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#1138956 - 08/11/2012 17:47 Farming, food production and consumers
Greg Sorenson Offline
Weatherzone Addict

Registered: 05/11/2005
Posts: 3256
Loc: Canberra!
Please post regarding Global & local farming & livestock, food production and consumers here
Storm season is upon us... now let the fun begin

#1152871 - 27/12/2012 11:20 Re: Farming, food production and consumers [Re: Greg Sorenson]
ROM Offline
Meteorological Motor Mouth

Registered: 29/01/2007
Posts: 6628
The Ag forum is certainly one of the backwaters of the WZ forums unless we get onto GMO's.

Anyway to liven things up a bit and perhaps as food is the second absolute next to water that mankind MUST have to even survive, we might look at another Matt Ridley opinion piece in the "Wall Street Journal".
This one will really make anybody associated with Agriculture really think and consider their options.

This article below is based on a new paper which I have tried to find on the net but no luck so far.

Just as personal background here, I have until only a couple of years ago, believed for my whole farming life, that the world was inevitably heading for a major world food shortage sometime as the global population continued to grow at a phenomenal speed.
There were about 3.5 billions of mankind in about 1960. There is now over 7 billions .

All the predictions and forecasts of the 1960's and 1970's like the very widely quoted 1972 Club of Rome's "Limits to Growth" forecasts, predicted that mankind was going to eat himself out of house and home, use up all the oil and run out of resources and that was supposed to all happen by about the early 1980's.
It didn't happen and it still has not happened even though we now have perhaps another 30% more people to feed than we had in 1980.

Not only that, the world's farmers and most importantly, the world's plant breeders and food researchers, the real and totally unrecognised heroes of mankind who should be placed on the highest pedestal of scientific respect but are barely recognised, [ climate scientists should be down the bottom somewhere considering the relative importance of the crop researchers and plant breeders in the role of human survival,] together with the world's farmers and their adoption of new technologies for food production have increased the global supplies of food to such levels that farming globally is barely profitable due to excess amounts of grain and staple foods.
There is now so much food in the world that hunger is now limited to an ever smaller percentage of mankind. and for the first time in history, there is not, unless politically and even deliberately created, any famines in the world.

The sheer extent and efficiency of the global transport system is another major factor in this lack of serious hunger almost everywhere in the world in the way in which in a matter of a couple of weeks , the global transport system can shift enormous tonnages of basic staple foods from an area of plenty or even oversupply to areas where there is a desperate need for immediate food supplies.

The final bit of data in the global food equation and one to remember when reading the WSJ article below is that demographers are now becoming doubtful if the world population will even reach the 9 billion mark which was expected to happen around 2040 to 2050.
The slow down in global population growth and even population decline particularly amongst the native born populations of developed countries and in every developed country and now increasingly in the less developed nations is becoming so marked that the previous estimates and projections of global populations is steadily being reduced with the probability that after 2050 the global population will stabilise and then start a long, very slow decline in numbers.

Interestingly, as a by line, one of my brothers and his wife have just come back from a european visit and their comments were that in Europe there were simply no kids. The sons and daughters were often mid to late 20's, unmarried and still living with their parents and had no intentions of having any children.

Some might challenge me on those comments on population and food supplies but if politics and the vicious racial and ideological corruptness and terrorism and crime were neutralised and their effects removed from the global food supply chain there would be no significant hunger on this planet.

As I posted above, I have always believed that a global food shortage was inevitable but in the last couple of years I have now come to believe that this will not be the case with the proviso that a major cooling of the globe, similar to the very cold Maunder Minimum, does not occur over the next couple of decades.

That is something I genuinely fear with the current state of Sun's apparent fall off in activity and the increasing number of predictions from the solar physicists that a very low solar activity period of some decades long may be just starting.
We won't know until another 3 or 4 years past just what is likely to be the short term changes in the global climate due to solar activity or the lack of.

A second factor which i have posted previously on is a good friend of mine and also a farmer with four degrees and a couple of doctorates out of Cambridge [ Tony will kill me if I have that university wrong !] a former member of the CSIRO board and now sits on a couple of UN food committees, told me not long ago that he also believed that the world would one day face a global food shortage.
However one of his UN committees did a study on the amount of arable land in the world that could be still converted to food production and came up with the very surprising conclusion that there was still nearly as much land available for food production as was already being used for food production.

So thats the background to Matt Ridley's quite likely, very controversial The Wall Street Journal article below;


Our Fading Footprint for Farming Food

It's a brave scientist who dares to announce the turning point of a trend, the top of a graph. A paper published this week does just that, persuasively arguing that a centurieslong trend is about to reverse: the use of land for farming. The authors write: "We are confident that we stand on the peak of cropland use, gazing at a wide expanse of land that will be spared for Nature."

John S. Dykes
If not for biofuels, say scientists, farmland usage would already be declining.

Jesse Ausubel and Iddo Wernick of Rockefeller University, and Paul Waggoner of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, have reached this conclusion by documenting the gradual "dematerialization" of agriculture. Globally, the production of a given quantity of crop requires 65% less land than it did in 1961, thanks to fertilizers, tractors, pesticides, better varieties and other factors. Even corrected for different kinds of crops, the acreage required is falling at 2% a year.

In the U.S., the total corn yield and the total corn acreage tracked each other in lock step between 1870 and 1940—there was no change in average yield per acre. But between 1940 and 2010, corn production almost quintupled, while the acreage devoted to growing corn fell slightly. Similar divergences appeared later in other countries. Indian wheat production increased fivefold after 1970, while wheat acreage crept up by less than 1.5 times. Chinese corn production rose sevenfold over the same period while corn acreage merely doubled.

Yet the amount of farmland in the world was still rising until recently. The reason is that increased farm productivity has been matched by rising demand for food, driven by population growth and swelling affluence. But the effects of these trends are waning.

Global population growth has slowed markedly in recent years—the rate of change halving since 1970 to about 1% a year today. Growing affluence leads people to eat more calories, and especially more meat. Since it takes two to 10 calories of maize or wheat to produce a calorie of meat, depending on the animal, carnivory demands more cropland. But as a country gets richer, total calorie intake soon levels off, even as wealth continues to rise, and the change in meat consumption decelerates. Chinese meat consumption is now rising less than half as fast as Chinese affluence; Indians have grown richer without taking to meat much at all.

What the Rockefeller team did was plug some highly conservative assumptions about the future into a model and see how much land would be required for growing crops in 2060. Compared with current trends, they assumed population growth will fall more slowly, that affluence will increase faster and that the gluttony of people will rise more rapidly. Conversely, they assumed that farm yields would rise more slowly than they have been doing. This seems highly implausible given that the gigantic continent of Africa seems to be at last embarking on a yield-boosting green revolution as far-reaching as Asia's was.

Even with these cautious assumptions, the researchers find that over the next 50 years people are likely to release from farming a land area "1½ times the size of Egypt, 2½ times the size of France, or 10 Iowas, and possibly multiples of this amount."

Indeed, the authors find that this retreat from the land would have already begun but for one factor so lunatic that they cannot imagine it will not be reversed soon: biofuels. If the world had not decided to subsidize the growing of energy crops on 3.4% of arable land, then absolute declines in the acreage of arable land "would have begun during the last decade." The prospect of "the restoration of vast acreages of Nature" is enticing for nature lovers.

Predictions of peak oil have repeatedly proved wrong. But the factors that made them wrong—productivity and technology—are essentially the ones that make a prediction of peak farmland likely to be right.

[ end ]

#1152877 - 27/12/2012 11:52 Re: Farming, food production and consumers [Re: ROM]
Brett Guy Offline
Weatherzone Addict

Registered: 05/10/2010
Posts: 4822
Loc: Bently Park, Cairns
Originally Posted By: ROM

However one of his UN committees did a study on the amount of arable land in the world that could be still converted to food production and came up with the very surprising conclusion that there was still nearly as much land available for food production as was already being used for food production

Great conclusion but using that remaining arable land requires wholesale destruction of what little natural environment that we havn't already trashed. Sorry but I would rather have the environment than the people. We don't need more billions of humans on this planet.

#1152889 - 27/12/2012 13:29 Re: Farming, food production and consumers [Re: Brett Guy]
ROM Offline
Meteorological Motor Mouth

Registered: 29/01/2007
Posts: 6628
Yes Brett , trashing the large sections of the natural environment would be the case IF that land was ever needed for food production.
And yes I agree we don't need 9 billions of mankind on this planet but the demographers believe it will sort itself out as I have posted.
And as the WZJ article claims, if proven in the next few years then even with 9 billions there may actually be a reduction in the need for the current land area for food growing.

The worst possible thing to happen here is that because there is an adequate amount of food around at the moment the politicians cut down the amount of research into Ag and Food production research and in the services to the rural based food producers so that they no longer have the ability to continue on with ever better technology to get ever better yields and production out of the same area so as to feed the increasing global population.

The policy of the greens of course is exactly that, to cut back, to force the food producers into far less efficient methods of production by preventing the use of chemicals for pest and weed control, to forcibly stop livestock production just when the increasing living standards around the world are starting to demand more meat, to force out large efficient farm operations in favour of small holdings which are then denied and cannot afford both the better technology and the services that allow a reasonable standard of living in the countryside.
We have been there and done that with the old, small soldier settlement schemes following both world wars and they never worked and worse, gave a lousy existence for those who tried . These small holdings were rapidly amalgamated into much larger and more efficient farms and that process which i now have doubts about beyond a the family farm size, is ongoing.

All of the above are the worst possible ways to ensure ever better and more production from the same land areas to feed the increasing global population.

You could do much worse than write to your local member supporting more money and more research for agriculture.
That way you will be doing something far more productive towards saving rain forests and etc than you ever will by trying to restrict farming and restrict the opening up of new areas and therefore food production.
Farmers are in the game like everybody else, to make a living and make some money.
If the rewards aren't there then there just aren't the people around who will want to go farming. Exactly the situation here in the Wimmera in western Vic due to the very low historical prices for grain and other food products .

The average age of farmers in the Wimmera is now over 60 years and two thirds of the farms will be sold with in the decade according to surveys.
Who will buy those farms we don't know as the young guys can go to town and make twice the money with regular hours and no stress compared to a farm kid.

Perhaps the Chinese corporations seeking food security on behalf of the Chinese Government will move in and that of course spells the demise of the small country towns as nothing is brought in those towns anymore when major corporations let alone international ones take over vast tracts of farm land as the Africans have discovered.

In Horsham alone a regional centre of some 13,000 people, the farmers across the Wimmera pour about about a minimum of $350 million into Horsham's businesses each year. With good year that comes to about $500 million.
I did the this research and the sums for the local paper here only a few weeks ago.

The basic lesson is; IF you want to keep the environment and not have anymore land cleared for food production then the environmentalists should be doing everything in their power to see that huge resources are poured into global agriculture and food research on a continuous basis so as to keep on raising productivity on the land we currently use for food production.

As that WSJ article says, we may even be able to reduce our global food producing footprint with even better crops varieties and better technology.
Instead the stupidity and anti rural bigotry of the greens and environmental lobby who seem incapable of rational thinking are attacking and placing as many impediments and control and destructive regulations on agriculture as they can possibly get through the legislature .
Nor are the courts the least bit sympathetic to the rural people when quite illegal activities by the greens and environmentalists destroy whole industries such as the live cattle trade to indonesia which is now changing it's live cattle acquisition to China as in the Australian this morning.

The anti live trade whack jobs and the bigoted, anti rural left wing ABC whackers have accomplished absolutely nothing except destroy a profitable Australian agricultural industry which looked after it's livestock but which the importers have now moved to a country for their imports where animal husbandry is suspect at very best.

No reflection meant here but to those who say there are too many people on the planet and something should be done about it and those africans and etc shouldn't be allowed to breed like that, I say; OK! when are you going to do the right thing and lead the way by eliminating yourself first?

#1152893 - 27/12/2012 13:49 Re: Farming, food production and consumers [Re: ROM]
ROM Offline
Meteorological Motor Mouth

Registered: 29/01/2007
Posts: 6628
Just as an example of the bias within the bureaucracy against rural folk.
I was a trustee for some 28 years for the land, brought by the Victorian wheat growers in the 1950's, on which the now large Ag research institute, the "Grain's Innovation Park" is built here in Horsham.

The top plant breeders and researchers, and there is about 180 of them, regularly told me that they dropped some $3000 to $4000 a year in salary [ and that was some 4 or 5 years ago ] working here in Horsham compared to having a desk job in the same department in Melbourne.

Sure is a good and sensible way of getting top flight researchers that are the basis of the breeding of the plants that feed and will continue to feed the world of tomorrow.[ /sarc ]

Bureaucratic short sightedness and stupidity again at it's best.

#1154416 - 01/01/2013 21:25 Re: Farming, food production and consumers [Re: ROM]
GDL Offline
Weather Freak

Registered: 17/02/2008
Posts: 630
Loc: Bowen Mountain NSW
As always Rom your thoughts are on the mark,the next 20 years will be an interesting time, not sure if our pollies are up to it only time will tell. ......GDL

#1154770 - 03/01/2013 14:53 Re: Farming, food production and consumers [Re: GDL]
Andy Double U Offline
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Registered: 28/10/2006
Posts: 1829
Loc: Mundoolun, SE QLD, 129m ASL
Time certainly will tell and it will certainly be interesting to see where agriculture goes in the coming years.

As part of a bit life review, my partner and I have taken a closer look at our lifestyles as far as work, exercise and now diet goes. We consider this to be a bit of an investment in our health for the future. So thanks to our reasonable diets, plus the exercise we've been doing ok so far. Before Christmas, a few of the people that we train with plus our coaches were kicking around the idea of going onto a specific eating regime as it's a handy way to shed a few extra kgs. The really interesting thing is that people who have completed the regime consistently talk of feeling better within themselves, have more energy and report things like their skin improving.

So what does this have to do with food production? Well, the theory behind this regime is that a lot of the health issues that we see in society today are being brought on by our current diets. In a nutshell, our diets have evolved much faster than our bodies thanks to the wonders of modern agriculture and now our bodies are in serious catchup mode. This 'new' regime basically stipulates that food be eaten in its most basic of forms, or in other words, wind back the clock to what we would've eaten in the caves thousands of years ago.

To this end, things like grain & dairy are out as these two things popped onto the scene reasonably late in the evolutionary piece. There is a significant proportion of the population that has milk or dairy sensitivities, humans are the only species in nature that continue to ingest dairy after they have been weaned. Milk consumption has always been encouraged because it 'encourages healthy bones' but there is a fair body of research that indicates that the calcium contained within milk cannot be absorbed sufficiently and there are better sources to be had.

The grains are where things get really interesting. I've been really surprised by the growing number of people that I know that are all subscribing to the gluten intolerance thing. To be honest I thought it was all a bit of boloney and the perceived benefits from eliminating wheat from the diet maybe more mental than physical, ie. the placebo affect. Now having delved into it a bit more I'm coming round to the idea that there maybe something to it. I think the below quote sums it up the most concisely:
Originally Posted By: Grains, Legumes and Dairy
Grains and legumes contain lectins. Lectins are a class of proteins found in many types of seeds (like wheat, oats, barley, rice, peanuts, soy, etc.) that are part of the plant’s natural defense mechanism. A digested seed is not one that can grow a new plant. To defend itself, the seed from these plants either deter predators (like us) from eating them by making us sick or resist digestion completely or both. The grains and legumes that have become a part of the human diet since the Agricultural Revolution 10,000 years ago aren’t toxic enough to make most of us severely ill immediately after eating them (otherwise humans never would have domesticated them!). Instead, their effects are more subtle and can take years to manifest as a life-threatening disease.

I think if the paleo style of eating catches on it could mean a real shakeup for agriculture, especially considering the proportion of carbohydrates and energy that are currently provided by grains and sugars. The greenies certainly won't like it considering it runs in complete contradiction to many of the alternative philosophies they espouse particularly in the area of protein sources. I have my doubts about paleo becoming really mainstream though, the amount of time that goes into food preparation is quite a lot more than just grabbing a bowl of cereal, splashing in some milk and away you go. Then again, who knows, we may or may not have a choice as to whether to adapt to an old food regime because governments are already screaming about just how much funding they are having to find to prop up health systems that are straining under the load of what really amount to in the majority, preventable diseases brought on by excess consumption of food.

#1154866 - 03/01/2013 21:03 Re: Farming, food production and consumers [Re: Andy Double U]
ROM Offline
Meteorological Motor Mouth

Registered: 29/01/2007
Posts: 6628
I look at all these supposed modern ills and intolerance's of certain foods in a different way.
Where I am coming from is the questions raised as to why my generation was quite a lot taller and bigger than my father's generation.

[ I am 74.5 years old and was 5'11 1/2" [182 cm's] in my prime in my mid 30's to mid 40's and am now shrinking at the usual 1" every decade after, for me, about 60 years old. The years vary between individuals when that older age shrinking trend starts.
My nursing daughter in Darwin tells me she can spot a smoker and even only moderate drinker from quite some distance as it starts to show by about 50 years old.
As I don't smoke and drink very little, by choice since I was a kid and youth and couldn't understand what my peers got out of getting drunk and losing control of themselves. ]

Then my son now in his early 40's is quite a lot taller and heavier than me.
His son, my grandson is 15 and about the same height and size as his father, about 190 cms.
Another grandson is the same height and size as myself.

Most young guys and some of the girls of my son's and grandsons generations are taller than myself at my prime let alone how much taller and bigger they are when compared to their grand parents and great grand parents.

If the many afflictions that are now supposed to be due to those foods we now eat, particularly the processed foods that are supposedly the evil that is causing all these afflictions and those kids have been eating that sort of food most of their short lives, why are most of them now so much taller, bigger and stronger than the generations before them?
And i might add from my observations in my youth, healthier at the same ages than my generation born around the end of the 1930's.
And it is not more protein as those old farm guys lived on meat yet were still a lot smaller in general than the new generations .

[ I don't eat McDonalds, rarely KFC and hardly any other takeaways with even Pizza a rare feed these days. They are just too damn expensive for an old couple on a pension which I never wanted to be on but that's life, so we lump it!

I can still and intend to in the next few minutes, get out and walk my usual 3 to 4 kms each evening averaging under 11.5 minutes per kilometre. ]

The larger human frame is a world wide phenomena as the sail plane / glider manufacturers mostly based in Germany have found that they now have to increase the close fitting cockpit sizes on gliders to accommodate the larger human frames of the latest generations compared to those of the 1960's, 70's and 80's.

So the question I ask and mull on, is it really the food that we eat and which we are blaming for our apparent susceptibility to all sorts of modern ills and supposed health problems and sensitivities and intolerance's and allergies to some food types ?

Or are all those apparent ills and sensitivities and allergies a manifestation, a secondary effect of something else that is happening in the way we live or very subtly affecting us individually or even acting across our entire society?

As I continue to observe those around me as well as try to analyse my own particular health and personal frailties I am coming more and more to the conclusion that the role of viruses in human health is grossly underestimated.
As well the sheer numbers of viruses and the subtleties of their actions on the human body and health and mental capabilities is again very seriously underestimated by health researchers and health professionals.
It is not the blatant effect from some viral infection I am thinking about although those effects can be quite traumatic and even life changing as I have personally experienced, but it is the very, very subtle and apparently innocuous infection, not just colds and flu's and other similar viral infections, that can create long lasting changes in a person's ability to digest and absorb and deal with all the vast range of compounds found in every type of food.

Just two examples out of many that have affected me personally and brought me to this belief and understanding of the role of viruses in human health. My first inkling that viral infections were not just colds and flu's was getting up one morning when I was in my late 20's and finding i had excruciating pain across the muscles in my lower back.
I had gone to bed with no signs of anything amiss and certainly had not strained my back even though I am or was a farmer often lifting and moving heavy loads.
The pain started to recede after a couple of days and within a week was basically gone. The interesting thing was that my ability to lift and shift things barely changed and this got me thinking.
Now of course it is well known that muscle viral infections can create all sorts of mayhem and some serious pain, another bout of which I have just had across the shoulders moving in roughly a band down the arm to the fingertips over about a month.

The other episode which has really convinced me about the role that viruses play in human health happened some half dozen years ago.
Went to bed quite OK and then woke up and lay there thinking, I think I am going to vomit, a very, very rare occurrence for me.
I made it to the basin with a second to spare and then spent considerable time on the toilet while the other end did it's bit.
Then followed about 4 days of nauseating stomach pains, vast volumes of wind burping up and fast runs to the toilet.
Laying only on my left hand side to allow the gases to burp up and not vomit which the structure of the stomach allows one to do.

Previous to this my dear mother use to call me asbestos guts as I could eat anything and not have problems but following this episode I became nauseous on a continuous basis for the following couple of years and nothing the Docs could provide seemed to fix it.
I just had this continuous nauseating lead ball sitting under my diaphragm all the time and often just felt like vomiting.
Finally after a very bad bout of this I started to wonder why that feeling changed quite often from barely felt to a crippling hunched over pain.
A feed of some tasty asian tucker in Darwin really set me off as I finally realised it might be the food I was eating that created the problem so I did some reading on the Food Intolerance Network > factsheets.

Then the penny dropped,
The bread and other manufacturers of bread based products used to and some still do, put a naturally occurring anti mold chemical into their bread products to enable it to keep longer, particularly when it is enclosed in those plastic coverings.
And I loved my bread as I also loved my cheeses which are loaded with this natural chemical.

This naturally occurring chemical "[ E282] Calcium propionate" is also found in cheeses which i realised then were also giving me serious grief whenever I ate cheese.

The thing was that until that stomach upset, I had never ever had any problems in eating bread of any type or likewise with cheese. Bread and cheese eating stopped and within two weeks my nauseous symptoms had completely disappeared, at least until I experimented and got into some bread with the calcium proponiate additive and some cheese.
Bread without the additive is no problem and many manufacturers are now baking bread without many of these additives.

Well almost none because from that point eating bread or any similar grain based food mean't a very rapid weight increase as in adding half a kilogram over night something that again had never happened to me anytime previously.
And that new and unfortunate ability to rapidly add weight despite a lot of exercise is another viral induced affliction I am starting to think.

There are many more personal instances that i could recount where I now firmly believe that Viral infections have altered my body chemistry and even my physical abilities and performances quite significantly and sometimes in ways that are not very nice.
Nor is the brain immune to some very subtle viral infections with consequent mental changes.

There is a growing awareness in medical research on the role of viruses in the human health and mental standings of individuals and the question to ask is. why are these problems only appearing now .

I would suggest that it is the role of the recent human mobility, something that is only some 30 years old, in the transmitting of formerly localised viruses which were permanently in possibly relatively immune to the local viruses populations but which are rapidly spread across the susceptible global population through large numbers of people now travelling the world.

The poster child for this was the truly traumatic effect on the Australian aboriginal populations and the devastating death toll arising from the transmission of cold and other viruses when the first whites arrived and settled .

Another instance which won the Nobel prize for medicine and rightfully so was the persistence of the WA Dr's Barry Marshall and Dr Robin Warren in identifying and then persisting against strident opposition that "the bacterium Helicobacter pylori and its role in gastritis and peptic ulcer disease"
A bacterium yes in this case but indicative of the role of that parasitic viral infections and bacterium plays in human health.

Simply put I now believe that many / most of the food allergies and most of the physical health problems we seem to be now facing in this modern world such as arthritis and all it's derivatives plus so many other ills that plague mankind are all triggered or are initiated by unnoticed and apparently innocuous viral and bacterial infections often from maybe many years or decades ago.

Those allergies and sensitivities are just the flow on effects of those long term and often previously latent viral infections.

Two items here , one of which I read only a few days ago but can't find now.
Health scientists are now experimenting or more so, actually using the fecal matter taken from a person prior to a major antibiotic dosage and then feeding that cleaned fecal matter back some time later to the person to re-establish the persons gut flora and fauna .

In some cases they are now using donor fecal matter to deliberately change a persons gut flora and fauna to overcome those very problems I have outlined above.
In my case my flora and fauna have definitely been changed for the worse by the prostate cancer radiation treatment of a couple of years ago and thats where one's own fecal matter taken before the radiation can be used to re-establish the old regime in the guts.

And is the increasing incidence of prostate cancer due to some obscure viral infection, maybe twenty , thirty or more years ago?
I suspect so as just too many of my country compatriots also are finding they have prostate cancer also and there is ongoing research for a viral initiator

The second article can be found in Science Daily and the subject is the nonovirus type that created my intolerance and sensitivities to Calcium Propionates.

If you have got this far, thank you

#1154895 - 03/01/2013 22:43 Re: Farming, food production and consumers [Re: ROM]
Andy Double U Offline
Weatherzone Addict

Registered: 28/10/2006
Posts: 1829
Loc: Mundoolun, SE QLD, 129m ASL
ROM, cheers for your thoughts and confirming a bit of a theory of mine. I've been wondering for a while whether certain preservatives as well as different treatments could also be drawing out increased numbers of people with food sensitivities. Your thoughts on viruses are also very interesting and I do think warrant further thought and examination.

From my understanding you are absolutely right in your thinking that viruses have the ability to change certain body functions and its also more than possible that a virus infection at the same time as eating particular foods could bring on specific sensitivities.

I will say this about grains though. We only feed cattle on grain for around 90 days because after that, their digestive systems are stuffed. Race horses are in a similar boat as they rely on the concentrations of energy within grain to fuel their muscles whilst training and racing, but due to the amounts they are fed, regular spelling is required to let their digestive systems recover from ulcers.

As with anything in nature, looking at things in isolation usually only tells a part of the story. Only after inspecting the labels on my foods more closely am I now coming to a realisation about how certain ingredients have permeated our diet. I think the biggest issue however is how some claims on food are completely oversimplified. Take a 'lite' yoghurt for instance, people eat them because they're not meant to be as fattening, but if you look at the sugar content, it's usually substantially higher. So perhaps one is ultimately swapping clogged arteries for diabetes??

I think at the end of the day though, genetic variations that exist between different people combined with the different genetics that one ingests on a daily basis whether it be grains, meat or dairy could mean that ultimately isolating some of these triggers will be incredibly difficult.

It's an interesting area of discussion smile

#1154896 - 03/01/2013 22:44 Re: Farming, food production and consumers [Re: ROM]
Andy Double U Offline
Weatherzone Addict

Registered: 28/10/2006
Posts: 1829
Loc: Mundoolun, SE QLD, 129m ASL
Double post

Edited by Andy Double U (03/01/2013 22:45)

#1154897 - 03/01/2013 22:47 Re: Farming, food production and consumers [Re: Andy Double U]
ROM Offline
Meteorological Motor Mouth

Registered: 29/01/2007
Posts: 6628

Some quite more interesting thinking there to digest over time Andy. Thanks.

#1154900 - 03/01/2013 23:07 Re: Farming, food production and consumers [Re: ROM]
ROM Offline
Meteorological Motor Mouth

Registered: 29/01/2007
Posts: 6628
And there is not a shadow of doubt that individual genetic characteristics drive some of these susceptibilities as well as susceptibilities to possible viral vectors both nasty and some actually very beneficial but the beneficial ones are damn hard to sort out from the noise as we see all viruses as being harmful.

Our entire physical form started out as merely a whole diverse collection of highly specialised cells, originally single celled bacteria that through evolutionary processes got around to sorting out who would do what in the competitive enterprise we call our body and brain.

Viruses of every way out genetic hot mix got all mixed up in there somewhere and contributed to the sorting out and setting up of the genetic code that drives all life on this planet.
And viruses and bacteria are still getting involved in the code of life and incorporating their genetic material into ours and all other life form's genetic systems.
They do this every time we get a viral infection and then develop a level of immunity to that infection as their viral genetic code is recognised by our immune system but viruses, HIV is the classic in modern times and the Black Death is another always leave genetic debris in the human gene set as well as changes to the gene set which will make it easier to identify those particular viral invasions again.
It's called immunity and it is an alteration to the life form's genetic base.

Edited by ROM (03/01/2013 23:10)

#1155760 - 06/01/2013 23:42 Re: Farming, food production and consumers [Re: ROM]
ROM Offline
Meteorological Motor Mouth

Registered: 29/01/2007
Posts: 6628
On the 27/ 12 / 2012 I posted an article by Matt Ridley in the Wall street Journal on the probability that with the continuing increases in output of farm products per hectarage over the last half dozen decades there might soon be a situation where not all the farmland the world's farmers are currently using might be required to feed the world's growing population.

The paper on which Matt Ridley based his WSJ article can be found here and should be read by everybody who may have an interest in our global food supplies of the future and thats ALL of us ;

Peak Farmland and the Prospect for Land Sparing

Judith Curry, a proffessor of the very climate and technically orientated "Climate etc" blog has quite a long post on author and formerly radical green / environmentalist , Mark Lynas' conversion from a radical green to a far more pragmatic outlook on farming, chemicals, GMO's in particular and the global food outlook and etc.

When very influential people like Professor Curry start to look at other items such as Mark Lynas's "Lecture to Oxford Farming Conference, 3 January 2013" instead of just global warming / climate change science, you know the end is near for the global warming ideology.

When influential people like Professor Curry start looking at farming and agriculture and run articles that call into serious question the whole anti farming, anti GMO and anti rural beliefs and attitudes of the Greens you know also that the Green anti farming and anti food production ideology of the Greens is also now coming under severe and increasing scrutiny and the continuing Green's and radical environmentalists despicable attitudes to rural affairs and rural people is now becoming a very questionable ideology for the Greens to continue with in an increasing number of quite influential sections of our society.

This may just possibly be a harbinger of the decay and ultimate downfall of the radical greens and environmentalists and their radical ideological based strangle hold over so much of our society.

Judith Curry is Professor and Chair of the "School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences" at the Georgia Institute of Technology and President (co-owner) of Climate Forecast Applications Network (CFAN). She received a Ph.D. in Geophysical Sciences from the University of Chicago in 1982.

I have copy and pasted Mark Lynas' very quite eye opening and long address below but Judith Curry's final comments on Mark Lynas' article follows first;

]JC comments: What with peak farmland and GM foods, hopefully there will be sufficient food to support all that obesity that is going around. ( JC removes tongue from cheek )

Of the ‘big three’: food, water and energy, it seems like our understanding of the future of food is on a firmer basis. Biofuel and GM are the policy wild cards here.

If you haven’t read it yet, read Mark Lynas’ essay. If you’ve already read it, read it again. It raises many important points regarding environmentalism, and his personal saga through all this is very enlightening, not to mention courageous.

Mark Lynas' essay "Lecture to Oxford Farming Conference, 3 January 2013" taken from his web site and as addressed to the Oxford Farming Conference.

>>I want to start with some apologies. For the record, here and upfront, I apologise for having spent several years ripping up GM crops. I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonising an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment.

As an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path. I now regret it completely.

So I guess you’ll be wondering – what happened between 1995 and now that made me not only change my mind but come here and admit it? Well, the answer is fairly simple: I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist.

When I first heard about Monsanto’s GM soya I knew exactly what I thought. Here was a big American corporation with a nasty track record, putting something new and experimental into our food without telling us. Mixing genes between species seemed to be about as unnatural as you can get – here was humankind acquiring too much technological power; something was bound to go horribly wrong. These genes would spread like some kind of living pollution. It was the stuff of nightmares.

These fears spread like wildfire, and within a few years GM was essentially banned in Europe, and our worries were exported by NGOs like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to Africa, India and the rest of Asia, where GM is still banned today. This was the most successful campaign I have ever been involved with.

This was also explicitly an anti-science movement. We employed a lot of imagery about scientists in their labs cackling demonically as they tinkered with the very building blocks of life. Hence the Frankenstein food tag – this absolutely was about deep-seated fears of scientific powers being used secretly for unnatural ends. What we didn’t realise at the time was that the real Frankenstein’s monster was not GM technology, but our reaction against it.

For me this anti-science environmentalism became increasingly inconsistent with my pro-science environmentalism with regard to climate change. I published my first book on global warming in 2004, and I was determined to make it scientifically credible rather than just a collection of anecdotes.

So I had to back up the story of my trip to Alaska with satellite data on sea ice, and I had to justify my pictures of disappearing glaciers in the Andes with long-term records of mass balance of mountain glaciers. That meant I had to learn how to read scientific papers, understand basic statistics and become literate in very different fields from oceanography to paleoclimate, none of which my degree in politics and modern history helped me with a great deal.

I found myself arguing constantly with people who I considered to be incorrigibly anti-science, because they wouldn’t listen to the climatologists and denied the scientific reality of climate change. So I lectured them about the value of peer-review, about the importance of scientific consensus and how the only facts that mattered were the ones published in the most distinguished scholarly journals.

My second climate book, Six Degrees, was so sciency that it even won the Royal Society science books prize, and climate scientists I had become friendly with would joke that I knew more about the subject than them. And yet, incredibly, at this time in 2008 I was still penning screeds in the Guardian attacking the science of GM – even though I had done no academic research on the topic, and had a pretty limited personal understanding. I don’t think I’d ever read a peer-reviewed paper on biotechnology or plant science even at this late stage.

Obviously this contradiction was untenable. What really threw me were some of the comments underneath my final anti-GM Guardian article. In particular one critic said to me: so you’re opposed to GM on the basis that it is marketed by big corporations. Are you also opposed to the wheel because because it is marketed by the big auto companies?

So I did some reading. And I discovered that one by one my cherished beliefs about GM turned out to be little more than green urban myths.

I’d assumed that it would increase the use of chemicals. It turned out that pest-resistant cotton and maize needed less insecticide.

I’d assumed that GM benefited only the big companies. It turned out that billions of dollars of benefits were accruing to farmers needing fewer inputs.

I’d assumed that Terminator Technology was robbing farmers of the right to save seed. It turned out that hybrids did that long ago, and that Terminator never happened.

I’d assumed that no-one wanted GM. Actually what happened was that Bt cotton was pirated into India and roundup ready soya into Brazil because farmers were so eager to use them.

I’d assumed that GM was dangerous. It turned out that it was safer and more precise than conventional breeding using mutagenesis for example; GM just moves a couple of genes, whereas conventional breeding mucks about with the entire genome in a trial and error way.

But what about mixing genes between unrelated species? The fish and the tomato? Turns out viruses do that all the time, as do plants and insects and even us – it’s called gene flow.

But this was still only the beginning. So in my third book The God Species I junked all the environmentalist orthodoxy at the outset and tried to look at the bigger picture on a planetary scale.

And this is the challenge that faces us today: we are going to have to feed 9.5 billion hopefully much less poor people by 2050 on about the same land area as we use today, using limited fertiliser, water and pesticides and in the context of a rapidly-changing climate.

Let’s unpack this a bit. I know in a previous year’s lecture in this conference there was the topic of population growth. This area too is beset by myths. People think that high rates of fertility in the developing world are the big issue – in other words, poor people are having too many children, and we therefore need either family planning or even something drastic like mass one-child policies.

The reality is that global average fertility is down to about 2.5 – and if you consider that natural replacement is 2.2, this figure is not much above that. So where is the massive population growth coming from? It is coming because of declining infant mortality – more of today’s youngsters are growing up to have their own children rather than dying of preventable diseases in early childhood.

The rapid decline in infant mortality rates is one of the best news stories of our decade and the heartland of this great success story is sub-Saharan Africa. It’s not that there are legions more children being born – in fact, in the words of Hans Rosling, we are already at ‘peak child’. That is, about 2 billion children are alive today, and there will never be more than that because of declining fertility.

But so many more of these 2 billion children will survive into adulthood today to have their own children. They are the parents of the young adults of 2050. That’s the source of the 9.5 billion population projection for 2050. You don’t have to have lost a child, God forbid, or even be a parent, to know that declining infant mortality is a good thing.

So how much food will all these people need? According to the latest projections, published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, we are looking at a global demand increase of well over 100% by mid-century. This is almost entirely down to GDP growth, especially in developing countries.

In other words, we need to produce more food not just to keep up with population but because poverty is gradually being eradicated, along with the widespread malnutrition that still today means close to 800 million people go to bed hungry each night. And I would challenge anyone in a rich country to say that this GDP growth in poor countries is a bad thing.

But as a result of this growth we have very serious environmental challenges to tackle. Land conversion is a large source of greenhouse gases, and perhaps the greatest source of biodiversity loss. This is another reason why intensification is essential – we have to grow more on limited land in order to save the rainforests and remaining natural habitats from the plough.

We also have to deal with limited water – not just depleting aquifers but also droughts that are expected to strike with increasing intensity in the agricultural heartlands of continents thanks to climate change. If we take more water from rivers we accelerate biodiversity loss in these fragile habitats.

We also need to better manage nitrogen use: artificial fertiliser is essential to feed humanity, but its inefficient use means dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico and many coastal areas around the world, as well as eutrophication in fresh water ecosystems.

It is not enough to sit back and hope that technological innovation will solve our problems. We have to be much more activist and strategic than that. We have to ensure that technological innovation moves much more rapidly, and in the right direction for those who most need it.

In a sense we’ve been here before. When Paul Ehrlich published the Population Bomb in 1968, he wrote: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.” The advice was explicit – in basket-case countries like India, people might as well starve sooner rather than later, and therefore food aid to them should be eliminated to reduce population growth.

It was not pre-ordained that Ehrlich would be wrong. In fact, if everyone had heeded his advice hundreds of millions of people might well have died needlessly. But in the event, malnutrition was cut dramatically, and India became food self-sufficient, thanks to Norman Borlaug and his Green Revolution.

It is important to recall that Borlaug was equally as worried about population growth as Ehrlich. He just thought it was worth trying to do something about it. He was a pragmatist because he believed in doing what was possible, but he was also an idealist because he believed that people everywhere deserved to have enough to eat.

So what did Norman Borlaug do? He turned to science and technology. Humans are a tool-making species – from clothes to ploughs, technology is primarily what distinguishes us from other apes. And much of this work was focused on the genome of major domesticated crops – if wheat, for example, could be shorter and put more effort into seed-making rather than stalks, then yields would improve and grain loss due to lodging would be minimised.

Before Borlaug died in 2009 he spent many years campaigning against those who for political and ideological reasons oppose modern innovation in agriculture. To quote: “If the naysayers do manage to stop agricultural biotechnology, they might actually precipitate the famines and the crisis of global biodiversity they have been predicting for nearly 40 years.”

And, thanks to supposedly environmental campaigns spread from affluent countries, we are perilously close to this position now. Biotechnology has not been stopped, but it has been made prohibitively expensive to all but the very biggest corporations.

It now costs tens of millions to get a crop through the regulatory systems in different countries. In fact the latest figures I’ve just seen from CropLife suggest it costs $139 million to move from discovering a new crop trait to full commercialisation, so open-source or public sector biotech really does not stand a chance.

There is a depressing irony here that the anti-biotech campaigners complain about GM crops only being marketed by big corporations when this is a situation they have done more than anyone to help bring about.

In the EU the system is at a standstill, and many GM crops have been waiting a decade or more for approval but are permanently held up by the twisted domestic politics of anti-biotech countries like France and Austria. Around the whole world the regulatory delay has increased to more than 5 and a half years now, from 3.7 years back in 2002. The bureaucratic burden is getting worse.

France, remember, long refused to accept the potato because it was an American import. As one commentator put it recently, Europe is on the verge of becoming a food museum. We well-fed consumers are blinded by romantic nostalgia for the traditional farming of the past. Because we have enough to eat, we can afford to indulge our aesthetic illusions.

But at the same time the growth of yields worldwide has stagnated for many major food crops, as research published only last month by Jonathan Foley and others in the journal Nature Communications showed. If we don’t get yield growth back on track we are indeed going to have trouble keeping up with population growth and resulting demand, and prices will rise as well as more land being converted from nature to agriculture.

To quote Norman Borlaug again: “I now say that the world has the technology — either available or well advanced in the research pipeline — to feed on a sustainable basis a population of 10 billion people. The more pertinent question today is whether farmers and ranchers will be permitted to use this new technology? While the affluent nations can certainly afford to adopt ultra low-risk positions, and pay more for food produced by the so-called ‘organic’ methods, the one billion chronically undernourished people of the low income, food-deficit nations cannot.”

As Borlaug was saying, perhaps the most pernicious myth of all is that organic production is better, either for people or the environment. The idea that it is healthier has been repeatedly disproved in the scientific literature. We also know from many studies that organic is much less productive, with up to 40-50% lower yields in terms of land area. The Soil Association went to great lengths in a recent report on feeding the world with organic not to mention this productivity gap.

Nor did it mention that overall, if you take into account land displacement effects, organic is also likely worse for biodiversity. Instead they talk about an ideal world where people in the west eat less meat and fewer calories overall so that people in developing countries can have more. This is simplistic nonsense.

If you think about it, the organic movement is at its heart a rejectionist one. It doesn’t accept many modern technologies on principle. Like the Amish in Pennsylvania, who froze their technology with the horse and cart in 1850, the organic movement essentially freezes its technology in somewhere around 1950, and for no better reason.

It doesn’t even apply this idea consistently however. I was reading in a recent Soil Association magazine that it is OK to blast weeds with flamethrowers or fry them with electric currents, but benign herbicides like glyphosate are still a no-no because they are ‘artificial chemicals’.

In reality there is no reason at all why avoiding chemicals should be better for the environment – quite the opposite in fact. Recent research by Jesse Ausubel and colleagues at Rockefeller University looked at how much extra farmland Indian farmers would have had to cultivate today using the technologies of 1961 to get today’s overall yield. The answer is 65 million hectares, an area the size of France.

In China, maize farmers spared 120 million hectares, an area twice the size of France, thanks to modern technologies getting higher yields. On a global scale, between 1961 and 2010 the area farmed grew by only 12%, whilst kilocalories per person rose from 2200 to 2800. So even with three billion more people, everyone still had more to eat thanks to a production increase of 300% in the same period.

So how much land worldwide was spared in the process thanks to these dramatic yield improvements, for which chemical inputs played a crucial role? The answer is 3 billion hectares, or the equivalent of two South Americas. There would have been no Amazon rainforest left today without this improvement in yields. Nor would there be any tigers in India or orang utans in Indonesia. That is why I don’t know why so many of those opposing the use of technology in agriculture call themselves environmentalists.

So where does this opposition come from? There seems to be a widespread assumption that modern technology equals more risk. Actually there are many very natural and organic ways to face illness and early death, as the debacle with Germany’s organic beansprouts proved in 2011. This was a public health catastrophe, with the same number of deaths and injuries as were caused by Chernobyl, because E.-coli probably from animal manure infected organic beansprout seeds imported from Egypt.

In total 53 people died and 3,500 suffered serious kidney failure. And why were these consumers choosing organic? Because they thought it was safer and healthier, and they were more scared of entirely trivial risks from highly-regulated chemical pesticides and fertilisers.

If you look at the situation without prejudice, much of the debate, both in terms of anti-biotech and organic, is simply based on the naturalistic fallacy – the belief that natural is good, and artificial is bad. This is a fallacy because there are plenty of entirely natural poisons and ways to die, as the relatives of those who died from E.-coli poisoning would tell you.

For organic, the naturalistic fallacy is elevated into the central guiding principle for an entire movement. This is irrational and we owe it to the Earth and to our children to do better.

This is not to say that organic farming has nothing to offer – there are many good techniques which have been developed, such as intercropping and companion planting, which can be environmentally very effective, even it they do tend to be highly labour-intensive. Principles of agro-ecology such as recyling nutrients and promoting on-farm diversity should also be taken more seriously everywhere.

But organic is in the way of progress when it refuses to allow innovation. Again using GM as the most obvious example, many third-generation GM crops allow us not to use environmentally-damaging chemicals because the genome of the crop in question has been altered so the plant can protect itself from pests. Why is that not organic?

Organic is also in the way when it is used to take away choice from others. One of the commonest arguments against GM is that organic farmers will be ‘contaminated’ with GM pollen, and therefore no-one should be allowed to use it. So the rights of a well-heeled minority, which come down ultimately to a consumer preference based on aesthetics, trump the rights of everyone else to use improved crops which would benefit the environment.

I am all for a world of diversity, but that means one farming system cannot claim to have a monopoly of virtue and aim at excluding all other options. Why can’t we have peaceful co-existence? This is particularly the case when it shackles us to old technologies which have higher inherent risks than the new.

It seems like almost everyone has to pay homage to ‘organic’ and to question this orthodoxy is unthinkable. Well I am here to question it today.

The biggest risk of all is that we do not take advantage of all sorts of opportunities for innovation because of what is in reality little more than blind prejudice. Let me give you two examples, both regrettably involving Greenpeace.

Last year Greenpeace destroyed a GM wheat crop in Australia, for all the traditional reasons, which I am very familiar with having done it myself. This was publicly funded research carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific Research institute, but no matter. They were against it because it was GM and unnatural.

What few people have since heard is that one of the other trials being undertaken, which Greenpeace activists with their strimmers luckily did not manage to destroy, accidentally found a wheat yield increase of an extraordinary 30%. Just think. This knowledge might never have been produced at all, if Greenpeace had succeeded in destroying this innovation. As the president of the NFU Peter Kendall recently suggeseted, this is analogous to burning books in a library before anyone has been able to read them.

The second example comes from China, where Greenpeace managed to trigger a national media panic by claiming that two dozen children had been used as human guinea pigs in a trial of GM golden rice. They gave no consideration to the fact that this rice is healthier, and could save thousands of children from vitamin A deficiency-related blindness and death each year.

What happened was that the three Chinese scientists named in the Greenpeace press release were publicly hounded and have since lost their jobs, and in an autocratic country like China they are at serious personal risk. Internationally because of over-regulation golden rice has already been on the shelf for over a decade, and thanks to the activities of groups like Greenpeace it may never become available to vitamin-deficient poor people.

This to my mind is immoral and inhumane, depriving the needy of something that would help them and their children because of the aesthetic preferences of rich people far away who are in no danger from Vitamin A shortage. Greenpeace is a $100-million a year multinational, and as such it has moral responsibilities just like any other large company.

The fact that golden rice was developed in the public sector and for public benefit cuts no ice with the antis. Take Rothamsted Research, whose director Maurice Moloney is speaking tomorrow. Last year Rothamsted began a trial of an aphid-resistant GM wheat which would need no pesticides to combat this serious pest.

Because it is GM the antis were determined to destroy it. They failed because of the courage of Professor John Pickett and his team, who took to YouTube and the media to tell the important story of why their research mattered and why it should not be trashed. They gathered thousands of signatures on a petition when the antis could only manage a couple of hundred, and the attempted destruction was a damp squib.

One intruder did manage to scale the fence, however, who turned out to be the perfect stereotypical anti-GM protestor – an old Etonian aristocrat whose colourful past makes our Oxford local Marquess of Blandford look like the model of responsible citizenry.

This high-born activist scattered organic wheat seeds around the trial site in what was presumably a symbolic statement of naturalness. Professor Pickett’s team tell me they had a very low-tech solution to getting rid of it – they went round with a cordless portable hoover to clear it up.

This year, as well as repeating the wheat trial, Rothamsted is working on an omega 3 oilseed that could replace wild fish in food for farmed salmon. So this could help reduce overfishing by allowing land-based feedstocks to be used in aquaculture. Yes it’s GM, so expect the antis to oppose this one too, despite the obvious potential environmental benefits in terms of marine biodiversity.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough. So my conclusion here today is very clear: the GM debate is over. It is finished. We no longer need to discuss whether or not it is safe – over a decade and a half with three trillion GM meals eaten there has never been a single substantiated case of harm. You are more likely to get hit by an asteroid than to get hurt by GM food. More to the point, people have died from choosing organic, but no-one has died from eating GM.

Just as I did 10 years ago, Greenpeace and the Soil Association claim to be guided by consensus science, as on climate change. Yet on GM there is a rock-solid scientific consensus, backed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Society, health institutes and national science academies around the world. Yet this inconvenient truth is ignored because it conflicts with their ideology.

One final example is the sad story of the GM blight-resistant potato. This was being developed by both the Sainsbury Lab and Teagasc, a publicly-funded institute in Ireland – but the Irish Green Party, whose leader often attends this very conference, was so opposed that they even took out a court case against it.

This is despite the fact that the blight-resistant potato would save farmers from doing 15 fungicide sprays per season, that pollen transfer is not an issue because potatoes are clonally propagated and that the offending gene came from a wild relative of the potato.

There would have been a nice historical resonance to having a blight-resistant potato developed in Ireland, given the million or more who died due to the potato famine in the mid 19th century. It would have been a wonderful thing for Ireland to be the country that defeated blight. But thanks to the Irish Green Party, this is not to be.

And unfortunately the antis now have the bureaucrats on their side. Wales and Scotland are officially GM free, taking medieval superstition as a strategic imperative for devolved governments supposedly guided by science.

It is unfortunately much the same in much of Africa and Asia. India has rejected Bt brinjal, even though it would reduce insecticide applications in the field, and residues on the fruit. The government in India is increasingly in thrall to backward-looking ideologues like Vandana Shiva, who idealise pre-industrial village agriculture despite the historical fact that it was an age of repeated famines and structural insecurity.

In Africa, ‘no GM’ is still the motto for many governments. Kenya for example has actually banned GM foods because of the supposed “health risks” despite the fact that they could help reduce the malnutrition that is still rampant in the country – and malnutrition is by the way a proven health risk, with no further evidence needed. In Kenya if you develop a GM crop which has better nutrition or a higher yield to help poorer farmers then you will go to jail for 10 years.

Thus desperately-needed agricultural innovation is being strangled by a suffocating avalanche of regulations which are not based on any rational scientific assessment of risk. The risk today is not that anyone will be harmed by GM food, but that millions will be harmed by not having enough food, because a vocal minority of people in rich countries want their meals to be what they consider natural.

I hope now things are changing. The wonderful Bill and Melinda Gates foundation recently gave $10 million to the John Innes Centre to begin efforts to integrate nitrogen fixing capabilities into major food crops, starting with maize. Yes, Greenpeace, this will be GM. Get over it. If we are going to reduce the global-scale problem of nitrogen pollution then having major crop plants fixing their own nitrogen is a worthy goal.

I know it is politically incorrect to say all this, but we need a a major dose of both international myth-busting and de-regulation. The plant scientists I know hold their heads in their hands when I talk about this with them because governments and so many people have got their sense of risk so utterly wrong, and are foreclosing a vitally necessary technology.

Norman Borlaug is dead now, but I think we honour his memory and his vision when we refuse to give in to politically correct orthodoxies when we know they are incorrect. The stakes are high. If we continue to get this wrong, the life prospects of billions of people will be harmed.

So I challenge all of you today to question your beliefs in this area and to see whether they stand up to rational examination. Always ask for evidence, as the campaigning group Sense About Science advises, and make sure you go beyond the self-referential reports of campaigning NGOs.

But most important of all, farmers should be free to choose what kind of technologies they want to adopt. If you think the old ways are the best, that’s fine. You have that right.

What you don’t have the right to do is to stand in the way of others who hope and strive for ways of doing things differently, and hopefully better. Farmers who understand the pressures of a growing population and a warming world. Who understand that yields per hectare are the most important environmental metric. And who understand that technology never stops developing, and that even the fridge and the humble potato were new and scary once.

So my message to the anti-GM lobby, from the ranks of the British aristocrats and celebrity chefs to the US foodies to the peasant groups of India is this. You are entitled to your views. But you must know by now that they are not supported by science. We are coming to a crunch point, and for the sake of both people and the planet, now is the time for you to get out of the way and let the rest of us get on with feeding the world sustainably.

#1156639 - 09/01/2013 10:59 Re: Farming, food production and consumers [Re: ROM]
@_Yasified_shak Offline
Weatherzone Addict

Registered: 07/03/2009
Posts: 4030
Loc: El Arish
A picture says a 1000 words.....

At this point in time there is more than enough food being produced, there is currently enough food produced on this planet to feed a population of 8 billion + people without doing anything else... now that is something to think about.

If people did not have such an "obsession" with everything being "perfect" there would be more than enough food to go around to feed the "hungry" but no everyone in there own selfish way has to have perfect apples without spots or a perfectly shaped apple or a perfectly shaped orange heavens forbid if it has a strange bump on it.
Billions of tonnes of perfectly good fresh food is wasted every single year because it in not perfect and "is not what the customer wants"
well in the end we then all pay more at the supermarket because somebody has to pay for all the wastage so it all gets added on to the bottom of your shopping docket, now if everyone was not so fussy the price of fresh food would come down and there would be also more food to go around.... although it is a funny thing to say that "the world is starving when there is an obesity epidemic? hmmm go figure?

Personally i would rather eat fresh produce straight from my own garden, pesticide and chemical free and no GM contaminents and the best part... it actually tastes how real food is supposed to taste not like the bland dry floury tasteless "fresh food" people have been conditioned to eat from the supermarket
Why is it in the era of "Time saving" devices, that people are more "Time poor" than ever?

Humans think they are the fabric of society,when they are merely part of the thread.

#1157402 - 11/01/2013 08:31 Re: Farming, food production and consumers [Re: @_Yasified_shak]
adon Offline
Meteorological Motor Mouth

Registered: 19/08/2004
Posts: 5245
Loc: Not tellin!
Well for a start YS...... Billions of tonnes? Lets get back to reality here.

There is a lot of food being produced that either does not get consumed or it gets consumed by people who don't actually need it.

So what is your suggestion to fix this problem? Meter out food to everyone?

How will the food that is being wasted be transported to the people who need it? The picture you posted, while you are correct, it is a waste how would that be transported to people starving quickly enough to allow it to be consumed before it rots? If you would take notice of that photo, all of it is perishable food that after harvest, unless cool stored, it spoils in a day or two.

Who would store all of this otherwise wasted food? Of course this storage costs money, so there is your kicker, who would pay for it to be stored? Food production is a business, like it or not the people who produce the food NEED to make money producing food or they will stop doing it. The waste you pictured is from resellers. Yes people demand quality from people who produce it. If they didn't, you would be eating crap. Farmers need direction from consumers on what and to what quality to produce. Once again if they didn't get direction, you would eat what they wanted to produce not what you like.

Unfortunately a lot of the people in most need for this wasted food don't live anywhere near where it is produced. They can't afford to get the food delivered to them and the cost of getting the food to them is worth more than the food.

If the money required to getthis excess food out to where it is needed was funded by govt, where would it come from? Could we take the funding from the arts? What about taking money from other areas like research into climate or from national parks?

Every area you take a large amount of money from will cry blue murder about it. I for one would gladly give up my tax dollars that would have been spent on some crap sculpture which only the "enlightened " can understand in order to feed people. But there would be plenty that would not.

It seems that one of the biggest areas earmarked for govt cutbacks is agricultural research. I know why too. Farmers are thin on the ground now so the noise we make is barely heard compared to city dominated areas.

#1157972 - 12/01/2013 18:30 Re: Farming, food production and consumers [Re: adon]
@_Yasified_shak Offline
Weatherzone Addict

Registered: 07/03/2009
Posts: 4030
Loc: El Arish
There is billions of tonnes of food that is being wasted and a vast proportion of that is before it has even reached the consumer! so the transport and storage needs would not change at all...

I have seen on a first hand basis just how wasteful people are because the fruit/veg is not perfect!
we used to get "seconds" bananas from 1 farm to feed to our chooks and quite frankly there was nothing wrong with the banana's they were either to big ,too small or had marks on the skin (and who eats the skin?) so out they go and as the farmer stated they just simply cannot sell them because the consumer does not want them!(or they have been conditioned not to want them)
I watched one guy de-handing a bunch of banana's and he stood there looked at them then got this little gauge to measure them, they were slightly to big so in the bin the went....and all of these "perfectly good" banana's get dumped in the paddock.So basically 35% of a bunch of bananas is wasted and a banana farm can process anything upto 200+ bunches a day that equals alot of wastage in my book and this is only from one farm on one day.

The same can be said for woolies we also used to get "scraps" from them to feed to our animals and on average we would get 10 x 60ltr bins of fresh produce every 3 days and what was wrong with the produce you may ask? well nothing! again some had marks some was stock that was left from the last weeks batch, but most of it was because the produce did not meet the "standard of the consumer" so out it goes.
The store manager told us that they cannot return it back to the supplier as they do not want it, so it then gets dumped in landfill (or we feed it to our animals).

Add it all up... Woolies 600+ltrs of food wasted every few days just because it does not meet the standard....
Coles? probably the same... IGA...same? what about all the other supermarkets?
Then there are also the likes suppliers and wholesalers that reject food for similar reasons so that equals more wastage.
So if you multiply all that wasted perfectly good produce by all of the Wollies,coles, IGA and other supermarkets right around Australia you can see that adds up to a lot of wasted perfectly fresh health food!
now you tell me there is a food shortage? people just need to open their eyes and stop being so blind to only wanting "perfectly proportioned foods" if
Why is it in the era of "Time saving" devices, that people are more "Time poor" than ever?

Humans think they are the fabric of society,when they are merely part of the thread.

#1158590 - 14/01/2013 20:19 Re: Farming, food production and consumers [Re: @_Yasified_shak]
adon Offline
Meteorological Motor Mouth

Registered: 19/08/2004
Posts: 5245
Loc: Not tellin!
YS agree totally..... But I would say that the supermarket would not even allow the customers to see that food. It would be outed behind the scenes. Funny thing is that we are all paying for that food in the prices they charge for the rest of it! Woolworths are not buying the breed of sheep that I produce. They say the reason is because of consumer feedback but how can they tell what breed it is when it hasn't even got skin! I suspect market collusion is the reason in an effort to drive prices down in the meat price "war" they are having. Has the price of lamb reduce by about 30% over the last six months? If not, ask you supermarket why! The market price for lamb has fallen by at least that since August. This price war they are having just so happened to come at the same time as a huge glut in supply was about to hit the markets because of several factors on the producers end. Huge numbers of lambs being sold to processors meant prices went through the floor and are taking a long time to recover.

All the while consumers in cities think that the supermarkets are doing a wonderful job trying to reduce the cost of lamb to help them. Just ask the supermarket butcher how much money the farmer is getting for that lamb of the shelf. If he says anything more than $3.60/KG call him a liar and buy your meat from a local butcher. At least they are trying to keep a small business going.

Just for the record today's markets

Beef around $1.60kg
Lamb around $3.50kg

#1158641 - 14/01/2013 21:57 Re: Farming, food production and consumers [Re: adon]
Vinnie Offline
Meteorological Motor Mouth

Registered: 17/05/2006
Posts: 6129
Loc: Central Qld.
Saw an interesting tv show on SBS called Food Inc.

#1158711 - 15/01/2013 09:59 Re: Farming, food production and consumers [Re: Vinnie]
Crookhaven River Offline
Weather Freak

Registered: 05/05/2010
Posts: 629
Loc: Crookhaven Heads N.S.W 14m AS...
FOOD Inc video here.
Rainfall: June 2015 94mms/ JULY 2015 MTD 110mms/ July 2014 total 4.5mms/ TOTAL 2015 YTD 806mms/ 2014 total 1018mms
“The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.”
John Muir

#1168846 - 29/01/2013 16:17 Re: Farming, food production and consumers [Re: Crookhaven River]
@_Yasified_shak Offline
Weatherzone Addict

Registered: 07/03/2009
Posts: 4030
Loc: El Arish
There was a story on A current affair late last year where farmers are basically dumping their entire crops back into their paddock because it is either not worth their while to sell it (as coles and Woolies expects farmers to sell their produce at below the cost of production so Coles and Woolies can bump up their profits.)
Or the farmer simply cannot sell the produce....seems everyone thinks that China is going to supply them with everything including food....
Why is it in the era of "Time saving" devices, that people are more "Time poor" than ever?

Humans think they are the fabric of society,when they are merely part of the thread.

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