Hallo, blessed viewers, and welcome to today’s episode of Planet Earth:
Our Loving Home. The Soil Association is a leading UK green
organization dedicated to promoting sustainable food production and an
enhanced environment for all beings.
The most recent annual
conference of the Soil Association was held in Bristol, England and
featured the theme: “Transition of Food in the 21st Century,” with
global food security and climate change issues being high on the
Attracting participants with an interest in building
sustainable food systems, the conference brought together farmers and
growers, food manufacturers, retailers, researchers, policy makers and
During the event, delegates held in-depth
discussions on the present unbalanced state of the world’s food supply
and possible solutions.
Here is Patrick Holden, the Director of the Soil Association who spoke at the gathering.
Patrick: We are facing an urgent crisis and we have little time to move from using ten calories of fossil fuel energy to produce each calorie of food, in other words, depending on stored solar energy, over 150 million years, to operating our food and farming systems.
have no time and we need to make a start and that I think is the
challenge of transition; it is literally taking our food and farming
systems from their present precarious state into something which is
the event, Ms. Caroline Patricia Lucas, leader of the Green Party of
England and Wales provided her insights as to what exactly societies
across the globe face in terms of ensuring all are fed in the future.
Caroline Lucas: Let me summarize just how vulnerable our food system is to disruptions in supply.
First, UK consumers use food at a rate that represents six times more land and sea than is available to us at home.
Second, the equivalent of 20 Nile Rivers move annually from developing to developed countries, even though many of those developing countries themselves have water shortages.
Modern food production is particularly energy-intensive and therefore vulnerable to oil and gas price rises.
yields due to climate change will inflate food prices And it might seem
to some that at a time of such serious financial difficulty, worrying
about the state of our food supplies is perhaps rather abstract or
Well, I want to argue very strongly that it is neither abstract nor remote.
Vandana Shiva is a respected physicist, environmentalist and
best-selling author. In 1987, Dr. Shiva, who is a vegetarian, started
Navdanya, an organization based in India that promotes peace, harmony,
justice and sustainability by seeking to protect the biodiversity of
Here Dr. Shiva further addressed issues associated with the current industrialized agricultural system.
Dr. Vandana Shiva (f): In
India today, 70% of the people are hungry. And this hunger is related
at many levels to the current model. It’s related first and foremost to
the fact that industrial chemical agriculture is actually not growing more food; it’s a recipe for malnutrition.
It’s producing more commodities and commodities are not food.
now the commodities, as far as food is concerned, that are growing in
terms of acreage are corn, quinoa, soya and of course cotton.
cotton’s not food. Now, as a commodity, the first use of these has
become bio-fuel, so the hunger of cars rather than the hunger of
The second use has become industrial feed for factory farms; three quarters of the grain is going to factory farms.
So no matter how much more commodities you produce you can’t solve the
problem of hunger because there will always be some non-food use to
which a commodity can be put.
one in six, or a billion people, are suffering from hunger, while huge
amounts of food are being diverted to feed livestock.
Statistics show that the amount of grain used to feed cattle in the US alone could feed a staggering 800 million people.
Dr. Vandana Shiva (f): Farmers
are not choosing what they grow anymore. Years ago when the GM
(genetically modified) seeds were just starting to be planted in the
United States I asked a farmer in Iowa,
“Why are you growing
this stuff? Do you have any benefits?” And he says, “We have no choice;
they bring us the seed they want us to grow and that’s what we have to
The whole integration of the farming system has become a non-choice system and that is part of the transition we have to make because it is a system which is hugely dependent on fossil fuels.
HOST: Many farmers in developing countries are forsaking traditional methods of cultivation with unfortunate results.
Dr. Vandana Shiva (f): The invisible tragedy is in India cotton has never been grown as a monoculture, cotton was always part of a poly-culture.
know, You had rows of millet, you had rows of pigeon peas, you had rows
of vegetables till even five, six years ago in these regions.
A cotton farmer was food secure. Today a cotton farmer is in debt and has no food security.
program features the Soil Association’s Annual conference, “Transition
of Food in the 21st Century,” which was held in Bristol, England.
hear once again from Dr. Vandana Shiva, a proponent of organic and
traditional farming methods from India. She has written many books on
the topic of sustainability including a book called “Soil, Not Oil”
about how modern agriculture relies on fossil fuels for production, to
Dr. Vandana Shiva (f): The
conclusions of the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and
Technology Development, it’s as significant as the IPCC
(Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report.
They said very clearly agro ecology and traditional agricultural systems are the way to generate food security for the future.
We cannot depend on industrial farming, we cannot depend on genetic engineering; they were that categorical about it.
farming can change things rapidly. It has been estimated that if all
farms were to convert to this style of cultivation, the soil could
absorb nearly 40% of current CO2 emissions.
Dr. Vandana (f): The
organic movement has to make the next quantum leap and climate change,
peak oil, as well as the new food insecurity linked to a globalized,
industrialized system is creating a reason for that quantum leap.
is becoming necessary to face the climate catastrophe and organic is
becoming necessary to face the exhaustion of non-renewable fossil fuels.
HOST: As a political leader, Caroline Lucas gave her thoughts on government involvement in the effort to make a change.
Caroline (f): I’ve
made the case then that we urgently need sustainable food action plans
supported by central, regional and local governments, facilitated by
the EU (European Union) based on rebuilding the infrastructure needed
for the revitalization of local food economies, and increasing the
organic and local food.
But let’s start with eco-taxation to
ensure that the real cost of the environmental damage, unsustainable
production methods, long-distance transport – all of those need to be
included in the price of food.
In other words, to quote Lester Brown, “We need to ensure the prices tell the ecological truth.”
We need more support for urban agriculture. There’s a huge potential for agriculture in our cities.
important 2006 United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization study
“Livestock’s Long Shadow” demonstrates how factory farming and
meat-eating tremendously accelerates climate change and causes great
instability in our food supply.
Caroline: We need a policy to encourage people to eat less meat.
UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has calculated that world
livestock production creates more greenhouse gases than all the world’s
motor vehicles. We already know that feeding grain to animals, then
eating meat, is a inefficient way of feeding ourselves.
evidence of the unsustainability of our current food system grows, the
benefits of local food become even clearer. And if we can generate
efficient political will, then we can tackle the challenges ahead.
we have a real chance to create a sustainable food system here in the
UK and Europe as well as giving the rest of the world a chance to
achieve more sustainable livelihoods as well.
HOST: Mr. Holden spoke with our Supreme Master Television correspondent and gave his impressions of the conference.
Supreme Master TV (m): And how has the conference gone over the last two days?
Patrick (m): I
think it’s been a very positive event, really quite inspirational but
at the same time sobering, because as Vandana Shiva reminded us
yesterday, this situation, in relation to the world’s food systems, is
so precarious that we could be on the edge of a collapse of the
globalized, industrialized,fossil-fuel-dependent food systems that
we’ve all come to depend on during the 20th century.
That is why this transition theme is such a key issue for this conference.
Supreme Master TV (m): Do you feel the people of the world can provide food growing it organically and locally for themselves?
Patrick (m): Well,
let’s hope so because it’s going to be the only show in town by the mid
21st century. I think that the capacity of human ingenuity at times of
great crisis should never be underestimated.
hundreds of millions of people all over the planet at the moment, that
know that something needs to be done about the security of our food
systems. That gives me grounds for hope.
HOST: We conclude today’s program with Dr. Vandana’s beautiful message.
Dr. Vandana (f):
think the main thing I would like to say is the solution is to work
with nature. But there is a technology myth that makes it look like
working with nature means less. It’s not true.
When you work with nature you produce more food and this is the science I do. Productivity of ecological systems is much higher, productivity of diverse systems is much higher.
So, if we have to address the food problem, the hunger problem, working with nature is the solution.
you for joining us today on Planet Earth: Our Loving Home featuring
excerpts from the Soil Association’s Annual Conference, “Transition of
Food in the 21st Century” in Bristol, England.