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Can Britain Feed Itself

42 posts in this topic

With all this talk about carrying capacity and how overflowing the UK is, I was reminded of this article from the land magazine. It is an interesting read.

It is mainly about weaning of industrial agriculture, but there is some good number data in the tables produced. For some reason the webpage version doesn't have the table data, but if you follow the link, there is a download PDF button at the top which has them all in.


Can Britain Feed Itself?

At the moment Britain imports nearly 40 per cent of its food, most of its energy and nearly all of its fibre. In years to come we might have to become more self-sufficient. If so, it would not be for the first time. Many people alive today remember the last time the UK had to resort to home production. Could we do it again? And could we do it with organic agriculture? Simon Fairlie investigates

In 1975, the Scottish ecologist Kenneth Mellanby wrote a short book called Can Britain Feed Itself? His answer was yes, if we eat less meat. The way in which he worked it out was simple, almost a back of the envelope job, but it provides a useful template for making similar calculations. In this article I have adapted and embellished Mellanbys basic diet to show how much land modern UK agriculture might require to produce the food we need under six different agricultural regimes chemical, organic and permacultural, each with or without livestock.

There were two main reasons why I decided to repeat Mellanbys analysis. Firstly, like him, I recognize that in the future the UK may have to become a lot more self reliant than it is now. Secondly, I am interested to see how organic agriculture in particular performs, because the most convincing argument advanced against organic farming by its opponents is that it takes up too much land. This is of most concern in poor, highly populated countries such as Bangladesh, but Britain cannot afford to be complacent: it is more densely populated than China, Pakistan, Vietnam or any African country except Rwanda.

There are limitations in this kind of statistical exercise; and I do not claim to have carried it out with either the expertise or the thoroughness that it merits. This is, at best, a back of an A4 envelope job. However since I can find no evidence that anyone with the necessary qualifications and stipend to do justice to the subject has been inclined to take it on, I hope that readers will find my offering better than nothing. The results should not be seen as anything other than a rough guide, and a useful framework for thinking about such matters.


Mellanby took as his starting point the UKs total figure for grain production. In 1975, Britain grew 15 million tonnes of cereals on less than 3.6 million hectares at a yield of about 4 tonnes per hectare. This was the equivalent of 283 kilos per person a year, which is about 2,700 calories a day comfortable enough for every man, woman, child and elderly person in the country. The total population was 53 million. Working from this figure of 15 million tonnes of grain, Mellanby built up a somewhat more varied diet, subtracting grain from the total as he introduced other foodstuffs. Table A shows us his basic rations of cereal, potatoes, sugar, milk and meat. Every person gets the equivalent of a pint of milk and a pound of potatoes a day, which is what they were actually consuming in 1975: but Mellanby gives them less meat.

The 2,400 hectares assigned for dairy are mainly leys temporary pastures which are rotated with cropland to provide fertility. Another 2,400 hectares of permanent grazing are for raising beef. As for sheep, Mellanby retains the 28 million of them that there were in 1975, without bothering to work out how much land they take up or how much meat or calories they provide in fact they do not contribute much more than one per cent of the total diet. The three items most obviously missing from Mellanbys basic diet are beer, fat and vegetables. Beer, since it is made of barley and has a calorific value of 100 to 150 calories a pint, is included within the grain figure. Fat is a more serious omission, involving substantial amounts of land and Mellanby could usefully have included it in his calculations. He may have been eterred by the fact that edible rape oil had barely been invented in 1975, so his self-sufficient Britain would have been dependent for its fat supply on lard. As for vegetables and fruit, Mellanby is content simply to point out that these can be provided in allotments and gardens.

These omission dont undermine his main point, since there are millions of hectares left over, which could be put over to pigs, more cows for butter, vegetables, poultry or whatever anybody felt like. There is, in fact, no shortage of land whatsoever. Mellanbys calculations are for so-called conventional agriculture using nitrogen fertilizers and other chemicals, which makes his task much easier; but he does mention the potential of organic agriculture and concludes that, although less productive than conventional agriculture, it could still probably feed the country using an extra 33 per cent of the land.


Since 1975 a number of factors have changed: the population has risen from 53 million people to 60.6 million, but crop yields have risen much faster. In 2004 Britain grew nearly 22 million tonnes of grains on 3.1 million hectares at a yield averaging over tonnes per acre.

Figure 1 shows how, as a result, land use has changed in the last 30 years. The total agricultural area has declined only slightly, but there has been a large shift away from temporary grass ley, reflecting the decline of the dairy herd, as well as a smaller drop in arable land and the arrival of set aside. The amount of land under permanent pasture and forestry has increased correspondingly.

Table B is Mellanbys 1975 table updated to 2005, to take account of the rise in population and increases in crop yield. The same diet for 14 per cent more people can now be provided on 86 per cent of the 1975 arable land area. However beef production owadays is less efficient than in the 1975 model. There is a reason for this, which I shall explain later on. I have made one addition to Mellanbys table: some extra hectares to account for vegetables and fruit, which require more land than corn does to produce given number of calories. About 160,000 hectares are devoted to horticulture in the UK t the moment, but we import about 60 per cent of all our fruit and veg, so we consume over 400,000 hectares worth. This is a substantial amount of land; but I can understand why Mellanby left it out, because calculating the area involved and the number of calories for such a variety of different crops is tricky.


Mellanby could feed his population quite comfortably by reducing the amount of meat, so what would happen if it went vegan? In order to make a comparison with stockless agriculture providing a non-animal diet, in Table C I have substituted the meat and milk in Mellanbys ration with an equivalent ration of protein (peas) and fat (rape oil). The meat-eaters get their fat from milk (about 24 grams per day) and meat, but both diets are stingy on fat for anyone wanting to lead a physically active or an indulgent lifestyle.

Table C shows that chemical stockless agriculture is by far the most economical in terms of land use and can grow the entire ration on less arable land than that required by chemical livestock agriculture to provide its non-meat component. This is the ideal farming system for any society wishing to reduce the number of its farmers to a minimum, or to grow wide areas of biofuels, or to support large urban populations all main objectives of modern social policy. With industrial processing f pea, bean and grain protein into artificial meat and milk, a semblance of an animal-based diet could be provided for about 200 million people.


In Tables D and E I have again updated Mellanbys diet to 2005, but this time for organic husbandry. Both these organic diets, vegan and livestock, take more land than their chemical counterparts. This is partly because average grain yields obtained by organic agriculture today in Britain are less than 60 per cent of those obtained by chemical farmers; in fact organic wheat yields today are similar to those of chemical agriculture in 1975.

But lower yields are only half the problem. To obtain yields above a bare minimum of around 750 kg of grain per hectare, land has to be fed with extra nitrogen. Organic systems by definition do not use synthetic fertilizer, so nitrogen is either imported from other land where it is not required, usually in the form of animal manure; or obtained by inserting into the rotation a crop of leguminous plants such as beans, clover or lucerne, which xtract nitrogen from the atmosphere. A dedicated crop of legumes, which is not fed to humans or animals, but ploughed in to provide fertility, is called a green manure. Green manures which occupy the ground for a whole season lower the yield from each hectare still further.

In Table D I have assumed that one hectare out of every three arable hectares is used for green manure except for the pea crop which fixes its own nitrogen from the atmosphere. This adds an extra 2.2 million hectares to the vegan organic land-take, with the result that it requires more 14 per cent more arable land than is in use today (including set-aside). This is not a problem, since it can be taken from the pasture, for which the vegan diet has no use.

I have used the 33 per cent green manure ratio because that is the figure given in my main source, the Organic Farm Management Handbook. However there are a number of experiments in the UK and elsewhere in which green manure constitutes only 20 or 25 per cent of a stockless rotation. Several of these have maintained respectable yields for 10 or 15 years, though some require additions of phosphorus. More astonishingly, the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania1 has grown cash crops continuously for 20 years on the same land, fertilised only by winter cover crops and soya beans. I am unclear why this has not been matched in the UK, but clearly it requires good land and there are also sites in the USA which have failed to repeat Rodales performance.

If these experiments could be replicated on a widespread scale, then the requirement for arable land for green manure would be considerably reduced in stockless systems.


In organic mixed farming systems, nitrogen is provided by manure, and by leys temporary pasture including clover or other nitrogen fixing plants which after say four or five years is ploughed up for two years or three cropping, and then put back to ley. Essentially these are green manures in which part of the nutrients pass through grazing animals before finding their way back to the cropland though a proportion are creamed off to rovide milk, meat, leather etc.

In Table E, 3 hectares of ley is assumed to fertilize 2 hectares of cash crops. At this rate the 1.9 million hectares of ley for dairy pasture, plus a small amount of manure from the beef, does not provide enough fertility for all the crops grown and so the organic livestock model also has to rely on 1.7 million hectares of green manure. If there were pigs or chickens, they would provide more manure but not enough to grow the corn necessary to feed them.

The organic livestock model is worrying because it is very expensive on land. It would require the ploughing up of 1.76 million hectares of our existing pasture land to provide cropland and leys. This in turn means that there is not quite enough permanent pasture left for the beef there is a shortage of 149,000 hectares, which has to be taken out of the rough grazing. Only 2.623 million hectares are left for other uses such as wildlife parks or biomass production.

There are two main reasons for the heavy land requirement of organic farming. The first is that average yields of organic wheat and potatoes are only 60 per cent of those achieved with the use of chemicals. With most other crops the difference betweenorganic and chemical is less pronounced, but wheat and potatoes are the staples. According to Elm Farm researcher artin Wolfe, the main problem is that modern wheat varieties have been highly bred specifically for non-organic production: they are short-strawed with an open canopy, so that they compete less well with weeds, and there is a similar contrast in disease resistance . . . There is an urgent need, therefore, to breed organic wheat.2

The other problem is the cows, particularly the beef cows which take up an enormous amount of land for very little return. There appears to be too much beef, which is strange because it is the same amount per person as in Mellanbys 1975 scenario, and it didnt cause any problem then. Admittedly there are now 7 million more mouths to feed, and also Mellanby puts fertiliser on his leys. But even so the beef sector seems to have expanded isproportionately. In 1975 the beef herd occupied the same amount of land as the dairy herd ; but now the area devoted to beef (including grain for cattle feed) is almost twice as large.

Here, paradoxically, it is high yields that are causing the problem. The figures in Table E are derived from Elm Farms Organic Farm Management Handbook 2007, and they reflect a more modern management approach in an era of cheap subsidised corn. Whereas Mellanbys cows yielded just 3,600 litres of milk a year, organic cows today average 5,800 litres, only 1200 litres ess than non-organic cows. The trouble is that to achieve this they need fairly large amounts of grain over a tonne a year each whereas Mellanbys cows are grass-fed.

The need for grain is not the only problem caused by the high milk yield of these cows. The size of Mellanbys beef herd was dictated by the number of calves that his low yielding cows produced. But now, because there are fewer cows producing the same amount of milk there are fewer calves; this means that in order to produce the same amount of beef as in Mellanbys diet, we have to run a dedicated beef suckler herd nearly two million cows which produce nothing except one beef calf a year, whereas Mellanbys calves were all the by-product of cows supplying milk. This cancels out much of the advantage of highyielding cows and is the main reason why land occupied by beef has swelled from 2,400 hectares in 1975 to 4,100 in Table E.

I therefore decided to see what would happen if I reduced the beef herd to a size commensurate with the dairy herd and moved back to Mellanbys system of running a larger number of low yielding dairy cows which can subsist entirely on grass. This is akin to what has been happening in New Zealand since they abolished farm subsidies, because it is more competitive which is why New Zealand butter is advertised as coming from free range cows. And it is what I have done in Table F. If you examine just the cattle figures in it, you will see that the milk yield has been reduced from 5800 to 3700 litres a cow, and the total amount of beef produced has bee reduced from 1.24 million tonnes to 735,000 tonnes; but the number of dairy cows is increased so that the total amount of milk produced, 12.5 million tonnes, remains the same as in Table E.

In terms of land-take the lower yielding cows produce food almost as efficiently as the high yielding cows. The ratio of hectares of land to calories of beef and milk from the corn-fed cows in Table E is 6983 :480 or 14.5:1 whereas from the grassfed cows in Table F it is 6330:416 or 15.2:1. In other words, a 63 per cent increase in milk yield results in a mere five per cent increase in land productivity.

But there is another big difference between the two. The grass-fed cattle in Table F provide over 2.8 million hectares of ley that can be used in rotation to help fertilise over a million hectares of crops whereas in Table E the 1.9 million hectares of ley that the corn fed cattle bring with them isnt enough to fertilize the million hectares of grain they eat. The low yielding cows are nitrogen providers whereas the high yielding cows are nitrogen takers. There is one other matter of interest. Since 2004 the net organic yield for wheat has risen from 3.8 tonnes a hectare to 4.3 tonnes; but the milk yield for organic cows has actually dropped, from 6000 litres to 5,800 litres, and so has the amount of corn they are fed. Both these trends are in a benign direction.


My main purpose in Tables F and G is to go another step further and see whether the UK could become more self reliant, not only in food, fodder and fertility, but also in fibre and fuel? Our environmental footprint currently stretches across untold ghost acres around the world; if suddenly we had to shoehorn it into the 22 million hectares of non-urban land we have in this country, how would we cope? Could this be done organically, whilst keeping a reasonable amount of meat in our diet for those who wanted it, and ensuring that a reasonable proportion of the country is reserved for wildlife?

Tables F and G reflect a more permacultural approach, by which I mean permaculture on the macro-scale, involving increased integration of lifestyle with natural and renewable cycles, rather than mulching, intercropping and herb spirals. Some of the measures taken require a change in our land management systems, and also in human settlement patterns. This is a society in a state of energy descent, with increasing dependence upon renewable resources and (consequently) a localized economy, more integrated with natural processes.

Here is a list of the main features which I have introduced. There is particular attention to livestock because they are the most extravagant in terms of land use. Get the livestock balance right and other things fall into place.


The amount of beef in the diet has been reduced both by no longer running a suckler herd, and by reducing the average age at which beef cows are slaughtered. There are 83 grams of red meat a person a day. For a family of our, this is the equivalent of a 5lb Sunday joint, which could probably be spun out till Tuesday or Wednesday. Together with a smidgeon of chicken and fish it comes to 38 kilos of meat per year, which is about half the amount people eat now. The volume of milk consumed is the same as now, and everyone also has a couple of eggs a week. Farm animals provide 670 calories of the daily ration of 2767, whereas in Mellanbys basic diet they only provided 517.


To compensate for the reduced amount of beef in the diet, I have introduced pigs. Although partially fed on grain, these are efficient because their diet consists of two thirds crop residues and food waste. This ought to be possible since in the early 1990s even commercial pig feed consisted of 50 per cent food waste,3 and on top of that there is all the domestic food waste which currently goes into landfill. The figure of 2,767 calories per person (including children and old people) allows for around 700 calories of food waste,4 which in theory is enough to provide our pigs with all their food. (The draconian laws forbidding the feeding of even sterilized catering and domestic waste to pigs, introduced in a panic after the 2001 foot and mouth pidemic, need to be repealed). I have kept this margin tight because selling feed to small-scale pig units on mixed farms is an economical way of ensuring that the nutrients in food processing waste cascade back to the land. The pigs also bring fat into the diet, and produce it on less land than rape oil.5


I have also introduced chickens, which in this model are fed on grain. They take up more land for less calories than pigs, but this is only because the pigs are getting all the food waste. It is possible to feed much of the waste to hens, and they convert it into protein more efficiently than pigs. But the advantage of pigs in a northern country is that they produce fat, then little else does. If resources became scarce, I would expect commercial chickens to be among the first to rise in price, (a boiling fowl was a luxury to be had only on special occasions in the 1950s) but there would still be plenty of opportunity for backyard hens fed on household scraps.


I have allowed the carnivores small amount of fish, equivalent to about half of current consumption levels. If European countries reverted to local control of fishing grounds, then management of UK stocks would improve and catches eventually rise. There are some wonderful permacultural systems in Vietnam and China where fish farming is part of the cycle, but I dont know enough about their potential in the UK to include them here.


I have reduced the number of sheep from 27 million in Mellanbys scenario to 18 million, because they dont produce much food and there is a widespread perception that they have too much of a monopoly of our uplands at the moment. But we might think twice about this because, in the absence of plastic fleeces shipped in from China, we may need more wool than 18 million sheep can produce. Sheep would be bred for heavier fleeces.


I could find no figures for the volume of meat available from wild herbivores, but it is probably minimal. The figure given is roughly the same as the estimated quantity of wild rabbit meat eaten in 1953.


In the localized economy envisaged here, a large proportion of fruit and vegetables could be grown more intensively on allotments, in gardens and on urban land. Much top fruit would be grown not on arable land, which needs weeding, but in orchards which could be grazed, or in the vegan case mown. I have reduced the area of arable put down to horticulture in Table F to 100,000 hectares.


High yields come through breeding for seed production at the expense of stem production. The lower wheat yields associated with organic production can be partially offset by producing thatching straw another form of biomass that will be in demand if we enter a path of energy descent. Textiles I have been unable to establish what current UK consumption rates of textiles are, and since so much of it is frivolous there is not much point. Textile fibres do not take up an enormous amount of land. Except for fashion models, most of us eat more than we wear. In Table F I have allocated 7.25 kilos per person per year (a domestic washing-machine load), provided by hemp and flax, wool and leather.


Additional nitrogen for crops comes from three main sources. Enough nitrogen to fertilize 1 million hectares of crops can be obtained from recycling human sewage, preferably on crops for animal rather than human consumption. This requires a society which does not pollute its human waste with heavy metals, through contamination with liquid run-off and effluent. Just over a million hectares can be supplied with nutrients through ley farming. And a further 750,000 hectares could be fertilized with a proportion of the available animal manure. How much can be recuperated depends upon how livestock are managed. In the case of sheep, this might involve bringing them in at night, to shit in the farmyard, as is normal practice in many places on the continent. Any shortfall would have to be met by green manure, at a rate of one hectare for every two cultivated.

In the absence of supplies of imported rock phosphate, phosphorus rather than nitrogen might become the main constraint upon crop yields, in which case we would have to ensure rigorous recycling of animal manures, human sewage, slaughterhouse wastes etc a further reason for dispersing population around the countryside. A vegan system in particular might have problems maintaining phosphorus levels.


I have not allowed for much intensive biomass energy production, mainly because it takes up arable land that could be better used for food. In non-arable areas, I prefer natural woodland to short rotation coppice, because of its amenity and wildlife value; the prospect of vast acreages of the countryside curtained in eight foot high willow coppice monoculture is not very appealing. However, there is a good case for arable biomass production on farms to provide fuel for tractors. I have allocated 10 per cent of the arable land either for biomass to run machinery, or else to grow feed for draught animals.

The Livestock Permaculture land economy outlined in Table F produces all its food, a substantial proportion of its textiles, and the energy for cultivating its fields on 13.4 million hectares, a little over half the entire country. The more orthodox organic system in Table E requires nearly 16 million hectares, it doesnt produce any fuel, it is low on fat, and it produces less meat: only 187 calories in the daily ration, compared with 272 n the permaculture model. The improvement comes through using animals for what they are best at, recycling nutrients and waste and avoiding feeding them grains.


We are left in Table F with about 9 million hectares, of which 3.7 million hectares are currently classed as woodland or else other land on agricultural holdings including woodland, and the rest are rough grazing including 1.5 million hectares of grouse moor. There are therefore nearly five million hectares of mostly poor quality land spare, for which the most obvious uses are either to rewild it, or else to put it over to woodland.

In the livestock permaculture scenario I have opted to leave slightly over half of this area for wildlife and to convert the other half to woodland. This gives us about six million hectares of woodland, around a quarter of the entire country. This is still a lower proportion than in France (27 per cent), the EU (40 per cent) or the world (29 per cent). Six million hectares of biodiverse woodland, coppice and plantation could produce 36 million cubic metres of timber and pulp three quarters of what we currently consume (most of which is imported). A saner society, without all the junk mail, newspaper supplements no one reads, tacky throwaway furniture and so on could make do with a lot less.

On the other hand six million hectares of woodland, could also produce enough firewood to heat six million well insulated family homes (at three tonnes per hectare and per home). This is not incompatible with timber production. All pulp and timber, when it comes to the end of its economic life, is firewood.

This leaves three million hectares for wildlife, an eighth of the country, not as much as some people would wish to see. This land, since it is specifically not woodland, would have to be grazed by edible, semi-wild herbivores such as deer, primitive types of ox, or Konik ponies.

The wild area could be increased by reducing the sheep flock still further, at the expense of a small amount of meat and some rather valuable wool; by producing more pink veal (from young grass-fed cattle) and less mature beef; or by reducing the number of dairy cows and the amount of milk consumed. In each case, to compensate, a smaller area of land would have to be converted to crop production and green manure.


Table G outlines, as far as I am able, a vegan permacultural vision, based on the same data. I have introduced more flax and hemp to make up for the lack of wool and leather; and since the meat-eaters have been allowed pork and eggs, I have increased the variety in the vegan diet by allocating an additional 100,000 hectares for fruit and vegetables, most of which is grown on non-agricultural or orchard land, and fertilized with municipal compost. Perhaps I should allow them more. Nuts are an obvious choice, but reliable information about yields is difficult to find. The vegan system uses human sewage for fertilizer like the livestock system, though there would be more of a problem avoiding applying it to human edible crops.

The obvious, and some would say overwhelming advantage of the vegan system is that it uses less land. However, it is the grazing land that the vegans economize on. They require almost as much arable land as the meat-eaters, mainly because of the lack of manure, and the expense of providing fat or oil. In fact the area of land under annual cultivation in the vegan system in any one year (7.2 million hectares) is considerably greater than in the livestock system where more than a third of the arable land consists of grass leys, and only 4.6 million hectares hold annual crops.

The vegans could perhaps reduce the area of green manure by more efficient use of cover crops, or by importing hay or leaf mould for mulch. There are also the residues from rapeseed oil, biofuel, and products such oat milk and pea milk which could be used as fertilizer though vegans might be tempted to trade these with pig keepers.

The disadvantage of the vegan model, from the peasant perspective, is that it results in a lop-sided land economy, with almost all the activity concentrated in the arable area; and overall it appears to provide less employment on the land than the livestock system. The less arable areas of Britain would become agriculturally redundant. All that empty space in the grassland area gives the relatively small growing area a rather compacted urban feel, and I worry that the spare land might get filled up with monoculture energy crops.

But that depends upon what the vegans decide to do with it, and that is not really for me to say. I have so far failed to find any vegan land-use vision that maps out in detail what might be done with the large areas of UK land that would be liberated or abandoned, depending on your viewpoint, if we all turned vegan.6 So, vegan permaculturists, we know you are out there, here is your chance. Fill in the blank area on Table G all 9 million hectares of it with whatever land uses you think are most appropriate, and well publish your Vegan Vision for Rural Britain in a future issue of The Land.

That is not to say that the peoples choice has to be either one thing or the other. Vegan and livestock land use systems can coexist well enough side by side, as long as boundaries are drawn and fences maintained. Instead of being strictly vegan or enthusiastically carnivore, it is entirely possible to have a level of compromise between the two approaches outlined in Tables F and G, and indeed that is more likely.


The main conclusion to be drawn from this exercise is that organic livestock-based agriculture, practised by orthodox methods and without supplementary measures, has the most difficulty sustaining the full UK population on the land available, while other management systems can do so with a more or less comfortable margin.

However organic livestock agriculture becomes more efficient and sustainable when it is carried out in conjunction with other traditional and permacultural management practices which are integral to a natural fertility cycle. These include: feeding livestock upon food wastes and residues; returning human sewage to productive land; dispersal of animals on mixed farms and smallholdings, rather than concentration in large farms; local slaughter and food distribution; managing animals to ensure optimum recuperation of manure; and selecting and managing livestock, especially dairy cows, to be nitrogen providers rather than nitrogen stealers.

These measures demand more human labour, and more even dispersal of both livestock and humans around the country than chemical or vegan options. Effective pursuit of livestock-based organic agriculture of this kind requires a localized economy, and some degree of agrarian resettlement. Other management systems based on synthetic fertilizers or vegan principles lend themselves more easily to the levels of urbanization currently favoured by the dominant (and mostly urban) policy makers.

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Interesting read that Cambium, bring on the agrarian resettlement. lol

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So ......Grow your own seems to be the message..........All in favour say Hi.

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We purchase at least three times more food than we need and throw away at least 25% - probably more like a third from production to consumer - and much of the food we eat is very land-inefficient. A cow eats much more food than it provides in meat. I'm very on the fence about organic foods, I think most organic food production is total horse shit and should be derided as the nonsense it is, but some old fashioned methods of food production that have been lost were very efficient and cleaner than modern methods. It used to be that you could buy meat and poultry at the local farm gate, now it is shipped in from other Countries and transported across the UK.

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....the old fashioned methods were organic....

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....the old fashioned methods were organic....

Which "old fashioned methods" are those?

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It dosent help feeding with feeding the country but it would help local areas

I work in the catering industry and the amount of in date food get thrown away is obscene

Done most of the sporting events al the way through to industrial catering and it's the same every were waste

Were a throw away culture

Edited by bolt

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I think most organic food production is total horse shit and should be derided as the nonsense it is,

I'm confused about this comment, can you explain what you mean?

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Which "old fashioned methods" are those?


all food growing/farming up until the creation of man made fertilizers and poison, essentially people are saying humans are better at growing plants than nature is when we've destroyed lots of nature and especially the soil which is affected which controls the growth of plants, we clearly don't know as much as nature does, plants have grown without us for hundereds of millions of years, i think nature has taken into account how to distrbute resources, how to combine plants, how to have the right bateria's, there is infact so much going on that industrialised farming attempts to cover over as if it need not be there.

However the externalised costs of farming the way we do is great, the run off into rivers and other lands, the billions of animals, insects and soil that has to die, the monocrop which makes it so you must use poison or watch nature prove that your methods are stupid and unnatural, nature does not monocrop the types of plants we mostly grow, the ploughing of millions of hectres, all the oil and energy used, loads of the food thrown away, the effect of the poisons in our diets, ddt is spread out everywhere because of its ridiculously stupid use, it's highly disturbing, you could go on and on about the dangers and problems with this way, one of the main problems is 99% of people don't even bother creating ANY of there own food never mind supplementing it, also when we're surrounded by millions of cars pumping out all kinds of shit all day, it hardly makes you want to eat, people pointlessly driving all over, we've created these problems to take adavantage of, once the world has been made a certain way we can't help but see only that way, mainly because alot of people are truely ignorant or the mix of being around such people makes you very reluctant to even listen to any advice, if people don't even care about the main things that make them live and barely even understand whats happening, you pretty much don't know what is going on, what life is, anything really, you know alot about being irritated, uncomfortable, annoyed, feeling stuck, watching the whole world change and become concrete and city then be told that things can't change, you aren't allowed to change it, it's the most infuriating thing ever to an intelligent, proactive mind, to see everything be changed into something that doesn't even break down, it's dead and we maintain the death and keep everything from changing, when everyone wants things to change, that is one of the most ridiculous parts of reality.

If people had to do things themselves, rely on themselves, they aren't going to want to make themselves feel and look like a tit, you aren't going to waste your time and waste your efforts, you'll try to get the best for yourself, you won't poison your own land knowingly because you're not a complete fool, you won't do pointless tasks and find money significant when you're able to live, we have a much sweeter deal if we all wanted to live, have a home, have our own food supply or share with others, instead of everyone agreeing to a tiny plot of land (your house) that you constantly pay for, until you can barely work in a job you don't even like or have forced yourself to believe you like in return all the land belongs to something else which we can't even pay attention to because it never actually has a discussion with the public, i mean seriously what have we done? if this isn't what people want then i'm pretty sure you don't really know what you want.

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I'm not sure about this...

If we use up all that extra land where the hell are badpenny, panik and all the other gg's gonna grow there herb???

A bit inconsiderate i think.....

e2a was a good read and the above is obviously very tongue in cheek..

Edited by Dodgee
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lol i cant feed myself i spill it everywhere

but intresting read tho

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UN: Only Small Farmers and Agroecology Can Feed the World

Posted September 26, 2014 by Nafeez Ahmed

Governments must shift subsidies and research funding from agro-industrial monoculture to small farmers using ‘agroecological’ methods, according to the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. And as Nafeez Ahmed notes, her call coincides with a new agroecology initiative within the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Modern industrial agricultural methods can no longer feed the world, due to the impacts of overlapping environmental and ecological crises linked to land, water and resource availability.

The stark warning comes from the new United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Prof Hilal Elver, in her first public speech since being appointed in June.

“Food policies which do not address the root causes of world hunger would be bound to fail”, she told a packed audience in Amsterdam.

One billion people globally are hungry, she declared, before calling on governments to support a transition to “agricultural democracy” which would empower rural small farmers.

Agriculture needs a new direction: agroecology

“The 2009 global food crisis signalled the need for a turning point in the global food system”, she said at the event hosted by the Transnational Institute (TNI), a leading international think tank.

“Modern agriculture, which began in the 1950s, is more resource intensive, very fossil fuel dependent, using fertilisers, and based on massive production. This policy has to change.

“We are already facing a range of challenges. Resource scarcity, increased population, decreasing land availability and accessibility, emerging water scarcity, and soil degradation require us to re-think how best to use our resources for future generations.”

The UN official said that new scientific research increasingly shows how ‘agroecology’ offers far more environmentally sustainable methods that can still meet the rapidly growing demand for food:

“Agroecology is a traditional way of using farming methods that are less resource oriented, and which work in harmony with society. New research in agroecology allows us to explore more effectively how we can use traditional knowledge to protect people and their environment at the same time.”

Small farmers are the key to feeding the world

“There is a geographical and distributional imbalance in who is consuming and producing. Global agricultural policy needs to adjust. In the crowded and hot world of tomorrow, the challenge of how to protect the vulnerable is heightened”, Hilal Elver continued.

“That entails recognising women’s role in food production — from farmer, to housewife, to working mother, women are the world’s major food providers. It also means recognising small farmers, who are also the most vulnerable, and the most hungry.

“Across Europe, the US and the developing world, small farms face shrinking numbers. So if we deal with small farmers we solve hunger and we also deal with food production.”

And Elver speaks not just with the authority of her UN role, but as a respected academic. She is research professor and co-director at the Project on Global Climate Change, Human Security, and Democracy in the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara.

She is also an experienced lawyer and diplomat. A former founding legal advisor at the Turkish Ministry of Environment, she was previously appointed to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Chair in Environmental Diplomacy at the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies, University of Malta.

Industrial agriculture grabs 80% of subsidies and 90% of research funds

Hinting at the future direction of her research and policy recommendations, she criticised the vast subsidies going to large monocultural agribusiness companies. Currently, in the European Union about 80% of subsidies and 90% of research funding go to support conventional industrial agriculture.

“Empirical and scientific evidence shows that small farmers feed the world. According to the UN Food & Agricultural Organisation (FAO), 70% of food we consume globally comes from small farmers”, said Prof Elver.

“This is critical for future agricultural policies. Currently, most subsidies go to large agribusiness. This must change. Governments must support small farmers. As rural people are migrating increasingly to cities, this is generating huge problems.

“If these trends continue, by 2050, 75% of the entire human population will live in urban areas. We must reverse these trends by providing new possibilities and incentives to small farmers, especially for young people in rural areas.”

If implemented, Elver’s suggestions would represent a major shift in current government food policies.

But Marcel Beukeboom, a Dutch civil servant specialising in food and nutrition at the Ministry of Trade & Development who spoke after Elver, dissented from Elver’s emphasis on small farms:

“While I agree that we must do more to empower small farmers, the fact is that the big monocultural farms are simply not going to disappear. We have to therefore find ways to make the practices of industrial agribusiness more effective, and this means working in partnership with the private sector, small and large.”

A UN initiative on agroecology?

The new UN food rapporteur’s debut speech coincided with a landmark two-day International Symposium on Agroecology for Food and Nutrition Security in Rome, hosted by the FAO. Over 50 experts participated in the symposium, including scientists, the private sector, government officials, and civil society leaders.

A high-level roundtable at the close of the symposium included the agricultural ministers of France, Algeria, Costa Rica, Japan, Brazil and the European Union agricultural commissioner.

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said: “Agroecology continues to grow, both in science and in policies. It is an approach that will help to address the challenge of ending hunger and malnutrition in all its forms, in the context of the climate change adaptation needed.”

A letter to the FAO signed by nearly 70 international food scientists congratulated the UN agency for convening the agroecology symposium and called for a “UN system-wide initiative on agroecology as the central strategy for addressing climate change and building resilience in the face of water crises.”

The scientists described agroecology as “a well-grounded science, a set of time-tested agronomic practices and, when embedded in sound socio-political institutions, the most promising pathway for achieving sustainable food production.”

More than just a science — a social movement!

A signatory to the letter, Mindi Schneider, assistant professor of Agrarian, Food and Environmental Studies at the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague, said: “Agroecology is more than just a science, it’s also a social movement for justice that recognises and respects the right of communities of farmers to decide what they grow and how they grow it.”

Several other food experts at the Transnational Institute offered criticisms of prevailing industrial practices. Dr David Fig, who serves on the board of Biowatch South Africa, an NGO concerned with food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture, said: “We are being far too kind to industrialised agriculture. The private sector has endorsed it, but it has failed to feed the world, it has contributed to major environmental contamination and misuse of natural resources. It’s time we switched more attention, public funds and policy measures to agroecology, to replace the old model as soon as possible.”

Prof Sergio Sauer, formerly Brazil’s National Rapporteur for Human Rights in Land, Territory and Food, added: “Agroecology is related to the way you relate to land, to nature to each other — it is more than just organic production, it is a sustainable livelihood.

“In Brazil we have the National Association of Agroecology which brings together 7,000 people from all over the country pooling together their concrete empirical experiences of agroecological practices. They try to base all their knowledge on practice, not just on concepts.

“Generally, nobody talks about agroecology, because it’s too political. The simple fact that the FAO is calling a major international gathering to discuss agroecology is therefore a very significant milestone.”


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Worked up a fair old appetite reading that lot. Good read Cambium. :yep:

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This BBC documentary about permaculture is a good watch. When I think of oil running out, the last thing I think of are people starving to death but that's essentially what would happen if it did.

Also it's interesting how they show how grains are unsustainable and how we really should shift toward eating nuts instead.


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short answer is NO

too many yuppys

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