With increasing populations but at best stagnating natural resources, food security needs to be addressed through various questions:
- Are food resources now and in the future going to be sufficient to feed the world's population?
- If there is to be security in food supplies, will there be enough water to sustain the amount of farming needed to provide food for all?
- Are there sufficient sustainable systems of farmingto produce enough food to sustain this growing world population?
- Will consumers be embroiled in conflict with middle classes in emerging economies when they demand more food to reflect their new prosperity?
- Is it possible increase the food production sufficiently by relying on technological and scientific solutions to drought, infertile soil, storms and diseases.
- Finally, will food security best be attained by supporting traditional sources of local, fresh food or by supporting globalised, industrialised product (Chatterton 2001; 2008; 2011; Brichieri-Colombi 2009; Paarlberg 2013)?
Farmer/growers and food
The main producers of food across the world are farmers who grow fruit, vegetables, grains, pasture, raise and tend poultry, cows, cattle, sheep, buffalo, and goats and fish. For many centuries farmer/growers were respected and the reliance of the consumer on their labours was clear (Chatterton 2011).
In the emerging economies and the rest of the developing world, food is still largely grown and consumed in the way it has been for centuries. Useful machinery and improved farming techniques, improved seeds and breeds of livestock have changed agriculture from primitive to modern and efficient, but the majority of the food produced and consumed still comes from nature, not from artificial environments and factories. For centuries the relationship between these farmer/growers of food and those who ate it to nourish their bodies and minds was close. The environment was respected. Farmers knew better than to outrage the soil they depended upon (Shiva 2002; Patel 2007; Chatterton 2011).
In urban connurbations, large towns, and villages, traders of food were often the intermediary between the grower of food and the consumer. They were facilitators but not dominant in the food chain. They played a useful part and received an appropriate reward for their labour (Shiva 2002).
In spite of attempts to convert much farming to the production of commodities, and in spite of recent attempts to colonise food consumerism with western style supermarkets, the means of production and the consumption of daily food in the greater part of the world remains relatively unchanged. The fierce loyalty to traditional local food has been a major protector of this continuing support for fresh, locally grown produce (Shiva 2002; Patel 2007).
Most people continue to eat food that is grown locally on small to medium sized farms, that comes from local rivers or seas and that is sold daily in local markets, and cooked daily at home. Seasonality is still an asset to both farmer/grower and consumer. Attempts are being made to introduce fisheries management to much of the world in order to conserve fish stocks that form part of major diets. Political conflict that has resulted from the de jure ownership by states of a common property resource in the West is having a marked effect on the fish stocks. Fish processors with industrial fishing techniques are squeezing out local fishermen and creating shortages for consumers who wish to eat freshly caught fish rather than frozen or tinned product (Chatterton 1977; 1979; 1996; 2011).
Robert Paarlberg (2013) predicts in his Food Politics that obesity will continue to replace hunger as the world's most serious problem. Obesity is a choice, hunger is not and there are more poor, hungry people in the world than there are well-off gluttons.
The very poor of the developing world, when they can, eat grains, vegetables, fish, fruit and a little meat. Their diet is not their problem. Their problem is that they cannot get enough of this food due to:
- infertile soil
- unsustainable farming systems being foisted upon them
- loss of local fish stocks
- sequestration of their water supplies
- sequestration of their farmland due to economic policies that favor free markets and corporate interests and
- manipulation of commodity prices by speculators (Chatterton 2011; 2012).
The concept of nourishment has been subsumed in public relations and marketing aimed to convince the consumer that food adulterated with chemical additives, and denatured in industrial operations, is wholesome and cheap.
It is packaged to mislead the eventual end user that this construct is real food, that it is fresh farm produce and that it is healthy. In fact, it is a combination of ingredients transformed into a facsimile of fresh food and is neither cheap nor wholesome. Consumers pay all the costs of additives, transport both natiionally and internationally, transformation, marketing and packaging that are involved in industrialised product. These operations intervene between the farmer and the consumer. The small amount of natural food that remains has been harvested and handled and transformed until the amount of nourishment gained from such product is minimal. If nourishment is the reason for eating, then this food is not cheap.The tendency to induce consumeres to follow fashion whether it dictates a “magic” fruit or vegetable, an exotic ingredient, or strange combinations of ingredients for novelty, has been a powerful factor in destroying the recognition of the nutritional value of seasonality (Shiva 2002; Patel 2007; Chatterton 2011; 2012).
Farmers and prices
The criteria for the farming of food has become economic profit and productivity rather than nutrition and taste. The consequence is that the farmer/grower has become simply a component in a food chain of which the objective is profit for the trader. Power over prices and the type of farming practised is now in the hands of the trader in food (Murphy et al 2012). The only role of the farmer/grower of food today is to provide the purveyors of industrial product with cheap resources from which the manufacturer can profit. In other words, the farmer/grower is now a price taker rather than a price maker. The dominance of commodity farming and industrialised transformation has been fought by many groups consisting of consumers, farmers and market gardeners, but overwhelmingly political, financial and regulatory support has been given to industrial agriculture and corporate businesses who have an interest in profit from the food chain (Food First 2012).
The often repeated claim by international agencies that hunger and poverty are declining is a questionable claim at best. Statistics in this regard should be taken with caution. They are useful in supporting claims for funds in order to sustain agencies. Development agencies have done a great deal to interfere with much of the sustainable and farm production in the developing world. The plethora of inappropriate agricultural projects designed by development agencies and thrust on farmers has been patently obvious to farming experts for many years. Too many agricultural development projects have come from the research centre and the computers of economists and too few from the field. Governments have exacerbated this state of affairs by continuing to fund agencies and to regulate in their favor. The fundamental flaw in these projects has been that they ignore, not only the diets of the consumers for whom the farmers and market gardeners grow food, but the climatic conditions and the risk and resources farmers must deal with. Realising the power that comes with control of basic resources, traders in commodities and global corporations are buying up large tracts of farm land and centres of food processing such as dairy, dried fruit, wine and grain enterprises and commodity traders are manipulating the prices of grain, coffee, rice and other produce to their own advantage and profit. The grower/farmer cooperatives that operated the marketing of dairy foods, dried fruit, wheat and barley, wool and meat, wine etc. have been destroyed by private enterprise taking them over with the connivance of national governments. This has been a major factor in the farmers' loss of power over prices and the type of farming practised on farms (Blythman 2006; Chase 1994; Lawrence 2004; 2008; Chatterton 2011; 2012; 2013) .
Removing farming from nature was a dangerous development and all consumers are paying for it now. There are sustainable and productive farming systems and strategies that can assist farmers to cope with droughts, floods and infertile soil. Productive pasture based rainfed farming in semi arid zones is still a neglected resource in spite of its proven potential in Australia, New Zealand and parts of North Africa and the Middle East. (Chatterton and Chatterton 1996). Sequestration of farmland, fisheries and water supplies, and the manipulation of commodity prices by speculators requires government control and intervention to support and protect farmer/growers of food and to protect the health of consumers. The role of farmer/growers should be elevated within agencies and governments to ensure that their practical and risk management skills are recognized and that the food they produce is paid for adequately. A greater recognition of the variability of diets according to country, ethnic groups, and local traditions must be the fundamental basis of solutions to food security for all (Diamond 2013; Blythman 2006; Chase 1994; Cable and French 1941; Chatterton 1977; 1979; 2013; Elton 2004).
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