1 OPT – Food Security Population Royal Statistical Society 26 March 2009 1 Thank you for invi

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1 OPT – Food Security Population Royal Statistical Society 26 March 2009 1 Thank you for invi Powered By Docstoc

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

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
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

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

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!

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.

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%

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

But EU exporting countries also producing food via unsustainable systems like our
own predominantly dependent on imported, oil-based and finite mineral inputs.

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

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

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 .

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
‘… 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

products; more horticultural crops, root crops and minor cereals) would favour organic

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 -

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
‘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.

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