As thousands rely on food banks to make it through the winter and a milk price crash threatens the survival of Britain’s independent dairy farmers, Colin Tudge – co-founder of this week’s Oxford Real Farming Conference – examines the growing need for an agrarian renaissance to tackle the increasingly obvious failings of neoliberal agriculture.
The small traditional farms that are so despised and routinely swept aside still produce 50% of the world’s food, while 20% comes from fishing, hunting, and people’s back gardens.
The sad state of Britain’s dairying has the same root cause as the billion worldwide who are undernourished, the billion who are overweight and/or diabetic or in danger of heart disease, global warming, the mass extinction of our fellow creatures.
That is a global agriculture, and indeed a global economy, that is geared not to the wellbeing of humankind and of the planet but to short-term wealth, in the simplistic belief that money per se is good and can solve all our problems no matter how it is produced or what it is used for.
To put things right we have to think deeply – in fact re-think from first principles – and act radically.
The world’s global strategy of food and farming is founded on three great untruths – lies, in effect – which between them are threatening to kill us all, and in practice are well on the way to doing so.
‘We must produce more’
Lie no. 1 is that the world needs 50% more food by 2050, and will need 100% more by 2100. This provides the excuse for the agrochemical/ biotech companies to focus ever more energetically on productivity.
In truth, the world already produces twice as much food as the world needs and – since the world population should level out by 2100 if not before – produces 50% more than the world will ever need.
We should be focusing on food quality, social justice, sustainability, and environmental protection. But the pursuit of quality and justice would not be profitable to the corporates, so that is not the prime target if indeed it is seriously on the agenda at all.