‘conventional’ non-organic farming and food systems aren’t feeding the world either… Despite according to UN, total daily calories needs of 2200 – 2500 produced globally sufficient for current and expanded human populations. But with 1/3rd of global grain fed to livestock & worse, some 20% of US corn going to fuel cars… not that simple. Before considering underlying key driver of population, SA has to demonstrate: – present dominant system isn’t delivering sustainable, long-term food security and nor can any simple variation on the same model – contrary to the stereotypes organic systems can. Good evidence that this possible – but not without tackling some of Beddington’s ‘really hard to change habits’ Not least developed world’s high levels of meat consumption; and increasing appetite amongst more affluent consumers in developing countries for meat. 5. Mesmerized by Monsanto Just as with renaissance of nuclear power - as politicians scrabble for crude big build high-tech projects to contend with climate change, rather than complex, myriad, micro-generation and conservation renewable energy solutions – so politicians can’t conceptualise or believe in the complex, myriad small-scale, more localized food system that characterise the organic vision – instead they’re mesmerized by Monsanto et al’s unsubstantiated claims that ‘only GM crops can feed the world’. ‘Population’ issue being co-opted and inaccurately portrayed to serve those very agribusiness interests that have undermined the carrying-capacity of our planet – and whose methods and technologies will only exacerbate climate change and natural resource depletion. Neither politicians nor many in the media seem capable of the sophisticated understanding required to hold both concepts at once that organic farming can feed the world’s current and projected population, but that it would be easier without the predicted rise from 6.5 to 9bn by 2050… The headlines simply default to, ‘Organic can’t feed the World!’ 6. Food Security = route in For SA = issue of Food Security is topical, accessible route into the underlying issues. People understand the concept; for a fair number UK’s last ‘food security crisis’ within living memory. 3 WWII: when U-boats exposed vulnerability of running down our indigenous farming sector; instead relying on our former colonies: Canada, NZ, South Africa, the West Indies to feed the UK’s then c. 48m people. In 1940 - 70% of our food was imported. Post-war push to reduce dependency on imports, ‘modernise’ UK farming – grants to specialise, mechanise, for use of fertilisers etc. SA founded in 1946: questioned path of industrialisation, proposing, what with hindsight can be seen as, more ‘sustainable’ methods. Ignored for 30 years –mass production of ‘cheap food’ = political imperative. Technological triumph: by 1980s some 60-70% of UK food home-grown; c.60% today. Costs of this system began to be revealed in 1960s/70s/80s: – pesticide impacts on wildlife – superbugs from factory-farming’s dependence on antibiotics – mad cow disease. But despite these, organic = only incremental progress: <5% land; <2% food. 7. Tortilla Riots & Pasta Protests Food Security back on agenda for developed countries, not just familiar ‘Red Nose Day’ recipients in Africa etc. 2006 to 2008, global food prices rose rapidly, fuelling social and political unrest in 14 countries worldwide – ‘tortilla riots’ in Mexico and protests over the price of pasta in closer to home Italy. UK, food inflation running at 13.7% since June 2008, up on the previous three months of 10.6%, spurred some Govt action, PM COSU review Jan. 2008 concluded, “existing patterns of food production are not fit for a low-carbon, more resource- constrained future”. Air-brushed out of the final published report. Pervading faith in ‘global market’, ‘trade liberalisation’ pervades Govt/Defra FS policy‘, ‘… because the UK is a developed economy, we are able to access the food we need on the global market.’ According to Defra, UK currently 74% self-sufficient in indigenous foodstuffs, and 60% for all foods –so 40% of our food is imported. Reassuring cf to WWII? Defra’s response to any concerns about this trade gap is that majority (68%) of our imports, came from other EU member states, which it considers ‘low-risk, stable trading partners’. But EU exporting countries also producing food via unsustainable systems like our own predominantly dependent on imported, oil-based and finite mineral inputs. 4 8. Credit Crunch to Food Crunch World changed dramatically since those complacent statements as to stability of trade and global markets. Global food and finance markets prey to same self-serving interests. Some of rise in global food prices down to speculators moving out of dodgy ‘derivatives’ into more substantial, less toxic food commodities. But broader, deeper-rooted range of factors destabilising the world food market: – US, once world’s major exporter of grains, diverting c. 20% of its cereal harvest to biofuel. Grain needed to fill tank of typical American SUV = annual needs of one person in developing countries – Rising demand for animal feed for intensive meat production – Poor harvests from traditional cereals exporters, such as Australia – linked to Climate Change Such factors seem distant to UK shopper/politicians seeing stacked smkt shelves, but consider this response from a UK retailer to recent food-chain stakeholder survey, “A sense across the global supply chain that whereas in the past, as a retailer, we have been able to shift very rapidly between countries if there was a problem – so if country X has a problem, we can go to country Y, that may be a problem for the country itself, but it’s not a problem for me – there is now a recognition that the ability to hop between countries is being constrained, as climate change and other issues, such as the price of oil kick in… a growing awareness in the food industry that things aren’t going to be the same in the future.” 9. New Fundamentals – Climate Change & Peak Oil ‘New fundamentals’ of CC and its cousin ‘Peak Oil’ unravel any claim that the UK and the EU immune from global food security and sustainability concerns. Globally, agriculture and food production = significant contributors to climate change and vulnerable to impacts: 12% GHG; add fertiliser manufacture & other linked sectors = 25/30%. UK food & farming = min. 9% total UK GHG. Unlike other parts of economy, only 13% of agriculture’s GHGs in form of CO2. Agriculture’s Achilles Heel - Everyone’s heard of farts – or rather belches - from cattle and sheep, boosting concentrations of tGHG, methane. But larger part of farming’s GHG, over 50%, = nitrous oxide, with methane making up 36%. N2O = 310x CO2. Key source is the manufacture of artificial nitrogen fertiliser. Non-organic farming in UK – uses over 1 mt p/a. of N p/a. Manufacturing N = biggest portion of energy use in agriculture, c. 40% of all UK farming’s requirement. To make 1t of N = 1t of oil and 108 t of water – giving off over 7 t CO2 eGHG. Industrial farming’s reliance on N –fert. makes it incapable of/incompatible with delivering more climate-friendly food production. Oct. 2008, Ed Miliband, the new Energy and Climate Minister, accepted 5 Committee on Climate Change recommendation for higher target of 80% cuts in GHG by 2050 – incl. N20. That decision alone questions sustainability of current food and farming system – necessitating radical change to low-carbon food & farming. ‘Peak Oil’ - end of era of ‘cheap food’ as ‘cheap oil’ comes to an end. Fall in oil prices along with global economy back down to c. $50 a barrel from last summer’s high of $140, may make ‘Peak Oil’ seem distant. But UK think-tank Chatham House predicts prices rising again to £200 a barrel over the next two decades. Our food drenched in oil - average American’s annual food needs require 400 gallons of diesel to produce, process and distribute – similar figure for UK/EU. Illusion of endlessly available fossil-fuel derived inputs has encouraged neglect of soil. According to UNEP nearly 2 bn has globally affected by human-induced soil degradation – with 50% of world’s current arable land ‘unusable’ by 2050. These barren acres not confined to Africa, Asia etc. Soil erosion and degradation also affects c.157 million ha (16% of Europe, c. 3x total land area of France. Loss of fertility & carbon store: World’s soils 2x C of atmosphere, 3x forests. 10. Loss of Soil, Loss of people to work it UK agriculture long decline in employment. In 1900, around 40% of the UK population was still employed in agriculture, by WWII fallen to some 15%; today <2%. Lower-carbon farming, less reliant on fertilisers and fossil-fuels will need more people. Exactly how many isn’t known. But ‘real world’ case-study of Cuba offers some clues: when USSR collapsed in 1991, Cuba’s imports of agrochemicals and oil ended overnight. No option but to pursue lower-carbon, organic, more labour intensive food production – succeeded in achieving food security; but deployed some 15-24% of popn. to growing food. 11. ‘Nine Meals Away from Anarchy’. Loss of people + dismantling of rural infrastructure: 1000 local food shops, greengrocers, butchers and bakers closed every year during 1990’s. Food travels 23% greater distance than three decades ago. Concentration of slaughter and processing plants into fewer, bigger sites also increases the risk of contamination and disease spread, as per 2001 FMD outbreak, with livestock traveling the length and breadth of the country to slaughter. ‘Low-inventory’ logistics systems maximise profitability for supermarkets, but reduce regional food resilience and increase vulnerability to unexpected disruptions . 6 Fuel Protest of 2000, lorry drivers blockaded food and fuel depots at rising fuel costs. Food distribution ground to a halt, panic buying set in, seemingly abundant shelves quickly emptied. London within 3 days of running out of food. Govt emergency Cobra Committee convened - capital came close to testing MI5’s maxim – ‘Society only ever 9 meals from Anarchy’. 12. Apocalypse or Opportunity? All foregoing intended to show vulnerability of current food system – dependent on fossil-fuel inputs and reliant on global markets. Confirm need for building a different system of farming, food production and distribution capable of delivering more resilient, sustainable food security exist. The foundations exist, based on organic and other existing agroecological systems as recognised in recent International Agricultural Assessment of Science, Technology and Development (IAASTD). Product of over 400 scientists and signed up to by over 60 governments = IPCC for Agriculture: ‘… despite significant scientific and technological achievements in our ability to increase agricultural productivity, we have been less attentive to some of the unintended social and environmental consequences of our achievements. Business as usual is no longer an option… Policies that promote sustainable agricultural practices (…) stimulate more technology innovation, such as agroecological approaches and organic farming to alleviate poverty and improve food security.’ 13. Organic can feed the World Globally: Reinforced by recent survey from the UNEP of 114 projects in 24 African countries, which found that yields more than doubled where organic, or near-organic practices used - increase in yield jumped to 128% in east Africa. UK: In 2008, SA commissioned the Centre for Agricultural Strategy at Reading University to answer the question, ‘How much food could be produced in this country if all domestic agriculture were organic?’ Broad answer was that whilst a wholesale conversion to organic would not produce the same volume of same food types – overall organic farming could feed the UK. Certain foodstuffs would actually increase - beef, sheep, mixed cereals and oats; fodder beans; peas and potatoes would be the same. Big declines were in intensive pork and poultry meat production, which organic standards would not allow anyway – and which, unlike grass-fed beef and sheep, depends on imported animal feed. Researchers noted any ‘significant movement’ in dietary habits of UK public, towards WHO healthy eating guidelines (less consumption meat, sugar, fats, eggs and dairy 7 products; more horticultural crops, root crops and minor cereals) would favour organic farming. 14. So as per intro: Exposed current system unsustainable Demonstrated organic could deliver - & within constraints of CC & PO But… then the ‘P’ word rears up again! To make this transition massive social, cultural and dietary changes required. Take London alone: An analysis of London’s overall ‘footprint’ in 2003 estimated the city’s total ‘footprint’ at 48,868,000 global hectares (gha) or 6.63 gha per capita to supply all of Londoner’s needs. London’s food requirements alone = 41% of that. 20m global has – 2 m more than UK’s total available farmland! Capital’s true global ‘fairshare’– i.e. if reflected portion of world’s ‘biocapacity’ – would be a total food-print of 1.2m gha or 0.16 gha for each one of the 7.5m inhabitants. To achieve this would require all Londoners to consume 70% less meat, eat more than 40% local, seasonal unprocessed food, and cut their food waste by one tonne a year. Pretty much what a lower-carbon, more localised organic food and farming system could provide – but persuading people to make that switch? Sufficient farmland for organic or any form of farming? - Reading study of E&W under organic assumes same available land area… Pre-Copenhagen summit gathering of climate scientists, revised previous estimates of sea-level rise from between 26 – 86 cm, to over a metre by 2100. 57% of UK’s best, ‘Grade 1’ farmland lies below sea level. Revised sea-level rise significantly increases risks of flooding and salt-water incursion onto farmland, especially in East Anglia. Even under lower predicted rise: arable farming was likely to become unviable on 86% of the Fens; 10% remainder of East Anglia; 7% of NW. With sea-defences costing £6m per mile, it’s questionable whether the UK can afford to create a gigantic walled-garden around the Fens – currently the source of over a 1/3rd of the UK’s vegetables. Too much and too little water - As well as increased flooding, such as Humberside suffered in 2007, with the loss of 25% of the UK pea harvest - contradictory increased cycles of drought also predicted under CC - with rainfall declining by up to 50% in the south and east of the country. South East of England = greatest density of UK’s population, and one of driest regions – 10x less water available per person than Spain! Defra points to fact that 12% of our fruit and veg imported from Africa – strengthening food security by diversifying supply. Yet 66% of Africa’s land mass already desert or drylands. As CC increases the Continent’s water stress, importation of vegetables - 8 pretty much bags of embedded African water - likely to be restricted. Those infamous imported Kenyan beans tally up to 4 litres of water per stem! Global Land-grab! Increasing unreliability of global food market and growing international unease over long-term food security most graphically illustrated in the Global Land Grab under way – a new form of colonialism where countries already at margins of viable food production to meet their population’s needs are buying or leasing farmland. Countries purchasing ‘ghost-acres’ overseas include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar rich with oil revenues but poor in fertile land - and of course, there’s China, which in an Alice in Wonderland policy is using earnings from exported goods manufactured in factories built on former farmland to buy land overseas to feed the 12m extra people it adds to the world each year. 15. Above all the ? of ‘Who will feed China’ impacts on food and farming strategies in every country and means that ignoring global population pressures when considering food security is burying one’s head in the sand/// One-fifth of the world’s population (1.3bn), China has less than one-seventh of world’s farmland to feed its people from. Lester Brown of the Worldwatch Institute starkly sets-out China’s growing demands on world food stocks as it becomes a net importer of grains, more of its farmland is lost to industrial production and its increasingly affluent population demands a more westernised diet: ‘Two more beers per person in China would take the entire Norwegian grain harvest. And if the Chinese were to consumer seafood at the same rate as the Japanese do, China would need the annual world fish catch.’ Reinforced more bluntly by the Head of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, if trends continues: ‘Then China will have to import 400 million tons of grain from the world market. And I am afraid, in that case, that all of the grain output of the United States could not meet China’s needs.’ 16. Government hasn’t understood enormity of ‘Food Crunch’ heading our way. U-boat torpedoes focused minds, galvanized action – today no strategic plan Creeping pernicious challenge, impacts of CC too far beyond their terms of office. Rebuilding resilient regional farming and food infrastructures too complex - simplistic search for ‘one big tech-fix’. Addressing population too ‘politically fraught’ - requiring courage to ride inevitable misrepresentation in media. Soil Association’s main campaign efforts directed at: – Setting out our vision for ‘A Secure Food Future – Organic by 2050’ – Conducting an independent risk assessment of UK food security – Engaging public/grassroots in practical & political action.